So you waste a 2nd level spell slot, and discover that there are traps within 120 feet of you (in the visible sector). Under what circumstances would that be of any use?

I mean, for starters, you waste an entire spell slot on an instantaneous spell, and then you don't even get to pinpoint the location or mechanism of the trap.

ADDITION: Following the exchange with Greenstone Walker - I also want to emphasize that the spell doesn't even detect natural hazards such as weak wooden floorboards or loose cave ceilings (caused by natural wear over time) which are effectively traps, but were not designed by someone as such.

Or am I reading this wrong?


2 Answers 2


There's no check and therefore no chance of failure.

You could search for traps, and miss them, even trigger them while trying to find them. But this spell will always tell you if traps are around or not. Not only that, but you know the nature of the traps. At my table I would give you advantage on the search after the spell. (Granted that's a personal note, not a strict rule).

It's faster, both in and out of game.

Six seconds to cast the spell and cover 120, vs a check every 5, 10, 20 feet depending on DM. Less rolling, more playing. Plus, if you're running from the boss or a large group of enemies, you don't have the time to do a search. Pop a quick spell and know that a hall is safe or not.

All in all the spell might not the best 2nd level spell out there, but it's not worthless, nor is it a waste of a slot.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In part this spell depends on your DM's trap philosophy. Some DMs like the old days when a trap could be anywhere and punish you for doing nothing but walking down a corridor without testing every step with a ten foot pole. Others (like me) believe that a trap should have a specific purpose, like defending a particular item or location, and therefore that the players should be able to say things like 'Hold on! This looks like a great place for a trap...' In the former case, the spell isn't much use. In the latter, it can give you a hint as to where to look, or let you know it's clear. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Depends on the dungeon with me. If we're talking random castle or active stronghold, I agree with you. If we're talking about a labyrinth or an entire complex built to hold an object for safety (think Zelda) then I think traps down random halls are perfectly valid. But traps just for the sake of traps? Not so much. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miatog
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie, In the situations where you say the spell is useful, what's the party decision-making process that results in the spell actually helping? For example, if an obviously-overpowered monster is pursuing, won't the party just say, "Keep running; hope for the best!" whether there are traps or not? I mean, if there are traps, hey, maybe you get lucky and don't bump into them. If there aren't traps but you were going to run anyway, all you gained is finding out slightly sooner that you were safe. \$\endgroup\$
    – Greg Faust
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 22:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GregFaust Just FYI I didn't write this answer. My name is on there as the last editor, but Miatog is who you should direct your question to. On the upside, they've already been notified (since post authors get notified of all comments under the post, regardless of @'s), so they may respond at some point. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 2, 2018 at 22:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GregFaust - Some that spring to my mind - Deciding (quickly) which fork to run down in the hallway, checking a room that you may be able to hide in so the monster runs past is clear, making sure you aren't being chased into a dead end as a door slams closed when you enter, checking that the door the Barbarian is about to barrel into to open isn't going to explode. Doesn't mean the party won't barrel through that door anyway of course but at least they can make a more informed decision as to if they think 'escape through trap' is still worth it vs fight or find another way. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 9:03

Depending on the GM, the "nature" of the trap may include the damage type. For example, If you know that there is a fireball trap then you can load up on fire resistance spells.

Apart from that, it is a pretty useless spell that often appears on "worst spell" posts on forums (for example, it won the Survivor: Worst Spell at ENWorld.org).

There is, however, one edge case where the spell is extremely useful - when it tells you there are no traps in range you can be confident there are actually no traps.

On the other hand, there still could be natural hazards and dangers present, because the spell only detects things whose creator specifically intended to be harmful (hat-tip Aviad P.).

  • \$\begingroup\$ TBH I empathize with this answer more than the other one (which I accepted)... \$\endgroup\$
    – Aviad P.
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 9:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AviadP. This is the rules text that so frustrates players You don’t learn the location of each trap, but I think the devs felt that they had to do that to stop this spell from being an "automatic win" spell. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreenstoneWalker regarding your most recent edit - that guarantee is weak, because it doesn't detect "traps" which are natural occurences not designed by someone as a trap, for example weak ceiling or floor, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aviad P.
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 8:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AviadP, if the GM is quibbling on the meaning of the word "trap" then the spell is not your biggest issue. I think that if it something is covered by the Traps and Hazards section of the DMG then it's a "trap". If it could be detected by Perception or Investigation and it might hurt or impede someone then it's a "trap" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 20:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreenstoneWalker it's not GM quibbling, it's the spell text, it explicitly says that natural hazards are not considered traps. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aviad P.
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 21:58

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