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In my current campaign I am playing a druid who was raising a family of badgers, which have been magically scattered around. I've retrieved one of them, and was in the area that we thought another one might be.

I'm not high enough level to cast Locate Creature, but I thought that I might be able to get a clue using Locate Animal or Plants, which reads

Describe or name a specific kind of beast or plant. Concentrating on the voice of nature in your surroundings, you learn the direction and distance to the closest creature or plant of that kind within 5 miles, if any are present.

The problem with using Locate Animal or Plants to find the missing badger is that I happen to know that the nearest badger to me is the one I already rescued!

My DM ruled that if I used my found badger as part of the ritual I used to cast the spell I could exclude it from the effect, and we continued with no problems, but I was curious about whether or not this could be considered RAW. Can I try to locate "Badgers that aren't this particular badger"? Or "Female badgers about 2 years old with a slight limp in one leg"? Or just generally exclude known information from a divination effect?

I'm particularly interested in the definition of "specific kind" and how specific that identification can be.

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Not according to RAW

The Locate Animals or Plants spell does what the description says: locates the closest beast of the specified kind. That would be the badger you just rescued.

In order to get around this, you would have to direct the rescued badger away from you, perhaps with Speak with Animals, then cast Locate Animals or Plants when you judge the rescued beast is far enough away.

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Not according to RAW.

The spell description is quite specific about it showing you the closest beast of that type. Getting the rescued badger away from you could work. But if you want to truly go around this there are some other ways which are also harder to do.

  1. Cast nondetection on the rescued badger: hidden from divination. Rescued badger being hidden from divination should cause your spell to show you the next closest beast. This however requires a 3rd level spell slot from a bard ranger or wizard.

  2. Get an Amulet of Proof Against Detection and Location and give it to the rescued badger* : same as casting nondetection. The amulet is an uncommon magical item so you can't really just get it when you need it.

  3. Cast polymorph on the rescued badger, changing its form into any other beast** : rescued badger is not a badger anymore. This however requires a 4th level spell slot from a bard, druid, sorcerer or a wizard.

  4. Kill it. Divination wouldn't show you a dead badger now would it... You could revive it afterwards , revivify, a 3rd level necromancy spell. Only within the first minute of dying, unless you are capable of casting resurrection. (7th level necromancy spell). Or if you don't have a cleric or paladin use animate dead to have bring the badger back, it wouldn't be a badger anymore but it wouldn't really be dead either.

*: i'm not sure if a beast is allowed to attune to a magical item.

"If you can get the animal to focus for an hour, yes."

**: would need another ruling on whether the polymorph can trick the divination magic.

In the locate creature spell's description:

If the creature you described or named is in a different form, such as being under the effects of a polymorph spell, this spell doesn’t locate the creature.

Could be ruled same way for the locating animals

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Maybe

This is entirely dependent on what is meant by 'kind', and how specific you are allowed to be about that. That's entirely up to your GM, and no specific guidance is given. Most people would agree "Female Badger" is a kind of animal, but there's not really any clear lines and there are multiple competing theories of natural kinds/ontological categorizations/etc philosophically, so there's really no clear answer.

What you did in your game is not a valid interpretation of the spell, but casting the spell with a very specific kind of animal in mind is, though it's not the only interpretation by any means.

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