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Can a paladin use Divine Sense to detect strongly evil or good forces through a portal generated by the Gate spell?

Example: My Paladin is 10ft away from a portal, and on the other side of the portal, a demon lord stands 20ft away from the exit of the portal, awaiting my arrival. Using Divine Sense, can I sense his reek of evil through the portal?

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First of all, Divine Sense does not mechanically detect "good or evil" creatures. It specifically allows you to locate any celestial, fiend, or undead within 60 feet of you. The first line of the description simply explains how the detection ability described in the following sentences is perceived in-universe by the paladin.

The Divine Sense class feature is described as follows:

The presence of strong evil registers on your senses like a noxious odor, and powerful good rings like heavenly music in your ears. As an action, you can open your awareness to detect such forces. Until the end of your next turn, you know the location of any celestial, fiend, or undead within 60 feet of you that is not behind total cover. You know the type (celestial, fiend, or undead) of any being whose presence you sense, but not its identity (the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich, for instance). Within the same radius, you also detect the presence of any place or object that has been consecrated or desecrated, as with the hallow spell.

Given that description, I think that by the rules as written, Divine Sense would not detect beings on the other side of a portal, as they are not actually within 60 feet of you. At least, I have not seen anything to suggest that things on the other side of a portal count as being within a certain distance of you.

Though the rules don't explicitly confirm or deny how distances are calculated with interplanar portals, rules designer Jeremy Crawford unofficially confirms how distances are calculated between different planes on Twitter:

If two people are on different planes of existence, they are infinitely far away from each other. For example, if I'm on the Material Plane and you're on the Ethereal Plane, we're not within 30 feet of each other.

In short, things on different planes aren't really any specified distance from one another, but rather an infinite distance - there's no way to calculate the distance between points on different planes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The portal itself may count as total cover if you can't see through it to the other side. \$\endgroup\$ – nwp Mar 18 '18 at 10:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ This should be true as long as the portal does not take you to a location within 60 feet literally \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 18 '18 at 12:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Actually I think it would still be true, because the Divine Sense would detect the creature directly, rather than through the portal, if the portal led to somewhere within 60 feet of you. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Mar 18 '18 at 19:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nwp sight and cover are two seperate things, there are spells such as darkness that obstruct vision without granting cover and vice versa a glass window grants full cover without obstructing vision. \$\endgroup\$ – rpgstar Mar 19 '18 at 0:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Accepting this answer, as it refutes an incorrect interpretation I had of Divine Sense. However, @Drake makes a number of excellent points on line of sight and cover. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Hoffman Mar 20 '18 at 0:44
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I reach a different conclusion than the currently accepted answer.

I interpret any form of doorway or magical portal to shorten distances (it's their purpose, after all) so that any celestial, fiend, or undead might be within the 60' range of the Paladin through the Gate portal. That spell provides

... a portal linking an unoccupied space you can see within range to a precise location on a different plane of existence. (PHB p. 244)

There is a generic description of a portal.

Portal is a general term for a stationary interplanar connection that links a specific location on one plane to a specific location on another plane. (DMG p. 45)

There isn't a great deal of other detail on the mechanics of portals to other planes.

If a character can move in one turn with 30 feet movement to a different plane I would consider that to be only 30 feet range to begin with; it doesn't matter if the destination is the other side of a doorway, a different room, a different street, or a different plane. The visibility part of Divine Sense is the concern : "...that is not behind total cover"

If the ruling is that people actually can see through the portal and check what is on the other side (and the Gate spell does describe "...You can orient the portal in any direction you choose." which would make only sense if it can be adjusted depending on what is visible on the other side) AND there is no full cover for the creatures (as example, a wall on the other side in a building on the other plane) then Divine Sense could work.... however, if you need to look through the portal then you can already consider anything outside the view from portal to be in total cover, so the only use of Divine Sense would be if the spellcaster looks around with the portal as with a periscope, finds a few creatures in the view from the portal, and then the Paladin would use Divine Sense to check if the visible creatures (through the portal) are celestial, fiendish, or undead.

This is not much better than full denial of the use of Divine Sense, though if the creatures can be seen through the Gate the Paladin can at least identify if they are disguised. This could help find enemies hidden among slaves on that plane which the party wishes to free, or if the party looks for a specific celestial being they can at least pinpoint celestials, even among a large mass of people at a marketplace (as example).

A Gate allows a creature to move to a different plane so of course many would attempt to trick a caster to let them cross over. A paladin can as such still help avoid bad things from happening, but the 'periscope' limits sight and use of Divine Sense.

The other concern when making this ruling is if a given portal is the same as the one provided by the Gate spell, or if it has other features. The rules appear to be silent on that level of detail.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast "...is if a give portal" what did you mean with this? \$\endgroup\$ – Drake Mar 19 '18 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Drake Your points on total cover due to the positioning of the portal make a lot of sense. I really like this interpretation. I've accepted V2Blast's answer due to the fact that I was very liberally interpreting Divine Sense's detection abilities, and his clarification on the exact effects cleared up a debate between myself and my DM. Still appreciate all of the detail you've put into your answer! \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Hoffman Mar 20 '18 at 0:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ScottHoffman Glad I could help, that is what matters. \$\endgroup\$ – Drake Mar 20 '18 at 2:47

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