Does a target of the scrying spell know that they were the target of the spell, either as the spell is being cast or after the target makes their saving throw?

The text of the spell seems to leave it ambiguous, perhaps deliberately (emphasis mine):

The target must make a Wisdom saving throw [...] If a target knows you're casting this spell, it can fail the saving throw voluntarily if it wants to be observed.

If it is ambiguous and thus left up to the DM, what would be other ways for the target to know that someone was casting scrying on them, while the spell is being cast? (As opposed to detecting the sensor, if and when the spell is successful.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you should edit your question title to emphasize that you are asking about what the target knows before the spell's casting is complete, since that's actually a very different question from whether they know they were targeted after the fact. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Dec 22 '18 at 0:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've clarified the lede question to call out those two "phases". I think Gandalfmeansme's answer below explicitly answers both. \$\endgroup\$ – Frank T Dec 23 '18 at 17:27

Not by default

Some spells specify that their target knows they that they are being magically influenced. For example, the target of Charm Person (PHB, p. 221):

When the spell ends, the creature knows it was charmed by you.

In the absence of similar text, the target of Scrying does not know, by default, that they are the target of this spell. This is spelled out in the PHB section on Targets (p. 204, bold added):

Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature's thoughts, typically goes unnoticed, unless a spell says otherwise.

A tweet from Jeremy Crawford further clarifies that it is not automatically evident what is, and isn't, the target of a spell.

You know that a creature/object/space is affected by a spell only if the spell's effects are visible, you witnessed the spell being cast on the target, or you've otherwise detected/discerned the presence of the spell's effects.

Since the spell, if cast far away from the target, has no visible effects before the saving throw has been made (or afterwards, if the target cannot see invisible things), most creatures will not know you are casting this spell on them.

Of course, there are plenty of ways that a person could know that you are casting the spell. They could see you casting it while holding a personal item of theirs, or you could have told them ahead of time that you will be casting this spell at a specific time of day. But by default, a target would be unaware.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the scrying sensor is irrelevant to this question, as are any other spell effects. The question is whether the target knows they are targeted before/during the casting of the spell so that they can decide whether to fail the save, which means that no spell effects have happened yet. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Dec 22 '18 at 0:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point. I will edit. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Dec 22 '18 at 1:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to clarify, after the save has been made, the target knows it was the target of a spell, correct? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Jul 24 '19 at 9:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlueMoon93 No. Why would you? The player might know (because they've been asked to roll a wisdom saving throw for no obvious reason, and could suspect something), but the character has been given no information at all. The only reason I'd see for a character to know they had been targeted by the Scrying spell would be if they failed the save and can see invisible things. In that case, they'd see the sensor floating near them. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Jul 24 '19 at 17:32

It isn't explicitly stated, so the question then should be: what is the wisdom throw?
My character has done something, it made a wisdom save, so it must have felt SOMETHING was off to even think it needs to resist.

I'd argue if they succeed they know something tried to do something to them. An arcana check or familiarity with scrying might tell them what they just resisted.

If they fail they don't think anything about it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi austin, this answer could be improved by citing relevant rules. You may want to take the tour. \$\endgroup\$ – Raj Feb 25 at 16:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ At the very least, as a follow on to Raj's comment, referring to the Basic Rules on Saving throws to support the point you are making (which is a decent way to rule this as a DM) would be better support for your answer and your reasoning. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 25 at 16:40

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