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Does the Ranger's Primeval Awareness feature let the ranger know the specific different creature types if there is more then one creature type in range? Or is it simply a "yes/no" answer that lumps all those creature types together?

For example: let's say both Dragon- and Fey-type creatures are in range of Primeval Awareness ability. The ranger uses the ability. Should the DM say, "You sense Dragons and Fey, but none of the other types of creatures"? Or should the DM say, "You sense something within your range but you're not sure what it is"

Note that I am not asking about numbers or location.

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It tells you what different types (in the generic sense) are in the radius.

The feature description says

For 1 minute per level of the spell slot you expend, you can sense whether the following types of creatures are present within 1 mile of you (or within up to 6 miles if you are in your favored terrain): aberrations, celestials, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead. This feature doesn’t reveal the creatures’ location or number.

Notice that it explicitly spells out that the location and number are not revealed, but it doesn't say that type is not.

That's not much to go on, but... this feature is just badly worded all around. What "within up to 6 miles" is supposed to mean is anyone's guess, and if we take the reading completely literally, because it says "and", the ranger might get a sense of presence only when every type is nearby. Like: "nope, you get nothing" in the situation where there's a beholder, an adult red dragon, an efreeti, a hag, a death knight, and Tiamat all hiding behind a rock. ("What?!?" says the party after they are all TPK'd. "Oh, there wasn't a celestial within a mile, so it didn't work", you tell them.)

So, I hope trying to parse it literally is right out. Given that, let's try to read it at least in a way that seems to meet the intentions and which has some use for the player.

Even with revealing the type, Primeval Awareness is very situational and costs a spell slot — a very limited resource for rangers. Having it not distinguish in this way would be a major limitation. If aberrations are the focus of an adventure, and yet it happens there is a dryad in the woods five miles to the north minding her own business, the ranger would be unable to tell. In a typical fantasy setting, it's easy to imagine that some creature of one of these types is within range at all times. That would drop the feature from highly situational to literally useless.

So, while the text is open to interpretation, I strongly recommend the slightly generous one.

It's not an official ruling, but 5E designer Mike Mearls appears to agree, tweeting that while Primeval Awareness does not reveal location or number, it does reveal type. Or specifically, he was asked "It doesn't indicate location or number of enemies, what about types?" and answered

just type

and then followed up with a clarification that it just lets you know, for example, "undead", not specifically vampires or zombies.

This doesn't specifically spell out whether multiple types are indicated, but I think that's implicit in spelling out that it does reveal type, not just a useless "ping! one of the many possibilities is out there!" answer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure what further rules are possible to cite. The feature itself only has a short description and does not go into detail. Spells which might provide parallel examples (like commune with nature) have entirely different wording and specifics and so are no real help. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Mar 16 at 12:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you could cite the description of Primeval Awareness, and point out that it explicitly doesn't tell you their location or number; it doesn't say the same for type, and if it didn't tell you type it would be even more useless than it already is. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 16 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I guess I could. I intentionally didn't because the question already said it's not about those things. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Mar 16 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm: My point is that you could use the absence of the mention of "type" in that line to point out that you do likely know that much, and that if it didn't even tell you that, it'd basically be nothing more than a nagging feeling that someone was somewhere within a mile of you (or 6). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 16 at 18:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast A nagging feeling that cost you a spell slot! Anyway, done — maybe that helps? \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Mar 16 at 18:45

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