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DM here. My BBEG scrys on the party once per day, and I have my Rogue make wisdom saving throws (which she usually fails). My party are still fairly new to D&D so they never guess that she's being scryed on.

However I totally forgot that the wizard has been wearing a Robe of Eyes (can see Invisible objects). By all rights, she should be spotting a fist-sized luminous orb appearing 10 feet from them. At this point, she should've spotted this like 4-5 times.

My question: Now what? Do I just tell my players in a retcon way that they'd been seeing an orb 5 days in a row? Does the wizard just start seeing this orb from now on? Do I just never tell them about the sensor and have the Rogue continue to think she's making saving throws because she has some sort of cursed item (the party's current theory)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Verdan: Don't answer in comments. You're welcome to ask clarifying questions or suggest improvements to the question itself, but answer content belongs in answers. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 6 at 6:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Unfortunately, "what should I do" style questions are often a poor fit for StackExchange's Q&A format, as all answers are potentially equally valid. If you edit the question to tell us the primary goal(s) you're trying to accomplish, however, we might be able to suggest the best way to accomplish that goal. (Answerers, please make sure to back up your answers by citing evidence/experience per Good Subjective.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 6 at 6:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you give a bit of info on your BBEG and through which means you had initially imagined the BBEG is doing the scrying? \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Oct 6 at 9:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ How much actionable intelligence has the BBEG collected so far? That is, would any of the information BBEG has collected have changed any game outcomes? Also, is BBEG smart enough that he would know the wizard would have this Robe, say from other spying done earler, or simply from his orb seeing it before the robe/wizard sees him? \$\endgroup\$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 6 at 16:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ My sympathy ... this is exactly the sort of thing I'd forget as a DM :p \$\endgroup\$ – Greg Martin Oct 6 at 20:22
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Preface/Aside: It's not obvious to me that your thief's player should be making those saving throws, as opposed to you making them in private. Surprisingly, I cannot find the question addressed here directly ("Does a player know he is failing wisdom saves when scried?") or indirectly ("When do you tell a player they are making a saving throw?")

But nothing in the text of the spell says or implies that the target knows they are being scried, unless or until they see the invisible orb. The presence of a special rule for when the character does somehow know they are being scried is the exception that proves this rule. (Take note of this correct usage of that phrase.) This makes it sound similar to a passive perception check, which is commonly kept secret from the player.

I bring this up because, although it does not help you here, it would have enabled you to cleanly retcon your BBEG's actions: "Well, I guess he wasn't scrying them all that time. Must have been busy," with none the wiser.


But that isn't what happened, and now you face the choice of:

  1. Your first suggestion: Retcon and tell them they've been seeing that glowing thing all along. Your players may not immediately understand what this means, but they will probably figure it out right quick. They may call foul, because they may have taken different actions based on that information. I would not do this.

  2. Your second suggestion: Playing it straight going forward with no explanation. The next time the save is failed, the wizard sees the glowing thing, and your players probably figure out what happened. They may call foul, as above. I would not do this, either.

  3. Your third suggestion: Retcon/houserule some reason for the Robe of Eyes not to work. In particular, a strained reading of the spell text might imply that it is the target who needs to see invisible, not any random creature in the area. (No, I don't really buy that myself. There are other equivalent retcons, some of which can best be summarized as, "Because the GM said so.") This is less objectionable to me than the others, but I probably would not do this, either.

  4. My suggestion: Aim to rectify the situation with as much honesty and fairness as you can arrange. In this case, I specifically recommend admitting that you screwed up as the honesty component. Because inevitably, these things happen. It's unfortunate, but they do. And the fairness that I recommend is telling the players that, since you messed up, you won't be using any of the information that the scryer may have gained, since the error prevented them from taking any countermeasures. Optionally, suggest that going forward the whole thing be retconned and that the next time the thief fails the saving throw is actually the first time they've been scried... and the wizard sees it and they can react naturally.

  5. For really good, experienced groups, admit you messed up and ask them for suggestions on how to handle it.

In this case, if at all possible, I'd go for the fourth option. This makes the tacit assumption that your BBEG has not already made overt, on-screen use of the information they received from scrying. Since it's only been a week, this is probably a good assumption.

Retcons are clunky and undesirable, but that takes a back seat in my mind to the basic fairness of the issue. I know myself well enough to know this would eat at me as a GM. I also know that essentially all of the players I've played with in the last 20 years or so would be pretty generous in their reactions to something like this because mistakes do happen.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 10 at 13:40
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That only matters if a series of things are false. If any of them are true, you're off the hook.

Either a) it didn't change the game...

If it wasn't written down, it didn't happen - Ryan's Law

First, if the baddie has only been collecting information so far, but hasn't acted on it, then this is simplicity itself: The baddie loses that knowledge. Since Bad is an NPC entirely in your head or notes, that's easy.

The same applies if Bad has acted on it, but the action failed, the party weathered it, or didn't have a significant effect on the game.

Or b) it could be attibuted to luck...

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. - military proverb

Maybe if we set aside the scrying altogether, Big Bad is being ordinarily active, sending forces out to seek pure chance encounters. Or maybe Bad's forces are not even seeking that hard, and the party got unlucky and stumbled onto one. That would be more likely if the party is seeking clues in particular places connected to Big Bad.

If any of your game-changing events could fit that picture, you are off the hook.

Or c) it could be attributed to other intelligence gathering

If Big Bad is that interested, surely there is other intelligence gathering being done. Perhaps one of those leads paid off, e.g. A spy at a crossroads was paid to be on the lookout and signal when the party came through.

Or d) Bad could have taken countermeasures

if Bad was aware of the robe, he may have been able to take countermeasures during scrying to avoid being seen. Maybe Bad has some NPC-only power, or just took care to scry from places and angles where the wizard was unlikely to see.

Either Bad just presumes everyone has sensors, or Bad got specific intelligence from an observer that the party had a Robe of Eyes.

These last two raise a sobering consideration for the party. How does Bad know so much about the party? Could someone inside the party be leaking information? Cue paranoia...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Great point, if the information hasn't been a detriment to the party so far then they don't even know scrying has occurred so making it never have occurred is seemless! Just like all the other DM witchery 🙂 \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Oct 7 at 12:49
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Retcon

If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

You are telling a story about imaginary events that only you (until now) are aware of.

You can change your own perception of the events and proceed as normal.

I see no reason to tell the party about your thought crime.

You could retcon that the baddie has not been scrying. Maybe the rogue’s “wisdom save” was actually a routine perception check.

Maybe the baddie has just started scrying and now the wizard gets a chance to see the orb.

Or possibly the baddie was only scrying at 3am when presumably they were asleep.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Was gonna add this exact thing. Your retcon should be that the BBEG wasn't actually scrying on them. \$\endgroup\$ – emery.noel Oct 7 at 11:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I, too, would have answered thus if you hadn't beat me to it. It's the simplest, and fairest answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Oct 7 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another way to retcon away the wisdom saves is to say "Sorry, I misread the rules and you didn't actually have to make those wisdom saves. I thought you were subjected to a certain effect, but upon rereading I realized you shouldn't have been." And then start rolling future scrying saves secretly as suggested by other answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Oct 7 at 20:30
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The description for Robe of Eyes doesn't say that the Wizard wearer will be aware of things that occur when sleeping. The odds of the wizard being asleep each time the scrying was done depend on watch schedules and such. How long the baddie keeps the scry running each time might have an influence as well.

Also, it's only advantage on perception -- not automatic success.

Scenario: 5 x scrys. 3 times wizard was sleeping. 2 possible times to spot at advantage. So if the wizard fails 4 perception rolls, nothing spotted.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not the advantage in perception. It's the see invisible that's the problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Oct 7 at 19:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 8 at 5:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't mention the See Invisible aspect because it's a given -- the perception rolls above only become possible because of the See Invisible. \$\endgroup\$ – Alan Peery Oct 10 at 14:21
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Novak's answer describes all the things you need to cope with, but I think you might be able to dodge them all in this case.

I'd suggest pretending that the BBEG had been very careful to position the scrying sensor behind a PC or a tree from the wizard (maybe using some other info to know that was necessary), but have them slip up and the wizard notice a glowing something which quickly disappears when spotted. Thereafter, allow or encourage the wizard to make perception checks to notice it again.

That's not completely by the rules, but it's close enough I think you could decide that's how scrying works in this universe. It also has the following good features:

  • The wizard gets the advantage of her item of spotting the scrying after the BBEG tried and failed to keep it hidden. That's a lot more exciting for them than "the BBEG knew he couldn't scry you so didn't try", even if that would theoretically be superior.
  • The party find out about the scrying. If the scrying is a background plot point, it doesn't actually add much to the player experience. When they find out, it drives the plot!
  • Technically you didn't follow the rules, but you're all sufficiently new I don't think any of the players will be treated unfairly if you decide scrying works like this, and if so, you can retcon it without changing anything important.
  • And because the players feel like they've "won" by finding out, they'll hopefully not feel betrayed that it happened before.
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When Life Gives You Lemons...

I agree that using a Retcon to explain the scrying is not going to play out well, but there's more than one way to deal with this issue. What if the Party was being spied on, not by the BBEG, but the BBEG's loyal henchman, who's reporting back to the BBEG via his Palantir (or similar McGuffin). Now (provided that the PCs pass a perception check), create a situation where the BBEG's henchman might get caught.

Now your mistake turned into an opportunity for the Party to:

  1. Get a way to communicate with the BBEG and make him a more active part of the campaign;
  2. Grant the Party an opportunity to capture and interrogate the henchman, go get more information about the BBEG's evil plot;
  3. Create an interesting scene where the PCs have meaningful choices (i.e. - Do they shoot to kill or do they capture the henchman? Do they use the Palantir to bargain with the BBEG? Does the BBEG use the Palantir to gain information on the Party, or vice versa? etc.)
  4. Understand why you made them make all those Wisdom checks. They were really perception checks, right?
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Couldn't these orbs be positioned behind eg trees or rocks in such a way Wizard could not spot them? So, the orb would be only watching Rogue and merely guess/infer what the entire party is up to. Now if the party moves to open terrain you could mention Wizard sees these orbs.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Fist-sized, luminous, and 10 feet away is a bit hard to hide behind trees. But right above the head of the PCs, on sunny days, would, in all probability, go undetected even if the orb wasn't invisible in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ – Guntram Blohm supports Monica Oct 7 at 18:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Robe of eyes has all-directions vision. Having it directly overhead won't help. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Oct 7 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ What if you aligned it directly in front of the sun so the glare washes it out? \$\endgroup\$ – WillRoss1 Oct 7 at 22:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aligning it in front of the sun would involve anticipating the exact movements of both the watched rogue and the cloak wearing wizard. Not really feasible. \$\endgroup\$ – Alan Peery Oct 10 at 14:24

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