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So, the players that I DM for have been amassing allies for a final large battle. One of these allies is an Oath of Conquest Paladin that has transformed into a Death Knight since they last saw him. Upon learning that the Paladin is unavailable to help they might try to scry on him to find out what's going on (they have been scrying a lot lately).

From the Monster Manual Death Knights entry:

When a paladin that falls from grace dies without seeking atonement, dark powers can transform the once-mortal knight into a hateful undead creature. A death knight is a skeletal warrior clad in fearsome plate armor. Beneath its helmet, one can see the knight's skull with malevolent pinpoints of light burning in its eye sockets.

The Scrying spell states:

You can see and hear a particular creature you choose that is on the same plane of existence as you.

The computer I am currently on has sage advice blocked, but I remember seeing something about the spell showing the caster the corpse of the creature if it has died.

If the caster chooses the Paladin, does the Scrying spell work and show them the Death Knight?

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It's kinda up to you as the DM

What you've got is a scenario where there was an NPC that the players knew, but then it was transformed. It's still that NPC, but it's now a different form in that it's no longer the humanoid NPC, but now an undead NPC.

However, the description of the 'transformation' really isn't clear as to what mechanic it actually is - so it's not really something that is going to have an official ruling or reference.

I would use whatever fits the story best

When making your decision, you need to consider the story and your players. It sounds like there is an expectation about the NPC to see if he can help. Letting the scry work would allow you to add some more details to the story. I don't know if you plan on a reappearance fighting for or against them, but that may impact your decision to unveil what's happened.

I think it can work either way, it's really up to you to decide what the story is here and what the best way to bring the players in and be part of it will be.

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Strictly per RAW, yes, they can attempt a Scrying, and if successful, it would show the Death Knight.

The transformation doesn't mean that the creature is an entirely different being, and in fact, it still has the same body and soul, which is what usually defines what a creature is, even if both are a little worse for wear. The only significant difference now is that the creature is undead, instead of humanoid. Now, I could certainly see reasons why the Scry might fail anyways, as changing from a Paladin to a Death Knight would have to be caused by (or cause in of itself) a massive shift in personality, meaning the players are less familiar with it than they were previously, which drastically increases the chance for the spell to ultimately fail, but would not entirely prevent its success by itself.

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If the caster chooses the Paladin, does the Scrying spell work and show them the Death Knight?

Scrying: The target must make a Wisdom saving throw, which is modified by how well you know the target and the sort of physical the connection you have to it. If a target knows you're casting this spell, it can fail the saving throw voluntarily if it wants to be observed.

It sounds like the party can scry on him, but he gets a wisdom saving throw, and it can be manipulated by how well the party knows him. Based on the spells saving throw and knowledge and connection to the NPC.

The PALADIN is a creature so they can scry on him. I believe your decision is whether how well they know and understand the current creature. Sort of like, Anikin SkyWalker vs. Darth Vader. They are not the same person, but there is a small familiarity with them if you look hard enough. But only someone like Obiwan, Ashoka, or Yoda might pick that apart. So unless there is someone in the party that knew him on that level, I would rule, yes you can scry, but you don't know him that well.

I believe that would make the save easier for the Death Knight and gain a +5 as they have heard of him, but they don't know him.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you support the idea that the paladin is the same creature using the rules? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 14 at 18:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch This is a thinker, thanks for calling me on it. The best way I can support this is through his back story. At the very end in the MM it says "yet Soth would find no rest in death becoming a Death Knight." The best way I can interrput this is that Soth is Soth but has not found NO rest. \$\endgroup\$ – user61180 Jan 14 at 19:43
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Unclear

Personally, I agree with NautArch's answer. As the DM, I would make a ruling based on the current events of the story.

I believe I found the tweet that OP referred to. Mike Mearls was asked:

If you attempt to cast scry someone who has died, what happens?

to which he responded:

You get a disconnected line notice. Or a view of the corpse.

At least part of this is a joke. Please note that Mike Mearls does not and has not provided official rulings.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That does look like what I remember seeing, thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – jrferr Jan 16 at 21:36

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