My players are planning to use Augury to decide whether to enter a dungeon, and I'm trying to decide what the outcome of the spell should be.

I can see that some extremes should be obvious: for example, if the dungeon contains four ancient dragons that will annihilate them, it's Woe. If the dungeon contains a pile of platinum and no dangers at all, it's Weal. But what if it's a 'typical' dungeon with monsters and traps but also treasure? Does that count as Weal, Woe, Weal and Woe, or neither? What if, again as is often the case, there is danger first before there's treasure? What if there's a tough puzzle that might cause them to quit after taking damage but before finding treasure?

If it makes a difference, which I think it might, I would like them to explore this dungeon, and I think they have the skills to survive it and find the treasure. I've seen people suggest that Augury is really a way for the PCs to communicate with the DM, and if that's the case, I would be tempted to say Weal, as code for 'yes, please do it'. But I don't want them to feel betrayed when they get (non-lethally) hurt.

As pointed out in comments, Augury only covers events in the next 30 minutes. I'd be interested in answers for both of the following situations:

1) This is a very short dungeon which can be cleared in less than thirty minutes; or

2) The players ask only about whether they should enter the first room of the dungeon - I think this exacerbates the problem because it's even less clear whether this will be good or bad.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Augury only covers 30 minutes. Have you houseruled this away or it is a really short dungeon? Because for typical dungeon it is impossible to cast this spell like you described. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Feb 18, 2020 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point - will edit with two possible options \$\endgroup\$ Feb 18, 2020 at 18:27

4 Answers 4


5e can't handle this question very well

This is, in essence, the same question as whether a player should get circumstantial advantage, disadvantage, or neither or a roll. Taken literally, almost every situation should receive an answer of "weal and woe", just like every roll should be made with both advantage and disadvantage due to the myriad tiny influences in both directions. The game doesn't work well when run that way; I've tried.

Ignoring this question usually works okay in practice

Instead, you have to turn off your critical thinking brain and just kinda go with whatever seems more socially acceptable. Some groups expect tactical advantages and won't bat an eye at being given advantage or disadvantage on an attack roll for swordfighting on the favorable/unfavorable side of a slope. Some groups expect GM-given advantage/disadvantage to be synonymous with "that's cool!/lame!" from the GM and will be confused when they get disadvantage for trying to assault opponents on a spiral staircase.

The factors that are important to a group when they assess your decision to respond with "advantage" or "woe" or similar will vary from group to group, and if you think too much about the rules-text and DMG advice instead of trying to please the crowd, the system breaks down and no one's happy. Instead, think about what your players will think made sense in hindsight, then give the people what they want.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's also good to remind the players that they can ask about a "specific course of action". The more specific they can be, the easier it will be for the DM to answer, and the more actionable the answer will be for the players. Furthermore, presumably if a cleric is casting the spell, their god knows what they are after, and can answer accordingly. For example, if they are seeking a specific artifact, the absence of a weal reading could indicate that the artifact is not located in the dungeon (or at least not within 30 minutes of their current position). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 18, 2020 at 19:15

Use your best judgement

You are human (I hope) and aren't omniscient. You can't accurately predict how difficult an encounter might be for some players. I almost had 4 level 4's die to 6 skeletons and if someone had used Augury I probably would have given Weal for the treasure that was in the sarcophagi.

You best bet is (probably) to weigh potential gains with the challenge of a certain room. If you have a deadly encounter and only 50gp worth of treasure it'll probably be Woe. If you have an easy encounter and 10k gp worth of treasure it'd be Weal. A good guide to this might be the loot tables in the DMG. If you use the tables As-Is you might always say Weal and Woe. If you use the tables and give them extra treasure for an easier encounter you could say Weal.

You're playing D&D, so there's always the chance of Woe. Some dice can land poorly and someone can get crit and then fail all their death saves. What I'm saying is: Don't think about it too hard. Give them an answer that either makes sense or moves the story along, in your case if you want them to do the dungeon you can say Weal and Woe. There will be Woes at pretty much all points of D&D, plus they'll get some loot. The other thing is that the spell is asking an extra planar entity, they might also not know the answer to the fullest extent.


First, a bit of history

Now, spell reads:

you receive an omen from an otherworldly entity about the results of a specific course of action that you plan to take within the next 30 minutes.

But how much further results can spell see at all? It is not specified so you are free to do as you wish, but in 3, 3.5 and Pathfinder it was

The augury can see into the future only about half an hour, so anything that might happen after that does not affect the result. Thus, the result might not take into account the long-term consequences of a contemplated action.

In AD&D it also supposedly had this note:

DM Advice: You don't need ot be overly exact about what you tell the caster -- simply compare the knowledge you have and give the character the general impression of what might lie ahead.

Of course these are old rules, but they do not oppose in any way the current wording of the spell so using them for inspiration makes sense. And many DMs I knew were ruling like this all right.

So how to proceed

I play since when 3e started replacing its ancestors, DM since 3.5 and what helped a lot with divinations generally and Augury specifically were:

  1. Talking, player to DM, or DM to players. You, as their DM only know so much. You will alter the encounters and events to match what the spell (that is, you) told them or you will not, and divination will be nothing more than your educated guess. Having this established before game sessions helps a lot with problems of both approaches. Players can't complain imprecise divinations if they agreed on it — or they can't complain being set up for success / failure if that's the option your table preferred.

  2. Getting a bit creative with "you receive an omen from an otherworldly entity". Omen. Not word. In one of my games Weal was a white dove and Woe was black raven. They can fly together and then go their separate directions, marking a point when things can go either way. They may struggle and fight. There may be just a glimpse of a wing, black or white, far away in the sky... Or big raven and small dove. You can convey a lot, it doesn't have to be all or nothing with omens. Again, talk with your table if that's how they want it, because while it meets the RAW of the spell, it's stretching it.


Predictions are hard, particularly about the future

However, you are not doing yourself any favours by playing the spell wrong. Augury gives you:

an omen from an otherworldly entity about the results of a specific course of action that you plan to take within the next 30 minutes.

Note “specific”, “plan” and “next 30 minutes” - the omen is only about what the players can specifically plan to do and it has a time limit. If their plan has no prospect of them reaching the four hypothetical (I hope) ancient dragons within 30 minutes then they don’t factor into the result.

Realistically, 30 minutes is the next two encounters - surely your efforts at precognition are that good?

Of course, if they don’t follow the plan then you’re off the hook.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just because the results don't happen within 30 minutes doesn't mean that augury isn't intended to warn about it. If I ask about picking up cursed treasure that kills the bearer at the next full moon I'd certainly expect 'woe' even if the next full moon isn't for several hours. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2020 at 8:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil Yeah, that makes sense, because you're getting afflicted with the curse right away, even if the curse doesn't do anything for a little while. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2020 at 16:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .