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The 3rd level class feature of the ranger, Primeval Awareness, says:

Beginning at 3rd level, you can use your action and expend one ranger spell slot to focus your awareness on the region around you. 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.

Of all the rangers I've played myself or seen played by others, I have never seen this feature get used. One of the things that stops me (at least) from using it is that last line ("This feature doesn’t reveal the creatures’ location or number."), which seems to make the feature overall pretty useless.

It seems that at least someone else agrees with me enough to level this criticism at Crawford:

Jonathan Longstaff:
@JeremyECrawford Also Primeval Awareness is arguably the worst class feature in the game. It's so not worth a spell slot.

Jeremy Crawford:
@pukunui81 It's definitely situational. In my recent Ravenloft game—heavy on investigation, light on combat—Primeval Awareness was pivotal.

Jonathan Longstaff:
@JeremyECrawford The fact that it covers a large area and doesn't even give you a direction is the main issue for me.

Whilst I'm curious to know if anyone thinks this feature isn't useless as-is and can explain why it's actually useful, that's not what I'm going to ask here (people can always link me to forum posts about such things in the comments below, if such forum posts exist).

Instead, my question is, assuming that I continue to believe that this feature is useless because of that last line, what are the balance implications of removing that last line from the class feature's description? So the feature would read the same but excluding "This feature doesn’t reveal the creatures’ location or number."

My main concern is that it might end up being basically a better version of locate creature, which is a 4th level spell and therefore a RAW ranger wouldn't be able to do this until level 13. On the other hand, this would only last a few minutes at most rather than up to an hour like locate creature.

Would allowing this feature to specify numbers and directions (bearing in mind that it only lasts a few minutes at most) make it overpowered, or would it merely increase its power enough to make it actually useful?

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It is useful without giving exact location and numbers

A lower level ability shouldn't do what a higher level one can.

I would describe the direction and a feeling of concentration of the creature type. For example, there is a heavy presence of undead to the north and a light presence to the east.

This is a tool the Ranger has to see if the party are heading in the right direction. It should do that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi BeardedWombat, welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for more information. Thanks for participating and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Apr 17 at 0:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ "To use the feature without removing the last line would be to describe the direction and a feeling of concentration of the creature type." - Technically, the feature doesn't say you learn the direction they're in, or the "concentration" of how many there are. All it says you learn is "whether the following types of creatures are present within 1 mile of you" (or 6 miles in favored terrain); as written, that's just a yes/no statement about whether a non-zero number of that creature type is in range. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 17 at 1:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree it is a yes/no statement. I'll remove that. \$\endgroup\$ – BeardedWombat Apr 17 at 2:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be fair, a vague direction and rough numbers would be enough for this feature to not feel useless to me. It's the yes/no and nothing more that bothers me. I agree that pinpoint location and exact numbers would be overpowered, so the vague direction and "concentration of the creature type", as you describe it, would be more what I'm looking for. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Apr 17 at 7:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Rough numbers is usually the best a DM can do anyway, the revised ranger gives exact numbers and locations, but just ask a DM exactly how many humans are within 6 miles and exactly where they all are \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Apr 17 at 10:23
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No, it wouldn't make Primeval Awareness unbalanced.

Allowing it to specify the numbers and direction would not make the feature unbalanced. It would make the feature much more useful but it is still situational and so would be unlikely to cause other players to feel left out of game play.

The change would make the Ranger have a bigger gain at level 3 than most other classes, however. Most classes only get subclass features at level 3. Two other classes that get features aside from subclass are Monk and Paladin. The monk gets Deflect Missiles, which is very useful in combat and can be expected to be relevant frequently. The paladin gets Divine Health which grants immunity to disease. This is fairly situational but very useful if it comes up.

The unchanged Primeval Awareness is always usable but its usefulness is highly situational. I would say changing the feature would make it better than Divine Health and about on par with Deflect Missiles. In combination with the subclass features this would give the ranger a stronger power increase at level 3 than the Paladin and most other classes.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the comparison to other classes that get extra stuff at level 3. Deflect Missiles and Divine Health are good things to bear in mind. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Apr 17 at 7:53
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Removing the last line makes no difference to the function of the ability

Beginning at 3rd level, you can use your action and expend one ranger spell slot to focus your awareness on the region around you. 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.

Due to the italicized passage and more importantly the bolded "whether" (and lack of other more specific information) it would still return a booleen (Yes/No) as to whether or not there are any of these types of creatures in the area and arguably which types.

What if you changed it to allow Quantity/Direction?

Now assuming you make some other modifications to the ability to specifically allow direction and quantity to be detected... then is it OP? I would say it is certainly more powerful and would see much more use... a level 1 spell slot compass to detect aberrations, celestials, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead and their number and their location... seems like too much for a 3rd level character for me.

What would be balanced?

Beginning at 3rd level, you can use your action and expend one ranger spell slot to focus your awareness on the region around you. For 1 minute per level of the spell slot you expend, you can sense the whether the following types of creatures are present within 1 mile of you and if so their direction (or within up to 6 miles if you are in your favored terrain): aberrations, celestials, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead.

This would allow the compass functionality but not the quantity functionality and therefor might be a happy medium between a having both and being well on the op side and the ribbon ability it is now.

Another option might be:

Beginning at 3rd level, you can use your action and expend one ranger spell slot to focus your awareness on the region around you. For 1 minute per level of the spell slot you expend, you can sense how many creatures have the following types 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.

Thus giving the quantity option but not the direction option. If you are adamant on making both changes I'm certain you can manage to combine both those edits but I personally advise against it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I can see that direction or numbers could work, but what do you think of direction and very rough numbers (i.e. a couple, a few, many, rather than an integer)? \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Apr 17 at 7:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS that could work... probably also with less precision in direction. An example of that might be: "Beginning at 3rd level, you can use your action and expend one ranger spell slot to focus your awareness on the region around you. For 1 minute per level of the spell slot you expend, you can sense roughly how many creatures have the following types within 1 mile of you and the rough direction as determined by the DM (or within up to 6 miles if you are in your favored terrain): aberrations, celestials, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead." This may become frustrating for the user. \$\endgroup\$ – rpgstar Apr 17 at 8:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ (character limit) this may become more frustrating than it's worth. a ribbon ability you know is situational can sometimes be better than a unreliable main ability... \$\endgroup\$ – rpgstar Apr 17 at 8:13

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