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My party's Cleric has just picked up Augury. It's clearly a spell that garners some understandable confusion, but I don't think this precise question's been asked before.

How should I, as DM, answer Augury when the good or bad outcomes of a proposed course of action hinge on a skill check, which is random?

To provide a concrete example, suppose the party need to recover some battle plans from within an enemy encampment. In the dead of night, the Cleric casts Augury, proposing: "The rogue sneaks past the sentries and takes it from the command tent". It's a fine plan, one I expected them to try, and it will work perfectly if the Rogue rolls at least an 11 on their stealth check - a 50% chance. But if they roll under, the alarm will be raised, and the Rogue will likely be captured.

This isn't "Nothing", and it isn't "Weal-and-Woe" - the result is definitely one of Good or Bad, and it isn't both. It also isn't contingent on any subsequent effects that would change the outcome. So how should I answer?

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Augury assumes you will do what you set out to

Augury doesn't tell the future - it tells you what the ultimate outcome of a particular course of action will be. The important parts of the spell description:

you receive an omen from an otherworldly entity about the results of a specific course of action that you plan to take

And:

The spell doesn’t take into account any possible circumstances that might change the outcome

The result of using Augury on a plan of attempting to sneak past the guards should likely be nothing - the omen does not know if you will succeed or not.

However, the result of using Augury on a plan of sneaking past the guards to steal battle plans should likely be weal. If you sneak past the guards and get the battle plans, you'll have an advantage in the coming fight! Seems pretty straightforward.

But wait! The result could instead be woe! This might indicate that it's worthless to sneak past the guards as the battle plans you learned of are fakes!

It could have a result of weal and woe! You'll successfully steal the plans and have an advantage in the coming fight, but you haven't figured out yet that you're really working for the villain!

Help your players craft a good query

As a DM, if your players are trying to use Augury on a roll-dependent outcome, be willing to help them modify the request to be what they really want to know.

Ultimately it's up to the DM

nitsua60 makes an excellent point in the original question about Augury - it's a different sort of spell and wide open for interpretation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I can see this making sense also. I'd be concerned about players feeling cheated if they said "sneaking past the guards" and got Weal, and then it turns out the guards have a pack of dogs and a wizard with x-ray vision, but that's where "Help the players craft a good query" comes in: the DM needs to clearly communicate about exactly what question is being answered. In this case it's "If we successfully sneak past the guards, will the result be good or bad?" \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells May 13 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells augury is slightly different from how you're describing - you don't get to ask a question about an outcome, it lets you know the results of an outcome. Obviously, this is a bit of a weird edge case, and most DMS should just let players ask about a particular course of action, but it is a nuance. \$\endgroup\$ – L0neGamer May 14 at 13:39
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Roll the skill check in advance.

This is based on the Divination Wizard's Portent ability. I've used it to handle limited precognitive magic (though not the Augury spell as such) in a few games, and I've had players comment that it's a cool way to represent seeing the future.

When they describe the plan, in this case, they mention that someone's going to make a stealth approach, so the success of the plan will hinge on a Stealth check. So roll that Stealth check now. You don't have to tell them what it's for (since you know the relevant bonus and DC), but you might as well; if they roll a 6 and you say "Woe" then they should be able to figure out it's related. Then if they try to execute a plan based on a stealth approach, the crucial Stealth check will use whatever number they just rolled.

If they don't go ahead with the plan, that's completely fair; that's the point of doing the augury.

This does get unwieldy if it depends on multiple skill checks; in that case you may have to make a rough estimate of the probability of success, roll that, state the prediction, and then force a success or failure at some point so that they get their Weal and/or Woe outcome. Augury is weird, and, frankly, not a great fit for D&D's "decision tree of independent random variables" structure.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I really like the roll in advance idea +1 from me! \$\endgroup\$ – Himitsu_no_Yami May 13 at 20:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I definitely like this answer, but I think this is a deviation from the intent of Augury... Working on my own take. \$\endgroup\$ – lucasvw May 13 at 20:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I... quite like this. It requires the Augury request be specific enough to know that check is coming; but that's definitely how I worded the question, and is probably how it will often be used. \$\endgroup\$ – Chowlett May 13 at 20:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @lucasvw I'll be interested to hear your answer. I know I have a fairly solid idea of what Augury is "really doing" which is probably not everyone else's. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells May 13 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells I just posted an answer. I'd love to hear what you think \$\endgroup\$ – lucasvw May 13 at 21:09
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Augury ignores the results of the skill check.

From the augury spell's description:

The spell doesn't take into account any possible circumstances that might change the outcome, such as the casting of additional spells or the loss or gain of a companion.

A skill check is a possible circumstance that might change the outcome.

As a GM, endeavor to provide a response that is generally true, not one that will be true. If the rogue is going to sneak in to the tent and that seems like it's likely to succeed, then the result is "weal" - even though it's possible for the rogue to roll poorly and fail. The same process works the other way around: if the rogue is likely to fail to sneak in to the tent and steal the plans, then the result is woe - even if it is possible for the rogue to roll well and succeed.

You've proposed an example where the odds of the skill check failing and succeeding are equal. But the example of augury you proposed isn't divining whether or not the check to sneak in is successful, but whether their entire plan is. Are the odds of stealing the battle plans and escaping insignificant once the rogue is in?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Granted, the concrete example is an extreme hypothetical. But I'm not sure it sits well to answer "Weal" on (say) a 55% probability, then just shrug when it doesn't come off. \$\endgroup\$ – Chowlett May 13 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chowlett I was hoping the real takeaway would be that the probability of that single check passing is largely irrelevant. It's really a summary of how successful their entire plan will be, which can't be answered quantitatively at the table (for most tables, anyway). \$\endgroup\$ – indigochild May 13 at 23:30
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Railroad them into the result of augury

First of all, your players are expecting things to go along with the outcome. They already railroaded themselves. Play along. Either you decide the outcome randomly or ranDMly, you can tell the result of their plan before they go with the plan and roll the dice. You're the storyweaver, after all!

When the result of a skill check contradicts your augury result, you can follow up with something that makes it true.

  • When the augury say bad result and your players succeed in all their checks to sneak into the castle, it might mean it's actually a bait for an ambush.
  • When the augury say good result and your players fail in their checks, they may be spotted by a guard that's actually trying to help them.

Also, remember that failure in skill check doesn't necessarily mean black or white, success or fail result. The rule allows you to let them succeed with a twist.

If the total equals or exceeds the DC, the ability check is a success--the creature overcomes the challenge at hand. Otherwise, it's a failure, which means the character or monster makes no progress toward the objective or makes progress combined with a setback determined by the GM.

A failure in sneaking might mean they successfully sneak in, but it takes a long time to find the opportunity to do so. This satisfy 'weal' even when the result of the skill check is fail.

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