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Scrying has an M requirement of

a focus worth at least 1,000 gp, such as a crystal ball, a silver mirror, or a font filled with holy water.

While not explicit, this focus is presumably used to actually see and hear the target of the spell (e.g., this question).

Aberrant Mind Sorcerers can retrain one of their Psionic Spells for Scrying, and this feature allows them

to cast the spell using sorcery points, [requiring] no verbal or somatic components, and [requiring] no material components, unless they are consumed by the spell.

Since the focus is not consumed by Scrying, would you allow casting the spell this way? If so, how do Aberrant Mind Sorcerers Scry without a focus?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey: Sorry, I'm a bit rusty. Added the missing details—my thought is that this is allowed by the rules, yet unclear how best to GM it. So, I was hoping to tap into the GM community into how they flavour/narrate this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Mar 15 at 4:34
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Yes, but...

There are two different ways of reading the rules regarding spell components and spells in general — "fiction first" (narrative approach) and "rules first" (mechanical approach). There is no "right" one, the choice depends on your own playstyle, what people at this particular table want, and other factors.

For instance, Find the Path spell requires

an object from the location you wish to find

From the "rules first" perspective you can substitute this object with your focus, since it has no price specified. However, this makes no sense for the "fiction first" point of view, because the result of the spell probably depends on the object being used, and your spellcasting focus is not a thing from the location you're searching for.

Regarding the Scrying spell, if you prefer the "rules first" approach then the resolution is clear (but maybe kind of boring) — the spell just takes effect, no mirror nor crystal ball is required, because magic.

If you choose the "fiction first" approach then the spell probably should require some kind of "screen" for scrying. But asking for a full-price crystal ball would be disappointing for the player, since it'd be basically nullifying the character's prominent feature. Instead, I suggest you to allow using any reflective surface in this case — a mundane mirror, a water puddle, anything.

Or just ask the player "how do you do that"? It's their magic, after all.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What works at a given table works at a given table :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 15 at 13:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Awesome, I like the "fiction first" / "rules first" dichotomy. Very helpful way to frame the conversation! Find the Path is a good example to illustrate the wider point—thanks =). \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Mar 16 at 3:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I love a good fiction first vs rules first answer, especially one that proposes a fiction first approach that doesn't break things. Still, it's worth noting that 5e leans towards rules first. Many a game-breaking house rule has been created from "it doesn't make sense that _______". \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Mar 16 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Both game-breaking house rules and player-annoying (even to the point of the player bailing) have stemmed from "it doesn't make sense that ___". If the rules explicitly say that the player can do X, what justification is there for not allowing the player to do X in the general case (ie., ignoring explicit "but" cases like "wizards can cast spells, but this is an anti-magic zone, so they can't")? \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Mar 16 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @minnmass there are also a lot of player-annoying thing like ridiculous rulings "because it is RAW", despite any common sense. There should be the middle way in 5e, where many rules are open-ended by design. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Mar 17 at 8:49
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Yes: the Aberrant Mind Sorcerer can use sorcery points to scry without an expensive focus.

The rules say that Aberrant Mind Sorcerers can, under certain circumstances (ie., when they've spent sorcery points), ignore material components "unless they are consumed by the spell". Scrying has a material component that is not consumed by the spell. The circumstances that trigger the ability are wholly under the control of the sorcerer (ie., they either spend sorcery points or they don't). Ergo, Aberrant Mind Sorcerers can, when they wish, Scry without an expensive focus.

In-game: the spell may take advantage of a handy reflective surface, it may create an image floating in the air, or the display may be all in the caster's mind (the spell indicates that only the caster can see/hear through the sensor).

As a player, I would be incredibly frustrated if the GM pulled this on me: I've chosen a specific ability (and even paid for it by giving up something else) just for circumstances like this. Forcing an Aberrant Mind Sorcerer to still have a focus to scry makes as much sense, rules-wise, as deciding that a monk's Unarmored Defense doesn't count against plant creatures or that a fighter can't use their Extra Attack against halflings.

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