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The description of the ranger's Primeval Awareness feature 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.

I feel like Primeval Awareness is so underpowered as to be almost pointless. (But maybe I have not fully understood its implications...)

Feeling as I do, I have been talking with the ranger in the party to come up with a new version of the spell to make it a bit more useful and interesting. So far we have this:

Beginning at 3rd level, you can use your action and one ranger spell slot, or 10 minutes (as a ritual) per level of spell, to focus your awareness on the region around you. For 10 minutes per level of the spell that you cast, you can sense the following types of creature within 1 mile per level of the spell that you cast (or up to 6 miles in your favoured terrain): Aberrations, Celestials, Dragons, Elementals, Fey, Fiends, Undead, Your Favoured Enemy. You can either focus on the allowed number of types for the spell level and know which are within range or focus on all to know whether the same number of randomly selected types are within range. In your favoured terrain, or focussed solely on your favoured enemy, you can also sense the direction within 180°; if both are true, you can sense the direction within 90°.

I think that this will make the spell feel more useful to the player, allow them to roleplay ritualistically burning twigs in the woods to mystically track creatures down, and not break the game for everyone else.

However, I am reluctant to make changes, as an inexperienced DM, without first checking whether they are likely to be problematic in some way that I might not have foreseen. Therefore, my concern is this:

Is my reworded version of the Primeval Awareness feature likely to be an improvement, compared to the original? Will it cause any kind of problems (either for me or the players), or maybe not work in a way to make the feature any more useful for the ranger?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "There are undead within six miles of here." "Dang. Where?" shrug "How many?" shrug "Should we be worried?" shrug "So glad you burned a spell slot for us ..." \$\endgroup\$
    – schroeder
    Jul 30 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've edited the title in order to make it look more like a question. The title I suggest is based on the question body. Please correct me, if I got it wrong. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Jul 30 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am happy with the edit @enkryptor - thanks for doing it. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Also... Primeval Awareness isn't a spell, just a feature that uses a spell slot. You may want to edit your question accordingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 31 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Since that misconception isn't fundamental to the question, I've attempted to edit some of the wording to fix this (as well as editing the tags accordingly)... But your revised wording of the feature repeatedly refers to it as a "spell" or "casting a spell", so it would probably be better for you to fix the wording of the feature yourself to make sure it maintains your intent.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 31 at 0:48
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Consider swapping to Primal Awareness instead

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything introduces several optional class features for the ranger; one of these is Primal Awareness (p. 57), which replaces Primeval Awareness entirely with a thematically similar but mechanically distinct feature.

Primal Awareness essentially provides a list of spells that you gain at specific levels, starting at 3rd level (i.e. when you would first get Primeval Awareness), along with the ability to cast each of those spells once a day for free. The provided spells are all related to gathering information from the surrounding environment or wildlife.
(I'm giving a general description rather than quoting the feature directly because TCE is not a freely available source. However, you can find an earlier playtest version of the same feature in Unearthed Arcana: Class Feature Variants.)

Of course, while Primal Awareness is thematically similar, it is a distinct feature, not just a modification of Primeval Awareness, so it might not be exactly what you're looking for. On the other hand, it is an official character creation option, so you have some assurance that it has been play-tested for balance and such.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I'd be that fast to say all of Tasha's is balanced :) it is all still optional, too. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jul 30 at 13:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch That why I said some assurance. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will check this out - thanks for the suggestion, and the assurances that it is at least not TOO overbalanced are valuable. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30 at 16:06
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Primeval Awareness is free and available to all Ranger types. But I can't find another class with a more useless free ability at level 3 (aside from the classes that also get a subclass, as the Ranger does).

  • Barbarians: skill proficiency (TCE)
  • Bards: Expertise
  • Monk: Deflect Missiles
  • Paladin: immune to disease
  • Rogue: Steady Aim (TCE)
  • Sorcerer: Metamagic
  • Wizard: Swap cantrips (TCE)
  • Clerics: nothing
  • Fighter: nothing
  • Warlock: nothing

...

  • Ranger: spend one of your 3 daily spell slots to get the knowledge that you wished you had more information ...

I cannot think of a creative way to make Primeval Awareness, as written, on par with Expertise, Deflect Missiles, disease immunity, Steady Aim, or Metamagic.

I generally like your homebrewing, and I think that the RAW could be improved without it getting overpowered simply by:

  • making it a ritual (and saving the slot, but adding time)
  • adding Your Favoured Enemy (nicely thematic)
  • choosing one of the creature types to be aware of (limits its power)
  • adding a general direction
  • being able to determine if there is more than 10 or 100 of them (tracks\markings\smell\vibrations would give a normal person some sense of numbers)

As KorvinStarmast points out, the homebrew becomes nearly on par with a totem barbarian's speak with animals ritual (available at level 3). Because a local animal will be able to give nearly the same info as this homebrewed version of Primal Awareness ability, if a local animal is available.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not all classes progress the same, so comparing that isn't a great comparison. But most importantly, Have you tried some of these fixes you recommend? We try to avoid idea generation here. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jul 30 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I'm literally reviewing the points made by the OP. These are not my points. \$\endgroup\$
    – schroeder
    Jul 30 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate the answer and the suggestions you make. Given I am asking about a homebrew idea, I think it is reasonable to raise points for discussion and I will consider them. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30 at 16:09

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