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Related: What Divination Spells, if-any, could allow you to learn sigils sequences....

This question is a proposed theory crafting extension of the previous question. Are there any spells, items or techniques that could be used to view, experience or otherwise capture information from a past event outside of Legend Lore or Wish?

If you have a method of time travel or other legal jank involving demons or creatures to accomplish this, I would consider that an acceptable answer.

Interrogations and investigations are time consuming and potentially unreliable - is there any way to go "Directly" or recreate the source?

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Visions of the Past

I'll assume that by "information from a past event", you mean something that is not directly observable any more now, like who killed a certain person, ideally observing the past event.

The 17th level knowledge domain cleric can user their Visions of the Past feature to learn about one object they hold or an area in their vicinity to see dreamlike, shadowy glimpses of recent events (within your Wisdom score days):

Area Reading. As you meditate, you see visions of recent events in your immediate vicinity (a room, street, tunnel, clearing, or the like, up to a 50-foot cube), going back a number of days equal to your Wisdom score. For each minute you meditate, you learn about one significant event, beginning with the most recent. Significant events typically involve powerful emotions, such as battles and betrayals, marriages and murders, births and funerals. However, they might also include more mundane events that are nevertheless important in your current situation.

Apart from that, there are no spells that allow you to do this directly in a general way. 5e overall has cut back on what divination magic could reveal, likely to not entirely invalidate whodunnits and detective adventures. There is no know alignment any more, detect evil does not detect evil outright any more, just if there are fiends or undead in range, etc.

Depending on what exactly you want to know, how long it is past, and what the circumstance are, here are some other options:

  • In case you have the reasonably well conserved corpse or skeleton of an observer, and it is not your enemy, you can use speak with dead to ask about it.

  • In case you have a living observer, you can question it with detect thoughts, or, if your main concern is the lack of truthful reply, with zone of truth

  • If you want to time travel, there are not a lot of options. You could visit a gynosphinx in its lair and nicely ask it to send you back up to 10 years in time (you cannot force it to with dominate monster, as it cannot be charmed).

You say that you are looking for something that is less time consuming and more reliable than an interrogation or investigation, so tactics like casting divination (and framing it in a way that is related to a prosperous outcome of some sort), contact other plane, or commune over many days to triangulate towards an answer are not a good solution here.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If the sphinx is favorably disposed, make sure you ask her where her lair was 10 years ago, both so that you can keep going back if the event you need to witness or scry is farther back in time than that, or so that you can return to your own time later, or both. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jan 12 at 7:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Aww Shucks - rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/119811/…. No polymorph shenanigans using legendary Gynophinx actions and lair actions. -- Thank you Hob! =) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 13 at 10:35
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Such a thing may be quite hard and may not be fulfillable by a simple spell or magic item. You may have to work harder at it.

How mean are you willing to be?

"Viewing or visiting" is tough, but a first-hand description can be useful.

Speak with dead has its uses, but it is soooo limited.

If you are not handicapped by so-called "morals", there are many other options.

Of course, it's helpful to have minions, lots of minions, who can cast supporting spells.

Why talk to the dead, when you can just bring them back alive?

Raise dead, resurrection, or true resurrection, followed up with dominate person may well yield a reliable first-hand account.

Minions are useful here, because depending on exact circumstances, the caster may be somewhat incapacitated, or the eyewitness may not be, so it pays to be careful.

If your reputation has preceded you, it's possible your eyewitness will not want to be raised. By you. Or your minions. I hate it when that happens. So inconvenient.

Trickery may be required. Difficult to trick the targeted spirit, but you might be able to trick a cleric not offensive to the target. Sometimes it is as simple as convincing the patsy cleric that some descendant would like to bring back dear great-great-grandmother. If you can get an actual descendant, all the better, it's more believable, and maybe they'll be useful too, somehow.

Extortion can also work. There are few clerics who won't raise someone, if they feel it will save some kittens, trees, children, citizens, clergy, temples, cities, or other so-called "innocents" from some fate worse than death. Best to use some trickery here, too, so that the target cleric thinks they're being extorted by someone within their own or a rival temple, religion, or government. Or maybe you can outsource it. Maybe someone else will be willing to do the extortion, or a price. Either way, not only do you get to keep a low profile, the ensuing chaos as the target cleric seeks revenge or "justice" against some other faction may be beneficial itself.

Pro tip: keep an eye on your minions during an operation like this. Of course, you need minions willing to follow through and slaughter (or whatever) innocents; and its definitely better to hire and promote those who show enthusiasm and initiative, but some minions show a bit too much enthusiasm for this sort of work, and are liable to be sloppy, one way or another. If you can't weed them out during hiring, there's always create undead.

Why talk to the dead, when you can just bring them back undead?

Speaking of create undead, it may be called for in this situation. Most undead are pretty stupid and lack much memory of their previous lives, but wights are an exception. Lamentably, they've retained some degree of autonomy, but having sworn oaths to appease you, you should at least be able to get your first-hand account. And there's always dominate monster.

It pays to have friends in low places

Okay, "friends" is meant loosely. Associates might be a better term.

You may be able to forge some bargain with some denizen of one of the lower planes. I recommend the Hells myself. At least they stick to a bargain. But if you want to go abyssal or whatever, no judgment.

Of course, you'll need a proffer in order to get their help. Is there something noteworthy about this past event? Ideally, there's something about it that you care about, and the devil you're working with doesn't, and vice versa.

If you're lucky, you might be able to fulfill your side of the bargain with something easy, like the slaughter (or whatever) of innocents (although tbf, that's more an abyssal thing), or some dark ritual, perhaps involving a descendent of an eyewitness to the event, for instance. More likely, it's gonna cost, because isn't that how it usually goes?

Maybe have a minion who already sees some dark power as a patron, and you can exploit that.

Or high places

Again, "friends" is meant loosely.

Sometimes celestials will work with you, if they can be convinced that it's somehow "serving the greater good". Careful, though, almost anything the celestials want is likely to irritate some existing associate or another.

Less reliable methods

Magic items

Some magic items, such as a mirror of the past, allow you to see into the past, although getting the information you want might be tricky.

Visit a school, university, or library

Sometimes these institutions might have someone who specializes in looking into the past. Your mileage may vary, such institutions are difficult to find.

Even aside from a specific institutional denizen, often just researching in such an institution can be useful. Maybe you can find hints of a spell that does what you want.

Talk to the long-lived

I know you were hoping for something much more actionable, but it may be you need to seek out those who've been around awhile, such as elves, dragons, or sphinxes. Or liches and such, if that's your jam.

Of particular interest may be a time dragon. It's said ancient time dragons can create temporal gates connected to specific times and places in the multiverse. That's likely gonna cost, one way or another, but ringside seat, am I right?

Go to Sigil

It's said that any and all services are for sale in Sigil. It is also said that pretty much anything can be found in its many markets. It's not an easy answer, but depending on how important this view of the past is to you, a trip to Sigil might fit the bill.

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