# How to counter high-level players using scry and teleport / How to maintain intrigue?

So, my Eberron campaign has gotten to the point where the players are level 18, and they are resolving many of their issues by scrying on their enemies, and simply teleporting to them in moments of weakness.

Example; They wanted to defeat a pirate fleet. simply found out who the captain was, waited till they scryed on him sleeping, then teleported in and killed him.

So, first of all - I want to know what actual counters are in place for this? How does a society work where people can just teleport in and kill people at will? Obviously scrying and teleporting have some counter-measures, but what are they and how effective are they?

How can there be intrigue in a world with magical surveillance? Wouldn't everyone be walking around warded to scrying, etc?

I am looking for some ideas in how to deal with this situation so that the players can keep scrying and teleporting (I don't want to remove those abilities) but that there will be some counter by the "bad guys" so that it's not too easy for them.

I don't like hand-waiving my DM-powers to say that certain critical parts of the plot are hidden from scrying, I want there to be a reason, some actual counter.

How can I maintain some mystery and intrigue when the characters can scry and teleport?

• Welcome to the problems of the tippyverse: giantitp.com/forums/… – Rob May 26 '16 at 10:12
• @Rob Oh - I see... This is indeed a problem.... :-/ – Inbar Rose May 26 '16 at 10:29

Also see ways to prevent teleportation.

# Ways to prevent scrying

Many countermeasures to the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell scrying [div] (PH 274-5) and the 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell greater scrying [div] (PH 275) and other spells of the scrying subschool exist, but some of those countermeasures perform inadequately.

The list below omits scrying countermeasures of the illusion school, like the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell false vision [illus] (PH 229) and the 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell screen [illus] (PH 274). Because a "[scrying] sensor has [the caster's] full visual acuity" (PH 275), illusion countermeasures are rendered moot by a caster savvy enough to activate an effect like true seeing before casting the spell scrying et al. or during the spell's duration. I assume that a defender assumes that all casters are savvy enough.

The list omits effects the caster can overcome by making a successful caster level check or saving throw, like the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell nondetection [abjur] (PH 257). I assume that a defender assumes that the caster prepares for such countermeasures and can trivialize them with temporary bonuses, especially as it's usually a more powerful creature with resources to burn that picks as a subject a less powerful creature.

And, while such effects are countermeasures, I've never seen antimagic effects—like that created by the 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell antimagic field [abjur] (PH 200)—not lead to arguments at the table, so means to create such effects have also been omitted from the list because I like my friends.

The list omits countermeasures that are unavailable to most creatures, such as becoming fettered to the caster of the 9th-level Sor/Wiz spell imbrue [conj] (Dragon #336 81), acquiring the template Vecna-blooded (Monster Manual V 66-7), or becoming an object upon which is cast the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell obscure object [abjur] (PH 258). I have boldly assumed that, for example, most folks' characters won't be somehow-sentient sandwiches.

Finally, keep in mind that the spell scrying et al. are not spells with a target as they've no target entry in their descriptions. Instead, the spells create an effect that causes the subject to make a Willpower saving throw and the caster to overcome the subject's spell resistance. This renders the spells unaffected by, for example, the 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell spell turning [abjur] (282-3).1

• "Lead sheeting… blocks a scrying [subschool] spell, and [the caster can] sense that the spell is so blocked" (PH 173), but the core rules don't describe exactly what lead sheeting means (i.e. there's no cost, weight, hardness, hp, etc.), making lead sheeting usually not much help to the typical murderhobo. However, because lead sheeting is still a thing, the DM can say that, for example, creatures inside any structure or vessel are immune to spells of the scrying subschool because that structure or vessel incorporates this mysterious substance.2
• "Any creature with an Intelligence score of 12 or higher can notice the [scrying] sensor [created by spells of the scrying subschool] by [succeeding on] a DC 20 Intelligence check" (PH 173), by employing the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell detect scrying [div] (PH 219-20), by wearing a ring of scry detection (Dragon Compendium Volume 1 127) (28,000 gp; 0 lbs.), or by being able to perceive the invisible. While this isn't per se preventative, noticing the scrying sensor allows a creature to respond appropriately, but unless the target has unlimited dispel magic et al. spells, the best defenses will be mundane. Because the typical "sensor has [only the caster's] full visual [and, often, aural] acuity" (PH 275), when a scrying sensor's detected either creatures can, possibly, hide from the sensor and whisper while continuing their business or act like the sensor went undetected and sow discord or disinformation. The spelltouched feat Eyes to the Sky (Unearthed Arcana 93) deserves special mention for its benefit enabling automatic detection of scrying sensors even by the Int 3 barbarian.3
• The circlet of convocation (Dragon Compendium Volume 1 133-4) (4,775 gp; 0 lbs.) deserves special mention as a scrying deterrent. In addition to its other effects, expending one of the circlet's 5 charges upon noticing a scrying sensor causes the wearer to—poof!—appear adjacent to the scrying sensor's creator, presumably so the wearer can beat the crap out of the creator but maybe just so the wearer can call the creator a perv to his face. The range the circlet can transport the wearer appears as unlimited as the range of the spell scrying et al., even capable of transporting the wearer to a different plane, but ask the DM. However, the wearer must find his own way home.
• The 4th-level Clr spell spell immunity [abjur] (PH 282) et al. grants unbeatable spell resistance against the spells (but perhaps only if the spells are cast at the appropriate levels—there is some debate). However, because the subject never knows when a nosy caster'll be peeping, the spell immunity spells' 10 min./level durations make them only of limited utility.
• The 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell Mordenkainen's private sanctum [abjur] (PH 256-7) for 1 day prevents scrying in an impressively big area. This is what creatures use when they aren't on the move. Conveniently, the effect can be made permanent using the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell permanency [univ] (PH 259-60).
• The spell 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell scry trap [abjur] (Magic of Eberron 101) is a scrying deterrent that deals damage to the scrying sensor's creator. While its 1 hour/level duration seems unpromising, the spell can be cast after the scrying sensor's discovered. A similar effect is available once per day at a reasonable price via the deathglance locket (Dragon Compendium Volume 1 134) (3,860 gp; 0 lbs.). More preventative but potentially more dangerous is the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell psychic poison [abjur] (Book of Vile Darkness 101), its 1 hour/level duration easily extended so the effect lasts all day. But, like the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell anticipate teleportation [abjur] (Spell Compendium 13) et al., the psychic poison spell's subject should warn allies that such an effect's present. (Also, Vile Darkness omits psychic poisons' saving throw DCs so the DM must rule on them.) The more violent spelltouched feat Live My Nightmare (Unearthed Arcana 94) is an interesting and unexpected deterrent but, given the probably low saving throw DCs against its effect, won't remain a deterrent for long.
• The 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell mind blank [abjur] (PH 253) for 1 day renders the subject undetectable to scrying spells. This is what serious casters use, but other folks are stuck with items granting a mind blank-like effect that cost over 100,000 gp, which is still half a PC's wealth even at level 15 (when a wizard can just cast the spell mind blank). It's not until level 17 when an item like the cortical armor (Underdark 71) (146,650 gp; 25 lbs.), cowl of warding (Magic of Faerûn 156) (208,000 gp; 25 lbs.), or third eye conceal (Magic Item Compendium 141) (120,000 gp; 0 lbs.) becomes an almost reasonable purchase. However, the ioun stone (black and white ellipsoid) (Dragon Compendium Volume 1 137-8) (60,000 gp; 0 lbs.) is available a little earlier to the utterly paranoid, providing the mind blank spell's defense against scrying yet none of the mind blank spell's other benefits.4
• The 9th-level Sor/Wiz spell Halaster's scrying cage [abjur] (Expedition to Undermountain 219), in addition to other effects, permanently causes to fail any spell of the scrying subschool cast "into, out of, and within" the warded area, which is a 10 ft. cube/level.

(Richards and Sernett's "I Scry: Spying and Divination Magic Items" (Dragon #319 63-6) introduced the items above that were reprinted in Dragon Compendium Volume 1. Kudos to the authors for supporting this largely overlooked minigame.)

As an aside, in campaigns that I DM the PCs' foes start scrying on the PCs when the PCs are about level 5 and stop when the PCs are about level 13. By that time, the PCs either have ready access to scrying countermeasures or have become skilled enough to make scrying on them a fruitless endeavor. I don't have foes constantly scrying on the PCs—that takes tremendous resources—, but, instead, the foes try to peek in on the PCs about once a week in a long-running campaign. And, if a foe is really struggling to spy on the PCs, the foe'll pick as the scrying subject a PC's associate, cohort, follower, friend, mount, or pet to see if one of them is an easier or more interesting scrying subject.

### Notes

1 A DM that house rules the spell scrying et al. nonetheless are targeted effects allows the spells to be absorbed by magic items like a rod of absorption (DMG 234) (50,000 gp; 5 lbs.) and directed back at the caster by the magic weapon special ability spellblade (Player's Guide to Faerûn 120) (6,000 gp; 0 lbs.) keyed to the appropriate spell as well as the aforementioned spell spell turning and similar spells and magic items.
2 When I DM, I include in the campaign's introductory material that this is an actual thing so PCs can make Knowledge (arcana) checks (DC 10) to know appropriate shelter's usually available somewhere. Further, PCs aren't themselves surprised later when they cast the spell scrying et al. yet find such spells blocked. Also, to be fair, I have lead sheeting included at no extra charge in the price of structures or vessels PCs have built on their behalf if they want. Finally, if using the Stronghold Builder's Guide, lead-lined walls cost 1,000 gp per stronghold space (37); I've found most folks just don't want to bother with the Stronghold Builder's Guide, though.
3 The feat Eyes to the Sky is how I presume Conan deals with scrying sensors. Not that I think you're Int 3, Mr. The Barbarian.
4 A reader may note that mind blank says, "Scrying attempts that are targeted specifically at the subject [of the spell mind blank] do not work at all," yet the spell scrying et al. aren't targeted; this DM recommends a house rule saying that mind blank stops cold the spell scrying et al. rather than a house rule that makes such spells targeted spells.

• I am accepting this answer because it includes a complete set of all the others answers (mostly) and also has a link to the rest of the answer. Though if it were possible to have an all inclusive answer (even if it is repetition) would probably have been better. (Even though probably this question should be 2 questions, one about scrying, the other about teleporting) Also, Wow. such a great and comprehensive list. Thank you :) – Inbar Rose May 30 '16 at 14:41
• Mordenkainen/Mage's Private Sanctum, as per your links in that part of the answer, is already on the list of spells that can be made permanent with Permanency - no special effort or allowance required. – Carcer May 1 '17 at 8:53
• @Carcer I overlooked that. I thought that was weird. Thanks. – Hey I Can Chan May 1 '17 at 9:24
• I would like to add a special honorable mention for the Weirdstone mentioned on page 124 of the Player's Guide to Faerun, which: blocks all astral and ethereal travel, all divination (scrying) spells, all conjuration (teleportation) spells, and any spell-like or supernatural or extraordinary or psionic ability or power mimicking such effects inside and into (but not out of!) a 6 mile radius globe! – mtijn Nov 26 '19 at 15:02

Hum... Mind Blank?

In the case of scrying that scans an area the creature is in, such as arcane eye, the spell works but the creature simply isn’t detected. Scrying attempts that are targeted specifically at the subject do not work at all.

If your villain is strong enough to attract the attention of an 18th-level party, then I would assume she has access to 8th-level spells (available to a 15th-level Wizard) and Mind Blank lasts for 24 hours.

If getting a 15th-level spellcaster to stick around and having scrolls is not an option, Third Eyes Conceal is a face-slot item granting permanent Mind Blank when worn; it costs 120,000 gp.

Since that can be a bit costly... a cheaper alternative is to use Spellblades (Player's Guide to Faerun, p. 120) specifically preventing Scrying. Unless Mind Blank however this would not protect from an area Scrying.

If you want to mess with your players, the spell Psychic Poison (Book of Vile Darkness), is an evil 4th-level spell lasting 1 hour/level which attempts to poison anyone using a Mind-Affecting or Divination spell on a given creature/object/area. The Will DC is lowish (14 + Modifier initially), however you can either Heighten it, have a caster specialized in Abjuration (or using Fell shenanigans) or simply cast it multiple times to cover the same area. A Caster of 13th-level or higher can use the Black unlyn version of the spell on an area: initial and secondary damage 1d6 Int+Wis+Cha (for an average of 10.5 points of ability damage). It hurts.

As for preventing or hindering teleportation, I advise you to read Ways to prevent Teleportation in which the answers deal with both preventing teleporting in and out of an area.

• The best one so far. However you should mention the second part of the question that is teleportation. – Momonga-sama May 27 '16 at 10:29
• @Momonga-sama: Good point; since the question was already asked on the site I just referenced it as Hey I Can Chan has a much better list of spells/items that I could ever devise. – Matthieu M. May 27 '16 at 13:33
• Where did you find the saving throw DC for psychic poisons (and, by extension, the spell psychic poison)? My Book of Vile Darkness has the list of psychic poisons (45) pointing to the spell psychic poison (101) and the spell pointing back to the list, with neither list nor spell providing save DCs. – Hey I Can Chan May 30 '16 at 20:10
• @HeyICanChan: It's a 4th-level spell, the DC of a spell is 10 + spell level + spellcasting attribute modifier. I'll make it more obvious. – Matthieu M. May 31 '16 at 6:15
• While I know how to determine most spells' save DCs, the spell psychic poison has no saving throw entry in its spell description, the spell poison—seemingly the closest similar spell—has a unique way to determine its saving throw, and the psychic poisons table lists no static saving throws, redirecting the reader back to the spell. (That is, the save against a psychic poison could be 14 + key ability, but it could be instead 10 + ½ level + key ability.) – Hey I Can Chan May 31 '16 at 14:07

## Anything PCs can do NPCs can do

You can just have your NPCs take the same precautions that the PCs do against this. If the PCs take no precautions then by all means kill them dead and the problem goes away.

Example; They wanted to defeat a pirate fleet. simply found out who the captain was, waited till they scryed on him sleeping, then teleported in and killed him.

Alternative Example: The BBEG was concerned that the party was interfering with his plan by e.g. killing the captain of his pirate fleet. He simply found out who the party was, waited till he scryed them sleeping, then teleported his minions in and killed them.

There is a real world precedent for this: Mutually Assured Destruction during the Cold War.

There are a large number of spells and magic items that protect against scrying and/or prevent magical movement - if your level 18 spell casters aren't spending half their spell slots per day protecting themselves then you are not playing your villains to their potential. See How can I play monsters and NPCs up to their potential?

While not a rules-based solution, you can always make the intended targets of the scrying/teleporting either immunue to or aware that the PC's are doing this.

An example from Critical Role: the PC's attempt to scry on a beholder to learn his whereabouts. The beholder is aware of this and talks back to the PC through the scrying ritual, taking them by surprise and bestowing a sense of danger and the idea that he is extremely powerful.

You could also take this one step further, if the enemy needs to be OP, you could have the PC doing the scrying succumb to (with or without a save) some psychic damage, or even potentially be mind-controlled for a duration.

All of this should get the players to realise that simply scrying and teleporting isn't a surprise tactic when the enemies are aware of their actions and can effectively defend against it. This isn't to say it can't be done at all, but more so they learn that these actions will have consequences, and what's to say an enemy hasn't learnt of their tactic and will employ it against the PC's themselves?

• Shouldn't be so homebrewed. I think there were some powers, that psions had to counter it. – Momonga-sama May 27 '16 at 11:02

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition is a game that changes significantly at different ranges of character levels. Low level games are very different from mid level games, which are different from high level games.

Eberron is a campaign setting best suited for low level characters, precisely because it's designed with mystery investigations in mind. High level characters are meant to be unstopable superheroes, which doesn't really fit together with the style of the setting that is more pulp adventurers. At level 18, player characters will already be the most powerful people in the world, even exceeding the main immortal mastermind NPCs of the setting.

With Eberron it's often a good idea to top character advancement off at 12th or 15th level and then start a new campaign with low level characters better suited for the style of the setting.

• -1: I agree with your general premise; 3.5 in general and Eberron in specific works much better when you keep the game at low levels. I use the E6 system for exactly that reason. However, for this specific situation, the players are already high level. Given that the players are already level 18, are you suggesting that the DM de-levels the players to bring them down to 12 or 15? If so, how should they go about that? – DuckTapeAl May 27 '16 at 14:13

One good low-level countermeasure is to sleep in a rope trick space. This space is not part of the Material Plane and thus cannot be teleported to. I don't think plane shift works either since nobody is likely to have a planar tuning fork keyed to your rope trick space.

Certain creatures might be able to play games with vision-blocking effects. For example, if you cast deeper darkness on your hat and then walk into an area that was already "dim light" or darker, you get "supernatural darkness" which even darkvision cannot penetrate. If your villain isn't bothered by that (because they have the see in darkness ability, or blindsight, etc), they can just walk around in supernatural darkness all the time. Adventurers will likely have trouble scrying through that.

A slightly higher-level countermeasure is to cast detect scrying. If you notice you're being scryed on, you can just teleport away. An even higher-level countermeasure is mind blank.

But you've indicated that you don't want to stop the players from using scry/teleport; you just want to stop them from solving the quest in one battle. In other words you want to start building scenarios that can't be solved simply by teleporting somewhere and killing someone.

One option for this is to build a scenario where there are too many people to kill by hand. For example, in your scenario with the pirate fleet, the players assumed there was a single pirate captain who, when defeated, would cause the whole fleet to surrender. Maybe instead there was a complicated chain of command, and if Admiral Blackbeard gets killed then Cap'n Brownbeard becomes the new admiral. Maybe there's a Pirate Council -- the fleet is run by twelve pirate leaders who are all more or less independent, and killing one of them just makes the other eleven leaders angry. In other words, the pirate fleet no longer comes with a load-bearing boss; to defeat it, the adventurers need to either defeat the entire fleet in personal combat (exhausting! boring!), or they need to find some allies to handle the gruntwork while the adventurers stand ready to take on any major threats.

Another option is to have a villain who's simply too tough to kill in one combat. Maybe the cleric can't be killed as long as the crimson flames burn in the Seven Temples; maybe the players can kill him temporarily, but they need to do a quest to find the sacred waters to put out the flames, and while they're on the quest the cleric keeps respawning and scry/teleporting them and they have to kill him again and again. Maybe the summoner has made a contract with Cthulhu to serve as her eidolon; Cthulhu is way too tough for level-18 adventurers to defeat, and it intercepts all attacks made against the summoner, so the only way to win is to create some sort of diversion to lure Cthulhu away and then scry/teleport the summoner very quickly before Cthulhu returns.

Maybe the problem to be solved isn't a creature at all. What if there's a plague which has infected some important NPCs, and the players have to do some science in order to figure out what it is and how to cure it? Maybe they can go take tissue samples from things -- maybe some of the people who were infected are turning into monsters they can fight -- but killing the infected people would be immoral, so fighting them is sort of pointless.

Maybe it's the old standby of the dimensional invaders. They keep opening portals into the Material Plane, but teleport doesn't work because they're on a different plane. The characters can try plane shift, but note that that requires "a forked metal rod attuned to the plane of travel" and that might be tricky to get. Maybe the players can't get to the invaders' plane unless they successfully identify a spot where a portal will form, then show up there in advance and use the enemy's portal.

Duration: 24 hours

You immediately become aware of any attempt to observe you by means of a divination (scrying) spell or effect. The spell’s area radiates from you and moves as you move. You know the location of every magical sensor within the spell’s area.

Not much can beat a good spell-caster other than a good spell caster.

A good spell-caster is paranoid.

Depending on how bright your BBEG is, he probably did some homework before beginning his evil plan and researched "potential threats to stop him" and learned some of their behaviors, and took precautions against it.

You could get even more advanced, and set traps based on them repeating this tactic.

There's a couple different options on how you could curtail this activity. I liked the mutually assured destruction method above as well. Like all spying and espionage, eventually, the other side learns your techniques and will do something to counter them. One way, would be to set a trap for them. You are the DM, you can come up with the reason why, but the Bad Guys allow the scrying to go on, set a honey pot trap and ambush the PCs. You do not even need to outright kill them, but as one of the others posting mentioned, if you have 18th level characters with access to 9th lvl spells, the adversaries need to be equally powerful and cunning.

Also, even if the Pirate Captain is only a 12th NPC, he's probably working for or with some other, higher level PC. If he's on your PCs radar as a bad guy, why wouldn't he also be on the radar of an even bigger Bad Guy NPC who recruits him, then outfits him with some protection? Maybe an Amulet of Proof Against Detection (DMG p.150), or something similar could be provided.

Some other ideas would be to have some negative effect (Temporarily reduced INT, nightmares, hallucinations, etc) from scrying for long periods (more than 30 minutes at a time), or there could by a Symbol spell (PHB p.280) cast on an object to trigger when they arrive via teleport. The system works both ways; use magic, traps and counter spying on them or plant your own spy among them to wreak havoc from the inside.

Another classic tactic is for the bad guys to turn the PCs allies against them. Have a rumor, partially based in truth, circulate about the PCs which gets public opinion against them or even to the point they don't want them around. This works especially well if they have a "home town" or base area they work from. Maybe a local is influenced or mind controlled by the bad guys, then the "innocent" NPC/Townfolk person is killed by the PCs when made to attack them. The local populace, who once looked up to and thought of the PCs and heroes and practically gods have been shown otherwise about the PCs who are now seen as above the law and above caring about everyday people.

Hope some of these ideas helped!

I'm surprised no one stated the obvious: the Forbiddance spell. (Yes I realize the link is for PF, but it works the same). Biggest bonus: It is permanent once cast. AND deals damage when you try it.

There are plenty of good answers above for anti-scrying method. Just remember the number of people who can actually scry in the world and how many things they could try and see at the same time. It has always been my theory that evil guys have so many minions because it is impossible to scry on all of them...

Good luck.

## High Tier Play

At 18th level, characters shouldn't be dealing with "a pirate fleet." They should be dealing with something like "a pirate fleet of giant space slugs, in orbit around the 14th moon of Jupiter, crewed by migo." Good luck with teleporting there, or with surviving once you get there.

In other words, ramp up the threat. 18th level characters can often deal with far more challenge than a GM thinks.

Perhaps the pirate crew are a hive0mind, so killing one of them does nothing. Maybe the characters can't even identify the one in command. Or perhaps the pirate crew are all mind-controlled nobles from a local kingdom, and the characters are tasked with rescu=ing them, not killing them.

For lead sheeting, there is precedent for 1 inch thickness blocking some spells. If you want to house rule 1 inch thickness blocks scrying, since the rules do not specify how thick it must be, you could say something like 7gp worth of lead will cover a 20x20x10 room. This number comes from:

Lead is about 1/5th the cost of copper. 50cp is 1lb, so 5cp worth of lead would be 1lb. Lead is 709 lb per cubic feet. At 1 inch thickness you would have 12 square feet of lead. 20x20x10 room has 400 SF roof, 400 sf floor, and 4x 200 sf walls.

So you would need 1600 sf of 1inch thick lead, which would be 133.33 lb of lead, or 6.67 gp.

At that rate even a 1 acre building would only cost (209x209x2 + 4x209x10) = 95722 sf =7087.833 lb = 398.84 gp

In short, I would think anyone worried about scrying could EASILY prevent scrying inside any building they frequented.

• Welcome to the site! Take the tour. Is the price of lead mentioned above the price in our world of lead or in the game? If it's the former, then the answer should be edited to mention that. If the latter, could the answer cite the source of that game information? (The only place I could find a price for lead-lining a room is in the Stronghold Builder's Guide at 1,000 gp per stronghold space, so that's awesome if you found a more reasonable printed price!) – Hey I Can Chan Oct 9 '19 at 17:18