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Some background: I want to have the bad guy necromancer have a trap in front of the secret entrance to his lair. He has a small frozen lake that abuts the entrance. To invade, the players would have to walk across delicate ice. Under the ice, the necromancer has concealed a number of skeleton defenders. The entrance is entrapped to activate sliding blocks that will break the ice, giving the characters terrible footing and surrounding them with a horde of enemies.

The problem is that I have a Paladin in the group with Divine Sense:

As an action, you can open your awareness to detect such forces. Until the end of your next turn, you know the location of any celestial, fiend, or undead within 60 feet of you that is not behind total cover. You know the type (celestial, fiend, or undead) of any being whose presence you sense, but not its identity.

I would like to make the ice translucent, so that the PCs can sense that something is down there with a good Perception roll (The skeletons would have the Perception Roll at advantage, due to the PCs being backlit). Would this negate the Divine Sense? Does transparent cover count as cover for this ability? The alternative is to just make the ice opaque, but that would reduce the Creepy Factor™.

The answer to this question has further ramifications: Does DS work through a sheet of thick glass, for instance? Or in a a mirror held around a corner? Could a vampire hide his nature just by standing on the other side of a window?

My first instinct is to say that cover is a game term for something that blocks your ability to target the enemy with an attack, and thus the DS would not work, but if anyone has good compelling arguments one way or another, it might forestall distracting table debate.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You don't want the paladin to get some millage out of a rarely useful ability? Why? \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Mar 8 '17 at 21:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not that it's germane to the question, but there will be plenty of other opportunities during the adventure (invading a necromancer castle). In this instance, I want to have the trap have a decent chance of success since I think the resulting fight would be very fun. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Mar 9 '17 at 2:34
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Your instincts are correct.

Cover

Walls, trees, creatures, and other obstacles can provide cover during combat, making a target more difficult to harm. A target can benefit from cover only when an attack or other effect originates on the opposite side of the cover.

There are three degrees of cover...

A target with half cover...

A target with three-quarters cover...

A target with total cover can't be targeted directly by an attack or a spell, although some spells can reach such a target by including it in an area of effect. A target has total cover if it is completely concealed by an obstacle.

The usage of the word "concealed" here is problematic but I think the usage here is assuming you have a solid, non-transparent object providing your cover. I think the intent is clear -- if an attack or effect would be blocked completely then the target is behind total cover.

Since the paladin's divine sense feature cannot detect through total cover, I think you are in the clear. The sheet of ice acts much like a wall of force, except the ice can be damaged or broken through, and I'd rule wall of force provides total cover to enemies on the other side, as it "makes the target more difficult to harm."

This ruling is further reinforced by Jeremy Crawford's answer on this Sage Advice tweet:

Cover is a physical obstruction, not necessarily a visual one. #DnD https://twitter.com/crathjen/status/724098223246311424

— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) 1:24 AM - 27 Apr 2016

This also serves to show that the use of the word "concealed" in the description of total cover was in error.

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