Scrying in Pathfinder: Keeping Your Third Eye on the Prize

“Mirror Mirror on the Wall…”

Remote Viewing, Oracles, Fortune Telling, and Divination. Scrying is all about seeing the unseen and beyond.

Looking beyond one’s own mind or attempting to divine the future has been a part of human mythology since humans started to tell stories.

Those who could see beyond just their physical senses into remote places, the future, or the past were often called Oracles or Seers.

In the Ancient World, whole nations of people were ruled by the whims of Oracles and Wise People who claimed they could see the future. Generals and kings would consult with fortune-tellers before battles or wars.

There are even famous stories of Roman Generals having to “clean out” the legionary camps of all the fortune-tellers who would hang on to the camps like so many useless appendages. Tidy profit could be made reassuring soldiers that the Gods or Fate were going to keep them alive, even if it is just for one more day.

Obviously, in worlds of magic and wonder such as Pathfinder, scrying is not just something people play at. In this world, Scrying is REAL and is a powerful tool in the hands of Player Characters and the Gamemaster.

How exactly does it work though? Who can do it? And how can GMs deal with a Party that won’t lift a finger without staring into a mirror for an hour?

What is Scrying?

Wikipedia (the world’s source for all knowledge that is completely and totally reputable) defines Scrying:

“Scrying, also known by various names such as “seeing” or “peeping”, is the practice of looking into a suitable medium in the hope of detecting significant messages or visions. The objective might be personal guidance, prophecy, revelation, or inspiration, but down the ages, scrying in various forms also has been a means of divination or fortune-telling.”

So basically seeing into the future or a remote location, using the means of a reflective, or semi-reflective surface. Nostradamus was famous for using a silver bowl with water in it.

Obviously, fairy tales use magic mirrors. Still others are famous for various magic mushrooms or other “natural growing substances.”

In Pathfinder, Scrying is a way to perceive another location through a medium such as magic, or a specific magic item like a Crystal Ball.

I say perceive because some abilities are very specific on what type of senses you can use. For instance: Clairvoyance lets you use your sight, but Clairaudience only lets you use your hearing.

This can mean a great deal of difference in the information obtained by a scrying spellcaster. Attempting to eavesdrop on a conversation requires Clairaudience unless the caster is really good at reading lips. Even then, it can be difficult to identify who is speaking without your eyes.

Who can do the Scrying?

For the most part, every spellcasting tradition has access to at least one of the Scrying spells. Below on the list of spells, the traditions are listed as well.

The Arcane Tradition has access to most of them, with some rare exceptions. Primal and Divine have a few scrying spells, but not as many. Though their spells are definitely unique.

There are a small number of magical items that also allow people to use Scry or Scrying-like effects. They are also listed below. These items can be used by anyone, but may not have the complete effects of a full scry spell.

How Does Scrying Work in Pathfinder?

In Pathfinder Second Edition, Scrying is a Trait that applies to multiple spells, magical equipment, and the specific Share Senses action. 

Scrying Spells

Below is a list of Spells with the Scrying Trait. These spells are on multiple spell lists, with multiple sources.

Clairaudience Spell Level 3

You create an invisible floating ear at a location within range (even if it’s outside your line of sight or line of effect). It can’t move, but you can hear through the ear as if using your normal auditory senses.

Eavesdropping using magic. This one allows you to hear at a very long distance. Pretty basic spell overall, but can be useful if you want to make sure you can listen in on a secret meeting or make sure the table at the other side of the tavern isn’t gossiping about you.

Clairvoyance Spell Level 4

You create an invisible floating eye at a location within range (even if it’s outside your line of sight or line of effect). The eye can’t move, but you can see in all directions from that point as if using your normal visual senses.

Like the above spell, but this time you can see everything rather than hear it. Great for keeping watch a long way off, but if you want to find out what people are talking about, you’ll need some skill at reading lips.

Familiar’s Face Spell Level 3

The target becomes a scrying sensor, allowing you to see through its eyes, smell what it smells, and similarly use its other senses. If you can cast a spell with the revelation trait that affects your senses, such as see invisibility, while this spell is active, you gain the benefit of the spell through the target’s senses instead of your own.

You can also speak through the target, with a voice much like yours, though it takes on some of the timbre and character of the target’s growls or squawks. You can use Command an Animal on the target as part of Sustaining this Spell. You don’t need line of sight or line of effect to your target when you Cast this Spell.

Seeing through your Familiar is possibly one of the more useful items in a spell caster’s tool box. Not only that, it is one of the main reasons to HAVE a Familiar. That and the touch spells of course.

Painted Scout Spell Level 3

You press your hand to the stone, causing hand-drawn scouts to spread out from your fingers. As long as you keep your hand on the wall and Sustain the Spell, you can see, hear, and smell through the painted scout using whatever senses you have (including natural senses like scent or darkvision, or magical effects like see invisibility).

You can move the scout up to your Speed along the wall each time you Sustain the Spell. The scout can move anywhere along the wall to a range of 120 feet as long as its path is unbroken; it treats sharp corners and particularly craggy spots on the wall as difficult terrain. The painted scout is bonded to the wall on which you created it and can’t move onto another surface or material.

You can spend an action to make the scout Hide or Sneak, and you can roll a Nature or Occultism check in place of the usual Stealth check. The painted scout must be near a suitably obscured nook or cranny to Hide; it can’t Hide or Sneak along a flat, featureless wall. If the painted scout is smeared or doused in water, the scout is destroyed and the spell ends.

Heightened (6th) You create up to five separate painted scouts, and the range to which the scouts can move along the wall increases to 500 feet. Each time you Sustain the Spell, you can move one scout up to your Speed, and you can see, hear, and smell through all five scouts simultaneously. A destroyed scout can’t be replaced, and the spell ends if all the scouts are destroyed.

This spell is from a Pathfinder Adventure, and is much like the Familiar Face spell, but rather than seeing through an animal you can see through hand-drawn figures painted on a wall.

Really awesome visuals, but maybe not so useful.

Proliferating Eyes Spell Level 9

You implant an invisible, magical eye sensor on the target’s body. The eye has sight and vision, but no other special senses. The eye is highly contagious—the first two times the target touches another creature during the duration, the spell buds off an additional eye that implants itself on that creature, which can then bud off two eyes of its own. This process can propagate up to four times from the original target, for a potential maximum of 31 eyes if each affected creature touches two new creatures.

You can switch between perceiving through your own senses or the vision of any of the eye sensors using a single action, which has the concentrate trait. You always know how many eyes there are and can tell which original eyes budded off to make which new eyes, though you gain no special insight into the identity of the new targets other than what you can glean from spying on them.

Scrying like it’s a virus! You can create a whole host of people to watch the world through. This spell is powerful though, hence it being a level 9 spell, and you have the limitation of only being able to see not hear.

Prying Eye Spell Level 5

You create an invisible, floating eye, 1 inch in diameter, at a location you can see within 500 feet. It sees in all directions with your normal visual senses and continuously transmits what it sees to you.

The first time you Sustain the Spell each round, you can either move the eye up to 30 feet, seeing only things in front of the eye, or move it up to 10 feet, seeing everything in all directions around it. There is no limit to how far from you the eye can move, but the spell ends immediately if you and the eye ever cease to be on the same plane of existence.

You can attempt Seek actions through the eye if you want to attempt Perception checks with it. Any damage dealt to the eye destroys it and ends the spell.

A powered up version of Clairvoyance. This one lets you create the equivalent of a 360 degree camera at a specific place. 

Prying Survey Spell Level 8 

You create eight invisible, floating eyes, each about 3 inches in diameter, that scan the area around you, transmitting rough impressions of the environment. The eyes constantly examine and send you summaries of their findings.

They are solid and can’t move through barriers, and they don’t follow routes that they fail to find while Searching. Any damage to an eye destroys it. When all eyes are destroyed, the spell ends.

As a single action, which has the concentrate trait, you can concentrate on a location within the area that an eye can reach. An eye travels to that location, and you Seek visually as if you were there.

As an exploration activity, you can travel at half speed while continuing to concentrate on the eyes to gain the benefits of both the Scout and Search activities. With the eyes, you can check everything even if you are traveling faster than 300 feet per minute. The eyes use your Perception modifier. You can have only one prying survey in effect at a time.

Heightened (10th) The area increases to a 500-foot emanation.

Like Prying Eye on steroids, this one lets you make more than one eye to view where you need. Really great for scouting out ahead of a party, or keeping surveillance on a specific place. Arcane CCTV.

Pulse of the City Focus Spell Level 4

You tap into the zeitgeist of the nearest settlement in range (if any). You learn the name of the settlement, and you can utter a special word to learn a brief summary of one significant event happening in the settlement.

Choose one of the following words, which indicates the type of people involved and type of event you learn about.

  • Wardens city guards, barristers, and judges (criminal reports, busts, changes in routines, legal trials)
  • Titles nobles and politicians (high society weddings, elite soirees, political rallies)
  • Masses common folk and merchants (gathering mobs, major sales)

When uttering your word, you can exclude events you already know about, whether you know about them from this spell or from other experiences. If you cast pulse of the city again within 24 hours, you can say “echo” instead of another word to get an update on the event you learned about the last time you Cast the Spell.

Pulse of the city reveals only publicly available or observable information. You never learn clandestine movements or other details people are specifically trying to hide.

The spell is also notoriously bad at overcoming magic meant to avoid detection; it automatically fails to reveal information about events involving creatures, places, or objects affected by spells that could prevent or counteract pulse of the city (such as nondetection).

Heightened (5th) The range increases to 100 miles.

This spell is a Focus Spell, which makes it special. We have an article on that here. Though all I can say about this spell is “Do you want a Hive Mind? Cause this is how you get a hive mind!” 

Unrelenting Observation Spell Level 8

Range 100 feet; Area 20-foot burst; Targets 1 creature or object tracked and up to 5 other willing creatures

Duration varies

This spell grants perfect sight based on scrying, allowing several willing targets to track the exact movements or position of one creature or object. Choose one target creature or object in the area to be tracked. It becomes the sensor for the spell.

Up to five willing creatures of your choice in the area can see a ghostly image of this creature or object when it’s out of their sight. They can perceive the creature or object perfectly, allowing them to ignore the concealed or invisible condition, though physical barriers still provide cover.

The tracking creatures can see the tracked creature or object through all barriers other than lead or running water, which block their vision. Distance doesn’t matter, though the creature or object might move so far away it becomes too small to perceive.

The tracking creatures don’t see any of the environment around the target, though they do see any gear a creature is wearing or holding, and they can tell if it removes objects from its person.

If the target to be tracked is willing, the duration is 1 hour. If you try to track an unwilling creature, the target must attempt a Will save.

Critical Success The creature or object is unaffected.

Success As described, and the duration is 1 minute.

Failure As described, and the duration is 1 hour.

This spell can allow your party to follow an ally (or enemy), and keep track of them. This is useful when you need to tail someone, find your way through traps, or keep an eye on a specific person you are attempting to protect.

Web of Eyes Spell Level 3

You place an invisible scrying sensor on each target just above their eyes. Each sensor looks where that target looks, and all the targets can link their vision briefly to help notice things one target sees but the others might not.

Each target can use an action, which has the concentrate trait, to share what it sees with any number of other targets until the start of its next turn. Only one creature can share its vision at a time, so if another target takes this action, the effect ends for any target that was previously sharing its vision.

This improves how well the recipients can perceive anything the sharing creature is looking at. For instance, if a creature is undetected to a recipient but observed by the sharing creature, the creature becomes observed by the recipient as well.

Typically, the creature is seen as a glowing outline superimposed on its position. This might allow the recipient to target a creature it couldn’t otherwise; however, cover and line of effect still might prevent or impede targeting and attacks.

This can only improve the recipient’s vision, not reduce it; for example, if an enemy was undetected by the sharing creature and observed by a recipient, the recipient would still clearly observe the enemy.

Once the vision sharing stops, the benefit ends. Whether a creature is hidden or undetected is still based on the last information a target had before the vision sharing ended. For example, that means if a creature is behind a wall but hasn’t moved, it’s still hidden rather than undetected by a recipient that witnessed its current position.

Again with the hive mind here, but this is more for the party. If you are worried about characters missing on their Seek checks or want to make sure everyone is on the same page, this is the perfect spell for you.

Scrying Spell Level 6

You magically spy on a creature of your choice. Scrying works like clairvoyance, except that the image you receive is less precise, insufficient for teleport and similar spells. Instead of creating an eye in a set location within 500 feet, you instead create an eye that manifests just above the target.

You can choose a target either by name or by touching one of its possessions or a piece of its body. If you haven’t met the target in person, scrying’s DC is 2 lower, and if you are unaware of the target’s identity (perhaps because you found an unknown creature’s fang at a crime scene), the DC is instead 10 lower.

The effect of scrying depends on the target’s Will save.

Critical Success: The spell fails and the target is temporarily immune for 1 week. The target also gains a glimpse of you and learns its rough distance and direction from you.

Success: The spell fails and the target is temporarily immune for 1 day.

Failure: The spell succeeds.

Critical Failure: The spell succeeds, and the eye follows the target if it moves, traveling up to 60 feet per round.

The OG Original. This is the true Scrying Spell. This lets you remotely view a single target and everything that happens to them, provided they fail their Will save.

Scrying Magical Items

Below is a list of magical items with the Scrying Trait. These items allow the use of Scrying-type spells for a limited duration.

Crystal Ball

Usage held in 1 hand; Bulk L

This polished crystal sphere enhances scrying magic. Any visual information received through a spell with the scrying trait that was cast by the crystal ball appears within the sphere, and any auditory information sounds out from the surface of the sphere. When you cast a scrying spell by any other means while holding the sphere, you can relay any information you receive in the same way, allowing others to see or hear the target.

The base version of a crystal ball is a sphere of clear quartz, but other versions are made of different stones.

Activate 1 minute (command, envision, Interact); Frequency once per hour; Effect The crystal ball casts clairvoyance to your specifications.

Activate 10 minutes (command, envision, Interact); Frequency twice per day; Effect The crystal ball casts a DC 33 scrying spell to your specifications.

Here I sit, just pondering my Orb…

Earthsight Box

Price 575 gp

Usage held in 1 hand; Bulk L

This fine wooden box is inlaid with Dwarven runes, with hinges and a clasp of forged iron. The box contains a few handfuls of fine sand.

Activate 1 minute (envision, Interact); Frequency once per day; Effect You hold the box closed and, while envisioning the earth around you, turn the box clockwise three times and then give it three slow shakes. When you open the box, the sand has arranged itself to replicate, in miniature, the stone terrain surrounding you, to a range of 60 feet.

This shows details of paths; hills; embankments; boulders; and even artificial structures like walls, ditches, and tunnels, as long as they’re made of stone and earth. If you’re underground, it reveals tunnels and voids in the earth within 60 feet at your current depth. The sand maintains its shape until you close the box.

Have you ever wanted a topographical map made of sand? This is a great magic item for explorers, and is almost indispensable if you are a cartographer of some type.

Hag Eye

Price 50 gp

Usage worn

This item appears to be an ordinary semiprecious stone and is typically mounted on a brooch or ring, but the stone is, in fact, an eyeball. This illusion can be seen through with true seeing or similar magic, and anyone who interacts with the item feels its wet and sticky surface, allowing them to attempt to disbelieve the illusion (DC 19). Many hags claim a hag eye is more effective if plucked from a living, awake creature, but this is likely just a convenient excuse for sadism.

The hag eye produces no direct benefit for the wearer, but allows the hag who created it, or any member of her coven, can peer through the eye using the Seek action. This has no range limit, provided the hag is on the same plane.

Any damage dealt to the eye destroys it. If this happens while a hag is looking through it, the hag is blinded for 1 hour.

Craft Requirements You must be a hag.

This here is probably a really great mean trap you can play on your players as a GM. Let them think they struck it rich with a valuable gem, but in secret they are being spied on.

Recording Rod

Usage varies; Bulk 1

This smooth metal bar is short enough to fit in one hand. It has several inset gemstone buttons on one end and a small lens on the other. Popular with law enforcement and blackmailers alike, recording rods allow users to capture and replay incriminating scenes and are often concealed and triggered covertly to avoid raising the subject’s suspicion.

Activate  Interact; Effect When activated, the rod records anything it sees and hears for 1 minute. Its lens acts as both eye and ear with precise vision and imprecise hearing. This recorded sequence can then be played back as many times as desired, the sights and sounds communicated telepathically to the rod’s holder. The rod’s recording sequence can be triggered manually by a person holding it, or it can be programmed to begin recording automatically in response to a specified stimulus, such as nearby movement or a specific trigger word spoken in its vicinity.

For basic recording rods, once activated, the rod records for 1 minute, after which it loses its recording ability but can replay that same scene over and over. Rarer and more expensive reusable versions of the recording rod operate similarly, but the recording function can be enabled a second time by permanently erasing the memory currently stored on the rod. A reusable recording rod lacks the consumable trait.

This magical item is great for espionage and security. Portable recording devices make everything so cloak and dagger. Most are one time use, but some valuable variants are multi-use rods. It is only a matter of time before someone includes a speed or voice changer option and you can reenact the Talk-boy scene from Home Alone 2.

Shortbread Spy

Price 40 gp

Usage held in 2 hands

Activate 1 minute (Interact)

Though this item looks like a simple cookie in the shape of a humanoid, it springs to life once decorated with icing or other edible substances. The cookie then scrambles away at a Speed of 15 feet, returning to the same spot about 1 hour later, which gives it enough time to travel roughly a half-mile away and then return along the same path. The cookie spy is oblivious to your instructions and can’t be given directions, instead following a path of its own choosing. Upon its return, it falls to the ground, never to move again.

As long as you decorated the shortbread spy with eyes, it gains normal vision, which it uses to see and magically record the sights along its path. Any creature that eats the cookie once it returns can then see what the spy saw. The images are relatively clear, but the passage of time is a bit muddied, so it might be difficult to tell when the cookie witnessed a given sight.

Do you know…the MUFFIN MAN?! This is possibly one of the cutest magic items I have read about in any TTRPG. Perfect for a light-hearted character. I can see this being a regular part of any halfling or gnome’s arsenal.