Tome of Prowess (3.5e Sourcebook)/Dowsing

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Dowsing is an active skill used to learn about the world. Those who practice dowsing can find fresh water in the desert, the most choice vein of minerals, and read the future in tea leaves. Those with substantial skill in dowsing can track individuals through the world, sense the world through their mind's eye, and even scry on other people and places.

Key Attribute: Wisdom

Check Modifiers[edit]

Circumstance Check Modifier
Double search radius or viewing area1 -5
Dowse without a rod-like object in two hands -5
Distracted -5
Rushing: reduce a 1 round action to a move action2 -5
Rushing: reduce a move action to a swift action2 -5
  1. This can be selected multiple times, with the DC adjustment applied each time. This follows mathematical doubling rules (two times, four times, eight times, etc.), not the additive doubling rules associated with critical multipliers.
  2. These conditions may be stacked, in which case all relevant modifiers apply.


There are a couple of special concepts related to the dowsing skill which should be discussed before getting into the meat of the abilities.

Dowsing Rods[edit]

Dowsing is done most easily while holding an object in two hands. Some sages speculate this is to better allow the "chi" or energy of the world into the dowser, and that this ease of entry makes the pull easier to follow. Others speculate that the magic of the world just favors people who look more like idiots (this view is more common among urban druid bashers). What is clear, however, is that certain types of objects do help. The object needs to be generally rod-like, and should be wieldable in one or two hands. While the forked dowsing rod is a staple, weapons with a haft (battle-axe, short spear, etc.) or a hilt and a long blade (swords) work just as well and are favored by martial dowsers. In addition to the form requirements, a weapon must not be the same size category as the wielder or less than 3 size categories smaller than the wielder to potentially serve as a dowsing rod. For games that don't worry about item size in that way, you can pretty much allow any weapon that is larger than a dagger but small enough that it doesn't provide reach to work for these purposes.

Interrupting Materials[edit]

Lead, cold iron, and natural lodestone deposits respond very differently to dowsing. These materials have a pull only 1/100th as strong as other metals and a one inch thickness of these metals completely obscure the pull of any material on the other side. You simply can not use dowsing abilities to detect targets on the other side of these materials. The materials themselves are similarly difficult to detect, and that process is explained in the relevant ability.

Because of this property, many wealthy individuals use safes made of cold iron or lead to hide the amount and type of wealth that they keep. On first glance, this would seem to make these boxes targets for any thieves using this ability, but this is not the case. The difficulty in locating them makes them difficult targets on their own, and their widespread use means that any particular box may not actually be hiding anything. High level thieves with access to this ability may use it to help locate hidden safes, but deciding on a job to take is still more about researching the target than standing on a roof and trying to find the largest "invisible" safe.

Pull Information[edit]

The Pull of DM Generosity
The first two abilities of the dowsing skill vary quite a lot from other skill abilities, and are worth taking a moment to talk about. While a lot of other abilities are designed to allow the players more narrative freedom and control, these abilities just let you find things that someone else has already put in the world. And yes, that means that these abilities won’t be particularly useful in lots of games and that the dowsing skill isn’t all that useful at level 1. Not for PCs, anyway. It's fantastically useful for NPCs, though. This skill actually goes a long way to helping NPCs get by in the world, and to explaining why every settlement has a source of fresh water and every mine is a fabulous treasure trove of wealth. So while it might not be useful to you at low levels, it’s a useful thing to have in the game.

In general, a dowsing ability will point you towards the nearest, largest (subject to interposing interrupting materials), highest quality, and most easily obtained option within range. Being farther away, being worse in quality, or simply requiring more work to obtain will make a pull appear weaker, and it will appear worse at first glance as a result. Thus, a very pure source three times as far away as a half pure source will have a weaker pull, assuming quantity and accessibility are similar. If the dowser spends an additional minute with a pull after the initial dowsing check to weigh and examine it, they learn more about the qualities of the source it leads to. Distance, quantity, quality, and ease of accessibility are all rated after this minute. There is no way to hurry this check, and most dowsers are unable to determine one of these areas without determining the remainder at the same time.

Spending the time weighing the many potential options available often means the difference between digging a well that refills each day from a larger aquifer, allowing a village to drink their fill, and building the village around a rain pond that was simply accessible. For non-rush jobs, it is almost always worth it. PCs, on the other hand, are almost always interested in rush jobs and will often skip this stage, simply taking the first option. They have different priorities than city planners or mine foremen, after all.

Untrained Uses[edit]

None. Sorry, you actually can’t do this stuff without a bit of training.

Rank 1 Uses[edit]

The Pull of Water[edit]

Fresh, drinkable water is a necessity for most of the life in the world. The world knows where it is, and can guide you to it if you know how to let it. You can attempt to find the available sources or fresh drinkable water within a 1 mile radius. This requires a full round action and concentration. Your check result indicates the minimum size of the water pool you can locate with this ability. You can not locate smaller bodies of water without a retry. You learn the number of discrete sources within range, but the strongest pull will be from the water with the best combination of distance, ease of accessibility, quantity, and quality factors. You can, of course, spend time weighing their pulls as normal. It's often a good idea to do so, since the water found with this ability might be free flowing, standing, underground (accessible via well or pit), or even trapped in a plant. There is no guarantee that it will be fresh and tasty, or that it won’t be full of toxins or diseases that will eventually kill you, but it will allow you to stay alive longer than not drinking it. You can learn a great deal of this information before you actually find the water by weighing your options.

Once the check is made, however, finding water outdoors on the surface is fairly easy. You make the check, and walk in the indicated direction until you find it. Looking for water underground or within a structure, where walls can block your path, is a bit harder. A single check will point you in the direction, but several checks from different places will help you better find the exact location regardless of intervening structures. Multiple, or even continuous checks will also help you find the best place to break through a wall or dig a well if that's what's required to reach the water. In general, your first check will let you know if there's an aquifer below you or an underground river to the side, and a few hours spent moving around and making additional successful checks will find you the best way to get there. Assuming there's not a better spot within a mile from where you've walked, anyway.

Special: If you are some bizarre type of creature that doesn’t drink water and needs something else to live, then this ability will find some variety of that for you instead. It doesn’t matter how bizarre it is, it can be ash from a forest fire or crystallized magic, and you will be guided to the largest source within your search area. Again, there is no guarantee that it will be easily accessible or particularly clean, but it will be something that will keep you alive longer than not consuming it.

Base DC: 15
Check Result:

  • DC+10 and above: If the largest source of water is wrapped up in a baby cactus, then you can follow the pull towards it. This is not enough water for a medium creature for one day, but it’s a lot better than nothing.
  • DC+5 to DC+9: You can feel the pull towards any source of water larger than a bucket. This is enough water for most medium creatures for one day.
  • DC+0 to DC+4: You can feel the pull towards any source of water larger than a bathing tub. This is enough water for about 10 medium creatures for one day.
  • DC-1 to DC-5: You can feel the pull from any source of water larger than a cottage. This is enough water for a lot of people for one day.
  • DC-6 and below: You don't feel any pull at all. If it’s not a lake of fresh water that you can already see on the horizon, you won’t be drawn towards it.

Rank 4 Uses[edit]

The Pull of Wealth[edit]

The world has troves of natural wealth, waiting to be discovered. You can follow the pull of the world to these hidden troves and find mineral wealth within a 1 mile radius. This requires a full round action and concentration. The base DC for this check is 20. If you are attempting to find a specific mineral, you suffer a penalty on your check of 3 to 10 points, depending on the rarity and value of it. Looking specifically for copper or silver might only lower your check by 3 points, emeralds might lower your check result by 6, and adamantine might cause you to suffer a 10 point penalty. The actual amount that the DC increases is up to the DM, and should be based on conditions within the campaign setting. They should tell you the amount of the penalty before you make the check, however.

On a successful check, you learn the number of qualifying ore deposits in range, as well as their direction. As with other pull abilities, the strongest pull will be from the closest, largest, purest, and most easily accessible deposit. You can weigh the pulls to learn more about them, of course.

Special: Lead, natural lodestone deposits, and cold iron respond very differently to dowsing. The pull from these materials is 1/100th as weak as the pull from a similar mass of other wealth, and completely obscure the pull of wealth on the other side of them. A 1000 pound deposit or object made of one of these materials is treated as only a 10 pound deposit or object for purposes of this ability. You effectively find pulls from these materials as if you had rolled 10 points lower and may be unable to find concentrations of them at all depending on your check result, even if you can sense other materials.

Base DC: 20 + up to 10 for specific materials
Check Result:

  • DC+10 and above: You can feel the pull towards any metal pile or vein heavier than 10 pounds, and any precious stone deposits heavier than a half pound. If you use this in a city, you probably have a lot of options to weigh, and since most of them are mobile, they might not even still be there when you get around to looking at them.
  • DC+5 to DC+9: You can feel the pull towards any metal pile or vein heavier than 100 pounds, and any precious stone deposits heavier than five pounds. This may not be enough to be worth worrying about mining for, but it's certainly not worth passing up if you're dungeon crawling.
  • DC+0 to DC+4: You can feel the pull towards any metal pile or vein heavier than 500 pounds, and any precious stone deposits heavier than 50 pounds. This probably is enough to be worth mining for, especially if it's the start of a lovely vein.
  • DC-1 to DC-5: You can feel the pull towards any mineral wealth heavier than a ton, and any precious stone deposits heavier than 200 pounds. This is probably a very good vein.
  • DC-6 and below: You don't feel any pull at all. Even if you're about to be crushed by a 10 ton steel ball.


Portents, omens, and signs surround us every day, telling us what our fates will be if we make one decision instead of another. Other people ignore them because they don’t see them, but you know what to look for when you need to seek guidance on a question and may attempt to read the future to judge what a course of action will yield. Reading the future requires 5 full minutes and a dowsing check against a DC between 20 and 30; the DC is set by your DM based on the question, and you should be informed of the DC before you make the check. The more complex or far-reaching the action you wish to know the outcome of, the harder it is to read the future to determine whether the outcome will be beneficial or not. Simple questions like "should I harvest my grain today?" have a lower DC, while more complex questions like "will the baron be a good ruler if we let him take his deceased brother's seat?" have a higher DC.

While there is no hard limit on how often you can read the fates, the future is hard to read multiple times about the same topic within a short period. You suffer a -5 penalty on your check for each additional future you tell 'for' or 'about' a particular target. This penalty no longer applies 24 hours after it is acquired.

Base DC: 20, + up to 10 for detailed or complex questions
Check Result:

  • DC+0 and above: You know if the course of events will be likely beneficial or harmful to the person whose future you are reading. It is still a good idea to let the target know that it's only the likely way things will work out, as the future is always in motion.
  • DC-1 and below: You are unable to determine anything about the future for the target.

Rank 8 Uses[edit]

The Individual’s Pull[edit]

Knowledge of Person or Object DC
None 401
Secondhand (you have heard of the person or object) 351
Firsthand (you have seen the person or object) 30
Familiar (you know the person or object well) 25
  1. You must have some sort of connection to a creature or object you have
    no direct experience with.
Connection Check Modifier
Likeness or picture +0
Possession or related object +2
Body part (hair, nail, etc.) or piece of object +5
Water and wealth give off strong pulls that often drown the subtle pull that every object and person in the world gives off. By focusing on a specific object or person, you can draw upon your connection with them to block out the stronger pulls of the world and follow the individual's specific pull instead. This pull will lead you right to them if you follow it, though not in the same way as other pulls. Individuals leave their mark behind on the world for a time, leaving a trail that can be followed. The pull of an individual leads to the nearest spot on their trail within 1 mile, or along their trail if you are already adjacent to it. In this way, a skilled diviner can track an individual person or object by traveling where they have been.

Each check for this ability requires 1 round, and you must spend 2d6 minutes weighing the pulls looking for your target's before you can follow anything. As with other weighing time, this can not be hurried. Once you have the right pull, you don't need to spend any additional time weighing pulls so long as you successfully make a check to follow it again within 1 minute of a previous successful check or weighing. If you need to, you can reacquire it with a check and a full minute of weighing so long as this is attempted within 1 hour. Attempting to follow an individual's pull again after 1 hour is treated as a new attempt.

The DC for these checks is determined by your connection to your target, as indicated in the table. If a creature is warded against divination effects, then their path is similarly warded and may not be traceable. If the protection could be breached with a caster level check, you are considered to have a caster level equal to your Dowsing check bonus -4.

Note that since this ability follows a path, and not the individual itself, it is not frustrated by materials that block dowsing attempts unless the whole of the path is separated from the dowser by such materials. Even if the trail leads through a door made of these materials, the part of the path outside the door can be found with this ability, and it will lead the dowser up to the door if they follow it.

Base DC: Determined by connection to the target.
Check Result:

  • DC+10 and above: You can follow the pull to any trail that is less than 4 days old. If you wanted to find a man who was trapped in a secret dungeon accessible from the door hidden in a tree trunk, you really could ask your father (or whatever) to guide your sword and be led to the tree with the secret door. If you're lucky, you might even collapse on the secret activation lever when you think it's a dead end.
  • DC+5 to DC+9: You can follow the pull to any trail that is less than 2 days old, which is actually a fair amount of time to pick up a trail.
  • DC+0 to DC+4: You can follow the pull to any trail that is less than 1 day old.
  • DC-1 to DC-5: As long as your target was in the area within the last 12 hours, you know the general direction to their trail. You have no further information and no direct connection to their pull or trail, however.
  • DC-6 and below: You fail to sort your intended target's pull from the many pulls within the world, and need a break before trying to look again.

Sense Presence[edit]

The world is full of creatures that cannot be detected with normal senses or have trained themselves to avoid the senses of others. You have trained yourself to feel their presence anyway, and can spend some time attuning yourself to the world to detect those hidden within it. As a move action, you can gain blindsense out to 60’ for 1 round. Alternately, you may use a swift action to gain blindsense out to 15’ for 1 round. These distances are reduced to half, rounded down, if you do not have an implement in your hands, like a dowsing rod, greatsword, or long bow.

As your blindsense is an actual sense, you are considered to be continuously making passive perception like checks with it while it remains active. Unlike creatures with a naturally occurring form of blindsight, however, your ability to perceive creatures and objects with blindsense is based on your dowsing bonus. Thus, you "take 0" with your dowsing skill bonus instead of perception while it is active. You may make a notice-style check with your dowsing bonus as a standard action, instead of "taking 0", though this only determines your ability to perceive creatures with your blindsense. You may only make one notice-style check with your blindsense and dowsing modifier per round, however, whether that is a passive check or an active one. Your focus on the blindsense renders you less able to utilize your other senses. You may not make a perception check while this ability is active, though you may still "take 0" normally. You are also considered distracted for the purposes of perception checks, however, and suffer an additional -5 penalty to your passive perception.

Rank 10 Uses[edit]

Sensor Familiarity[edit]

Sensors are commonly used to look upon distant locations. You are familiar with their function, even if you are unable to create them yourself, and can disable them. If you notice a scrying sensor or remote viewing window nearby, you may attempt either to return or break the scrying. These function as the abilities listed in the Scrying Subschool description, except the DC to return a scrying is only 30. You have an effective caster level equal to your Dowsing check bonus -4 for these purposes.

Rank 12 Uses[edit]

Sense Coplanar Presence[edit]

There are places and planes in the multiverse that overlap, where a creature can be right on top of you but hidden by the veil of reality. You can sense them anyway. When you use the Sense Presence ability, your blindsense now detects coplanar creatures within range, such as those on the ethereal plane or plane of shadow while you are on the prime material. Once you know where they are, you can deal with them as your other options allow.

Rank 14 Uses[edit]

Remote Viewing[edit]

Knowledge of Location or Person DC
None 401
Secondhand (you have heard of the person or place) 351
Firsthand (you have visited the person or place) 30
Familiar (you know the person or place well) 25
  1. You must have some sort of connection to a creature or location you have
    no direct experience with.
Connection Check Modifier
Likeness or picture, map showing location +0
Possession or garment, material from site +2
Body part, (hair, nail, etc.), important piece from site +5
A pool of water, a silvered mirror, a crystal ball, these are windows to other places if one is properly trained. You are able to use reflective surfaces as scrying devices, to see and hear locations or even people far away. Establishing a remote viewing window requires 5 minutes of work and a Dowsing check, the DC of which varies based on what you are trying to view as indicated on the table to the right.

Your window lasts up to a period of time determined by your check result, though you may dismiss the effect as a free action at any time. Once the remote viewing is established, you need not concentrate to maintain it, and you do not need to stay within any particular range. Establishing a remote viewing window is not particularly taxing, but it is difficult to perform multiple times without resting to clear your mind of old locations. Each additional remote view attempt before you have had 8 hours of rest increases the DC by 5 points.

The reflective surface functions in many respects like a window. If you are targeting an individual, it shows the immediate surroundings of your target, about a 10' radius, and you hear sounds as if you were at the location. It will also follow them around at a rate of up to 300 feet per round. If you are targeting an area, you instead see an area of about 40' radius, though this can be blocked by walls and other obstruction, but the window is fixed and can not be moved. You see and hear based on prevailing light conditions on the other side, but gain the benefits of any low-light, darkvision, or other special senses you possess. Spells or effects that target you and modify your senses (those with a range of Personal or Touch) function normally through the window, spells that emanate from you do not function through it. So you can use comprehend languages to understand a conversation, but not detect magic to see magical effects on the other side. Other creatures may use your window for these functions as well, whether they are looking over your shoulder or gathered around the pool.

Objects in view are displayed in detail, but creatures other than the initial target are not shown in identifying detail and their voices are off-pitch. If you or anyone viewing attempts to make them out, the creature is allowed a Will saving throw against a DC of 8 + your ranks in Dowsing. If they fail the save, they show up clearly for the remainder of the viewing. If they succeed at their save, they remain unidentifiable.

Like a spell-based scrying effect, the sensor may be noticed with a DC 20 intelligence check. Creatures with scrying on their class list or the Sensor Familiarity ability of the Dowsing skill may attempt to return scry through the window with a DC 30 check, and may attempt to break the window with an opposed check. Your caster level for these purposes is equal to your ranks in Dowsing. The sensor for your window may not be dispelled by dispel magic, however, nor may someone make a caster level check to learn your identity. Attempts to learn your identity simply reveal that it is a dowsing effect. Additionally, the same methods that frustrate scrying attempts, such as nondetection, sufficient ranks in the Bluff skill, being surrounded by lead, etc., will also block or interfere with your remote viewing attempt, as will cold iron or lodestone.

Base DC: Determined by connection to the target.
Check Result:

  • DC+10 and above: You may view the location for up to 1 hour per rank in the Dowsing skill. Hope you have a watch order setup.
  • DC+5 to DC+9: You may view the location for up to 10 minutes per rank in Dowsing. Might want to get some popcorn.
  • DC+0 to DC+4: You may view the location for up to 1 minute per rank in Dowsing.
  • DC-1 to DC-5: You may view the location for up to 1 round per rank in Dowsing. Enough time to get a feel for things on the other side, perhaps.
  • DC-6 and below: You fail to remotely view the location entirely. Which isn't enough time for anything.

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