Sometimes players will joke that in a D&D game the DM is god, but when it comes to Augury this is actually more-or-less true.
The specific god-like power they get to manifest is that of omniscience, or at least prophecy. This second-level spell – one of the more reliable and useful divination abilities out there – allows a Cleric to perform as quick bout of fortune telling by throwing sticks in the air, rolling dice or turning over a special deck of cards.
This isn’t perfect, of course, as both the can ask and the sort of answers they can receive is rather limited. It can only show how a specific course of action you take in the next half-hour will work out, with the results restricted to a general indication of whether it’s a good choice, a bad one or somewhere in the middle.
Multiple castings in one day reduce the reliability of the spell, but the first time someone uses it the DM has to make the results as accurate as possible. With a bit of thought put into the phrasing of the question, this can make it incredibly powerful.
While you can’t directly ask ‘will the Sliver Spears ambush us at the meeting point’, it is possible to discover ‘should trust the Silver Spears’ or ‘should we set up an ambush of our own’. Similarly, if you’re unsure whether a stolen gem was taken to Neverwinter or not, you can get a pretty good idea by asking if that is at least a good place to look for it.
In some scenarios – especially improv-heavy games – this can be a tough thing for the DM to figure out. Perhaps they hadn’t decided how the Silver Spears would act yet or where the jewel is taken, so there’s a pretty significant amount of wiggle-room in the answer.
Of course, one of the issues with including glimpses of the future in RPGs is that players are famously good as messing with them, whether by accident or not. This can cause real issues if their benevolent god tells them that proceeding through the dungeon is a good idea, only for them to somehow get themselves killed in unlikely circumstances.
However, the phrasing of the spell makes it clear that the omen is only a rough guide of what might happen and that the party’s choices may well be able to screw the foretelling up. It’s always possible to portray this as the party’s own foreknowledge getting in the way, giving the DM an ironclad ‘get out of jail free’ card.
The options for genuine fortune-telling in D&D 5E are fairly limited, and to be honest Augury is one of the best. If nothing else it can be cast as a ritual, giving the Cleric a once-a-day chance to bend their God’s ear without any chance if the spell going wrong, or as many as five times if they don’t mind the increasing chance to misinterpret the signs.
It may have plenty of limitations, but being able to predict the future – even a little – as a ritual is incredible. It’s only a pity that it can’t be used by Divination-school Wizards.
Level: 2 (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 minute
Components: V, S, M (specially marked sticks, bones, or similar tokens worth at least 25 gp)
By casting gem-inlaid sticks, rolling dragon bones, laying out ornate cards, or employing some other divining tool, you receive an omen from an otherworldly entity about the results of a specific course of action that you plan to take within the next 30 minutes. The DM chooses from the following possible omens:
Weal, for good results
Woe, for bad results
Weal and woe, for both good and bad results
Nothing, for results that aren’t especially good or bad
The spell doesn’t take into account any possible circumstances that might change the outcome, such as the casting o f additional spells or the loss or gain of a companion. If you cast the spell two or more times before completing your next long rest, there is a cumulative 25 percent chance for each casting after the first that you get a random reading. The DM makes this roll in secret.