It’s just playing safe. That’s all you want to do as a Paladin – play it carefully and know who and what could be around you. So silently, in a single action, you activate your Divine Sense. For sixty feet around you, you become incredibly aware of powerful beings around you. Not a single undead, nor a celestial, but there it is. Just to the left ahead of you and your group. A Fiend, a powerful one at that.
The smell of a wildfire fills your nose, and it begins to grow uncomfortably warm. Your gaze unintentionally flicks over to where the Fiend is, disguised as nothing more than a humble beggar. No one in your party is prepared to deal with them, not today.
So you gently steer your group around them, watching the Fiend out of the corner of your eye. You swear that their eyes didn’t budge from you and your group. Tonight you sleep with one eye open. Better to know than to be caught off-guard.
Welcome to a Divine Sense 5e Guide.
Divine Sense can only sense Celestials, Fiends, Undead, and places/objects consecrated or desecrated within sixty feet. The sensory effects are not specified, allowing some creativity in personalizing this class feature to your Paladin.
What is Divine Sense?
Divine sense is an ability given to Paladins from the very beginning. Starting at level one, Paladins can use their Divine Sense a number of times equal to one plus their Charisma Modifier. After a long rest, all their expended uses are regained. This feature allows for a Paladin to detect if a place or object has been consecrated or if it has been desecrated within 60 feet.
Divine Sense allows a Paladin to use their action to sense both divinity and substantial evils. A strong evil being will register to their senses like a horrible smell, whereas powerful and good beings will register with beautiful music. Until the end of their next turn, they will know the location of any Celestial, Fiend, or Undead within 60 feet that does not have total cover.
What Qualifies as Total Cover?
In Chapter Nine of the Player’s Handbook, the basic rules state that total cover means that a creature cannot be targeted directly by an attack or a spell, though some spells may reach it, such as area of effect spells. They only have total cover if an obstacle entirely conceals them.
The word concealed here becomes problematic if you get into a niche situation of clear or transparent cover – such as glass or a wall of ice. To reach the target, you would need to break the physical obstruction.
So, while you may be able to see the target, if they are standing behind a physical obstruction, Divine Sense still wouldn’t work to detect them. For this Paladin feature to work, the physical obstruction would need to be removed or broken through first.
How it Doesn’t Work
While Divine Sense may allow for a Paladin to sense evil or good beings and where they are, it does not allow them to identify who the divine being they are sensing is. For example, while they may be able to identify that there is a vampire in range, they won’t be able to discern if the vampire is Dracula or if it’s Count Strahd.
Divine Sense also only functions as a way to identify and discern the locations of good and evil beings; it does not allow you to target or affect them directly. Unlike the Hallow spell, which allows for a Cleric to directly keep Fiends, Celestials, Elementals, Fey, or Undead out of a specified area.
If you attempt to keep track of a tricky fey-like creature or another being that registers with Divine Sense, you will not be able to detect them. Unfortunately, Divine Sense doesn’t allow a Paladin to track Fey or Elementals. They are strictly locked to Fiends, Celestials, and Undead. To get around this, a Paladin could theoretically take three levels in Ranger to gain Primeval Awareness.
This feature functions differently from Divine Sense because you have to expend a Ranger spell slot to focus on the region around you. For one minute per level of the spell slot expended, you can sense if any of the following Creatures are present within 1 mile of you or up to six miles if it is your Favored terrain: Aberrations, Celestials, Dragons, Elementals Fey, Fiends, and Undead.
This doesn’t reveal the location and surpasses total cover. This also doesn’t reveal the identity or the number of creatures within range. What would be even better than Primeval Awareness is to use the spell Detect Evil and Good, which becomes available to Paladins at the first level.
Using Divine Sense When You Aren’t A Paladin
You can’t mimic Divine Sense entirely if you’re not a Paladin. It would likely just be easier to take a single level in Paladin to obtain Divine Sense than working around it. However, if you are staunchly against taking a level in Paladin, or it just wouldn’t make sense for your character, there are a few ways that you could potentially work around it.
As mentioned earlier in the article, the Ranger’s Primeval Awareness ability covers the “sensing” part of Divine Sense, though it does not completely copy it. Primeval Awareness also misses out on the specifics of what you identify – specifically where and how many. However, there are some games I had played before where the house rule was that Primeval Awareness allowed for Rangers to identify how many creatures and what direction they were in, rather than just somewhere on the radar.
For Clerics, a spell is available to them: Detect Evil and Good. This spell specifically allows for the caster to detect if there are Aberrations, Celestials, Elementals, Feys, Fiends, or Undead creatures within thirty feet of them and where they are located.
In the same right as Divine Sense, they know if a place has been magically consecrated or desecrated within thirty feet of them. Detect Evil and Good is also available to Paladins. Still, considering that it has half of the range and uses up a spell slot, this isn’t worth it unless they are specifically looking for an Aberration, Elemental, or Fey.
Other than that, there is no way to work around the Paladin barrier for Divine Sense.
This spell is fairly straightforward, but as a spell that is descriptive and relies on the senses, it comes with quite a bit of room for creativity in descriptions.
As a Player
As a Player, it is challenging to make Divine Sense a creative spell. You can use it in any situation, but it is not a multi-utility spell. It serves one purpose: to detect what a creature is and its intent. A way that you can get creative with it, however, is to work with your Dungeon Master and decide if there are ways that you can homebrew the spell a little bit or make it custom to your character.
While the spell states that fiends will give off a foul odor, like sulfur, and celestials will sound like heavenly music, consider switching and reversing it. If you’re an evil Paladin, maybe a Fiend smells vaguely like the smoke of a campfire, filled with fond memories of cheerful song and dance, roasting marshmallows over the fire, and spooky stories.
On the other hand, since Celestials would be your enemy in this case, perhaps their presence while using Divine Sense causes you to taste something sickly sweet, or the overpowering fragrance of perfume wafts across your nose. These scents should be pleasant, but they are only overwhelming and negative.
Alternatively, if you are just your standard, good-hearted Paladin, you can sit down with your Game Master and work out what scents mean. Personalize it to your character and give their traditional “enemies” something that has negative connotations for your character, such as a burning sensation across their skin, the taste of burnt food on their tongue, or something else.
Combine sensory effects if you want – there is no limit to how many things your character can experience to detect when using Divine Sense. On the other hand, maybe a Celestial is more pleasant and comforting to sense, and an Undead offers an unearthly, hair-raising chill that can make your breath suddenly visible in front of your face.
As a Dungeon Master
As a Dungeon Master, consider the above option for your player. Going by the standard can be boring and feel unattached, so don’t hesitate to customize things to fit your table and your players. The best thing about Dungeons and Dragons is that you aren’t necessarily anchored to the rules.
If needed or wanted, you could create a house rule that allows for Divine Sense to detect very specific beings. Although the standard spell states that you cannot sense the identity of those in range, maybe, if your Paladin has had close contact with these NPCs and is familiar with them, there’s something different and unnervingly familiar about them. The world can be what you make it, so go wild.
Question: Will Divine Sense make it easier for me to hit invisible enemies?
Answer: No, unfortunately, it won’t. While Divine Sense can point you to the area where a target is, you still have to roll with a disadvantage because you’re just guessing where they’re standing or moving around in a five-foot square.
Question: Does Divine Sense see around and behind walls?
Answer: No, it can’t. Unlike the spell Message, which moves around walls until it reaches your target, Divine Sense cannot function if your target or the thing you are trying to sense has full cover. Being fully behind a wall, without any part of them peaking out, gives your target, be they friend or foe, full cover.
Question: Can Divine Sense work on distinguishing alignments?
Answer: No, it doesn’t. Although the spell says it can detect “evil” and “good” beings, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s detecting their alignment. In a tweet Jeremy Crawford made on April 30, 2018, Jeremy Crawford clarified that Divine Sense doesn’t detect alignment or curses. By good and strong evil beings, the text just meant: fiends, Undead, celestials, desecration, and consecration. However, some tables still play Divine Sense as being able to detect alignments, so I would take it up with your DM. If you are the DM, see what your players are comfortable with and what would keep the game fun and lively for everyone.
Question: What’s the max amount of times a Paladin can use Divine Sense?
Answer: You genuinely cannot max out your Charisma skill. A Tome of Leadership and Influence raises your Charisma by two and raises the cap on it by two. So, if you were to find a stack of Tomes of Leadership and Influence and they all retained their magic, you could keep reading and keep raising your skill. However, assuming we’re just working with a 20 Charisma, giving you a +5, you would have six uses of Divine Sense per long rest, which, if we’re being honest, is more than enough.
Divine Sense is a straightforward and simple spell. There aren’t too many nuances to it or questions when it comes to how Divine Sense works – unless you are getting into niche situations. While it may not work to eliminate the disadvantage of invisible enemies, it lets you know what kind of being you may be up against. If you’re standing on one side of a translucent icy barrier, it won’t work, but break that barrier, and you can suddenly sense everything on the other side.
The most fun you can have with this spell is customizing the senses and how your character senses these Celestials, Fiends, and Undead. My favorite idea is to create a unique sensory effect for an NPC you may be incredibly familiar with, beyond your normal interaction with a Celestial, Fiend, or Undead.
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