Keep Your Friends Close & Your Enemies Closer.
In D&D it is assumed that all magic items are owned by the player's characters, that all items are for 'combat & adventuring' and that NPCs have little interest in magic items. After all, there isn't a listing for a +1 Plow nor the Butter Churn Of Everchurning. Let us look at the story behind the humble Wand Of Enemy Detection and see where it came from, what it does and where things would end up.
What Is This Wand Of Enemy Detection?
Using one action with this attuneable, 'rare' item' (with command word): you just KNOW (for one minute), the direction (not range) of your enemy ('nearest')... in 60'. It can sense most targets (etherial, invisible, disguised, hidden and even those in plain sight). The effect ends if you stop holding the wand.
Points of Interest:
- Three conditions for enemy seeking: within one minute (ten 'rounds') &/or drop the wand &/or stop concentration. The enemy can leave the 60' radius once they are target-found - this wand will let you 'know' their direction. If they go to another plane of existence do you still know their 'direction'? One presumes you can only add another charge to keep tracking if your first target is still the closest enemy in 60'.
- Do non-detection style magics protect you from being outed? Yes. Amulets and spells are easy long-term solutions to this wand's powers.
- You can use it for the entire minute. As different hostiles approach you it will 're-target' them. You could do a flyby at high speeds test scanning a fair number of creatures.
- What is an enemy?
A hostile, from pg 244 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, has the definition:
A hostile creature opposes the adventurers and their goals but doesn't necessarily attack them on sight. For example, a condescending noble might wish to see a group of upstart adventurers fail so as to keep them from becoming rivals for the king's attention, thwarting them with slander and scheming rather than direct threats and violence. [...] That said, a hostile creature might be so ill-disposed toward the party that no Charisma check can improve its attitude, in which case any attempt to sway it through diplomacy fails automatically.
- It is not clear how this wand interacts with hostile objects, sentient or not. Clearly it would detect hostile undead and golems. Would it detect a trap that was made with the wand-user in mind?
- Zone Of Truth works differently - this is 'enchantment' magic so non-detection will NOT help against such a spell (while it foils this wand).
- Any anti-magic shell on the target-enemy (not the caster-wielder) will also make them vulnerable to divination (if they are within 60').
- There is no other creature or spell that can sense enemies. This wand is unique and exists out of grandfathered D&D tradition.
- A familiar could use this (their master is their 'self') and it should work for both of them (i.e. someone who hates a wizard - but really likes their black cat familiar - should still show as an enemy)
Who Would Commission This?
Obviously anyone with a history of having lots of enemies. This device checks for about four persons a day (assuming 1d6+1 recharge rate gives 4.5 shots a day). The 60' radius-range is pretty good for most throne rooms, especially if you walk around.
- Evil humanoid lords & rulers would really value this device.
- Anyone in a position of power via wealth, control or circumstance will need one of these: guild leaders, merchants, lords, nobility, generals, high priests, politicians, and so on.
- Dragons, hags and other creatures that make deals can, occasionally, use this. Remember that oath breakers may do so because they love you and enemies may follow through if they like the terms of a contract. To a hag: 'the difference between a friend and an enemy is how much knowledge they have'.
- Incredibly useful as contractual obligations shift. Example: if the neighbouring kingdom declares war on their king's lands, that king would like to know which diplomats are still friendly.
- Notably useless around deep gnomes or Svirfneblin.
- There is no other device that detects enemies or 'intent', period. People with Zone of Truth, fae that can read hearts (like Sprites) do different and valuable things. Paranoid creatures (such as Beholders) may hire all three.
What do adventures look like?
- Your group could be hired to disguise themselves as the local king to function as a decoy - root out assassins, poisoners, spies and other such bad guys. Anyone with disguise / change self magics &/or disguises could to this, but having outsiders with non-detection would make them unbiased. Who can a king trust? PCs would be delighted to get use from this otherwise less-popular magic item.
- When PCs are bargaining with any minion-oriented creature (Beholders, dragons, hags, devils, etc) they may be surprised to discover their enemy knows their intentions.
- If an inquisitor style NPC declares a certain race, religion or faith the 'enemy of the people', this wand may work for them - even though such persons may be entirely innocent and have no hostility. Stealing the wand from such a lawful yet evil creature may be necessary (without the inquisitor's knowledge of these events). Even better: replacing the wand with an exact duplicate, some 'common' magic item that provides placebo feelings of reassurance ('you use the wand and feel there are no enemies nearby').
- Unfortunate hostility: a powerful person might have been using this device on large groups of followers and discover family members / loved ones are 'enemies'. Such a lord or noble might hire PCs to get to know their brother or cousin or daughter and find out why they hate them so much. Obviously PCs would be outside observers / objective / unsuspected allies to the powerful person. Player-characters would get hired to 'befriend' their angry family member and stand a better chance of getting an honest answer as to what was up.
- This wand detects direction but not range. A clever NPC may give player characters this wand and then hide their familiar behind otherwise PC-friendly people. Put a spider in the hoodie of a trusted ally, having a dear friend riding the Oathbreaker's horse and so on - players would quickly get quite paranoid. Especially if the sneaky NPC steals their wand back and somehow implicates one or more of their allies for 'covering their tracks'.
- Hostile forces need not be large nor even creatures. Hostile awakened trees, mimics, sentient magic items (some as small as coins) all pull the awareness of the wand-user in the right direction.
- Repression and denial: It is possible that someone would appear to the wand as an enemy even if they didn't know it themselves. Say an elven PC was the close advisor to a high-elf paladin notorious for hunting down Drow. Were a disguised Llolth-priestess ('to look as a high-elf') to like or even love this PC she would still resound as an 'enemy' to the PC's detection-wand.
- The enemy of my enemy: What happens if someone changes their mind? n
There you have it - a wand that seems to do a lot more for your non-player characters and your campaign than it does for your players. Still, quite useful for both in-game use and excellent for plot-development.