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Here for a while
(4/28/03 12:37 pm)
Varachan's Crystal Ball
This thread on scrying and teleport got me thinking.

Eventually, the party will likely obtain Varachan's crystal ball with detect thoughts -- it's not on his equipment list, but it's mentioned in the sidebar on p. 125 of RttToEE. Once that happens, many of the restrictions on party scrying will vanish. With the crystal ball, scrying will no longer require a large material focus or take up a valuable spell slot. The party can scry with impunity, limited only by time. However, it's not clear to me how much time is required to make a scrying attempt. Is it an hour (the casting time of the Scry spell) or is it a standard action?

I've been assuming that the crystal ball is a use activated item that would require a standard action to activate.

Here's the complete text from the SRD:
Crystal Ball
This is the most common form of scrying device, a crystal sphere about 6 inches in diameter. A character can use the device to see over virtually any distance or into other planes of existence, as with the spell scrying.
Certain crystal balls have additional powers that can be used through the crystal ball at targets viewed.
Crystal Ball Type                        Market Price
-----------------                        ------------
Crystal ball                                42,000 gp
Crystal ball with see invisibility        50,000 gp
Crystal ball with detect thoughts        51,000 gp
Crystal ball with telepathy*                70,000 gp
Crystal ball with true seeing                80,000 gp
*-The viewer is able to send and receive silent mental messages with the person appearing in the crystal ball. Once per day the character may attempt to implant a suggestion (as the spell, DC 14) as well.
Caster Level: 10th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, scrying (plus any additional spells put into item); Weight: 7 lb.

The SRD also says:
the casting time of a spell is the time required to activate the same power in an item, whether it’s a scroll, a wand, or a pair of boots, unless the item description specifically states otherwise.

So.... it seems to me that the Crystal Ball text could be interpretted two very different ways.

If the crystal ball actually casts the scry spell, then it takes an hour to resolve a scry attempt -- the casting time of the Scry spell.

If the crystal ball allows a user to scry, i.e. employ the user's scry skill using the crystal ball as a focus, then it takes a standard action to resolve the attempt. In this case, the user can effectively "take 20" on a scry attempt.

I prefer the former, but the text seems to suggest the latter. What do you do in your games?

I realize that a general question on crystal balls would be more appropriate for the rules forum. I decided to inquire here because Varachan's crystal ball is such an important plot device to RttToEE, and all DMs here will have had to work through this in their campaigns.

Still here? Wow.
(4/28/03 3:00 pm)
Re: Varachan's Crystal Ball
I'm nowhere near that point IMC, but to me the description on the crystal ball pretty clearly indicates the "spell scrying" which means 1 hour. Note that the skill description says "The character can't use this skill without some magical means to scry. Use of this skill is described in association with those spells and items." so it doesn't help (i.e. the time that a skill normally takes, a standard action, doesn't apply to this skill).

Here for a while
(4/29/03 4:47 am)
Re: Varachan's Crystal Ball
I believe it would be the 1 hour time to use the Crystal Ball, and the scry lasts 10 minutes (1 minute/lvl, CB caster lvl 10). The text for the Crystal Ball make no note of time, so I would use the quote from the SRD (casting a spell from a ....).

That's how I do it IMC, otherwise if it were only a standard action, whoa, too powerful for 50,000gp.

Here for a while
(4/29/03 2:28 pm)
Re: Varachan's Crystal Ball
Infiniti2000 and Zenon, thanks for your replies! I'll adopt the 1 hour crystal ball casting time in my campaign.

I just noticed that this existing thread on the WotC message boards has a long discussion on scrying and counter scrying tactics. For what it's worth, the posters there agree with you.

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