D&D 5e: Master the Subtle Art of Nondetection with the Svirfneblin Magic Feat
D&D 5e: Master the Subtle Art of Nondetection with the Svirfneblin Magic Feat
SOURCE: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
Rating the Benefits of Svirfneblin Magic
Benefit #1 –
The character can cast the Nondetection spell on themselves at will, without needing to provide a material component
Nondetection protects the character against divination magic, preventing divination spells from sensing them or targeting them. The feat also ignores the 25g material component.
The utility of this spell depends on your campaign. If your GM regularly targets the party with divination spells or uses divination-style traps, this is powerful.
Benefit #2 –
The character can cast the Blindness/Deafness, Blur, and Disguise self spells once per day, with uses refreshing when they take a long rest
Three spells, one useful defensive option, and two situation choices. All of these are useful to have and cover a wide variety of situations your character might face.
Mechanics and Requirements
Understanding How This Feat Functions
Nondetection prevents the character from being targeted or detected by divination magic. Normally, the spell can target any creature or a small area, but the version granted by this feat can only be cast on the self.
The feat allows you to cast the spell at will and also ignores the 25g material component cost. Considering the spell lasts 8 hours, this means there should never be a time when your character isn’t protected by the effects of nondetection, even when asleep.
But is this actually useful?
That’s a difficult question to answer and depends heavily on the game you’re playing. In a game full of subterfuge and magical foes, constant nondetection could be incredibly effective, preventing an evil lich from, for example, scrying on your character from their wizard’s tower, miles away.
It’s worth pointing out that anything on your character’s person is also protected, meaning you can hide magical or key items away from prying magical senses.
However, in most published modules and standard adventure-style, sword, and sorcery campaigns, the chances of your enemies regularly making use of divination magic is minimal, and if they do, they can still detect the rest of your party. Ultimately, this makes constant Nondetection a fun, fluffy, but ultimately useless spell, except in several niche cases.
(Finally, it’s also worth noting that the interaction between Nondetection and Detect Magic is contested. Arguments have been made that, since it doesn’t specifically target you in its area Nondetection does nothing against it. Speak to your GM to clarify.)
Targeting an enemy within range to be blinded or deafened for 1 minute is an incredibly powerful effect that can almost entirely disable a single target.
Deafened is the least useful of the two. A deafened character can’t hear (shocker, we know) and automatically fails checks related to hearing.
Blinded, on the other hand, is hugely debilitating. A blinded creature can’t see, and automatically fails checks related to sight.
However, blinded creatures also have disadvantage on all of their attack rolls, AND all attack rolls against them are made with advantage. Suddenly, they’re missing most attacks, and your entire party is that much more effective.
Being blinded also prevents a creature from casting many spells. The targeting descriptions of many spells specifically state “a creature that you can see” as part of the restrictions. A blinded creature, well, can’t see anything, so can’t cast these spells.
The sole downside is that the Blindness spell requires a failed Con save to stick, and allows a further save at the end of every turn for the afflicted creature. So ideally target creatures with low Constitution, because this spell landing can trivialize many encounters.
The effects of the Blur spell are simple. For one minute, while concentration holds, attack rolls against you have Disadvantage.
This is a basic but powerful effect, especially for characters who don’t need concentration for anything else (martial characters like Fighters and Rogues spring to mind.) It’s especially good against big brawler enemies who deal damage mostly through a low number of heavy-hitting attacks, where each miss is incredibly costly.
A creature that can see through illusions or that doesn’t need its eyes to see is immune to this spell, but that’s a vanishingly small amount of enemies most parties will encounter.
Change your appearance, including all of your gear, for one hour, without requiring concentration. The spell only increases or decreases height by up to 1ft, but Gnomes are the perfect size to masquerade as children, (or goblins, letting you slip into an enemy encampment.)
A creative player can find a lot of use from this, especially in social campaigns built around intrigue. Even without that, changing your appearance can be useful for slipping past guard patrols or just pranking the party.
The spells granted by the Svirfneblin Magic feat use Intelligence as their casting stat. However, apart from Blindness/Deafness, none of the stats rely on or require any intelligence to be cast effectively.
Building around the Svirfneblin Magic Feat
Rogue – All of the spells granted by this feat revolve around stealth, sneaking, and staying hidden. Rogues adore having a toolbox of abilities at their disposal. Adding more, especially niche, utility choices like many of the spells given by the feat is an easy yes for most Rogues.
The Arcane Trickster subclass especially loves this feat, as they’re a magical class with a very limited number of spells known and casts per day, and might not have the space in their build to pick up things like Disguise Self.
Wizard – Wizards already have the high Intelligence and arcane magic to make this feat good, and adding more spells known per day is always useful for spellcasters of any kind.
One particular subclass, the Abjuration Wizard, is very powerful with this feat. The details on this particular combination can be found in the Combos and Tactics section below.
Artificer – The Artificer class is another choice that has a whole host of tools at its disposal, and really benefits from having a wide suite of skills, instead of a single, heavy focus.
The Artificer spell list doesn’t contain Blindness/Deafness or Nondetection, and the other two spells are both situation enough that many characters wouldn’t consider taking them. With this feat, they’re always on hand. Artificers also tend to have, between their spells, skills, and Infusions, several layers of magical protection. Nondetection is just another barrier against hostile effects, making the character even more impregnable.
Fighter – While we’d lean towards most Fighters picking up combat feats first, the Eldritch Knight loves this feat.
Situational spells are something the Eldritch Knight lacks, especially considering its limited spell school options, so the flexibility of four more spells is always appreciated. The subclass is also almost certainly building enough Int to make things like Blindness stick.
Race or Subrace Choices
The Svirfneblin Magic Feat is currently only available to Deep Gnomes, the Svirfneblin.
Combos, Tactics, and Synergies
Ritual Caster: Building on the non-magical spellcaster theme, the Ritual Caster feat lets a character learn and cast spells as rituals, for a small investment of gold that works out almost negligible in the long run.
As a gnome, you probably already have the Intelligence to take this feat. Choosing Wizard lets your character learn and cast useful spells like Detect Magic, Comprehend Languages, Tiny Hut, Unseen Servant, and especially Find Familiar.
Magic Initiate: More magical might. Two cantrips, most probably chosen from the Wizard’s spell list, and another 1st level spell that can be cast once per day.
Powerful cantrips include Prestidigitation, Minor Illusion, Firebolt, and Booming Blade.
Great 1st level spells might be Shield, which gives +5 AC for an entire round, and Absorb Elements to halve the damage from any big elemental hit. Find Familiar is, as always, amazing as well.
Fade Away: The other Gnomish racial feat, Fade Away evens out an odd score by offering up an ASI, and lets the character turn invisible for a turn as a reaction after they take damage once per long or short rest.
Any character can appreciate an emergency stealth button, especially one that forces Disadvantage on further attacks.
Squat Nimbleness: The other Gnomish feat. A physical ASI, 5ft of movement speed, proficiency in Athletics or Acrobatics, and Advantage on checks to escape grapples are a lot of benefits. Unfortunately, they’re not very good ones. Unless you have a build in mind, avoid this.
Spells that Synergize
Nystul’s Magic Aura: Change the readings divination spells give about items. Combining this and your constant Nondetection lets you appear however you want to those looking using magical eyes, and protects from Detect Magic still pinging you in its AOE.
Strategies for Maximizing Svirfneblin Magic Effectiveness
Abjuration Wizard: The Abjuration Wizard’s level 2 feature is Arcane Ward, which creates a barrier of temporary HP at the start of the day. This barrier is also refreshed every time you cast an Abjuration spell, gaining temporary HP up to double the level of the spell.
Nondetection is a level 3 Abjuration spell. Which you can cast at-will.
As written, this means that a Deep Gnome Abjurer can, whenever they have a free action, gain a barrier of 6 temporary HP, meaning you should never walk into an encounter without this up. Over the course of an adventuring day, that could easily increase a character’s effective HP by 50-100%.
Leaning into social stealth: Disguise Self is only half of the puzzle when it comes to turning into another person. The Deception skill denotes your ability to lie effectively. The Deception skill can be improved by Expertise to double proficiency bonus and feats like Actor that let you mimic specific people.
Final Thoughts on Svirfneblin Magic
While Svirfneblin Magic isn’t a feat that’s going to be useful in every situation, in certain types of campaign being constantly under the effect of nondetection can stifle the ability of magical enemies ability to track the party, and lets you pull some shenanigans based around hiding items from scrying and other magical sight.
Even beyond this, the bonus spells granted by the feat are broad enough to see regular use, and for a certain type of character, are things that might even be cast day after day.
So this means that Svirfneblin Magic isn’t a feat that every Deep Gnome character is going to take, but it’s one that many characters of this racial heritage should at least consider because it brings such a wide range of generally useful benefits.