With the aroma of new carpet clogging nostrils across the land (or at least, across my living room), a blogger's thoughts turn naturally to the Scent ability in Dungeons and Dragons.
So you want to smell?
But how? Well, you could research a spell to give you the ability. That's the idea here (search the page for "bloodhound"). Personally, I think scent is too potent for a first level spell. Compare with Glitterdust, See Invisible, and Darkvision -- second level sounds about right for Scent.
Maybe a magic item could give you the Scent ability. Sean Reynolds has a magic card deck of gifts -- the Queen of Clubs offers Scent.
Maybe the easiest way to gain the scent ability is to play a race that has it. In Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed (recently rereleased in a "director's cut" version called Arcana Evolved), he adds a cat-like race and a dog-like race to the game. Both of those have scent as a racial feat. In this message board thread, folks argue about the lack of scent for gnomes in Unearthed Arcana.
Gnomes in Eberron have keen noses, if not the Scent ability, per this Keith Baker article. That does not get you scent, though.
Andy Collins lets gnolls have scent as an option using Monte's rules.
This bipedal feline race enjoys the scent ability, but only when concentrating. That's an interesting way to balance the ability.
Or you can enjoy the scent ability vicariously. Animal companions and some familiars (cat, rat, snake, and weasel) have scent. Or you can use a summoning spell or a bag of tricks to bring in a sniffer. In fact, it may be that the least potent bag of tricks makes the most cost effective invisibility detector in the book -- every creature you can pull from it has scent (the bat has blindsight, which is even better).
Of course, Scent is something that can be added later in a character's career, such as through a prestige class. This Master Huntsman 15-level PrC offers Scent at level 9. Since you have to be at least 5th level to take the PrC, gaining Scent at level 14 does not seem overpowered.
In the Races of the Wild splat book, there is an Elf prestige class, the Wildrunner, that offers Scent -- and lets you become a fey. Oh, you splat books! Why am I not surprised?
Game Balance -- is that Scent too potent?
It's clear that Scent is a powerful ability. Per the SRD, the ability lets you to "detect approaching enemies, sniff out hidden foes, and track by sense of smell."
This blogger argues that druids wildshaped into creatures with Scent should gain the Scent ability (and other abilities, too). He does not think that Scent is too bogus.
My personal $0.02? Scent is too powerful at low levels. But in mid- to high-level campaigns, it will not break the game.
Well, smell ya later!
Feedback [12 July 05] Nexx has a few interesting comments on Scent:
I love the scent ability; there is a spell in Magic of Faerun which gives you the Scent ability. It's called "Scent" and lasts for an hour a level, but MoF is in storage, so I can't get you the details.
I used to allow gnomes and half-orcs to take Scent as a feat if they had a wisdom of 13 or greater (representing slightly greater than average awareness and concentration), but it got pretty powerful ... especially when a group of full orcs with the scent feat ambushed the PCs under the cover of an Obscuring Mist spell.
As for Druids, I just found my new house rule; there's no reason druids shouldn't get the extraordinary abilities of their new form. That's one of the major advantages of being able to change shapes in the first place, after all!