Casting Time: 1 minute (ritual)
Duration: 1 minute
Level: 5th Level
Components: V, S, M (Incense and a vial of holy or unholy water)
You contact your deity or a divine proxy and ask up to three questions that can be answered with a yes or no. You must ask your questions before the spell ends. You receive a correct answer for each question.
Divine beings aren’t necessarily omniscient, so you might receive “unclear” as an answer if a question pertains to information that lies beyond the deity’s knowledge.
In a case where a one-word answer could be misleading or contrary to the deity’s interests, the GM might offer a short phrase as an answer instead.
If you cast the spell two or more times before finishing your next long rest, there is a cumulative 25% chance for each casting after the first that you get no answer. The GM makes this roll in secret.
What Is the Commune Spell in 5e?
Commune is a cleric spell that allows you to ask up to three yes or no questions to a deity. In other words, you get to ask your DM what’s going on in the world around you but only through yes or no questions.
Before we get into all of the minutiae of what makes this a unique and interesting spell, I’m going to go over some of the basics of how it functions.
Probably the most notable piece of its basic mechanics is that this is a ritual spell.
Ritual spells, for those of you who don’t know, can be cast without a spell slot if you have access to ritual casting, which clerics do. You just spend an extra 10 minutes to cast it, and you’re casting a 5th-level spell for free.
The other thing I wanted to talk about, mainly because it’s just interesting, is the duration.
Typically, spells with a duration of a minute have some sort of lasting effect, normally relating to combat. Instead, this just suggests that your god takes a minute to answer you.
This is particularly strange because the very similar spell Divination is instantaneous. I guess a minute is how long it takes to ask three questions.
On to the spell itself. This spell is very specific with its language, allowing you to only ask yes or no questions.
It then clarifies that in situations where there would be an unclear answer, the DM can give a maybe response or even a short phrase to clarify.
The game 20 questions come to mind. You’re trying to guess something that the person you’re playing against has thought of, and you have 20 yes or no questions to figure out what’s happening.
If the answer was a sphinx and you asked if it was a cat, you’d probably get the response of “not quite” or “partially,” since a yes or no would be misleading.
That same logic applies in this spell and actually leads us nicely into how we should use this spell.
How To Use Commune
Since there are no restrictions to what you can ask about, you can use this spell with a specific goal in mind, asking questions to narrow down your options.
Essentially, this is a way to play a very difficult version of 20 questions with your DM.
Let’s say you’re trying to figure out who the leader of a cult is. While you could take three educated guesses of names of shady figures you’ve encountered in your campaign, it makes a lot more sense to figure out some important details.
You could start by asking if the cult leader leans on the masculine side of the gender spectrum (or, if your games tend to include gender binary, if they’re a man).
No matter what the answer is, you’ve narrowed down your options by half.
This is how we expertly narrow down our options. Each scenario will require a different set of questions, but you can work with your party to figure out the best ones. Use the knowledge you already have and work from there.
If you can continue to ask questions that get rid of a large amount of possible options, you’re in the clear.
To give another example, let’s say you’re trying to figure out where a dragon’s lair is. Locations are probably the best to guess at with commune because you can use directions to slowly triangulate the position.
For this example, we’re looking at a map of Faerün, which you can find higher resolutions of here.
The forest in the exact middle is the Trollbark Forest. We can start by asking if the lair is to the west of the forest. With either answer, we’ve cut the map in half.
Now we can ask if it’s to the north. Again, either way, we’re down to a quarter of the map.
If we’ve gotten a no and a yes, in order, we know that the dragon’s lair is in the top right corner of the map. With our last question, we can start the process of narrowing down this area, or we can make an educated guess.
Three questions isn’t a whole lot, but you should be able to make some progress each time you cast this spell. The more research you can do beforehand, the better thought out your questions can be and the closer you’ll be to knowing what you want to know.
Why Commune Is Better than Divination
Commune isn’t the only foreknowledge spell in 5e, and it’s not even the only spell to ask a question of your deity. One spell with extremely similar wording is the 4th-level spell Divination.
While divination can be a very fun spell to use, it pales in comparison to commune.
You see, the divination spell can only be used to ask about events that are going to occur in the next seven days. You can’t figure out a whole lot unless your DM is very liberal with what an event is.
At very least, you can’t ask anything about the past or the future from 8 days to eternity.
Divination is like a small glimpse into the next week, while commune can give you secrets of the multiverse at your fingertips; it could even foresee entire prophecies if used in a creative way.
Some might say that this is the payoff for commune being a higher-leveled spell, but that misses a big fact about both of these. They’re both ritual spells!
You’ll almost never be in a situation where you have to foresee the future during combat (aside from the immediate future of who is going to attack you), so you’ll almost definitely have the ability to cast either of these without spell slots.
Sure, you get commune at a later level in the game, but that’s not a whole lot of time. Once you have access to commune, divination should almost never be prepared.
DM’s Corner: Roleplaying Commune
Just because the answers to this spell are yes, no, or maybe, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with it. Put yourself into the role of your character’s god, and answer it in the way that they would.
A lot of the time, you can make a response sound godly just by using some Old English. Thou, shalt, verily, and the like are all things that you can throw in to buff up the credibility of your deity.
It would be kind of silly if they just ran around saying yup and nope to questions that their followers had of them.
Aside from that, don’t be afraid to give more short phrases that still clearly answer the question. You can give a cryptic answer without it being a riddle.
When your players ask if the dragon’s lair is to the east of Waterdeep, you can respond with “Tiamat’s child rests in the seas west of the sword’s coast.”
Yes and no questions are, at their core, questions about one thing or another. If it’s not west, it’s east; if it’s not above ground, it’s underground; so on.
If you run into situations where you could either give a yes or no or you could respond with a short phrase that says the same thing, go for it. Make your player’s experience exciting.
I also think that this is a great spell to use for one-on-one time with a player.
If your playgroup location allows for stepping off to the side or doing a virtual breakout room, you can use this spell to give your player a chance for a solitary discussion with their god.
After all, this spell is supposed to be the result of someone communing with a being of incredible power. This is a cleric (or paladin) talking with the god that they worship and adventure in the name of.
Making this a fun cinematic experience for that player does leagues for the roleplay value you bring to the table.
Chance of No Answer With Commune
This spell, much like divination again, has a built-in security measure. The cumulative 25% chance of receiving no answer is a way to prevent your players from abusing this spell and just stealing all of your campaign notes.
The only thing left unclear by this spell is what happens when you give no answer. Does the player rattle of spells and receive nothing but ominous silence? We don’t want them thinking their god suddenly died, do we?
There are a couple things I do to make this spell a bit more sound.
Firstly, once that cumulative chance is in effect, it affects each question of a spell separately.
So, on the second casting of commune, I roll a d4 for each question and give an answer on a 2-4.
On a 1, which is the roll for no response, I still give a response, it’s just a “non-response.” The god might say something like, “Dark forces are concealing this from me,” or “To tell you this would doom your soul.”
I try to make it topical to the situation but very clear that the player has received my equivalent of “no response.”
Especially if your player is using a spell slot, they deserve more than you just staring at them and not saying anything.
Sure, in certain situations, silence can actually be a very potent piece of roleplay, but it shouldn’t be the only way to interact with this spell.
Commune is a really interesting spell. When used creatively, you can discover a lot about the world your characters inhabit.
As long as you don’t abuse this power, you’re in for quite a fun campaign full of divine prophecy and hidden knowledge.
As always, happy adventuring.