Magic Mouth goes all the way back to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (DnD 2e), and even back then, it was a silly spell with loads of hidden uses.
It was not uncommon for a group of adventurers to wander down a corridor just to hear the BBEG give their monologue in a series of 25-word messages or to taunt you as you move closer to the final battle.
The absolute worst was when the BBEG somehow found out your deepest darkest secrets and revealed them to the party as you wandered. We would all learn that the rogue stole from literally everyone or that the paladin once let a child die in favor of pursuing the villain, or we would all have the elf’s existential angst put on full display as he realized that even if he manages to save his friends, they will all die in a mere matter of decades while he gets to live for so long that life becomes meaningless.
We were evil to each other back in the day…
This post is all about Magic Mouth: who can and should cast it, when they should cast it, and a handful of FAQs to make things interesting for your next session.
- Casting Time: 1 minute
- Range: 30 ft.
- Duration: Until dispelled
- School: Illusion
- Class: Bard, Wizard, Artificer
- Level: 2nd
- Damage/Effect: None/Communication
- Attack/Save: None
- Components: V, S, M*
- Ritual/Concentration: Ritual
Spell Description. You implant a message within an object in range, a message that is uttered when a trigger condition is met. Choose an object that you can see and that isn’t being worn or carried by another creature. Then speak the message, which must be 25 words or less, though it can be delivered over as long as 10 minutes. Finally, determine the circumstance that will trigger the spell to deliver your message.
When that circumstance occurs, a magical mouth appears on the object and recites the message in your voice and at the same volume you spoke. If the object you chose has a mouth or something that looks like a mouth (for example, the mouth of a statue), the magical mouth appears there so that the words appear to come from the object’s mouth. When you cast this spell, you can have the spell end after it delivers its message, or it can remain and repeat its message whenever the trigger occurs.
The triggering circumstance can be as general or as detailed as you like, though it must be based on visual or audible conditions that occur within 30 feet of the object. For example, you could instruct the mouth to speak when any creature moves within 30 feet of the object or when a silver bell rings within 30 feet of it.
* – (a small bit of honeycomb and jade dust worth at least 10 gp, which the spell consumes)
Who Can (and Should) Cast Magic Mouth?
The easy answer is that anyone with a sense of humor should cast Magic Mouth as often as they can.
To be more specific, this spell is available to wizards, bards, and artificers.
Wizards, especially illusionists, should have this spell in their spell book. As a Ritual spell, it doesn’t need to use a spell slot, and it is incredibly useful from a roleplaying or downtime perspective.
Artificers likewise should go ahead and take this spell if available. Again, it is a ritual, so it literally takes no resources (other than the 10 gp material component).
Bards, probably more than any other spellcaster, should take this spell as well. As a verbal illusion, it fits into the bard’s unique artistic magical affinity.
When Should You Cast Magic Mouth?
There are loads of times and ways to cast Magic Mouth, each one dependent on your particular style and usage.
Wizards could cast Magic Mouth on their spell book, setting conditions such as “When anyone other than me touches this book, scream loudly,” or “Don’t forget to extend the forefinger at a 15-degree angle when casting evocation,” etc. As little bits of flavor or utility, and at no cost, this spell could be cast during downtime for all sorts of fun.
I could imagine a Magic Mouth being cast as a way for a neurotic spellcaster to reassure himself or herself. “Remember,” the magic mouth says, “You may not be able to swing a sword 4 times with a roguish smile, but you can rain hellfire! Fear is respect.”
Artificers could fill their lab with helpful messages such as “Remember to wear safety goggles,” “Hard hats only beyond this point,” and “This lab will self-destruct in 3 minutes. Have a nice day or what’s left of it.”
Finally, a bard could cast Magic Missiles on their instrument to provide vocal harmonies during music or a particular heckle during a stand-up comedy session. Ventriloquism never had such a useful spell.
When in an adventure situation, such as a dungeon crawl or a long-term traveling session, use a magic mouth as a way to make a foolproof alarm during your rests or to mark passages you’ve already explored so you don’t get lost.
In addition, it can also mark the passage of enemies who may be tracking or chasing you. Those same enemies could also be convinced to go down a wrong path if your voice and words are convincing enough.
Perhaps if you turned left, the magic mouth could be hidden on the ceiling so they can’t see it. Then, you could have the magic mouth whisper, ”Shhh… here they come,” toward the right side, thus drawing their attention away.
If you can make a sudden distraction with the magic mouth, you can use it to set up an ambush. The enemies enter the room and look toward the magic mouth that is talking to them or to the magic mouth that is under a table making injured PC sounds. When they investigate, they are left open to a surprise attack.
If an NPC or a scout has gone ahead of the PCs, they could leave a magic mouth behind to guide the PCs on their way.
Finally, imagine the hell that a Living Spell template applied to a magic mouth would be for a PC that has to engage it in conversation in order to get a piece of plot information.
Is Magic Mouth Better Than Other 2nd-Level Spells?
Absolutely, Magic Mouth is probably not the first 2nd-level spell you would want to add to your spellbook.
That honor should be reserved for Flaming Sphere or Blur and no other.
But as far as long-term, plot-enhancing, information-recording, flavor-inducing spells are concerned, there is none better than Magic Mouth for DMs and PCs alike.
Imagine how much PC time you could waste after you’ve convinced them that a magic mouth that speaks in a language they don’t know is holding some kind of password or information they need only for them to finally discover it is actually sharing a recipe for cookies.
Now imagine being a PC and playing that same dirty trick on an NPC villain who is trying to get information out of you. You can say that you have this document with information regarding the NPC’s motive; however, it only speaks in this rare language and is keyed to you.
The NPC can’t access that information unless you are alive and he can source a translator. That ought to buy you some time!
Common Questions About Magic Mouth
Can Magic Mouth Trigger Other Magic Mouths?
Yes! Magic Mouth responds to specific audio-visual cues, so you could easily trigger one magic mouth to deliver its message after another one within 30 feet delivers its message, and so on ad infinitum.
Just remember that the first magic mouth to start this chain of events should not be contingent on another magic mouth speaking; otherwise, none of them will begin.
As Aristotle said, there must be a First Cause. For Aristotle and many Western thinkers after him, the First Cause was necessarily a divine entity. For a magic mouth, not so much. The First Cause could be as un-divine as a mouse fart.
For DMs, there are so many shenanigans you could use with this setup. If a dungeon was designed with several of these types of magic mouths in it, you could cause a constant, annoying distraction that your PCs will eventually need to save against. Even though there is no save required or status effect bestowed by Magic Mouth, you could so flood the area with babbling voices that it becomes an environmental hazard.
Can Magic Mouth See Invisible or Detect Magic?
No, sadly. Magic Mouth requires audio and visual cues. Therefore, if you set the cue to be “when an invisible creature crosses this line,” the creature will have to make a noise loud enough for the magic mouth to hear since invisibility bestows no visual cue.
As for how loud a noise has to be in order for a magic mouth to hear it, as a DM, I would rule that your Spell Save DC is the DC any stealth check should have to pass.
Can Magic Mouth Be Used To Detect Truth From Lies?
Kind of. While there is no magical effect inherent in the spell that can detect a lie, you could work your way around that.
You could establish your spell to trigger when a person’s heart rate increases. Typically, when a person lies, their pulse and heart rate increase. By setting up your magic mouth this way, you could create a type of lie detector test.
That being said, lie detector tests can be fooled. If a person has a high enough Deception skill and the control questions are answered with lies or if a creature doesn’t have a heart rate to begin with, it will be more difficult for you to ascertain the truth.
This is worth a Google if you want to incorporate such a scene into your game.
Can Magic Mouth See Through Walls?
Sadly, no. While the spell does have a range out to 30 feet, the spell also relies on visual and audio cues. Therefore, if a wall is in between the magic mouth and the triggering event, it will not work because the mouth can not “see” it.
Happy Gaming! May all your 20s be natural!
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.