Communication is one of the most important parts of D&D. After all, the three pillars of the game are combat, exploration, and social interaction. Naturally, we like to get as many interesting ways to interact socially as we possibly can.
Today, we’re going to be talking about a spell called telepathy, which does just about exactly what you’d think it does. We’ll also be talking about other abilities that are similar in some way to this spell.
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: Unlimited
- Duration: 24 hours
- School: Evocation
- Class: Wizard
- Level: 8th
- Damage/Effect: None
- Attack/Save: None
- Components: V, S, M (a pair of linked silver rings)
You create a telepathic link between yourself and a willing creature with which you are familiar. The creature can be anywhere on the same plane of existence as you. The spell ends if you or the target are no longer on the same plane.
Until the spell ends, you and the target can instantaneously share words, images, sounds, and other sensory messages with one another through the link, and the target recognizes you as the creature it is communicating with.
The spell enables a creature with an Intelligence of at least 1 to understand the meaning of your words and take in the scope of the sensory messages you send to it.
What Is Telepathy?
It’s the ability to communicate using your mind. In D&D, the concept of telepathy comes up all over the place. In the specific context of this spell though, telepathy is a spell that allows you to communicate mentally with one target creature for up to 24 hours.
This is an 8th-level spell, which means we can anticipate some serious power from it. It definitely delivers. Not only is this spell not limited to concentration, but its range is only limited by planes of existence.
This means you’ll almost never have a reception problem, and when you do, you’ll know exactly what is going on that caused it.
Perhaps a bit surprisingly, this is a very simple high-level spell. The only bit I can imagine people being a bit confused on is the types of messages you can share with your telepathic link.
The spell states that you can share “words, images, sounds, and other sensory messages.” So what exactly are “other sensory messages”? Well, that includes anything else that you can sense.
Of the big five senses, the touch, taste and smell aren’t mentioned in this list. Naturally, as a part of this spell you can share a certain taste, smell, or tactical sensation with someone else. How exactly that’s helpful, you’ll have to decide for yourself.
Strangely enough, and I’m not sure if the designers over at WotC were aware of this when they wrote it, there are a lot of other senses that people have. I have to assume that any humanoid has the same scope of senses as an actual human, if not more.
There are some very strange senses you might be able to share, so I’ve broken them up into simple and more obscure senses:
- Equilibrioception – the sense of balance
- Proprioception – the awareness of your body
- Nociception – the sense of pain
- Thermoception – the sense of heat (it’s an entirely different sense than touch)
- Sense of self (who you are, your understanding of yourself)
- Sensitivity to gravity
I would love to turn this into an article teaching you all about the many senses we actually experience, but that’s not what I’m here to do. I’m supposed to be telling you what the spell does. The answer is that this spell can do so much more than you probably would think it can do.
To make it all a bit simpler, this spell has the ability to send any thought you have to someone else. Just think about how wide of a variety that really is. Not all of our thoughts can be so easily portrayed in words; that’s why we sometimes have issues putting our thoughts into words.
Emotions are a sense, they’re a sort of internal sense we have, and in those situations where we “just can’t find the words to describe what we’re feeling” this spell takes care of it. Instantaneously.
Once you’ve cast that spell, anything is free game to be transferred mentally, and that goes both ways.
Rather than sending “I need help, there are eight balors here ready to kill me,” you can just send the appropriate emotional context, and even the image of what you’re seeing, straight to your telepathic link.
The oft-missed part of this spell is its effect on creatures with an intelligence of at least 1. That is a remarkably low intelligence. In fact, it’s the intelligence of a swarm of insects, so essentially as close to nothing as you can get.
This allows creatures with the intelligence of an insect to understand and comprehend not only the words that you send to them, but any sense you send along as well.
This is one of the few ways to communicate with an ally that’s had feeblemind cast on them. It’s also one of the only ways to truly communicate with beasts or any other less-than-intelligent creature out there.
The only question then is of willingness, and unfortunately for you, that is at the DM’s discretion.
When Should You Cast Telepathy?
This is a tough one to answer. It would be really nice to say whenever you want, but we are talking about an 8th-level spell, so it gets a bit more complicated.
You should cast Telepathy when you need to have a continuous mental link with another character for a long period of time.
I know, that’s kind of a vague answer, but it has to be vague. There are so many useful situations for telepathy. Perhaps the most simple is when you’re about to go on a dangerous mission.
Scouting can be tough, and sometimes you need to go off on your own. Telepathy gives you the ability to never really be alone. We’ve all seen the “…and come alone…” situations on TV, and I think that kind of scenario is a great trope for DMs to throw at their high-level players if the BBEG is a more relatable villain that you might be able to reason with.
Choose one of your allies for the telepathic bond and have them be close enough to come to your aid if necessary, then go and enjoy your little subquest with some security.
Of course, sometimes you’ll just use this to get in touch with someone. There might be an NPC you’re reaching out to for advice, one that you can’t easily get to.
Especially on rest days when you don’t anticipate combat anytime soon, this spell is a great way to do that. Of course, you might also want to make a portal and just pop over for a quick visit.
I could continue to list examples, but instead, I’ll just say that when to cast this is entirely dependent on the range. It’s limited to the plane you’re on, and that’s about it.
You’ll want to avoid casting this spell if you’re anticipating combat because then you can save the slot for a more powerful in-combat spell. Other than that, you’re good to go.
If you’re familiar with our spell guides, you’ve likely seen a list of spells that are similar. While there are some spells that allow you to do similar things, this ability isn’t limited to spellcasting.
In fact, it’s a type of ability that comes up a decent amount in 5e, and so we’re just going to cover other ways that you can become telepathic.
Note: I’ve left out abilities that allow you to telepathically communicate with specifically familiars or animals, and decided to focus on broadly applicable abilities. That being said, there are plenty of ways to communicate with your familiar or similar companion.
Rary’s Telepathic Bond, 5th-Level Divination
This spell is more focused on combat and exploration, allowing you to create a link between you and 8 other willing creatures for an hour. This is great for running into a dungeon, stealth missions, and a wide variety of other encounters.
It’s a much cheaper spell than Telepathy and allows you to communicate with more creatures, establishing as large as a nine-way link. Similar to Telepathy, it does have an unlimited (on the same plane of existence) communication range, but you must be within 30 feet of your targets when you cast the spell.
Telepathic, Feat From TCoE
Instead of a measly ASI, you can become telepathic! That’s right you X-Men lovers, now’s the time. This feat gives you an increase of 1 in a single mental ability, but more importantly, it allows you to send telepathic messages to any creature you can see within 60 feet of you.
A few caveats, creatures can only understand you if you speak in a language they understand, and they can’t send any communications back to you.
Fortunately, this feat also gives you Detect Thoughts, which you can cast once per long rest or any additional times with your own spell slots of 2nd-level or higher.
If you’re looking for telepathy in a more normal ‘I am telepathic’ sort of sense, this is the way to go. It doesn’t let you consistently read minds, but that’s fine; you can do so when you need to.
Of course, you can still take Telepathy and pretend that you’re connected to Cerebro if you want.
Psychic Whispers, 3rd-Level Soulknife Rogue Feature
You read that right! THIRD-LEVEL ABILITY! I absolutely love soulknife rogues, and this ability is a huge reason why. It allows you to establish a telepathic connection between you and a number of creatures up to your proficiency die that lasts for a number of hours equal to your die roll.
The ability is nerfed only by the fact that the connection is just between you and them, meaning they have to send messages through you to get to another. This is limited to a mile, but it lasts for a variable amount of time, and you can do it up to twice your proficiency modifier times per long rest.
If your telepathic desires are focused on getting you and your party through dangerous situations, and you want this ability early on, this is without a doubt the way to go.
Detect Thoughts, 2nd-Level Divination
What telepathy-based list would be complete without detect thoughts. This 1-minute concentration spell does exactly what it says and allows you to detect the thoughts of a creature you focus on as an action.
This spell has layers, allowing you to get either surface information or deeper reasoning, and even allowing you to detect unseen thinking creatures. It’s a great interrogation spell, and it’s also a great spell if you’re being stealthy. While it doesn’t establish a ‘telepathic link,’ it’s certainly one of the foremost telepathy spells.
Encode Thoughts, Enchantment Cantrip
This one is a bit of a stretch, but it allows you to pull the thoughts of you or another creature and place them into a magical thread.
This is great for recording evidence and other sleuthy things, and people might even pay some good money to listen to the thoughts of others.
Awakened Mind, 1st-Level Great Old One Patron Warlock Feature
This warlock feat is like having the telepathic feat but with a bit of a smaller radius. You can speak to any creatures that understands at least one language within 30 feet of you.
This spell does specify “speak to” rather than “speak with”, meaning that your line of communication is very much one way.
Silent Speech, Ghostwise Halfling Racial Feature
You can speak to any creature within 30 feet that you share a language with. Since this is racial and not something you gain access to at a higher level, it is a bit nerfed.
I’ve seen homebrews increase the range at higher levels, and you could even make this “speak with” at an appropriately high level, but that’s up to you and your DM.
Telepathy is an amazing spell with a lot of range, but it’s not the only way to establish a telepathic link. It is restricted to wizards and doesn’t have the ability to be stored in any form of ring, wand, or staff because it’s too high of a level.
If you’re not an extremely high-level wizard looking to burn an 8th-level spell slot on virtually unlimited mental communication, try one of the other options on for size. There are plenty of ways to turn yourself into Professor X, Jean Grey, or your favorite telepathic icon.
As always, happy adventuring!