Last Updated on January 22, 2023
From science fiction and super heroes to mysticism and the occult, telepathy is an enduring fictional trope. In Dungeons & Dragons, the ability to transmit your thoughts and peer into the minds of others is a decidedly underrated power.
Want to silently communicate a secret plan to your allies? How about reading an enemy’s mind to uncover their true intentions?
If you want to add a layer of slightly spooky mental communication to your D&D 5e character, the Telepathic feat is a good place to start.
What’s a Feat?
Feats are an optional, woefully underused feature of D&D 5e.
Whenever your character has the option to take an Ability Score Increase, you can instead opt to choose from an extensive list of feats – special abilities, buffs, and tweaks that have the potential to completely rework the way you play your character or just provide a nice incremental buff.
What Does the Telepathic Feat Do in DnD 5e?
While Professor Xavier-style mind control is off the table, the Telepathic feat found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything nevertheless lets you project your own thoughts into the minds of others and, once per long rest, read another creature’s mind as well as providing a useful boost to your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma.
- Increase your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score by 1 to a maximum of 20.
- You gain the ability to speak telepathically to any creature you can see within 60 feet of you. Your telepathic communication is made in a language you know, and the creature understands it only if it knows that language. Your communication doesn’t give the creature the ability to respond to you telepathically.
- You also learn to cast the Detect Thoughts spell, requiring no spell slot or components, once per long rest. Your spellcasting ability for the spell is the ability increased by this feat (either Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma). If you have spell slots of 2nd level or higher, you can also use them to cast this spell.
Source: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
Let’s break down what the Telepathic feat does and whether or not it’s worth picking up.
First of all, like all my favorite feats, Telepathic doesn’t make you entirely forsake a coveted ability score increase in order to take this feat, which is great.
Usually, choosing to take a feat means giving up an opportunity to increase one or more of your ability scores.
This means that the opportunity cost of taking a feat can vary pretty dramatically depending on whether an ASI would result in one or more of your modifiers increasing.
Ability score modifiers are the engine that powers characters in D&D 5e, driving everything from skill checks, saving throws, and attack rolls to spellcasting and other abilities.
Therefore, if your character has a couple of ability scores hovering on odd numbers and an ASI would immediately bump up one or even two of your modifiers, a feat starts to feel real expensive by comparison.
By letting you put a single point into Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, the Telepathic feat softens that blow a little – assuming your character can benefit from a little extra hike in one of those stats.
Obviously, this isn’t going to be the kind of feat often chosen by characters who prioritize their “physical” stats. It’s definitely a choice for more cerebral classes like the warlock, wizard, or sorcerer.
The real heart of this feat is the fact that it gives you the ability to communicate telepathically with creatures you can see within 60 feet of you.
This might be a pretty subtle gift (and the fact people can’t telepathically talk back is a little limiting), but its applications are broad and weird, which is the best kind of game design in my opinion.
Want to communicate your cunning escape plan to a captured party member without tipping off the guards? Boom! Telepathic message.
Want to trick one of the guards into thinking he’s being haunted by ghosts? Kapow! Telepathy!
Want to play a character who never says a word (or, even stranger, speaks in tongues or gibberish nonsense) but transmits their thoughts directly into people’s heads at the same time? Shquig-Slaham Freeble Nit, Buckaroo! (Hey Presto, Buckaroo! – Buckaroo is a universal constant). Telepathy.
Telepathy and Verbal Spell Components
My initial instinct when reading this feat is that Telepathy could essentially be free license to cast spells with a verbal component silently (like the Sorcerer’s subtle spell metamagic effect), but a further examination of the Player’s Handbook suggests this isn’t actually the case.
Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The words themselves aren’t the source of the spell’s power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion.
– PHB, pg 203
Because spells (which, in the RAW, take a lot more vigorous arm waving, shouting, and ostentatious crushing of precious stones than I think a lot of people realize) with verbal components are actually powered by the tone, pitch, and vibration of the sounds with which they’re cast, casting them telepathically wouldn’t work because you’re not creating the necessary disturbances in the air to affect “the weave.”
As with all things D&D, of course, the final decision is up to the dungeon master.
Personally, I would rule that a spell with a verbal component that may only target one individual (like the Sorcerer’s twinned spell) can be cast using telepathy to transmit the verbal component.
However, the target of the spell hears the verbal component, even if those around them do not.
Third, we have the more concrete element of the feat, which lets you cast the spell Detect Thoughts once per long rest – or more if you have some spare spell slots of 2nd level or higher knocking around.
Casting Time: 1 Action
Components: V, S, M (a copper piece)
Duration: Concentration, 1 Minute
When you cast this spell, you can the ability to read the thoughts of certain creatures.
When the spell is cast and as an action on each subsequent turn until the spell ends, you can focus your mind to probe the thoughts of another creature.
Choose a target within 30 feet of you that you can see (as long as the creature can speak a language and has an Intelligence of higher than 3).
You gain an immediate insight into the surface level thoughts of the target – a flash of the thing most on its mind at that moment.
As an action, you can either shift your focus to another creature within 30 feet or push deeper into the target’s mind.
If you probe deeper, the target must make a Wisdom saving throw. If it fails, you gain insight into its reasoning (if any), its emotional state, and something that looms large in its mind (such as something it worries over, loves, or hates), and questions verbally directed to the creature (if it understands them) shape its thoughts.
If it succeeds, the spell ends. Either way, the target is aware that you are probing its mind.
A creature that is aware you are trying to probe its mind can use an action to make an Intelligence check contested by your own.
If the creature succeeds, it expels you from its mind and the spell ends. You can avoid this by shifting the focus of the spell to another creature.
Detect Thoughts can also be used to scan for the presence of thinking creatures you can’t see.
When you use your action to cast or concentrate on this spell, you can search for creatures’ thoughts within 30 feet of you.
The spell penetrates barriers, but 2 feet of rock, 2 inches of any metal other than lead, or a thin sheet of lead blocks its effects.
Creatures that speak no language or have an Intelligence score of 3 or lower don’t have anything close enough to thoughts for you to detect.
When you detect a creature in this way, you can attempt to read its thoughts as though you can see it – so long as it remains within the range of the spell.
That’s about it for this feat.
While it makes the most sense to pair Telepathic with a class that focuses on spellcasting and mental abilities, there’s nothing to say a half-caster, like a paladin, artificer, or even a ranger (the gloom stalker feels particularly apt here), can’t get a big old dose of spooky utility from this feat.
Oh, and one last aside. If you love the idea of a telepathic character but can’t seem to find room for this feat in your build, consider throwing all your plans out the window and playing an Aberrant Mind sorcerer.
What’s better than telepathy? Telepathy that works both ways, not to mention the ability to summon some icky black tentacles on command.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.