Telepathy 5e – How it Works

Telepathy has been a part of D&D since the first edition, when it was part of a broad swath of mental powers awkwardly shoehorned in under the psionics rules. Like most everything else with D&D, telepathy has gone through multiple permutations through the later editions, errata, optional rules, and of course homebrew systems.

In D&D 5E, telepathy pops up a few ways, most notably with the Aberrant Mind build for sorcerers added in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, or with the 8th-level wizard spell Telepathy. But for those desiring a chance to dabble in telepathy without playing a sorcerer or burning a high-level spell slot, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything also provides an option for that – the Telepathic feat.

Telepathy 5e – The Basics

Like some of the best feats, the Telepathic feat doesn’t require you to entirely give up your ability score increase. Rather, choosing this feat still lets you increase either Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma by 1 (up to the usual max of 20).

The feat itself allows you to – as often as you wish – speak telepathically to any creature you can see within range (60’). Your telepathic conversation / speech will be in a language you speak, which of course means the target will only understand you if they speak that language. One caveat – the communication is one way. You can speak to the target, but they can’t respond to you.

Additionally, the feat allows you to cast, once per long rest, the 2nd level spell Detect Thoughts. This uses no spell slot and doesn’t even require you to have spell slots. For purposes of this spell, your spellcasting ability is whichever one was raised by the feat.

The Good and the Bad with Telepathy

A universal drawback of any feat is that you’re sacrificing an ability score increase to get it. Given how much in the game runs on various ability score-driven rolls – saves, skills, etc. – that can be a tough choice to make when you’re weighing the best way to optimize your character.

The fact that the Telepathic feat lets you salvage a partial ability score increase definitely makes it appealing, though obviously that’s a bigger draw for classes and characters that predominantly use mental rather than physical abilities. And that’s especially true if one of your mental stats has landed on an odd number and you need to push it just over the top to the next bonus. Still, taking the regular increase would let you do that with two stats instead of just one, so you have to consider whether the feat is a viable tradeoff.

The most obvious drawback of the feat is that communication is one-way. The unlimited ability to speak to others with your mind has potential uses – messing with a devout priest or layperson by giving them “divine messages” comes to mind, as does creeping out enemies in a supposedly haunted location by sneaking around and “haunting” them, not to mention the more mundane use of quietly communicating with and coordinating the actions of allies. Still, it’s hard to deny that the usefulness of this version of telepathy is limited.

Detect Thoughts is a decent enough spell, used properly and in the right circumstances. Not only does it let you discretely scroll over the surface of a target’s mind, but it also gives you the option to dig deeper (though this does alert the target to your intrusion). A possibly more useful application of the spell is to “scan” for thinking creatures in your vicinity, allowing you to detect invisible creatures (and then read their thoughts, as well).

And while it is only once per long rest, it’s still a free spell that doesn’t take up a slot and is available even to non-spellcasters. Again, how useful that is or isn’t to your character depends largely on your build and what you plan to do.

Telepathy DnD 5e Applications

On that note, let’s talk about using this feat. Who gets the most out of it? Who wouldn’t get anything out it? And what are some of the ways you can make it work for you?

Given the limited parameters of the stat increase, this feat definitely seems geared toward the less physical classes. Wizards, sorcerers, warlocks, bards, . . . all of these get an obvious benefit from being able to bump up one of the three mental stats, and particularly if their spellcasting ability still hasn’t hit 20 yet.

In the hands (or brains, rather) of a spellcaster, the Telepathic feat has a few possible uses, one of the easiest being the ability to coordinate allies without tipping off enemies in melee. Imagine being able to alert your comrades that you’re casting a fireball or some other devastating area-effect spell on your next turn, letting them all dash out of the way while the enemy has no clue what’s coming.

You could also give tips or instructions to allies hiding or sneaking without drawing attention to their presence, or impart information that you’re getting through other means, such as the Detect Thoughts spell or some other species of divination, without broadcasting it to everyone in earshot.

And it never hurts to have an extra spell that doesn’t cost a spell slot, and it’s especially nice for those classes that wouldn’t normally have access to a spell on the wizard list. But while it’s handy in the right situations (i.e., interrogation, or when you don’t want to rely on an Insight roll to tell if someone’s lying), it is a point that Detect Thoughts is somewhat limited to those situations.

For genuine telepathic communication in 5E, a better option would be the aforementioned Telepathy spell,which at leastallows two-way communication over unlimited range. And the 5th-level wizard spell Rary’s Telepathic Bond allows a two-way link with up to 8 creatures, though the duration is only 1 hour vs Telepathy’s 24 hours. And as an added bonus, these spells don’t limit you to just creatures that understand the same language.

And of course, there is the Aberrant Mind build for sorcerers, for spellcasters that really want to lean into psychic powers. The Telepathic Speech feature for this build – at 1st level, no less – allows communication at up to a mile or more (based on 1 mile per Charisma bonus – which, if you’re a half-decent sorcerer build, had better be more than 1). It is language-dependent, like the Telepathic feat, but allows two-way communication for short periods as often as you want.

Priests, paladins, and rangers could all make use of the feat, putting the bonus in their spellcasting ability – which, for the paladin and ranger, could probably use the help. A hidden ranger being able to speak warnings directly into the mind of some interloper in his forest, or a priest or paladin being able to Detect Thoughts to find heretics or other enemies of the faith, are certainly worthwhile applications of the feat. And certainly, priests or paladins could benefit from being able to silently steer or coordinate their party.

As for rogues, they of course could use Detect Thoughts to find out critical information, not to mention using telepathy to mess with guards or other human obstacles to their mischief. Granted, the Soulknife archetype (again, from Tasha’s) already gets Psionic Power at 3rd level, which gives them the option of a superior version of telepathy, but the Arcane Trickster and Phantom archetypes seem like a good fit for this feat. And even the regular Thief and Assassin archetypes could certainly find uses for Detect Thoughts, if not the telepathy itself.

Monks could benefit from the Wisdom bonus, but it’s hard to see much use for this feat beyond that. Beyond the utility of anyone being able to send silent messages to their party, telepathy doesn’t seem to add much to the typical monk. They might be better served just taking the ability score increase instead, or a feat better suited to their class.

In terms of the purely physical classes . . . sure, you could make a telepathic barbarian, but why? Other than an interesting color choice, it’s hard to see a good reason to pick this feat for a fighter or barbarian. The stat increase isn’t going to help them at all – the stats in question are probably their “dump” stats that are at or below average.

And while they would be able to cast Detect Thoughts, even with the bonus – unlike other melee builds like monks or paladins – they likely won’t have much weight in whatever stat would be their spellcasting ability. So, while they could still read surface thoughts, they’d still be hobbled in any attempt to dig deeper. Plus, the Blind-Fighting style from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything gives fighters, at least, a better option for detecting invisible foes. So, for these two classes, there are much better options than this feat.

Is The Telepathy Feat Worth it?

The Telepathic feat isn’t the most impressive feat one can take. And for some classes, especially the more melee-focused builds, it’s not really worth it. But for spellcasters that can get the most out of the ability score increase, the telepathy itself, and the free spell, it can definitely have its moments.

The key question is how you would use it, and how often. With a little creativity, it’s possible to dream up a whole set of tricks that the Telepathic feat could add to your repertoire. It’s up to you to weigh how much those tricks matter to the character you’re building, and whether you’re better served by the Telepathic feat, or making a different choice.

FAQ’S

How does telepathy work DND 5e?

It depends on the specific variant. Most high-level spell versions of telepathy allow communication over great distances and involve sharing ideas and meanings directly without resorting to regular language. This is also the version (under the name Psychic Whispers) that appears as an option for the Soulknife rogue’s Psionic Power class feature. For the Aberrant Mind sorcerer’s Telepathic Speech feature, or the Telepathic feat, characters communicate mentally via a language they both have to understand. The specifics of range and time limitations will vary with the specific sort of telepathy being used.

Is Telepathic a good feat 5e?

For classes that focus on mental stats – chiefly spellcasters – it can definitely be useful. Some other classes could benefit from as well, depending on how it’s used. For pure melee builds, though, it’s not really worthwhile.

How can we communicate in D&D?

Aside from the obvious way of having your character form words with their mouth-hole, there are a handful of spells that allow telepathic communication, such as Rary’s Telepathic Bond or Telepathy. Soulknife rouges and Aberrant Mind sorcerers also have access to forms of telepathy as a class feature.

What is telepathic language?

Some forms of telepathy – mostly through upper-level spells – transcend language, allowing communication with others despite language barriers. This sort of telepathy conveys ideas and images directly, eliminating the need for words per se. In more humble forms of telepathy, such as the Telepathic feat, you’re still thinking in a language you understand, requiring the target to understand that language as well.

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Written By Jake Morley

D&D Enthusiest and RPG Nerd

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