You’ve just escaped that deadly trap set but the Bloodring Faction. Those bastards are more than capable of what your rogue has listened to their say. The mayor is in danger, and you’ve been too slow to notice the problem earlier. Time is in the essence, if no one tells the Captain of what’s going to happen, the whole town could burn.
Thanks, Corellon you didn’t have to waste your last third-level spell slot. You pull a string of copper out of your bag and contact the Captain, and in one sentence you sentence the traitors to dead. The Captain assures you that the moment those traitors enter the town, they’ll feel the wrath of justice, and your party the proper reward.
Then you returned calmly, knowing everything was going to be ok. And at that moment your DM really hated you… Welcome to a Sending 5e Guide.
The “Spelling” in Sending
As stated in the PHB (Player’s Handbook) Sending is a 3rd level spell. The casting time is 1 action, the range is unlimited, and the duration is 1 round. The Components are Verbal, Somatic and Material (A short piece of fine copper wire). The effect reads as follows:
“You send a short message of twenty-five words or less to a creature with which you are familiar. The creature hears the message in its mind, recognizes you as the sender if it knows you, and can answer in a like manner immediately. This D&D spell enables creatures with Intelligence scores of at least 1 to understand the meaning of your message.
You can send the message across any distance and even to other planes of existence, but if the target is on a different plane than you, there is a 5 percent chance that the message doesn’t arrive.”
Related read: Comprehensive Message 5e Guide.
Breaking Down the Spell’s Characteristics
Let’s read through the lines and see what this spell is saying to us. Sending is a 3rd level spell, which means that in most spellcasters, it will come into play at the 5th level. At this level, there are some of the greatest spells in the game, and the most powerful of all, the fireball spell. So these are the spells with which this “Sending” has to compete.
The standard one action makes it a fast way to transmit information even in dangerous situations, like being chased or if the group was separated. The 1 round duration comes with the fact that’s a 25 words message.
The real cherry of the spell comes with the range. At these levels, the campaign would be starting to go into town-level problems, so perhaps things like unlimited range may be overkill.
But as you grow in allies, you’ll get more and more use out of it. The fact that there’s no limit to the range, the time it takes to reach the receptor is instantaneous, and he can answer instantaneously is just world-changing, but we’ll discuss this further in the article.
The components are verbal, which means you have to speak an incantation (but a DM could allow the message itself to be that component), somatic, which means that if you’re restrained, you can’t cast it to ask for help, and material. One of the interesting bits about the components is that, if you pay attention, you’ll find out that it is the same component as the “message” cantrip, and it makes sense. They are basically the same but on different scales.
The other difference between the two is their school. Sending is an evocation spell, whereas Message is a Transmutation one. This could be that the creators weren’t sure where to put this kind of spell, but we’re going to trust the sages of the Forgotten Realms and run with it.
Spells in the Evocation school work with the flow of energy itself, whereas spells in the Transmutation school work changing matter. With that in mind, we can conclude that, whereas a Message literally sends a sound that just the receptor hears, Sending is a message in the form of energy that goes directly into the mind of the target. These are just details with little to no implications mechanically, but are a form of helping one to flavor his characters.
Breaking Down the Spell’s Effect
Now, the really important part. What does the spell actually do? You send a short message to a target with which you are familiar. How much familiar? Well, it really depends on the DM’s interpretation. But you could help yourself with this definition from other parts of the books. Spells like Clairvoyance have a definition for that.
One useful definition of “familiar” comes in the Scrying spell: “Familiar: You know the target well” This definition comes in opposition from “Firsthand: You have met the target”. With that in mind, you could rule that the character should have seen the person and know some characteristics of it. For example, the BBEG of the campaign could be a person you know but never saw, so you couldn’t use Sending on him. But always, the DM decides that.
As we’ve talked, the message is an energy-based spell and the receptor hears it directly in his mind and can answer back. A distinction that needs to be made is, where it says that the creature recognizes you if it knows you, doesn’t mean that the creature needs to know you to respond.
The sentence that enables creatures with an intelligence of 1 to understand you is odd but has some serious implications. This wording gives you a kind of really expensive “Speak with Animals”. You could speak with a pet that’s in your house when you’re out adventuring and tell him that his caretaker is an impostor… and the dog would get it. Of course, only creatures with at least 6 intelligence could answer you with something resemblance to words.
The last part of the spell really makes it useful even though higher levels, when your campaign starts to go into interplanar travel. The fact that it’s not restraint to the plane you’re in, is awesome. Of course, that little caveat of 5% error could make for very funny moments for DMs. Although at higher levels you maybe won’t be too hesitant of using a third level spell slot just to be sure that the message reaches his target.
First, this spell is in the Bard, Cleric, and Wizard spell list, so everyone in that class from the 5th level could choose this spell. Also, anybody who peeks into those spell lists can grab this spell. So Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters have this spell at 13th level. Divine Soul Sorcerers can use it too at the 5th level.
Beyond “stealing” from those spell lists, this spell appears in some subclasses like the Aberrant Mind Sorcerer, from Tasha’s, and the Great Old One Patron for Warlocks, both at 5th level.
One of the best ways to get this spell now is from the Far Scribe Eldritch Incantation from Tasha’s. This incantation lets your Pact of the Tome Warlock have, essentially, a cellphone with a handful of contacts, which is very powerful for some kind of diplomat. But we’ll discuss this further down the article.
Another great way of getting this spell would be with a magic item. One of the simplest, jet-effective, magic items in the game are the Sending Stones.
This Uncommon magic item is a pair of stones from which you can cast sending from one to the other once per day. This is a great item to give (or get from) an important NPC to keep in touch with. If your DM doesn’t feel to give you this, you can always take it as an artificer with the Replicate Magic Item infusion.
Sending is one of those spells that doesn’t have much in terms of creative uses, it’s a spell with a very specific purpose: Send a message. This doesn’t change much from which class you use, but you could change the flavor of how this spell is cast.
A Cleric may prey to his deity to have his message delivered to the target, an Aberrant mind sorcerer could have his mouth glow blue when speaking, a Bard could be sending his message while chanting a lullaby, and a Wizard could borrow from the Pact of the Tome warlock and write his messages on a page of his spellbook. Always look for a good flavor for your characters, that’s what makes them feel alive for everybody at the table.
Another thing to keep in mind with this spell is that the person you send the message to doesn’t need to know you and if he doesn’t, then you’re anonymous to him/her.
So you could see someone lose a little of sanity if that person has a voice in his mind that doesn’t know, telling him things. You could mix this spell with others to be even more… well, creepy. A kenku could reproduce some traumatic sound in someone’s head, or someone with the actor feat could pass as somebody else. This needs DM approval tough.
Is Sending Worth the Slot?
Okay, is this spell good enough and more important, is it worth it? Well, for starters, yes, but depends very much on the type of campaign you’re having. A combat focus campaign may benefit much more from a grenade (fireball) than a phone call (Sending), but in other types of campaigns, like political intrigues, could really use a way of communication that is nearly impossible to track or intercept, with instantaneous travel and even interplanar possibilities.
On the other hand, you need to keep in mind always the cost of this spell. Spell slots are not free, and sometimes you could end up wasting a really powerful asset. Furthermore, you need to keep in mind that the message is 25 words or fewer, so if you don’t know how to resume the idea, your DM could role-play the NPC as someone not understanding well what you’re trying to say.
Lastly, is this a powerful spell? Well, if you compare this spell to real-life technology, we could compare it to the Telegram. And just how powerful was the possibility of a near-instantaneous link of communication between two individuals.
Question: Can you reply, Sending 5e?
Answer: Yes. The spell specifically tells that the creature that hears the message can reply at that moment. How much is “that moment” really depends on the DM. The spell doesn’t tell you if the target is alive or not, so if you don’t get an answer, maybe you’re trying to talk to a corpse.
Question: Do you have to speak to use sending 5e?
Answer: The spell doesn’t put it clearly, but you can rule it in two ways. The fact that it has a verbal component automatically forces your character to say something to make the spell work.
You could rule that first, you do some chanting and then your very thoughts become the message that reaches the target, or you could say that the message itself is the material component, but nobody can hear it, well because it is being silenced by magic or because you just mumble and that becomes the message. There are many options.
Question: Can you cast sending to a god?
Answer: The short answer would be No. The fact that exists spells like Divination that lets you ask a single question or Communion that lets you ask 3 to a god, both being higher level than Sending and both with the possibility of getting a cryptic answer, makes that possibility at least unbalanced.
With that said, there’s always the possibility, mostly for higher-level campaigns, to have encounter god’s avatars, and in that case this spell would certainly work like with any other creature.
Question: Can send be intercepted?
Answer: Actually, there is nothing in the rules that specifically negates the effects of Sending or can hear what the caster is saying, so we are entering Homebrew territory here. You could make a spell or magic item that specifically messes with Sending. Furthermore, you could be very loose with some interpretations of spells, monsters or NPC abilities that have some dominion over their territory, like Strahd in Barovia, for example.