Play Your Next 5E D&D Game as a Social Magica Master
I know I’m not the only one who’s positively delighted by the way Jester makes use of the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons sending spell in Critical Role’s story of the Mighty Nein. Over the course of the second campaign Laura Bailey’s character developed into the party’s premier expert when it comes to communications. On a larger scale the players make use of lots of spells and features to stay in touch with and keep track of friends and enemies all over Wildemount and beyond. They’ve communicated across time and space and these practices have a tremendous impact on the campaign.
Social communications is this 5E D&D character’s jam
I had a ton of fun D&D-izing Galvatron from Transformers: The Movie recently and readers responded really well to the post so I’m going to apply a similar approach here. Rather than lay out the roadmap for a particular character in the style of our Character Build Guides I’m curious to find all the bells and whistles a 5E D&D character might take advantage of to become a master communicator.
In my own 5E D&D games, which take place in a somewhat established setting of my own cobbled together design, there’s a form of social media called Hark! The concept initially came up during a longrunning 5E D&D Spelljammer campaign I ran and continued into Ingest Quest. Nerdarchist Ted even adopted it when his turn came around to helm our Tuesday night live games over at Nerdarchy Live where my warlock leverages her growing social media presence in the quest for fame and fabulous prizes on Dungeons & Delving. After this campaign wraps up it’s my turn in the hot seat and I’m taking the group on another interstellar culinary journey with Ingest Quest 2, which we’ll be playing with the Quest RPG. I’ve really enjoyed developing this quirky aspect of fantasy RPGs over the years and this weekend I came up with a new term for this in our games — social magica.
A social magica master possesses all the tools needed to make the most of meaningful connections through magical communications. When mundane modes of sharing messages simply won’t do this 5E D&D character can contact anyone, anywhere at any time. There’s a ton of ways to keep the message machine going in 5E D&D so let’s get into it.
Nothing magical to be found with background options but there’s a few features worth noting. These are often called ribbon abilities because they don’t carry hard coded mechanical benefits but I’m of a mind there’s intentionally more to the rules of 5E D&D than the crunch and for this exploration of components to create a social magica master would be remiss without highlighting useful features from anywhere they emerge.
- Anthropologist. The Adept Linguist features means a character can communicate with humanoids without sharing a language and after a day of observation pick up enough to communicate on a rudimentary level. Perfect!
- Athlete. Echoes of Victory gives a character an edge in the social magica world since there’s is a 50 percent chance anyone within 100 miles of where a character grew up admires them and is willing to provide information or temporary shelter.
- Azorius Functionary. Legal Authority means showing an Azorius insignia gets these characters an audience with anyone they want to talk to.
- Celebrity Adventurer’s Scion. These characters can use their Name Dropping feature to garner assistance from powerful people and except deference from common folk. [NERDITOR’S NOTE: There’s so much awesome stuff in Acquisitions Incorporated to add interesting twists and turns to your 5E D&D games.]
- Charlatan. A second identity complete with everything needed to assume it without issue plus the skills as a forgery expert can go a long way in the social magica world.
- Courtier. As a Court Functionary these characters can access records and bureaucracy of any court or government.
- Criminal. A reliable contact able to receive message over great distances along with knowledge of various methods of delivering messages makes a great backup with social magica platforms are down.
- Far Traveler. These character’s unusual quirks translate into a penchant for interest from others about whatever messages they wish to share.
- Knight. Three retainers ready to deliver messages or help out with communications in whatever way they can makes a nice perk and every social magica master needs an entourage.
- Noble. Securing meetings with other nobles and keeping retainers in employ for keeping up the communications network puts nobles ahead in the social magica world.
- Pirate. A bad reputation is better than no reputation at all.
- Plaintiff. Speaking fluent Legalese means these characters can have the final word in social magica debates whenever the law is concerned.
- Rakdos Cultist. Like pirates except these reputations are fearsome rather than merely bad.
- Rival Intern. As an Inside Informant these characters can tap contacts from their past to send and receive important information.
- Urban Bounty Hunter. With their Ear to the Ground these characters can find contacts in any city they visit who provides information about people and places. Information potentially used to establish magical contact perhaps?
- Volstrucker Agent. Access to a Shadow Network is hugely useful and most noteworthy is this background option actually does dip a toe into the social magica pool with a bonafide arcane method of communication.
- Draconblood Dragonborn. Advantage on a Charisma (Intimidation or Persuasion) check can make or break a social magica engagement.
- Elf. With their Trance trait elves can work the social magica an extra four hours every day.
- Aereni High Elf, High Elf, Valenar High Elf. With a freebie wizard cantrip these elves can cast spells like encode thoughts, friends and message to stay on top of social magica communications. Fun fact: the friends spell targets the caster and doesn’t specify the creature of their choice to whom the effect applies need be in sight or any other parameters..
- Mark of Shadow Elf. Those with the Spellcasting or Pact Magic features who get 3rd level spell slots get clairvoyance added to their known spells for free.
- Sea Elf. These elves can communicate simple ideas with any beast that has an innate swimming speed.
- Forest Gnome. These gnomes can communicate simple ideas with Small or smaller beasts.
- High Half-Elf. A half-elf of moon elf or sun elf descent can forego Skill Versatility and instead choose the high elf’s Elf Weapon Training or Cantrip, putting them in the same camp as high elf varieties.
- Mark of Detection Half-Elf. Those with the Spellcasting or Pact Magic features who get 2nd level spell slots get detect thoughts and with 3rd level slots get clairvoyance added to their known spells for free.
- Ghostwise Halfling. Telepathic communication to any creature within 30 feet is an extremely useful communication tool.
- Mark of Finding Half-Orc. Those with the Spellcasting or Pact Magic features receive a number of useful spells for social magica like locate animals or plants, locate object, clairvoyance, speak with plants, divination and locate creature.
- Mark of Finding Human. Those with the Spellcasting or Pact Magic features receive a number of useful spells for social magica like locate animals or plants, locate object, clairvoyance, speak with plants, divination, locate creature and commune with nature.
- Mark of Handling Human. They can cast animal friendship and speak with animals and target both beasts and monstrosities with these spells plus receive other spells for free like beast sense and calm emotions.
- Mark of Sentinel Human. They receive zone of truth for free, which makes an incredibly useful communication tool.
- Variant Human. A free feat can bump these characters’ social magica skills considerably.
- Tiefling. The thaumaturgy cantrip can definitely enhance the delivery of a message to an audience. Beyond the standard tiefling Baalzebul, Dispater (who also get detect thoughts) and Zariel Tieflings also receive this feature.
- Fierna Tiefling. Get the friends spell for free. See High Elf above for more.
- Aasimar. The Angelic Guide could provide a wonderful bridge to social magica and roleplaying.
- Firbolg. They have the ability to communicate in a limited manner with beasts and plants.
- Kenku. Not only are they expert forgers their Mimicry can replicate any sounds they hear including voices. I’d allow for this to include via social magica means like message and sending too. Kenku would likely become the preeminient meme sharing folks for a 5E D&D world.
- Triton. As an Emissary of the Sea these characters can communicate simple ideas with beasts that can breathe water.
- Yuan-Ti Pureblood. These characters can talk to snakes by casting animal friendship an unlimited number of times…on snakes.
- Kalashtar. Establishing telepathic communication without the need to share a language can provide a lot of mileage in the social magica game.
- Warforged. They don’t need to sleep at all so they’re going to put all the elves to shame when it comes to maintaining their social magica presence.
- Githzerai. A once per day detect thoughts might be all they need to get the edge on others in the world of social magica.
- Loxodon. Have you been on social magica? Loxodon Serenity ought to serve them well. Okay, this one is here for a laugh. Sue me. While I’m here I might as well say their Keen Smell might help sniff out BS on social magica.
- Verdan. They can telepathically speak to any creature they can see within 30 feet.
In the case of spells available to various classes or features replicating effects elsewhere in this breakdown I’m leaving those out of the mix here. These are specific class features providing social magica tools not found via other means. For example any wizard might acquire the clairvoyance spell to use via their Spellcasting feature but it takes a specific kind of barbarian to be able to do such a thing so the former would not be included on this list but the latter would.
- Artificer. Magical Tinkering can record and transmit messages and Homunculus Servant infusion can deliver communications back and forth. They can also use the Replicate Magic Item infusion to create a couple of appropriate magic items, which is noted below.
- Barbarian. When a Path of the Ancestral Guardian character Consults the Spirits they can cast clairvoyance, Path of the Totem Warriors can cast the beast sense, speak with animals and commune with nature spells, and Path of Wild Magic characters know the location of any spell or magic item within 60 feet of you that isn’t behind total cover plus refresh others’ spell slots so they can cast sending the one crucial extra time.
- Bard. Optional Class Features — Additional Bard Spells adds Rary’s telepathic bond to their spell lists, College of Eloquence bards have a Silver Tongue when it comes to Charisma (Persuasion or Deception) checks plus use their inspiring words in several ways including by making everyone around magically understand every word they say, College of Glamour bards can captivate everyone in the vicinity and College of Whispers cause dread in those who hear their words and easily learn enough about an individual to impersonate them flawlessly.
- Cleric. Divine Intervention accounts for miraculous effects regardless of context. Who knows what a social magica master could invoke with such power? Harness Divine Power lets a cleric recover a spell slot, which might mean a clutch sending spell. Arcana clerics can throw others off their social magica scent with Nystul’s magic aura and gains several powerful wizard spells certainly falling under their purview. Knowledge clerics gain speak with dead, arcane eye and scrying as Domain Spells plus Channel Divinity to read a creature’s thoughts and they can read objects and auras to learn about past events. Nature clerics get animal friendship and speak with animals. Order clerics get zone of truth, locate creature, commune plus Channel Divinity to exert an intimidating presence over others. Peace clerics get the social magica master’s No. 1 spell in sending as well as Rary’s telepathic bond. Trickery clerics get a spell I wager many who’ve stumble into a social magica faux pas wish they could cast in the form of modify memory.
- Druid. Druids know Druidic, the secret language of druids for starters. They also age more slowly so those social magica accounts persist long other’s natural lifespans end. Additional Druid Spells adds diviniation to their spell lists too and the Wild Companion option creates a familiar, which can aid in communications. Circle of Dreams druids gain the ability to cast dream and scrying — both useful communications tools. Circle of the Land druids can use Natural Recovery to regain spell slots to cast things like animal messenger more often and several Circle Spells options provide appropriate spells too. Circle of the Shepherd druids gain the ability to converse with beasts and many fey.
- Fighter. Fighters fight real good. But a few specialists can boost their social magica skills like the Battle Master who knows their enemy through observation and interaction. An Echo Knight see through their echo’s eyes and hear through its ears for up to 10 minutes at 1000 feet away. As a Royal Envoy a Purple Dragon Knight doubles their proficiency bonus for any ability check they make using Persuasion. Rune Knights benefit social magica masters the most with the Cloud Rune, Frost Rune and Stone Rune. Samurai excel in social situations thanks to being Elegant Courtiers.
- Monk. They don’t add much to the equation but they do learn to touch the ki of other minds so they understand all spoken languages and any creature that can understand a language can understand what they say. Way of Shadow monks can shut up annoying voices with silence. Way of the Astral Self monks have advantage on Wisdom (Insight) and Charisma (Intimidation) checks and they can direct their words to a creature of their choice within 60 feet and make it so only that creature can hear them.
- Paladin. These warriors don’t seem to want to mete our social magica justice. Oath of Devotion paladins can cast zone of truth and commune. Oath of Glory paladins can also cast commune. As an Emissary of Peace an Oath of Redemption paladin grants themselves a +5 bonus to Charisma (Persuasion) checks for next 10 minutes. Oath of the Ancients paladins can cast speak with animals and commune with nature. Zone of truth shows up as a bonus spell for Oath of the Crown paladins too (paladins are really into others telling the truth, huh?).
- Ranger. Favored Enemy provides advantage on Intelligence checks to recall information about specific creatures plus they learn one language of your choice that is spoken by them, useful for engaging on social magica. Natural Explorer complements this tracking other creatures by providing these rangers with their exact number, sizes and how long ago they passed through the area. Primeval Awareness ramps things up with the ability to sense certain creatures within a 1 mile radius. Players can also replace this last one with Primal Awareness and gain a bunch of appropriate spells — speak with animals, beast sense, speak with plants, locate creature and commune with nature. The Otherworldly Glamour of Fey Wanderers gives their Wisdom modifier as a bonus to whenever they make a Charisma check. Monster Slayers can cast the what seems to be ubiquitous zone of truth. Swarmkeeper rangers can cast arcane eye.
- Sorcerer. Font of Magic is gonna get a lot of mileage for a social magica master both to boost their communication spells and create more spell slots with which to cast them. Metamagic can eat up those Sorcery Points not the least of ways by using Twinned Spell for sending. If I’m honest I think sending (and message) can’t be twinned because the receiver can reply, which targets the caster technically. But I’d allow it in my games. Aberrant Minds get calm emotions, detect thoughts, sending and Rary’s telepathic bond for free plus Telepathic Speech.
- Warlock. Several Eldritch Invocations add to a social magica master’s repertoire — Beast Speech, Cloak of Flies, Eyes of the Rune Keeper, Far Scribe (hello, perfectly suited option), Gaze of Two Minds, Ghostly Gaze, Visions of Distant Realms and Whispers of the Grave. Pact of the Chain creates a useful messenger and Pact of the Tome can grant spells like encode thoughts, friends and message to stay on top of social magica communications. Through Mystic Arcanum a warlock gains several powerful wizard spells certainly falling under their purview. Other than these the Otherworldly Patrons don’t seem to want their warlocks to communicate with others very much except The Great Old One who grants Awakened Mind and The Undying who grants speak with dead as an option.
- Wizard. Arcane Recovery refreshes spell slots for more sending spells and a 20th level wizard’s Signature Spells can absolutely include this lynchpin spell for a social magica master. The Additional Wizard Spells optional class feature adds speak with dead and divination to spell lists. Order of Scribes wizards can put their Wizardly Quills to excellent use as social magica masters and once their Awakened Spellbooks can Manifest Mind things get really exciting. School of Divination wizards receive useful benefits like Expert Divination and the ability to read any language.
There’s over 625 official 5E D&D spells. These are the ones most useful for a character seeking to become a true social magica master and listed by level. Once you get to 6th level spells and higher the choices dwindle quickly, meaning higher level social magica masters can use their slots for other more powerful spells, more lower level communications spells or as wiggle room for multiclass options.
- Cantrips. encode thoughts, friends, guidance, message, thaumaturgy
- 1st Level. animal friendship, beast bond, comprehend languages, distort value, find familiar, illusory script, speak with animals, unseen servant
- 2nd Level. animal messenger, beast sense, calm emotions, detect thoughts, flock of familiars, gift of gab, locate animals or plants, locate object, magic mouth, Nystul’s magic aura, silence, skywrite, zone of truth
- 3rd Level. clairvoyance, fast friends, motivational speech, sending, speak with dead, speak with plants, tiny servant, tongues
- 4th Level. arcane eye, divination, Galder’s speedy courier, locate creature
- 5th Level. awaken, commune, commune with nature, contact other plane, dream, geas, modify memory, Rary’s telepathic bond, scrying
- 6th Level. contingency, create homunculus, planar ally
- 7th Level. N/A
- 8th Level. anitpathy/sympathy, glibness, mind blank, telepathy
- 9th Level. astral projection, foresight, wish
There’s over 900 official 5E D&D magic items. This exploration into all the options for a social magica master turned out way longer and more in depth than I anticipated but I’ve come this far so why stop now. Thankfully D&D Beyond’s filters include tags and one of these is Communication. For brevity’s sake this is the list of those items.
- Charm of Plant Command
- Crystal Ball of Telepathy
- Helm of Comprehending Languages
- Helm of Telepathy (artificers can create with Replicate Magic Item infusion)
- Potion of Animal Friendship
- Ring of Animal Influence
- Sending Stones (artificers can create with Replicate Magic Item infusion)
- Speaking Stone
- Staff of Charming
- Staff of the Woodlands
- Stonespeaker Crystal
Last but not least a while back our weekly topic for D&D Ideas was Media, which includes Nerdarchist Dave’s cool idea for Projecting Crystals to add some multimedia magic into your 5E D&D games among other stuff. After all this research I think I’ve got an idea for the kind of social magica master character I’d like to play. Celebrity Adventurer’s Scion has been a background on my radar for a while so when it showed up as a solid option here it was pretty cool and I’ll start there. The Mark of Finding Half-Orc really surprised me how well it matches up with this concept too so that’d be my race choice. So many great class features contribute to capturing the feel of this sort of character but for my 2 cp it’s gotta be a sorcerer and of all the Sorcerous Origins the one that makes the most sense is Aberrant Mind. How about you? How do you imagine a social magica master of communication for your own 5E D&D games? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or via the much less magical Twitter and Facebook and of course as always stay nerdy!
*Featured image — A newspaper can make a terrific Group Patron for a group of 5E D&D adventurers — especially those who place a premium on social interactions and communication.