“Where is the treasure hidden?” The mercs had been interrogating him for hours, but the bandits wouldn’t budge. An Elven Wizard entered the room and simply stood in the corner for a minute. “It’s buried under a tree at the end of the clearing. It’s marked by two white stones.”
What is Detect Thoughts Spell?
Detect Thoughts is a 2nd Level Divination Spell. The spell’s text from the Basic Rules reads:
“For the duration, you can read the thoughts of certain creatures. When you cast the spell and as your action on each turn until the spell ends, you can focus your mind on any one creature that you can see within 30 feet of you. If the creature you choose has an Intelligence of 3 or lower or doesn’t speak any language, the creature is unaffected.
You initially learn the surface thoughts of the creature–what is most on its mind in that moment. As an action, you can either shift your attention to another creature’s thoughts or attempt to probe deeper into the same creature’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). If it succeeds, the spell ends. Either way, the target knows that you are probing into its mind, and unless you shift your attention to another creature’s thoughts, the creature can use its action on its turn to make an Intelligence check contested by your Intelligence check; if it succeeds, the spell ends.
Questions verbally directed at the target creature naturally shape the course of its thoughts, so this spell is particularly effective as part of an interrogation.
You can also use this spell to detect the presence of thinking creatures you can’t see. When you cast the spell or as your action during the duration, you can search for thoughts within 30 feet of you. The spell can penetrate barriers, but 2 feet of rock, 2 inches of any metal other than lead, or a thin sheet of lead blocks you. You can’t detect a creature with an Intelligence of 3 or lower or one that doesn’t speak any language.
Once you detect the presence of a creature in this way, you can read its thoughts for the rest of the duration as described above, even if you can’t see it, but it must still be within range.”
Detect Thoughts 5e Stats
|Casting Time||1 Action|
|Classes||Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock*, Wizard|
|Components||Verbal, Somatic, Material**|
How Does Detect Thoughts Work?
Detect Thoughts lets the caster read the surface thoughts of a creature. A creature with no intelligence or an intelligence below 3.
There are really only 2 ways to use this spell. The first is to simply try to read the minds of a player or through interrogation. The spell only lets you read surface thoughts, so there’s no deep probing to dive into a character’s mind.
It’s like the age-old trick, “Try not to think of a Pink Elephant.” What are you thinking of? Probably a pink elephant. Detect Thoughts can work in the same way. During an interrogation, if a player asks a question while using Detect Thoughts the answer will normally pop up in their surface thoughts giving the player an easy way to direct their thoughts so they can be read.
The other way that Detect Thoughts is used is to literally detect a thinking creature up to 30 feet. Invisible or hidden creatures that can have an intelligence score of 3+ can have their thoughts read. This can be useful to see if there are enemies or people hidden nearby.
Is Detect Thoughts a Good Spell?
Detect Thoughts is one of those often overlooked spells that actually has a lot of utility. It’s extremely useful to check hidden areas for ambushes and is one of the best spells for gathering information. Players will need to RP intelligently to get the most out of the spells by trying to bring the information they want into the target’s surface thoughts, but that’s half the fun of the game.
Any spell that has a dual use with utility in both RP purposes and for combat is always a spell that you’ll want to keep handy in your spellbook or bag of tricks.
Which Classes Can Use Detect Thoughts
The Bard, Sorcerer, and Wizard can all use the Detect Thoughts spell naturally. The Great Old One subclass of Warlock also can use this spell.
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.