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In this question, the Unseen Servant was somehow compared to a computer, which got me thinking. As a programmer, I know that a computer, although mindless, is very good at fulfilling conditional ("if something is true then do this, else do that"), sequential ("do this then do that") and looping ("do this while something is true", and "do this for that amount of times") tasks. Also, a computer is provided with a System Clock, and is therefore able to perform Waits. Therefore, this is a 7-in-1 question:

  1. Can an Unseen Servant fulfill conditional tasks? (ex : "pour wine into each empty glass" - in other words, if the glass if already filled, don't pour wine in it, else do it)

  2. Can it fulfill sequential tasks? (ex: "pour wine into my glass, then bring it to me")

  3. Can it fulfill looping tasks? (ex: "Pour wine into my glass every minute for 20 minutes")

  4. If it can do all three separately, can it do them all together? (ex: "Every minute for 20 minutes, for each empty glass, if it's empty, pour wine into it then bring it to their respective owner, else don't touch it")

  5. Can an Unseen Servant be fed a series of instructions via text (ex: "do what is written on this paper") or speech (ex: "do what any of my Magic Mouths will tell you to do when one starts giving orders" - so if you have several Magic Mouths, the trigger of the second Magic Mouth's speech might be something caused by one of the first Magic Mouth's instructions to the Unseen Servant... which essentially results in something like a function call in programming)? For this to work, the Unseen Servant must either have sight+reading abilities, or hearing+language abilities. The spell specifies you give telepathic commands to the Servant, but does not say if textual/verbal commands from your own voice work as well. The closest thing is a comparison to a human servant, so it might or might not work out.

  6. Can an Unseen Servant wait for a given time interval before doing a task step ? (how it would work out : as it takes a turn (6 seconds) for an Unseen Servant to move 15 feet, it therefore takes it 1 second to move 2.5 feet, so if you tell an Unseen Servant to move in circles for 2.5X feet before doing a step, then you essentially delay the step by X seconds)


As soon as I can, I'll put a big bounty on this question for the first person who puts a satisfying answer (either "yes" or "no", as long as the explanation is very good and all 7 questions are answered) because it's really important for me to get these answers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I see you're casting the secret spell "Conjure Turing Machine"... very clever. \$\endgroup\$ – BlackVegetable Jul 3 '17 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Historical Note: In earlier editions, an unseen servant explicitly could be commanded to perform simple, repetitive tasks, such as mopping a floor, without further caster intervention. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jul 3 '17 at 21:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe It seems like it's still possible in 5E : "Once you give the command, the servant performs the task until it completes it", and tasks may take more than a turn (6 seconds). \$\endgroup\$ – Gael L Jul 3 '17 at 21:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ An unseen servant is about the intelligence level of Baldrick. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Jul 4 '17 at 0:45
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While not explicitly stated in the 5E Rules, a reading of the spell indicates that this it is capable of simple loops and simple sequences, but nothing more.

Based on the reading of the spell, it states this in terms of commanding it:

Once on each of your turns as a bonus action, you can mentally command the servant to move up to 15 feet and interact with an object.

Since we are considering this to be managed in a turn (6 seconds) and a Bonus Action only takes a small amount of that time...this implies that the time you have to command it is relatively short. And it indicates that you can tell it to move up to 15 feet and to interact with a single object. This does not sound like you can give it complex instructions.

This also shoots down the option to use a series of Magic Mouth spells. The Unseen Servant is commanded telepathically by the person who cast the spell. That is the only way listed that it can receive instructions.

It then goes on to specify that

The servant can perform simple tasks that a human servant could do, such as fetching things, cleaning, mending, folding clothes, lighting fires, serving food, and pouring wine. Once you give the command, the servant performs the task to the best of its ability until it completes the task, then waits for your next command.

This implies it is capable of understanding somewhat complex instructions, as serving food requires it to go get the food, then deliver it to where it is supposed to be. 'Fetching things' implies you can tell it something like "Go get me that book" and it would go to the book, pick it up, then bring it back to you without you having to walk it through every step of the process. Cleaning is a complex task that requires many steps to complete, and having to tell it "wipe that table, now that bookshelf, now the other shelf, now the other shelf" would be pretty useless. Same idea with mending things.

Furthermore, it speaks of a Task. Singular. You could tell it to fold that pile of laundry, and it would do so until it ran out of laundry to fold. You could tell it to clean a room and it would continue to work until the room was clean. But telling it to clean the room, then serve you dinner would be a pair of tasks...and it can only handle one task at a time. Exactly what counts as a 'Task' is up to DM Fiat.

So, to clarify my opening statement...

An Unseen Servant is capable of Simple Loops: It can be ordered to repeat a task multiple times until it has completed that task. If told to fold laundry, it will continue to fold the laundry until it has run out of laundry to fold. If told to clean, it will continue to move and clean things until it has finished. It cannot, however, perform Waits. As a mindless force, it doesn't have a System Clock like a computer. It has no concept of time.

An Unseen Servant is capable of Simple Sequences. That is, in order to complete a discrete task, it is able to undertake multiple different actions sequentially. "Pick up item from laundry pile, fold item, place item in folded laundry stack." It can, however, only be assigned a single task at a time.

A look back to the Unseen Servant of 3.5e supports this model. It can do one thing at a time, and will sequentially repeat that task until it cannot repeat it any more, or is commanded to stop.

Again, this is based off a reading of the 5E rules, with a smidge of 3.5e for precedent...there is NOT an official ruling on this.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What if the task is to follow a series of instructions (steps) ? (to compare with programming, "task" = function, "step" = line of code) As you said, you don't have to guide an Unseen Servant into the many steps of a task. So if the task is to follow a series of instructions, it's just a bigger list of steps. As as for the bonus action timing, well... The task order takes little time to do by the caster (bonus action), but the task itself may take more than a turn ("performs until completed"). As for the concept of waiting... Good point. Don't know if an Unseen Servant can count seconds. \$\endgroup\$ – Gael L Jul 3 '17 at 22:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GaelL unseen servant is not programmable. It just comes with lots of builtin instructions to do mundane medival tasks. You can't just make your own. Also, it has no bufers, way low memory and very little registers. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Jul 5 '17 at 10:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GaelL The key phrasing is "simple tasks that a human servant could do". If it would be plausible for an average household servant to understand and execute your command without requiring detailed instructions, the unseen servant can do it. The main difference to a real household servant is that the unseen servant can not multitask, because they can only execute one command at a time. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Jul 5 '17 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm... I command this unseen servant to CLEAN EVERYTHING. How literally do we take that? Will it set about cleaning the world? It's a specific, if illogical, task... \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Kotlicky Jul 6 '17 at 0:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @IsaacKotlicky It may attempt to do so...until its efforts take it more than 60' from you, and it winks out of existence. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jul 6 '17 at 13:12
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Here's what I see as the relevant parts of the description of Unseen Servant:

This spell creates an invisible, mindless, shapeless force that performs simple tasks at your command until the spell ends. The servant springs into existence in an unoccupied space on the ground within range... Once on each of your turns as a bonus action, you can mentally command the servant to move up to 15 feet and interact with an object. The servant can perform simple tasks that a human servant could do, such as fetching things, cleaning, mending, folding clothes, lighting fires, serving food, and pouring wine. Once you give the command, the servant performs the task to the best of its ability until it completes the task, then waits for your next command

"Simple tasks" and the general 'one thing at a time' nature of the example tasks are the keys to most of the questions you pose, I think.

You can definitely loop a simple-enough activity

However, related questions on this site seem to indicate intricate conditionals are probably a step beyond what a "zombified" servant is reasonably considered capable.

"Mindless" is another aspect here to keep in mind, though the limits of it are definitely subject to interpretation and largely you should consult your local DM on whether building a Turing Machine out of concatenated Unseen Servants and other spells is even close to reasonable for the universe they are building.

An Unseen Servant only has a small amount of pressure to exert

So at any rate the Servant is almost certainly not operating some magical difference engine, unless all the fibers and spindles of the program-loom are gossamer-thin and feather-light -- and now it's possibly too intricate to manipulate without 'mindful' skill...

As far as simulating a Turing Machine goes, it might help to think of it as more like a complex musical instrument -- even if capable of playing a simple rhythmic instrument, the Servant would probably not be able to interact very 'effectively' with a device which is significantly more complicated.

A mindless-enough Unseen Servant might even accidentally break a more refined artefact (a more delicate and complex scientific or musical instrument.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The key thing I see in the spell restriction is that "simple tasks" is plural, hence why I believe the order you give can consists of sequential steps. But I might be wrong, hence the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Gael L Jul 3 '17 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ More specifically, the order might be a single task (ex : "bake a cake using this recipe") that is however composed of several steps ("crack the eggs", "pour flour in bowl", "pour sugar in bowl", "mix up all ingredients", etc.). \$\endgroup\$ – Gael L Jul 4 '17 at 15:11
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Mostly, no. An unseen servant is not a computer.

The capabilities of an unseen servant aren't precisely defined, mostly because precise definitions of spell effects that don't have direct game-mechanical interactions are typically left up to the DM and/or players to determine.

Given that, we should look at the likely intended flavor of the spell:

The servant can perform simple tasks that a human servant could do

That is, the kinds of things that a human servant in a quasi-medieval fantasy setting could do. "Human" and "servant" are both very relevant qualifiers here. A human can handle vague, open-ended, and qualitatively measured tasks in ways that simple computers cannot. Humans also have limits to their ability to count, repeat processes exactly the same way each time, remember things, and so on. A servant in this context is presumably competent in a number of domestic domains, and likewise ignorant in many other areas -- notably there would be no expectation of literacy or numeracy beyond simple counting.

Similarly, as a DM, I would expect the caster of unseen servant to instruct the spell as if it were a servant. Thus, these example questions from the question:

"pour wine into each empty glass"

"pour wine into my glass, then bring it to me"

"Pour wine into my glass every minute for 20 minutes"

"Every minute for 20 minutes, for each empty glass, if it's empty, pour wine into it then bring it to their respective owner, else don't touch it"

are neither the tasks an unseen servant would perform, nor are they tasks that a wizard would give. Instead, the wizard would tell the servant things like "Bing me a glass of wine", or "Keep our wine glasses full, but on no account should you open the '57 Clos du Montefort!". These tasks all implicitly involve evaluating conditions, chaining actions, looping, and other activities, but since the the servant performs them as a human would, the "computational" aspects of them aren't really what defines them.

More importantly, the unseen servant won't execute this kind of repeating, open-ended task in any kind of deterministic fashion. Maybe it will carry the bottle of wine around for a bit, topping up glasses as they are emptied. Then it might set the wine down and stay out of the way, or put the bottle of white back into the ice bucket. Maybe it will wait (as a good servant might) for a lull in conversation before interrupting with more wine. And so on.

As far as delivering instructions indirectly (for example "open the blue envelope in the next room, then follow the instructions written therein", or "obey the instructions of anyone wearing this hat"), the spell already limits the servant to following mental commands given by the spellcaster, and it seems reasonable to presume that the servant is illiterate.

An unseen servant can wait for a time interval ("Open the Cormyr red, then pour me a glass after it's had half an hour to breathe."), but it's no better at measuring the passage of time than a human servant, and only really useful when the waiting is related to a simple domestic task.

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Unseen servants are mindless. They cannot branch their instructions or think. Also the range of tasks they can perform are simple.

Can an Unseen Servant fulfill conditional tasks? (ex : "pour wine into each empty glass" - in other words, if the glass if already filled, don't pour wine in it, else do it)

Yes. It could also fetch buckets of water from a well and flood your wizard's tower if your apprentice was dumb enough.

Can it fulfill sequential tasks? (ex: "pour wine into my glass, then bring it to me")

That may be considered two commands. Assuming the servant is till in range after pouring the caster is assumed to automatically issues the second command if it is aware of the servant's status. The key part in the spell description is "interact with an object and move 15 feet" - so if it moves less than 15 feet it might be considered a single task.

Can it fulfill looping tasks? (ex: "Pour wine into my glass every minute for 20 minutes")

It is mindless, has no sense of time.

If it can do all three separately, can it do them all together? (ex: "Every minute for 20 minutes, for each empty glass, if it's empty, pour wine into it then bring it to their respective owner, else don't touch it")

Still mindless. Also that is three commands.

Can an Unseen Servant be fed a series of instructions (...)

Only if the mage is conscious, within range and playing the part of the feed tape. Servants have only one or two registers, no buffers and no RAM.

Can an Unseen Servant wait for a given time interval before doing a task step ? (how it would work out : as it takes a turn (6 seconds) for an Unseen Servant to move 15 feet, it therefore takes it 1 second to move 2.5 feet, so if you tell an Unseen Servant to move in circles for 2.5X feet before doing a step, then you essentially delay the step by X seconds)

It is mindless, has no sense of time.

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A bit late to the party, but the wording is clear:

RAW, Unseen Servant can be used to implement an arbitrary computer or command, even given the most conservative reading of the rules.

However, this is not obvious, and may require some tricks. Your questions might be considered leading questions, and the answers are generally "yes... but not for the reason you may think".

I will go over examples of how a single Unseen Servant can be programmed to be Turing-complete.


The relevant excerpts are as follows:

invisible, mindless, shapeless force that performs simple tasks at your command until the spell ends

People often confuse mindless with unable to process information. Obviously a computer is mindless, but is able to do things like read and process text. A GM may even opt to treat a mindless entity as having an Int/Wis score sometimes (e.g. whether you treat an avatar of an evil witch in a magic mirror, as having an avatar creature with an Int/Wis stat, or forwarding effects to/from the real witch)... not that it's necessarily a good thing to do in general.

Obviously a mindless force cannot understand things. 'Understanding' though is not the same as "processing something" or "effecting action based on something". For example a computer need not understand sound in order to do text-to-speech synthesis. A corollary is that an Unseen Servant itself has no consciousness, sentience, or (in D&D universe) no soul. By definition of 'subjective', it may not make 'subjective' decisions*. (However, an Unseen Servant may theoretically act as a brain for a composite entity thinking entity, whose mind is the code run by the Unseen Servant, and whose brain is the Unseen Servant. See the Chinese Room thought experiment. Mind=software, brain=hardware.)

*(this is actually a bit complicated... one might say that an image recognition task performed by a computer is subjective, when it is in fact just finding the maximal probability. Consequently if one just said something like "Unseen Servant, I mentally command you to indicate 'cat' or 'dog' with this rock based on what my ally Bob the Paladin would hypothetically give the answer as!"... that would certainly be logically sound. However, it would not work for other reasons we'll get to below.)

springs into existence in an unoccupied space on the ground

Once on each of your turns as a bonus action, you can mentally command the servant to move up to 15 feet and interact with an object. The servant can perform simple tasks that a human servant could do, such as fetching things, cleaning, mending, folding clothes, lighting fires, serving food, and pouring wine. Once you give the command, the servant performs the task to the best of its ability until it completes the task, then waits for your next command.

Some important things to note:

  • The servant can perform lengthy tasks without having to control it every action; it just needs an initial mental command (which may be done as a bonus action). Proof: all these tasks cannot be done in a single action.
  • The servant can perform complicated tasks that might take a minutes-long Youtube video to explain. These examples just illustrate the phrasing "simple tasks a human servant could do". That is the core of the spell. It even goes so far as to list examples that would require multiple different Interact With Object such as:
    • possibly different Interact With Object actions like serving wine (into a glass), serving (different types of) food (though this is technically ambiguous but the context clearly implies it is not)
    • actions which require complicated tradeskill knowledge like 'mending' e.g. a quilt, and possibly tools
    • multiple different Interact With Object actions such as lighting [multiple] fireS (plural).

Thus for all intents and purposes, the servant can be 'loaded' or queued with any "simple task a human servant could do", subject to the constraint that the servant has no free will (is mindless). (Corollary: thus the task may not depend on the mental state of the servant, which doesn't exist... though may potentially depend on the introspection of what the servant is doing and has been doing right now.)

(As a sidenote, one might ponder what mechanism might make an Unseen Servant 'work' behind the scenes. There are quite a few possibilities the GM might come up with, e.g. it pulls from the subconscious of the caster and/or nearby allies; it is pre-programmed and run by an otherworldly CPU; it is a narrativium-style black box, etc.)

Some obvious questions we might ask ourselves:

  1. Can an Unseen Servant read?

    • It can certainly recognize letters and symbols, just like it can mend clothes, or pour a cup of water until it is full. It can react to those symbols and act based on those symbols. Because it is mindless, it cannot write out a literary analysis of a text involving any original thought.
    • However, does that mean it understands Common? That is, can you give it written orders? See #5.
  2. Does an Unseen Servant have a concept of relative and/or absolute time?

    • Can it do things like wait a round, wait until noon, etc.? The answer is probably up to the GM here. It would be very awkward if it could not. The workaround for players would just be to carry around a stopwatch to give to the servant (or set up a sundial). Multiple Unseen Servants could synchronize off one another because they (as Creatures on the map) are a physical process (e.g. Force energy) in the multiverse (unless the GM rules otherwise).
  3. Can an Unseen Servant hear and speak?

    • This is not explicitly stated. In fact, the GM might rule that an Unseen Servant cannot react sounds and high-frequency vibrations (though I personally would not). Just because it is described as 'Unseen' and typically does silent labor, does not necessarily mean it is unheard and cannot hear; the nomenclature brings to mind a certain mental imagine that is not necessarily canon. This is a GM decision; it would be weird for it not to be able to hear though.
    • If the GM rules the Unseen Servant cannot make sound, one can have it tap rocks on the ground in a pattern.
  4. Can the Unseen Servant 'know' things the player cannot?

    • Clearly so, if the player is for example Blinded.
    • Being Mindless, the Unseen Servant cannot 'know' things, but can react on things.
    • What happens if the player says "If this goblin is actually a polymorphed fae, move this rock."? Can it detect stealthed creatured like an Alarm spell? Can one say "If I say the answer to the sphinx's riddle, move this rock"? The GM should not allow this because it would break the game, but limited versions are possibly for GMs who like certain mechanistic worldbuilding (perhaps Unseen Servants have Perception despite with +0 int modifier... a magical world, the notion of computability may be trumped by Divination...... sidenote: Though, then I believe that would just create an infinite hierarchy of Divinition-magic-aware computability and Divinition-magic-on-Divination-magic-aware-computability etc., see mention of oracles of the Busy Beaver function in this article).
    • In any case, it would be strange for the Unseen Servant to have knowledge of how to do things the caster did not. For example, if the caster never knew how to perform mending on a quilt, would the Unseen Servant be able to? Up to the GM.
  5. Can an Unseen Servant process auditory, visual, or mental orders from other entities the caster gives permission to?

    • Up to the GM. I would rule no.
    • However, if the GM rules 'no', there is a simple workaround of having it implement a simple Turing machine out of rocks. (That is a reason perhaps to rule 'yes'.)
  6. Does the Unseen Servant have access to a method to deal existential instantiation? Can it randomly pick between abstract concepts? Can it randomly pick between physical objects?

    • Up to the GM.

Now that we have some basic questions out of the way, we need to analyze a very specific word:

simple tasks that a human servant could do

What's 'simple'? The notion of Kolmogorov complexity implies that simplicity is always relative to your set of pre-understood assumptions (you cannot say "execute plan C" and expect the GM to understand, unless you have previously described what plan C is in normal English (or whatever language you're playing in)). Thus there is a notion of simplicity i.e. if you tell this to the GM, will it bog down the game? As the contrapositive, is it always obvious what the next part of the task is? (What happens if the next part is no longer obvious? Probably the Unseen Servant stops and awaits further orders.) The GM might reasonably rule on various definitions of 'simple', such as GM fiat. I'd personally additionally rule:

  • with no more than a low-resolution sketch with at most a few symbols, fewer than a certain number of words, and up to 30 seconds of additional ('psychic') explanation... can the player explain a task unambiguously? without bogging down the game to prep this?

If yes, then I'd say it works, subject to all the above restrictions and caveats. That would mean for example you could describe an incredibly simple Turing machine, or something effectively almost as good and even simpler. For example:

"I psychically command this Unseen Servant to whenever these pebbles are in any of the formations on this piece of paper in relation to its (metaphorical) hand, to rearrange them and move its unseen hand 1 inch to the right or left as shown."

One might use this with a reasonably large program consisting of pages and pages (assuming it is near instantaneous for the GM to implement or they are okay with ruling that it just works), but for a reasonably compact Turing machine like the one above, that one can conceptualize and explain simply, you might not even need the paper.

Of course, then one might perhaps make the technomage roll to try to reinvent computer science, with a very high DC... it might take a while to figure out, akin to trying to invent a powerful homebrew spell, to... rederive fundamental mathematics de novo. Or maybe the GM is fine with clever players helping their Barbarians with combat tactics. I'm in the latter camp, but at some point one may need to invoke the "trying to rederive mathematics" check.


Anyway, actually compiling into this pebble-based Unseen Servant language and extracting output from it would require... an infrastructure of a lot of Unseen Servants, and/or a lot of time manipulation and/or miniaturization. For practical purposes, here are how I'd answer OP's original questions:

Can an Unseen Servant fulfill conditional tasks? (ex : "pour wine into each empty glass" - in other words, if the glass if already filled, don't pour wine in it, else do it)

Yes (conditions happen all the time in simple tasks). This only works because the task is simple. If one tried to write 50 nested conditions, it would no longer be simple, and no longer work.

Can it fulfill sequential tasks? (ex: "pour wine into my glass, then bring it to me")

Yes, because it is a simple task. If one tried to write a sequence of 50 things, it would no longer be simple, and no longer work.

Can it fulfill looping tasks? (ex: "Pour wine into my glass every minute for 20 minutes")

In general yes, because a loop is simple. However, due to the way this was phrased, it is up to the GM, because Unseen Servants do not necessarily have internal clocks (but probably do; the workaround is trivial).

If it can do all three separately, can it do them all together? (ex: "Every minute for 20 minutes, for each empty glass, if it's empty, pour wine into it then bring it to their respective owner, else don't touch it")

In general yes, but if this was very complicated, no, because it must once again be a "simple task" a human servant could do.

Can an Unseen Servant be fed a series of instructions via text (ex: "do what is written on this paper") or speech (ex: "do what any of my Magic Mouths will tell you to do when one starts giving orders" - so if you have several Magic Mouths, the trigger of the second Magic Mouth's speech might be something caused by one of the first Magic Mouth's instructions to the Unseen Servant... which essentially results in something like a function call in programming)? For this to work, the Unseen Servant must either have sight+reading abilities, or hearing+language abilities. The spell specifies you give telepathic commands to the Servant, but does not say if textual/verbal commands from your own voice work as well. The closest thing is a comparison to a human servant, so it might or might not work out.

Up to the GM. If the GM rules no (one might reasonably rule that the the Unseen Servant has no understanding of symbols on a page other than the fact that they are symbols in certain recognizable patterns, in which case the only way to react to them is the meaning your character has; alternatively one might rule that it can understand Common just like a human servant), it still possible to have the Unseen Servant notice the fact that the Magic Mouth is talking. In this manner, the "triggering condition" verbiage of the Magic Mouth spell may be used as input to the task of an Unseen Servant.

I'd rule that an Unseen Servant can read lips, but because scientific papers in real life have noticed that even experienced lip-readers are only semi-accurate, this is an inference task, and thus in rare circumstances may suffer from existential instantiation if say there is a tie and the priors are underspecified. Unless the GM allows a compendium of illustrations of mouths and rules for resolving ambiguity (which might... make the task take hours...), one might have to implement one's own lip-reading algorithm by compiling down the the Unseen-Servant-manipulating-pebbles programming language described earlier.

Can an Unseen Servant wait for a given time interval before doing a task step ? (how it would work out : as it takes a turn (6 seconds) for an Unseen Servant to move 15 feet, it therefore takes it 1 second to move 2.5 feet, so if you tell an Unseen Servant to move in circles for 2.5X feet before doing a step, then you essentially delay the step by X seconds)

Up to the GM, but since it's reasonable and the workaround (burning piece of cord) is easy, I'd allow it.


Even with a conservative interpretation of the rules, one may have perhaps three Unseen Servants implementing the above Turing machine (or some other Turing machine). Thus, theoretically, a general purpose computer may be made with Unseen Servants... but it would of course be really slow. Anything in combat-time will likely be at the dictates of the GM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Without getting too deep into the weeds of this, I'm going to suggest that the most conservative interpretation of the rules is not one that involves Kolmogorov complexity and formal computability. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Feb 17 at 2:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yet almost all GMs implicitly use said notion of complexity all the time; the fact that I mention it as an aside (to prove the point that the mutual understanding between GMs and player is effectively part of the complexity) actually adds to the argument, not subtracts (otherwise why would I add it to my answer). OP's question is mostly going in the direction of computability without actually stating so. Commenter's implication that saying e.g. the "Oxford comma" is less conservative of a grammatical construct just because someone somewhere can say it "maximizes symmetry" I can't agree with. \$\endgroup\$ – ninjagecko Feb 19 at 9:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Writing style comment for you: I think you overdid the parenthetical digressions a bit; harms clarity and focus. As to the underlying points, I enjoyed the journey through this post abseent your parenthetical digressions. This answer could use a touch more focus and a bit of liposuction. But thanks for the time and effort put into it. 🙂 \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 23 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells How do you bounty a comment? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Feb 23 at 18:26

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