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Our villain is a telepath and mind-reader that my players wish to be able to lie to and prevent from learning their plans. The villain is homebrew and essentially has an ability that is innately and permanently activated for all creatures around him. He can read what everyone is thinking at that moment, detect lies, and communicate telepathically.

Mind Reader: you can read the thoughts of any creature within 20 feet of you, with at least 4 Intelligence, that speaks a language you understand, and is not protected by a thick barrier. You hear their thoughts as if they were talking aloud, so you can determine that invisible creatures are around you, and eventually locate them. Their thoughts do not interfere with your regular listening skills, and are not affected by loud noises either. You hear both distinctly and separately.

How can these PCs lie to the villain, and keep the villain from learning their plans by reading their thoughts? I came up with 2:

  • Mind Blank - one willing creature you touch is immune any effect that would read its thoughts,

  • Ring of Mind Shielding - you are immune to magic that allows other creatures to read your thoughts

Other spells, like Nondetection or Private Sanctum shield you against Divination spells, which this Telepathy ability is not. Class features, like the level 17 Rogue's Soul of Deceit [SCAG], are not really applicable.

However, this essentially means that either our Bard is going to have to learn Mind Blank, or they need to go find a bunch of these rings. This isn't necessarily bad, but the Bard isn't the most reliable player, and scavenging for 6× the same item that permanently protects you seems boring.

Are there other options to do this? Preferably consumables that they can hire people to craft for them, like potions or scrolls (that can be activated by anyone), or an item that protects the entire group simultaneously?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ related on ring of mind shielding \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 26 '17 at 19:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ The villain's homebrewed ability seems a little OP to me. It might be more reasonable to have the ability work more like a nothic's weird insight, where the target has a chance to resist the mind probe attempt via a Deception check. \$\endgroup\$ – mdrichey Nov 4 '18 at 18:47
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Your players have a great many options, given that you are open to homebrew material:

  • They should seek out a Couatl, and undertake a quest to receive it's shielded mind trait
  • They could ally themselves with a Flumph and stay very very close to them, so as to benefit from their telepathic shroud. Perhaps, if any of their group is psionic, they could learn to manifest such a shroud themselves.
  • They could acquire the aid of a rakshasa, and willingly invoke its curse upon themselves, filling their every thought with horrible images and dreams, and thus discouraging the use of telepathy against them.
  • They could start a weekly poker game with an androsphinx and his consort, and so acquire a measure of their inscrutability.

(Basically, any time you're going 'I wanna do a thing/provide my players an opportunity to become able to do a thing' and it's not easily done via spells/magic items, check out the monster manual. Most monster traits are presented in such a way as to make it fictionally reasonable for players to gain access to that trait via some sort of interaction with the monster, be that murdering it and harvesting parts of its corpse or training under it for an extended time period or performing quests for some divine patron or eldritch being or another)

Additionally, in previous editions spell research rules existed, and the ones from AD&D 2e are pretty consistent with the 5e ethos. For some reason (probably game balance-- spell creation in D&D has always been hugely difficult for GMs to properly adjudicate) 5e lacks spell creation rules, but you could certainly import or modify ones from elsewhere. A spell similar to 3.5's False Vision, which has no 5e counterpart yet is not particularly problematic would be a reasonable addition.

I have added False Vision as a 4th level illusion spell with the ritual tag for a wizard in 5e before. I had it require concentration, last up to 24 hours, and require an action to alter the image viewed. I also added a 6th level version that took an hour to cast and didn't require concentration on a round as long as the caster used no movement that round. I changed the material component to a focus component for each. Both worked fine.

Alternatively, a variant on one of the spells that protects or disguises against detection spells could be a decent starting place; they almost do what you want as-is, it would seem.

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  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Playing poker with a sphinx to learn a poker face sounds amazing \$\endgroup\$ – 40355 says Reinstate Monica Dec 26 '17 at 20:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I hear Lady Gaga has an impressive one, too. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Dec 26 '17 at 20:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Great Old One Warlock, level 10 ability Thought Shield is a good example of a PC class having just such an ability. \$\endgroup\$ – HenryWLee1066 Jun 18 '18 at 17:11
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There are very few abilities in the D&D canon which are absolutes. Most effects provide saving throws, chances to mitigate results via high AC, Ability contests, or just a truckload of HPs.

Since your ability is homebrewed, you have the option to write in such a defense. Players can quest to learn that defense and guard against it. If it is a saving throw, for instance, they can arm themselves with Bless, Portent, Rings of Protection, or simply choose their party member who has the highest chance to save to be the "point man" in all interaction with the villain.

Maybe there is an herb which can be taken to increase a person's defense against the ability. To make it difficult but not impossible to use, it could be very expensive, or simply inflict the poisoned condition for a set period of time.

In short: It's a homebrewed offense; it's perfectly reasonable to homebrew a defense.

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It sounds like the villain still can only read surface thoughts. If the PCs are aware of his mind reading capabilities and actively trying not to think about their real plans (or otherwise trying to evade him with 'Tenser said the Tensor' style stuff), you could have them make a contested roll Deception vs Insight, with disadvantage on their deception rolls. Potentially allow other skills if the players can justify it, like a cleric might use Religion to fill his mind with liturgies, or a character proficient with an instrument might attempt to focus on a complex tune.

Obviously mind-blank style effects would be better in terms of being sure, but if it comes down to it, 'try really hard not to think about it' should be an option.

That said, I'm not clear on whether you're a player or the DM, but if the villain has a special ability like this, the DM can and probably should allow the PCs to locate an item or spell to counter it. Instead of finding six rings of mind blank, let them find a special item that acts as a Ring of Mind Blank all the time, but also can be activated once per day (or using charges, whatever) to blanket the area around the wearer so that everyone in that zone is treated as if they're also wearing the ring.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you not think about something? As players, we feel like it's not something that can be easily done when having a conversation about the topic \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Dec 26 '17 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlueMoon93 I added a few examples, but quite honestly it's a pretty standard story element in scifi that involves telepaths. Yes, it's mental gymnastics, but that's why you're rolling with disadvantage. Generally, in stories, it involves having a song or phrase playing on repeat in your head so that any attempt to read your mind is met with the same stupid earworm rather than any words you're thinking, or at least it scrambles your subvocalized thoughts enough that it's difficult to extract any meaningful information. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Dec 26 '17 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the second part of your answer. So, by RAW, there aren't any items that already have such an effect (wide-area thought protection)? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Dec 26 '17 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice "Demolished Man" reference. I was considering using that novel for the basis of an answer, but it would be very involved and probably require spoilers. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Dec 26 '17 at 20:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nothing I'm aware of, Moon. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Dec 26 '17 at 20:20
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Don't meet the mind reader in person. Send go-betweens who don't know your full plans. He can't read your mind if you aren't there.

We encountered this one in a high-level adventure where our divinations and skill checks revealed that our contact was definitely not lying or charmed, so we trusted him. It turned out that the villain had simply fed the contact false information, so he was merely mistaken, not lying, and therefore no amount of mind reading would reveal any lie or secret.

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Canonically, historically, and in 5e in some applications (e.g. blocking Locate Object), the protection barrier need not be thick if it is made of lead, or perhaps gold. Lead-lined full helmets, or headgear/hats that cover the brain region well, could be crafted, and would block the readings. The villain in question would know who is wearing them, of course, as he would be getting a blank on those people.

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