The Message spell requires verbal, somatic, and material components. The text of the spell says:

You point your finger toward a creature within range and whisper a message. The target (and only the target) hears the message...

Is the spoken message the only verbal component to the spell, or is there an incantation that I must speak at normal volume (i.e. the same volume I would use for any other verbal spell) in order to cast the spell, followed by my actual whispered message? In other words, can people other than the target hear me casting the spell at all?


2 Answers 2


Verbal components are audible, but the message is not.

The message itself is separate from the verbal component

The message spell has a verbal component. However, the verbal component of the spell is not the same as the message itself, merely a necessary part of casting the the spell in the first place; the actual message is part of the spell effect. (Likewise, the somatic component of message is separate from the caster pointing at the targeted creature as part of the spell's effect.)

This is supported by a related official ruling in the Sage Advice Compendium regarding the spells suggestion and command, both of which also have verbal components:

Is the sentence of suggestion in the suggestion spell the verbal component, or is the verbal component separate?

Verbal components are mystic words (PH, 203), not normal speech. The spell’s suggestion is an intelligible utterance that is separate from the verbal component. The command spell is the simplest example of this principle. The utterance of the verbal component is separate from, and precedes, any verbal utterance that would bring about the spell’s effect.

All three of these spells have a verbal component, and separately involve speaking a word or sentence as part of the spell effect. They all work the same way in this regard; the verbal component that's part of the casting of the spell is distinct from the utterance spoken as part of the spell's effect.

Verbal components are audible, but it's up to the DM how audible

The description of verbal components in the rules states, in part (PHB, p. 203):

Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The words themselves aren't the source of the spell's power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion.

The rules don't specify how loud a verbal component has to be, so it is left to DM discretion. This is also reiterated by rules designer Jeremy Crawford in an unofficial tweet from October 2015:

when I cast a spell does the verbal component has to be clearly audible or can I "whisper" the spell?

The verbal component of a spell must be audible to work. How loud is audible? That's up to the DM.

The caster ostensibly doesn't have to scream it at the top of their lungs, but in general I think verbal components of spells would need to be spoken in (approximately) a regular speaking voice, or at a comparable volume.

DMs may choose to allow spellcasters to attempt to hide spell components (e.g. by whispering/muttering the verbal component) - potentially requiring an ability check to do so - but this runs the risk of devaluing the sorcerer's Subtle Spell Metamagic option (which removes verbal and somatic components from the spell entirely). Even beyond that, granting all casters a way to hide spell components for free generally makes all spellcasters more powerful regardless.

Only the target hears the message; only the caster hears the reply

As for the volume of the message, the description of the message cantrip states (emphasis mine):

You point your finger toward a creature within range and whisper a message. The target (and only the target) hears the message and can reply in a whisper that only you can hear.

The spell description makes it clear how loud the message itself is, and who can hear it. The caster whispers a message that only the target can hear, and the target can reply in a whisper that only the caster can hear. Thus, even if someone can tell that you're casting a spell, only the creature you point at can hear the actual message.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You may want to remind him that while the casting is audible, the message is not. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 14:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ So it seems that while an onlooker would not be able to make out my message, it would still be quite obvious to them that I am casting a spell, and if they see my lips move silently near the end of the casting, they might infer that it was a communication spell (and of course a lip reader could discern the actual content of the message). On the other hand, the message's recipient can reply to me without making any locally audible sound, so it seems great for communicating with a scout who is moving in stealth 100 feet ahead of everyone else. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 23:57

According to the player handbook, page 259 message does require a verbal component, but my party has been treating it as a sound that is inaudible to the local region (unless using some spell or environment that amplifies sound) based on the spell's description.

You point your finger toward a creature within range and whisper a message. The target (and only the target) hears the message and can reply in a whisper that only you can hear.

In my opinion, the only distracting aspect of this spell should be the use of an arcane focus or hand gesture.

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    \$\begingroup\$ May I ask why you treat the verbal component as silent? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mostly because once message is cast the whispers necessary to communicate (it's not telepathy but virtually silent whispering) are almost inaudible, so it makes sense to my party that the vocal aspect to cast the spell is likewise nearly inaudible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zacarius
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 16:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ You may want to look in XGtE but there are actually perception thresholds for hearing whispers. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 16:16

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