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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?

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Message has a verbal component. Assuming Message works the same way as Suggestion, the mystic words that are chanted as the verbal component of the spell are separate from any other statements that are part of the spell.

Regarding the volume of the verbal component of a spell, Jeremy Crawford has this to say:

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

PHB p. 203 (or the basic rules) says this about verbal components of spells:

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

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    \$\begingroup\$ You may want to remind him that while the casting is audible, the message is not. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 3 '18 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\$ – Ryan Thompson Mar 3 '18 at 23:57
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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\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 3 '18 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 Mar 7 '18 at 16:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to look in XGtE but there are actually perception thresholds for hearing whispers. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 7 '18 at 16:16

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