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I want to use the Message cantrip to coordinate with an ally in secret. However, I want to do this during a loud battle (powerful spells being flung back and forth in a highly destructible environment). The text of the spell says:

You ... whisper a message. The target ... hears the message and can reply in a whisper that only you can hear.

Since the message is whispered, does that mean the target may not be able to make out what I'm saying over the din of battle? Or does "the target hears the message" imply that the spell's magic ensures that the message is audible?

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Yes, the target hears the message, even if there are other ambient noises.

The Message spell is a magical effect, and doesn't actually create a sound as per normal speech. Instead, only the target hears it.

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.

As you can imagine, this isn't how sound works according to conventional physics. But it's magic, and magic generally doesn't care about the laws of nature.

However, the spell requires a verbal component to cast. If something prevents the spellcaster from performing the verbal component then the spell would fail.

If you can’t provide one or more of a spell’s components, you are unable to cast the spell... Thus, a character who is gagged or in an area of Silence, such as one created by the Silence spell, can’t Cast a Spell with a verbal component.

If something prevents the caster from whispering the message, then it's likely that they can't perform the verbal components either.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ would the spell fail or just some gibberish transfered to the recipiant? Would a good perception help to still unravell the message? \$\endgroup\$ – SchreiberLex Apr 17 '18 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ So you're saying that the spell is effectively working like telepathy, delivering the message directly to the target's brain? \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Apr 17 '18 at 14:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson regardless of whether it's technically "telepathy", the spell states that "the target hears the message" and doesn't provide any means where that wouldn't be the case for a successful cast. \$\endgroup\$ – Kamil Drakari Apr 17 '18 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lex If any spell requires a verbal component, and the caster can't perform the verbal component, then by default the spell effects do not occur. Also, Message mentions that whispering the message is part of the spell's casting. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Apr 17 '18 at 14:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fractal I realize that my original answer was misleading about that; it's ambiguous whether the spell's verbal component is the same as the whispered message. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Apr 17 '18 at 17:06
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There is nothing in the rule to state that the message cannot be heard by the receiver, regardless of ambient noise. In addition, the message can ignore boundaries if you know the target (emphasis mine):

Message

[...] You can cast this spell through solid objects if you are familiar with the target and know it is beyond the barrier. Magical silence, 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood blocks the spell. The spell doesn't have to follow a straight line and can travel freely around corners or through openings.

The only things that can clearly block it are stated as well, indicating that this "message" is transferred by magical means, insinuating that the message can still be heard amidst other ambient noise.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was thinking that maybe the spell simply created the sound of my whispered voice directly in the target's ear, allowing them to hear it at long distances and through obstructions. If this were the case, it would seem possible that despite technically hearing the whisper, they can't actually make out what I'm saying thanks to ambient noise. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Apr 17 '18 at 6:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Think of it this way - the "whisper" is referring to the transference of the spell. Only the recipient can hear it - no one else. Much like a normal whisper. The recipient can always hear it, but no one else :) \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Apr 17 '18 at 6:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson to add, if you're struggling to get a "feel" for how it would be perceived. Imagine the last time you were in a noisy environment (such as listening to music), regardless of the noise - you can still hear your internal thinking voice clearly. Think of the whisper being perceived by the target in a similar way.. \$\endgroup\$ – Bilkokuya Apr 17 '18 at 11:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bilkokuya good example; now think of someone you know very well, whose voice you can identify immediately upon hearing -- you can "hear" their voice in your head now can't you, even though they're not speaking? Even if you have headphones on with loud music playing? I imagine this is what the Message spell would sound like to them. \$\endgroup\$ – Doktor J Apr 17 '18 at 15:57

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