I have a Warlock in the party, and the party came across a message on a fallen enemy. It was written in draconic, and in code.

The Eyes of the Rune Keeper allows the Warlock to read the draconic, But does Eyes of the Rune Keeper allow the Warlock to decipher the code?

Maybe as a side question, if a note is written with a subtle subtext, much like in the way that Thieves Cant is spoken, does that also count for Eyes of the Rune Keeper?


2 Answers 2


No, the warlock can't understand specific codes or Thieves' Cant

The Eyes of the Rune Keeper states that (emphasis mine):

You can read all writing.

This by itself leaves some room for interpretation. Fortunately, we have more information. The Sage Advice Compendium has a question on this feature:

Does the Eyes of the Rune Keeper invocation work on magical runes?

Eyes of the Rune Keeper lets you read any form of writing, including the linguistic meaning of a rune, if any.

Jeremy Crawford also answered this specific question in this tweet (note that Jeremy Crawfords tweets are no longer official):

Eyes of the Rune Keeper lets you read all writing. That doesn't mean you understand a secret code being delivered by that writing. For example, you might read, "Sunset Dog Potato," and have no idea that's code for something. #DnD

Taken together, this to me suggests that the warlock understands the literal meaning of what is written. Any subtle subtext or special symbols that are not related to a language would not be automatically understood.


Though it is ultimately up to the DM, I would say that in the context of the invocation, you would be able to read codes, including thieves cant. The invocation says (PHB 111, emphasis mine):

You can read all writing.

I think some people don't understand that to read something, means that you understand its meaning. Oxford dictionary defines read as (emphasis mine):

look at and comprehend the meaning of (written or printed matter) by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed.

Thus, when you can read something, you can understand it. Furthermore, the invocation states (emphasis mine):

You can read all writing.

Let me provide you with the Oxford definition of all (emphasis mine):

used to refer to the whole quantity or extent of a particular group or thing.

In this case, the "particular group of thing" is writing. Ergo, "all writing" means the whole extent of written things. So, anything that is written is included in this. If a specific code, thieves cant, or any other jargon is in written form, it is included in "all writing." Thus, anyone who has the eyes of the rune keeper invocation can understand its meaning.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This stretches definitions too far. If I encounter a code that says “the swallow flies at midnight”, I can read it without understanding what the code phrase means to those who created it? It has literal meaning. Likewise, if I know another language - through magical or mundane means - and encounter a seemingly random string of characters, I can read them in the sense of understanding the characters’ names and sounds, but also understand that it’s nonsense. I might infer it’s a code, but if it isn’t, I’ve still read it. In both cases, I have read the writing, surely? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 0:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't a particularly sensible definition of reading. Just apply the same logic to non-code, like when I write "Yo, despite current circumstances our regular session is on this week" you'll know what the words mean and how they fit together in a sentence, but eyes of the runekeeper don't automatically tell you that I'm talking about the coronavirus, our regular D&D session and certainly not who's actually attending. This just isn't information that is present in the text, it is cultural information. Being able to read english doesn't help you with this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 0:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Reading languages and decipehring codes are two separate things. Codes can in fact be written in ANY language, they aren't a "separate" form of writing, they are merely a layer of obfuscation putrr on top of the litteral message meaning. Understanding a language allows you to understantd the litteral meaning of a text. Cracking a code is another story altogether. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 16:26

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