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The Great Old One warlock patron grants the Awakened Mind feature at 1st level (PHB, p. 110):

Starting at 1st level, your alien knowledge gives you the ability to touch the minds of other creatures. You can communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet of you.

The mixed use of plural and singular "creature" in the text is causing some debate. I have looked for some sort of official ruling, but I cannot find anything.

Is it possible to communicate with more than one creature at once using Awakened Mind's telepathy?

Since it is one-way communication, and a specific language is not a requirement, it seems as though it should be possible to "broadcast" to the minds you wish to reach out to. And a group of creatures would appear to satisfy the "any creature" wording.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I do not want to fall into a grammar hole and trying to guess what the authors meant through their use of language. "Any" can indicate indefinite quantities or "it does not matter which one" depending on intent (which is not clear to me here). I only bring up the phrasing as a reason for the confusion. I am hoping that there is an official ruling or an accepted guideline for this. \$\endgroup\$ – schroeder Aug 26 '18 at 23:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related question about a similar singluar/plural confusion with "any": rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/117243/… \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Aug 27 '18 at 0:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've tweeted at JC with no response yet. twitter.com/LucasVdub/status/1033877677390872577?s=19 \$\endgroup\$ – lucasvw Aug 27 '18 at 11:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @schroeder, even though you say you do not want to fall into a grammar hole, that is the only place this will end up. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Aug 28 '18 at 4:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott ... unless this question has been asked before and there is an official ruling or a general guideline. The amount of involvement on this question might suggest that I'm not the only one confused. \$\endgroup\$ – schroeder Aug 28 '18 at 7:50
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There are numerous existing precedents in the PHB which indicate any means multiple.

The confusion here is centered around a single word, emphasized below:

You can communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet of you.

Example precedent: If you can cast the spell Animate Dead you are able to send telepathic thoughts to your minions collectively. The spell Animate Dead (PHB pg. 212-213) is explicit in the usage of any and all being separate and distinct. Relevant text below:

On each of your turns, you can use a bonus action to mentally command any creature you made with this spell if the creature is within 60 feet of you (if you control multiple creatures, you can command any or all of them at the same time, issuing the same command to each one).

This is an example of how other abilities and features should be read in the same manual. In this case, any indicates that you can select up to and including all of the minions under your control.

To further support this, pretty much every usage of the word any in the PHB denotes a selection among multiple options. There are literally hundreds of examples, dozens of which exist in the spell category, to peruse.

I am of the opinion that the wording here is indicative of the ability to speak to any creature within its range, which means it's not limited to one. If it was, it would have explicitly stated this in the same manner as a spell like Suggestion does (PHB pg. 279):

You suggest a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two) and magically influence a creature you can see within range that can hear and understand you.

Note that suggestion specifies a singular creature, not any creature within range.

Now let's compare it to a similar telepathy spell, Sending (PHB pg. 274):

You send a short message of twenty-five words or less to a creature with which you are familiar. The creature hears the message in its mind, recognizes you as the sender if it knows you, and can answer in a like manner immediately. The spell enables creatures with Intelligence scores of at least 1 to understand the meaning of your message.

You can send the message across any distance and even to other planes of existence, but if the target is on a different plane than you, there is a 5 percent chance that the message doesn't arrive.

All instances used here are explicitly singular.

The same applies for Telepathy (PHB pg. 281).

What this all suggests is that any is used when you have multiple targets, and the singular is explicitly stated.

So, with all that being said, logical arguments for both interpretations, singular and collective are sound. Ultimately, and lacking official ruling, this will require DM arbitration in your games. Since it's not 2 way communication without the receiver having some telepathic ability or skill, it's hardly overpowered.

I would personally rule it as able to hit multiple targets since the precedent is amply set by other spells and abilities that the usage of the word any is collective, not singular. When a spell is singular, it is normally explicitly detailed in that manner.

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Probably not

The first sentence of the feature description (like many/most feature descriptions) gives a general overview of what the feature does, or where/how you get the ability to do what it says. The second sentence onwards describes what that means mechanically.

In this case, the first sentence says:

Starting at 1st level, your alien knowledge gives you the ability to touch the minds of other creatures.

It tells you what in general the feature allows you to do (communicate telepathically) and where you get the ability from (your "alien knowledge").

The second sentence onwards tells you what that actually means, how it works, if there are any restrictions, etc.:

You can communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet of you. You don’t need to share a language with the creature for it to understand your telepathic utterances, but the creature must be able to understand at least one language.

The first sentence does not imply that you can communicate with multiple creatures at once. It's just generally describing your ability to "touch the minds" of creatures around you; if it said "touch the mind of a creature", it might confuse some people into thinking they could only communicate with one particular creature (ever) with the feature.

As Ryan Thompson points out in a comment, even if you don't think "any creature" is necessarily singular, the sentence that follows refers to "the creature" and "it", which are both unambiguously singular (and unlike "any" or "a", the word "the" refers to a definite noun rather than an indefinite one). As such, the feature seems intended to enable telepathic with communication with one creature at a time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem is not with the first line alone but in combination with "any creature you can see". If a single target was intended, then it should be "You can communicate telepathically with a creature you can see within 30 feet of you." The use of "any" leaves it open to define the set of "any". \$\endgroup\$ – schroeder Aug 26 '18 at 22:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Any creature" means "any creature", not "any number of creatures". It's singular for a reason. If you still find it confusing/ambiguous, I'd suggest tweeting Jeremy Crawford to ask him to clarify. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 26 '18 at 22:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree that "any creature" is unambiguously singular, but the sentence after refers to "the creature" and "it", which are both unambiguously singular, which makes it look like this is the right answer regardless. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Aug 27 '18 at 0:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson I hear you, but to me, it could be interpreted to mean "the creature you connect with", which if the "any" before meant "doesn't matter which one" would make sense in order to say that you do not need to choose a common language to use. In other words, "for each creature". \$\endgroup\$ – schroeder Aug 27 '18 at 7:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ While the second bit of Awakened Mind is undoubtedly singular, it's also from the receiver perspective which is of necessity singular because it's specifying that the creature hearing the message does not need to share a language in order to understand it. A strict reading still supports that the first bit of the feature is like a transmitting radio, and the second bit is each receiver that picks it up. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Aug 28 '18 at 4:39
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Most likely not.

The ability states:

You can communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet of you.

If you were supposed to be able to use Awakened Mind on multiple creatures, it would say

You can communicate telepathically with any creatures you can see within 30 feet of you.

It does not, however, so I think it's pretty unambiguously single-target.


Generally, D&D 5e tends to be rather explicit if you can do something, so I believe they would have written something like

You can simultaneously communicate telepathically with multiple creatures you can see within 30 feet of you.

if that were the intention.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I do not think that would be common grammar. "You can see any creature in front of you" seems more natural than "You can see any creatures in front of you", which sounds a bit clunky to me. And that means "any and all". \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Aug 27 '18 at 8:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega "You can see any creature/s" sounds weird as a standalone sentence regardless, but that's not what the feature description says. I agree with PixelMaster's interpretation; the actual quote and the proposed plural alternative both sound natural to me, but it uses the singular form. If it was intended to refer to multiple creatures, I think it would be explicit in stating so. In the absence of such phrasing, the singular interpretation seems more logical to me. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 27 '18 at 8:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ 5e tends to be explicit, so why doesn't it use 'target creature' or 'a creature' or any phrases explicitly meaning 'one at a time'? \$\endgroup\$ – lucasvw Aug 27 '18 at 11:15
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Yes

Let's look at the whole text of Awakened Mind:

Starting at 1st level, your alien knowledge gives you the ability to touch the minds of other creatures. You can communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet of you. You don't need to share a language with the creature for it to understand your telepathic utterances, but the creature must be able to understand at least one language.

Now let's break it into pieces. This ability allows you to communicate telepathically with any creature, but there are some requirements:

  • You must be able to see the creature
  • You must be within 30 feet of the creature
  • The creature must be able to understand at least one language

That's it. This ability does not require you to choose a target creature as so many spells and abilities do. It places no limit on how or when you can communicate, only that you can communicate with any creature if they meet the above requirements.

The answer by Lino Frank Ciaralli gives good examples of precedence for why the wording does not limit this ability to a single creature at a time.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your points do not support the theory you are trying to make. In fact, some undermine them. For instance, you state "Although the use of any can be ambiguous, the use here seems to indicate who you are able to communicate with, not how many at once." So you are pointing out that this phrase is not meant to suggest quantity. This infers that "any" is used to describe the type of creature this will work on. You also state that is spell "does not require you to choose a target creature." But if that was the case, then your message is broadcast to ALL creatures in range which clearly it does not. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Aug 28 '18 at 3:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ "this phrase is not meant to suggest quantity". That is exactly my point. Where in this ability is quantity, namely 'one creature at a time', specified? \$\endgroup\$ – lucasvw Aug 28 '18 at 3:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ By the phrase "the creature" in the description and "a creature" in the Sage Advice. Both of which means a single being. If the ability was meant to broadcast to multiple creatures in a single thought, then these two references would state as such. But instead, there are two separate sources with singular nouns. It is merely the fact that the opening statement of the ability correctly uses the grammatical plural "creatures" that is causing this debate. If it said, "...of a creature," then this would be reversed into "Can the character only talk to a single character ever?" \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Aug 28 '18 at 4:07
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No, as indicated by Sage Advice

See this Sage Advice article from July 2015:

Does the warlock’s Awakened Mind feature allow two-way telepathic communication?

The feature is intended to provide one-way communication. The warlock can use the feature to speak telepathically to a creature, but the feature doesn’t give that creature the ability to telepathically reply. In contrast, the telepathy ability that some monsters have (MM, 9) does make two-way communication possible.

Emphasis mine.

Once again, it very specifically calls out that you can talk to "a creature". You talk to one creature, and unless it has telepathic abilities as well, it cannot talk back.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed. The same question/answer is also reprinted in the Sage Advice Compendium. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 28 '18 at 0:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ This quote in no way suggests that the ability is limited to one creature at a time. \$\endgroup\$ – lucasvw Aug 28 '18 at 2:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer stresses "a" far too heavily, a word which is not found in the rules. Generally English is pretty flexible about allowing the indefinite article to stand in for a representative member of a class of things, and exceptions need to be stated pretty clearly. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Aug 28 '18 at 3:57

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