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The Minor Illusion cantrip lets you create either an image or a sound for one minute. The text for the sound case says:

If you create a sound, its volume can range from a whisper to a scream. It can be your voice, someone else's voice, a lion's roar, a beating of drums, or any other sound you choose. The sound continues unabated throughout the duration, or you can make discrete sounds at different times before the spell ends.

When I create "a sound" as "discrete sounds", do the sounds have to be related to each other in any way? Can I create a lion's roar one moment, and a beating of drums the next? Can I start with the lion's roar, and then change my mind partway through the duration and switch to beating drums?

The confusing part is the use of the singular term "a sound", and the lack of clarity as to whether the choice of sound has to be specified when you initially cast the spell. I would not normally consider a whisper and a scream 1 minute apart to be the same sound. However, the wording suggests that it might be possible to cast Minor Illusion once and then get 1 minute of arbitrary unrelated sounds without using any additional actions (or even performing any additional somatic components or consuming bonus actions a la Unseen Servant).

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    \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth asking Jeremy Crawford for an official clarification. I suspect he'd say that the spell allows only one sound defined when the spell is cast, but I can't definitively make that statement based on the text alone. \$\endgroup\$ – Quadratic Wizard Jan 28 at 3:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Add answer content to your answer, not in comments please. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 28 at 4:01
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Yes and no.

You can think of Minor Illusion's sound as being a pre-recording. Much like the visual illusion, you choose what to make it sound like and look like, and then it plays out how you programmed it. If you cast it saying "I want it to sound like screaming for 1 round, then roar for 2 rounds, and then repeat", it can do that. Jeremy Crawford even confirms that the sounds can be as complex as speech.

However, much like how the illusion is unable to move, you cannot control the illusion once cast. For that, you'd want to upgrade to Major Image which is a concentration spell and specifies you can change the illusion as needed.

If you want to change what sound a minor illusion makes, you'll need to recast it and choose a different sound.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't noticed previously that Major Image specifically says you can use it to "carry on a conversation". This seems like a pretty strong argument for Minor Illusion not being able to carry on a conversation, i.e. it's a pre-recording. I'll accept this answer tomorrow if it still seems like the best. \$\endgroup\$ – Aaron Rotenberg Jan 28 at 15:52
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To answer this lets break the text down into parts:

If you create a sound, its volume can range from a whisper to a scream.

If you choose a sound the above shows how loud and how quiet it can be.

It can be your voice, someone else's voice, a lion's roar, a beating of drums, or any other sound you choose.

Above shows options of different things the chosen single sound can be. Anything from voices to specific sounds objects make when interacted with and then some.

The sound continues unabated throughout the duration, or you can make discrete sounds at different times before the spell ends.*

This gives two more options for that Specific sound.. Whether you want it to be continuous like an alarm or music etc. Or if you want it to be a discrete sound made at different times throughout duration like occasional chirps. however in the last part it says sounds this can be interpreted as plural versions of the chosen sound or as plural different sounds. Their is no RAW for what specific plural it is.

This is the issue you are running into but in 5e since specific beats general if they wanted you to be able to change the sound whenever during the duration it would specifically say. If they intended for it.to be multiple unrelated sounds it would state it instead of very clearly using Singular version of the word up until the point that the plain English 5e is built around forced them to say plural.

If developers wanted minor illusion to be able to do something that is like carrying on a conversation it would be stated just like it is in the 3rd level spell Major Image. If the developers wanted you to be able to control what it is specifically doing during the duration it would say. The text of minor illusion states things like Voices , Roars , and the like. Of they meant for it to do something more complex like state a sentence it would specifically say.

Quoting you as part of your question you already answer part of it yourself "I would not normally consider a whisper and a scream 1 minute apart to be the same sound."

the part you are reading and interprating as being able to use different sounds is only it stating sounds as a plural. If it wanted you to be able to make two completely un-related sounds it would specifically say.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Jeremy crawford has ruled that Minor Illusion can be used for speech and talking. twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/… \$\endgroup\$ – Miles Bedinger Jan 28 at 3:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ The person asking the question asked about the spell and I answered based off of the spell description, when I put answers I do not use sage advice because it is not official ruling and is only optional. He didn't give any insight into why he says its intended it that way or in what way the text of minor illusion backs why he says that. I simply broke down the writing of the spell plain and simple underneath the question in that same link is an un answered one if that more specefic question was answered in a specefic manner than I mightention it. \$\endgroup\$ – Deceptecium Jan 28 at 5:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ FYI, while not Rules as Written, Crawford's tweets can be "official". Related on Where do I find the official rules for D&D 5e?. There is some wiggle room (see the accepted answer) in that his tweets can be official but we just don't know which ones are or aren't. But his can be. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 29 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not gonna play the game of guess what is intended as official. If it is something that needs ruled it can just be ruled because in the end the PHB is just a guideline. I'm not gonna spend my time constantly looking up posts from designers when if they want it as errata or clarification they can just put it in book. Its cool that in terms of Errata and official ruling for AL it is. I'm not meaning official as the Official for sake of Errata and etc now if they went out and said This is official and is now RAW and will be in newly published phb ok cool. But I'm not hunting down tweets \$\endgroup\$ – Deceptecium Jan 29 at 20:08
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Discrete: individually separate and distinct.

Not only can they be unrelated, they are unrelated by definition.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Separate ≠ unrelated. Do you have a source that this is what the spell wording was intended to mean, rather than just that you can start and stop the sound instead of having a continuous noise? Also, this doesn't answer the part of the question about whether the discrete sounds can be chosen during the duration or have to be scheduled in advance at the beginning. \$\endgroup\$ – Aaron Rotenberg Jan 27 at 23:22

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