If a Bard has concerns that a statue or corpse is actually a dormant construct or an undead, can they cast the Message cantrip, and target the statue/corpse to determine if either is indeed a creature?

The Spell Target is "one creature/level". The Saving Throw & Spell Resistance is "none" and "no".


2 Answers 2


The message spell doesn't provide feedback

A caster doesn't know automatically when he's cast a spell on an invalid target; instead, nothing happens and the spell just fails. (On Spell Failure says, "If you ever try to cast a spell in conditions where the characteristics of the spell cannot be made to conform, the casting fails and the spell is wasted.") And that failure could've come about due to a variety of circumstances.

The only feedback a caster typically receives from any spell is the feedback from a spell that has both a Target entry and has a Saving Throw entry other than none. In that case, the caster learns only if the target succeeds on the saving throw against the spell. Other information must be gleaned from observation, special abilities, and as the result of the spell itself coming into effect. (See also Magic on Saving Throws.) (Note that the message spell has a Saving Throw entry of none; further, were the spell to have, for example, the entry Saving Throw: Will negates, an invalid target just wouldn't make the saving throw—therefore neither succeeding nor failing—, and the caster would still receive no feedback.)

This means that the simple act of casting the spell message on the typical wholly inanimate and totally-not-a-creature corpse or statue does not somehow provide feedback to the caster that reveals the spell failed—the caster lacks a heads-up display that flashes Invalid Target, for instance. However, because a typical wholly inanimate and totally-not-a-creature corpse or statue can't and won't be replying using the effect of the message spell, the caster may still surmise that target's nature.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ So could they instead spam flare or unwitting ally to see if the object ever succeeds? It sounds like the OP simply asked about the wrong spell to see if this method works. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 2:41
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @gatherer818 The spell flare wouldn't work—it doesn't have a Target entry—, but the spell unwitting ally would work… at least, against a living creature but still not against a dead creature, an undead creature, or a construct, which seems the question's thrust. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 7:22

Probably Not

A reading of the entry for this spell does not specify that the caster knows if the message is failed to be received, however if the target talked back to you, using its option to do so, it would certainly give it away. The overview rules on magic do not specify that you have any knowledge of the spell failing that I could find (unless the creature passed a saving throw against a targeted spell, and message does not offer a saving throw), so I would say, in general: No, you couldn't use this to determine if a statue or corpse is a creature reliably.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 6:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .