Relating to Does 3.5e have an equivalent of the Psychic Paper from Doctor Who?

Are there any legitimate 5e spells/items/mechanics that reproduce the effect of the Psychic Paper from Doctor Who?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @StuperUser is there any particular reason why a DM can't just make up such an item? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Jul 3, 2019 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ "legitimate 5e spells/items" is not a strict criterion, many campaigns (including AL ones) have their own magic items and some introduce new spells as well \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Jul 3, 2019 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor because I am the DM, and I did and it played in a fun and productive way, but I'm asking for balance reasons. It could easily break RP encounters if abused by cheeky little munchkins. If it cost 1000pp for materials or is a 9th level spell, that's different to it being a reskin of a 1st level spell with 10gp worth of components. \$\endgroup\$
    – StuperUser
    Jul 3, 2019 at 16:30
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ "I'm asking for balance reasons" — you should say this in the question. Like, "If I introduce such an item, what would be its rarity and cost" @StuperUser \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Jul 3, 2019 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor "published spells/items" a perfectly valid criterion, which I think is what is meant here... \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Jul 3, 2019 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


A 6th-level Illusion Wizard with Illusory Script, Detect Thoughts, and Forgery Kit proficiency

Illusion Wizards get access to the following feature at 6th level:

Malleable Illusions. Starting at 6th level, when you cast an illusion spell that has a duration of 1 minute or longer, you can use your action to change the nature of that illusion (using the spell's normal parameters for the illusion), provided that you can see the illusion.

Combined with Illusory Script, this feature can be used to, as just a single action (and without any spell components that would make that action conspicuous), change the text on a Illusory-Script-ed piece of paper they can see.

So, as this Wizard, you can:

  1. Cast Illusory Script on a piece of paper. It doesn't matter what the original script says - designate no other creatures who can see the true script, so that all other creatures (without truesight) will see the illusory script. This is your "psychic paper".
  2. Cast Detect Thoughts out of sight of the gatekeeper/whoever you're trying to fool.
  3. Walk up to them demanding entrance. Use Detect Thoughts to guide your claims about who you are.
  4. When they ask for proof of your authority, get out your "psychic paper", unfolding it facing you. Use their surface thoughts about what they would expect to see on a document which actually proved your claims to guide your Malleable-Illusion changes to what the script says.
  5. Show your "psychic paper" to the gatekeeper. It says whatever they expected it would if it were legitimate.

The Forgery Kit proficiency is just bonus - as a DM I would rule this trick more likely to work if the wizard was also a skilled forger, as the result of their on-the-fly illusion change could then be even more authentic. Illusory script states the writing is "in your own hand" - so if the gatekeeper was expecting a specific hand he would recognise, being able to forge that (for a forger, "in your own hand" can become "in any hand you can forge with your own hand") might be a necessity rather than just a bonus.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch But (at least in the fantasy-medieval settings that comprise much of 5e), they are written in someone's hand - and how is the gatekeeper to know that it's yours? Your point may turn Forger's Kit proficiency from a bonus into a requirement - then "your own hand" can effectively be "any hand you can forge". \$\endgroup\$
    – Vigil
    Jul 3, 2019 at 16:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The way I read it, the only creatures you need to decide on at casting time are the ones who will be able to see the true text. Designate zero creatures when you cast the spell, and you and zero creatures see the true text, "This is my psychic paper." All other creatures see the illusory "He can do what he wants. --The King", written in the king's hand. \$\endgroup\$
    – AuxTaco
    Jul 3, 2019 at 23:38

Blank Paper and suggestion

Ultimately, the Doctor is simply convincing someone that the paper says something that makes sense to the viewer.

This can be done with the spell suggestion:

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. Creatures that can't be charmed are immune to this effect. The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the course of action sound reasonable. Asking the creature to stab itself, throw itself onto a spear, immolate itself, or do some other obviously harmful act ends the spell.

Is this a Course of Action?

The potential problem here is in how to interpret "course of action". Usually that implies that the suggestion is making the target "do" something. Whether or not "You read this paper to show that I'm [X]" is considered a 'course of activity' will be up to a DM to determine, but I'm having a hard time coming up with a good reason why it wouldn't work.

Is the Course of Action Reasonable?

AkA: These aren't the droids This is the paper that you're looking for

Suggestion still has the requirement that the course of action is reasonable. That's always the tricky part with this spell and can very much depend on DM decision.

But, one way that seems passable (to me as a DM), would be to suggest:

The paper you see provides credentials that will allow me past. You see this and allow me past.

At this point, you've made the potentially reasonable suggestion that they see exactly what they expect to see from someone they'd allow past. And then would do so because their narrative of why they'd allow you to pass has been met.

Basically, it's reasonable that they'd have visitors they allow past. They know who those visitors are. You are planting the suggestion that you are one of those visitors.

Difference from Psychic Paper

The big difference here is that you do need to 'prompt' the target as to how to read the paper. I think it still works from a Doctor Who lore perspective for suggestion to cover this, but it is a little bit clunkier.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I would probably argue that that isn't a "reasonable suggestion" - you are essentially trying to use "Suggestion" to cause a hallucination, saying "see something that isn't there". You then open up being able to "suggest" to an enemy that you are constantly standing 2-feet to the left of where you really are for combat purposes. Wording it as "I am allowed to be here, and I am running late - it's probably best you just let me through, so that neither of us get into trouble" is better, but removes the paper from the equation. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 4, 2019 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chronocidal THat's the difference between using suggestion and using it out of combat. In combat to create disadvantage or another mechanic is very different than an out of combat clever use. Whether your use suggestion or deception to try and convince someone still returns to the DM to make the decision of whether or not it's going to work/be reasonable. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jul 4, 2019 at 15:31

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