Something I've always wondered is what does a verbal component actually sounds like in-universe. Is it random sounds, gibberish, or do you anime it and chant something in actual words. Given that the deafened status applies a penalty it's safe to assume you have to be very accurate when doing your verbal components so I'd like to think it's not too hard to say. As far as I can find there's nothing that says what language, length, format etc. Other components are very clear on what you are actually doing and how you are doing it. The answer doesn't have to be stated directly in the rulebook but it must be from Paizo approved material.

Its also safe to assume spellcraft's identify function uses other things since spellcraft says "Identifying a spell as it is being cast requires no action, but you must be able to clearly see the spell as it is being cast, and this incurs the same penalties as a Perception skill check due to distance, poor conditions, and other factors." thus whatever allows you to identify the spell is visual not audible. As far as I know, there's no description as to what the inside of a spellbook looks like for all we know it could just be a bunch of magic circles. If it actually had words and used the owners language I'd argue you'd have to know the language it's written in. If it's in a universal language then I guess that would work but again I don't know what a spellbook looks like.

What does a verbal component actually sound like in practice?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I hate to ask, but would verbal components be the same across all languages or casters? Does everyone add in their fill for the spell which requires x length but only y of it is filled, thus the spellcheck to identify a spell you already have prepared. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fering I don't know that's why I'm asking. I tried to explain my reasoning best I can in an update to the op so look there. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 17:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ If this gif had sound, I think that would have the answer =/ \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 22:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Answers should likely include this FAQ. \$\endgroup\$
    – willuwontu
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 4:03

1 Answer 1


If this is defined, it is not an accepted definition.

Some author in some terrible splatbook may have decided to fill some pages by providing a guide as to how there's a 'language of magic' and how it sounds or whatever but that is in no way an accepted fact actually used in gaming groups that I have ever seen, anywhere, at any time.

People generally leave what magic sounds like up to the imagination of the individual. Sometimes players or GMs will chant some arcane words in-character to indicate spellcasting. This is sometimes drawn from existing real-world languages like latin, greek, or old russian. Sometimes it is ad-libbed. This occurs in a similar fashion to GMs or players roleplaying languages other players don't speak like Goblin or Orcish or whatever, but slightly less frequently. Often, such roleplaying is considered a hallmark of a 'good GM' or 'good group'.

In general, DnD is a storytelling game about making up details of situations that you are not physically present in. A creative, imagination game. Making up details like 'what does magic sound like' is part of the game and in many cases (and most groups) making up details about things that already have details embedded in the crusty depths of some rulebook is perfectly acceptable - either because searching for it for an hour is not considered fun, the details being made up are serviceable for the purposes of continuing the story, or they are having fun making up details as part of an imagination game where that is indeed a large part of the appeal.

There's some further inaccuracies in your question - Perception covers all five senses and distance penalties apply to hearing, smelling, even technically touching and tasting. Needing to be able to see something does not mean it is purely and only visual by any english reading of the term etc etc. Very few groups will take lines like that as hard rules and will usually do something like substitute (either explicitly or implicitly) something like 'perceive' for 'see' in that kind of sentence the very instant someone asks what check to make to identify a spell they can hear (but not see) a cultist chanting the words of.

Likewise I am unsure where you are getting that somatic, material or other components use in the creation of magic is better defined than verbal. Perhaps some crusty sourcebook has all the hand gestures magic requires listed somewhere? If so, i'd expect to see a source. The core rulebook just says that verbal components are an 'incantation', somatic components are 'precise gestures', material components are 'annihilated' in casting the spell etc. How exactly this happens has been described wildly differently - in groups where it's gone into at all that is, and not just 'I cast Sleep'. Not to mention there are descriptions in fluff text in rulebooks (and spell descriptions) that don't follow any specific rules as to how these form - witches that cast spells by dancing or inquisitors that denounce people as a verbal component and so on.

Overall I have seen very little indication of any kind that any of these terms have accepted or expected forms in any gaming group or even printed product. It seems wildly variable from person to person what they consider these terms to mean in practice, and only very few people have ever seemed to even think there should be a single definition for them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I thoroughly agree with most of this answer, but there are a couple of things to add. A few spell descriptions, such as burning hands, describe at least some of the somatic components in the rules. Most don't though. Also, some of the tie-in novels provide much more detailed descriptions of some spellcasting. That is far more along the lines of a GM adding descriptive flourishes than rules, but it seems worth mentioning for completeness. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 22:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel like there's an answer somewhere in her, but with probably too much padding. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 23:38

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