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The encode thoughts cantrip is normally only available to characters with the Dimir Operative background, via the Dimir Guild Spells added to the character's spell list (GGtR, p. 46-47).

Is encode thoughts available to other characters who might get cantrips outside of traditional methods, such as the warlock's Pact of the Tome feature or the bard's Magical Secrets feature?

My intuition is no, because those features let you get cantrips off of class spell lists, but this cantrip is not on a class spell list.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So that's why I just got an upvote on this answer then... \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Jun 28 '20 at 11:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil maybe, maybe not. But definitely yes. I think the answer is no, but your answer doesn't spell it out (hehe) so I thought it would be worth a separate question \$\endgroup\$ Jun 28 '20 at 11:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ADDO Please don't answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Jun 28 '20 at 20:45
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There are no other ways to learn encode thoughts, and nothing short of a wish spell can allow you to cast encode thoughts without already knowing the cantrip.

The feats Spell Sniper and Magic Initiate, as well as the class features Pact of the Tome and Magical Secrets, and the All-Purpose Tool magic item, all specify that the selected spell comes from a class’s list.

Pact of the Tome:

choose three cantrips from any class’s spell list

Magical Secrets:

Choose two spells from any classes

Magic Initiate:

Choose a class: bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard. You learn two cantrips of your choice from that class's spell list.

Spell Sniper:

You learn one cantrip that requires an attack roll. Choose the cantrip from the bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard spell list.

All-Purpose Tool:

As an action, you can focus on the tool to channel your creative forces. Choose a cantrip that you don't know from any class list. For 8 hours, you can cast that cantrip, and it counts as an artificer cantrip for you.

Encode thoughts doesn’t appear on any class list.

Additional details: Encode thoughts cannot be stored in the magic item Spell Gem:

A spell gem can contain one spell from any class’s spell list.

An encode thoughts spell scroll would be unintelligible to everyone:

If the spell is on your class’s spell list, you can read the scroll and cast its spell without providing any material components. Otherwise, the scroll is unintelligible.

Other potential sources of cantrips that specify a class list: all other class features, aberrant dragon mark feat.

What about the Thief Rogue’s Use Magic Device and the Artificer’s Magic Item Savant with an encode thoughts spell scroll?

Both of these abilities say:

You ignore all class, race, and level requirements on the [use of magic items]

I argue that it still doesn’t work. These abilities let you ignore all class requirements. Trouble is, there are no class requirement to ignore. These two class features assume that there is some class based restriction we are ignoring that would normally be satisfied by having a particular class. Because there is no class that allows for casting encode thoughts, there is no proper class requirement to ignore with these class features. Rather, we observe that encode thoughts has a de facto character backstory requirement, something the Rogue and Artificer's abilities do not permit us to ignore.

Tasha’s contains a single-use method.

The release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything gives us a single-use magic item that can technically hold encode thoughts, the Spellwrought Tattoo:

Produced by a special needle, this magic tattoo contains a single spell of up to 5th level, wrought on your skin by a magic needle. To use the tattoo, you must hold the needle against your skin and speak the command word. The needle turns into ink that becomes the tattoo, which appears on the skin in whatever design you like. Once the tattoo is there, you can cast its spell, requiring no material components. The tattoo glows faintly while you cast the spell and for the spell’s duration. Once the spell ends, the tattoo vanishes from your skin.

So you can’t learn it still, but there is a way to cast it now without wish. That said, magic item acquisition is largely out of the control of the players, so you can still only cast encode thoughts if the DM wants you to cast encode thoughts.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're listing other cantrip sources that don't work: hat of wizardry, dark shard amulet, mizzium apparatus. There is the Spellwrought Tattoo, but that's UA. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Jun 28 '20 at 12:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ I’ll reorganize my answer when I have time later, and I’ll include all potential sources that don’t work as well as dndbeyond links and sourcebook page numbers. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 28 '20 at 12:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is one other way; artifacts with random properties might have a Minor Beneficial Property of "51–60 | While attuned to the artifact, you can use an action to cast one cantrip (chosen by the DM) from it." If the GM chooses encode thoughts you could cast it using the artifact. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1 '20 at 14:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your argument that "you must have levels in a class with encode thoughts on its spelllist" isn't "a class requirement" seems pretty shaky to me. Sure, there's no such class, but why does that affect what sort of restriction that sentence is? Surely "You must have the Big Cheese class feature to attune this item" is a class restriction even though no such class (or feature) exists... \$\endgroup\$ Aug 24 '20 at 17:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil The argument is that a class requirement is a requirement that you be a certain class. In this case, the restriction excludes all classes equally, so it's not a class requirement. I don't think this matters in practice because nobody's going to write an encode thoughts scroll in the first place. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Aug 24 '20 at 19:46
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Yes

The Spellwrought Tattoo from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything would allow you to use the encode thoughts cantrip.

This magic tattoo contains a single spell of up to 5th level, wrought on your skin, by a magic needle. To use the tattoo you must hold the needle against your skin and speak the command word. The needle turns into ink that becomes the tattoo, which appears on the skin in whatever design you like. Once the tattoo is there you can cast its spell, requiring no material components. The tattoo glows faintly while you cast the spell and for the spell's duration. Once the spell ends the tattoo vanishes from your skin.

The level of the spell in the tattoo determines the spell's saving throw DC, attack bonues, spellcasting ability modifier and rarity, as shown in the spellwrought tattoo table.

Spell level Rarity Spellcasting ability mod Save DC Attack Bonus
Cantrip Common +3 13 +5
1st Common +3 13 +5
2nd Uncommon +3 13 +5
3rd Uncommon +4 15 +7
4th Rare +4 15 +7
5th Rare +5 17 +9
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