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In D&D 5e, the Awaken spell allows a gain of intelligence and ability:

After spending the casting time tracing magical pathways within a precious gemstone, you touch a Huge or smaller beast or plant. The target must have either no Intelligence score or an Intelligence of 3 or less. The target gains an Intelligence of 10.

How does one get this Awaken spell to work on plants or animals with an Intelligence score higher than 3?


The baboon and some giant creatures have an Intelligence of 4 (or greater). Even the Shambling Mound would be an amazing pet (for a month), were it not so deeply clever. Yet, if high school taught us anything, baseline and expected intelligence is not guaranteed. Perhaps there is a work-around?

  • Give the target a Feeblemind spell first.

  • Enroll them in high-contact American sports.

  • Polymorph them into a more-stupid beast, then they change back smarter! Though StackExchange gave this one a complicated answer.

  • Admit that the author is probably making a bigger deal out of this than necessary and just House Rule the damn thing.

How can one imbue bonus Intelligence (and myriad abilities) to plants and/or beasts with a wee bit too much Intelligence?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It should be noted that ability scores for creatures only represent an average creature of that type. Just like a standard human can have an Int as high as 16 or as low as 8, creatures can have stat variance as well. \$\endgroup\$ – BaconyRevanant Jul 29 '20 at 14:11
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You have to reduce their Intelligence below the threshold

You will need to reduce their Intelligence in order for this to work.

Wishcould potentially be used to do this, but may come with its own consequences for a request like that.

Here are a few more options.

Both of the options below require giving an NPC an immensely powerful item or arranging for a very strong relationship between the NPC and a demon lord.

Giving an artifact with major detrimental properties to the creature

The DMG has an option for DMs to give artifacts (and other magical items) beneficial and detrimental properties:

Each artifact has its own magical properties, as other magic items do, and the properties are often exceptionally powerful. An artifact might have other properties that are either beneficial or detrimental. You can choose such properties from the tables in this section or determine them randomly. You can also invent new beneficial and detrimental properties. These properties typically change each time an artifact appears in the world.

An artifact can have as many as four minor beneficial properties and two major beneficial properties. It can have as many as four minor detrimental properties and two major detrimental properties.

If you were to gain access to an artifact, and have it exhibit the following major detrimental property, then it could work:

When you become attuned to the artifact, one of your ability scores is reduced by 2 at random. A greater restoration spell restores the ability to normal.

However, you would need get an artifact and have the creature attune to it. And have either the DM provide this property or have it randomized.

Giving a deck of many things to a creature and hoping they pull the right card

Thomas Markov's answer suggests this as another possibility. The Idiot card in the deck of many things says:

Idiot. Permanently reduce your Intelligence by 1d4 + 1 (to a minimum score of 1). You can draw one additional card beyond your declared draws.

Demonic Boon

Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes relates that NPCs/Monsters may given a boon by the DM in relation to a Demon lord. The Jubilex is able to offer:

Up to a +8 bonus to Constitution, with an equal penalty to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "You can choose such properties from the tables in this section or determine them randomly." \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jul 28 '20 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Yes: 'Just find a slightly-stupid version of creature you want to Awaken'. I think this is as good an answer as one could expect, thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim of Time Jul 28 '20 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why does the Intelligence change have to be permanent? The duration of awaken is Instantaneous, so only the state of the target at the time of casting is important. If it was not, then awaken would make the target an invalid target for awaken and the spell would negate itself. \$\endgroup\$ – BBeast Jul 29 '20 at 9:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch 'M's T.o.F.' p. 30: " - "Jubilex Ability Score Adjustment: Up to +8 bonus to Constitution, with an equal penalty to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma" (my edition is missing a period-dot at the end - but this is an exact quote here) - do you mean that a 'penalty' is not a reduction? Zuggtomoy's cult offers +4 Constitution with 'equal penalty' to Int, Wis & Cha. Yeenoghhu also offers reductions, but he tends to be more selective for his cult-memberships ('may or may not accept baboons'). \$\endgroup\$ – Tim of Time Jul 29 '20 at 15:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimofTime I'll try and add that in later when I've got time \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 29 '20 at 16:06
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It's a long shot, but it might be possible with the Deck of Many Things.

As noted in NautArch's answer, "you have to reduce their intelligence below the threshold."

There is one infamous item capable of doing this: The Deck of Many Things. When you draw the Idiot from the deck,

Permanently reduce your Intelligence by 1d4 + 1 (to a minimum score of 1). You can draw one additional card beyond your declared draws.

But, there are some hurdles here. The Deck of Many Things requires:

Before you draw a card, you must declare how many cards you intend to draw.

This may prove quite the obstacle, but could possibly be overcome with a spell such as tongues:

This spell grants the creature you touch the ability to understand any spoken language it hears. Moreover, when the target speaks, any creature that knows at least one language and can hear the target understands what it says.

It will largely be up to the DM if they will allow a baboon to declare and draw from the deck. But what's the worse that could happen? Probably a baboon drawing The Fates:

Reality's fabric unravels and spins anew, allowing you to avoid or erase one event as if it never happened. You can use the card's magic as soon as you draw the card or at any other time before you die.

A baboon drawing The Fates is a creative DM's playground.

If we're lucky, the baboon draws the Idiot and becomes stupid enough to be awakened.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The bard does the intro: "That group of baboons drew many cards that day. Many died, sure... but many did well. Someone took pity on the last one, the stupid one, the one that would not let go of the deck - and look, why, there he is walking in just now." Love it. What could possibly go wrong with introducing a 'Deck of Many Things' into a D&D campaign? Safe bet for sure. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim of Time Jul 28 '20 at 22:38

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