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Can an Order of Scribes Wizard's Awakened Spellbook communicate in any way? This seems like it would be up to the DM but it's not clear whether it is a possibility or an expectation.

Arguments against communication

No rules text gives the spellbook any languages or abilities to communicate, either by speech or telepathically.

The spellbook is not given the ability to perform any actions independently from its user.

Arguments for communication

The description of the subclass references the Awakened Spellbook as a companion one can talk to.

And while all wizards value spellbooks, a wizard in the Order of Scribes magically awakens their book, turning it into a trusted companion. All wizards study books, but a wizardly scribe talks to theirs!

The Awakened Spellbook feature states that the book is sentient.

Using specially prepared inks and ancient incantations passed down by your wizardly order, you have awakened an arcane sentience within your spellbook.

Beyond that, the subclass features refer to the Awakened Spellbook's mind as an entity able to take a person's spectral form, who is able to help on certain skill checks and which has a soul.

Finally, an ability for a sentient magic item to perform actions independently of its user is not unusual for sentient magic items.

In-game treatment

Given all this, how should the Awakened Spellbook be treated?

  • Using the rules for sentient magic items? (DMG p.214)
  • As a sentient but unintelligent entity which doesn't communicate, as would be the case of a familiar obtained from Find Familiar without Pact of the Chain?
  • Some other way?
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Yes, but only at level 6.

Per Manifest Mind:

While manifested, the spectral mind can hear and see, and it has darkvision with a range of 60 feet. The mind can telepathically share with you what it sees and hears (no action required).

So while it does gain the ability to "communicate in any way", I would argue that it does not gain a language. The description of the awakened spellbook lacks the phrasing of granting it a language, such as in Awaken:

The target gains an Intelligence of 10. The target also gains the ability to speak one language you know.

You bring up an interesting point about the Sentient Magic Items in the DMG, as the DM could rule that it gains the properties of a sentient magic item. I would argue that the wording doesn't make the spellbook a magic item, it simply has a spirit inhabiting it, much like Find Familiar. For one, a sentient magic item has Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores, while the Awakened Spellbook does not explicitly gain these scores. If you look at the Sentience property of Blackrazor, Moonblade, Wave, and Whelm (pages 216 - 218 in the DMG), you see that they each explicitly state the alignment, ability scores, senses, and method of communication. For Further evidence of this, the Artificer class ability "Infuse Item" explicitly states:

Whenever you finish a long rest, you can touch a non-magical object and imbue it with one of your artificer infusions, turning it into a magic item.

This Wizard subclass lacks this wording, which seems to indicate that this awakened spellbook is not a magic item.

Additionally, I think the idea that the spellbook itself is not a magic item but just a vessel for the sentience is supported by the ability to summon the sentience into a new book, and the old spellbook is wiped blank.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Addition to the magic item part: I think this is intentional, as magic items are extraordinarily durable. Giving the spellbook such a security upgrade was not intended \$\endgroup\$ – Hobbamok Apr 22 at 15:28
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At level 6, yes

The wording of the Awakened Mind text is, to me, quite clear. It describes wat the book can do and nothing there indicates that communication is possible.

However, at level 6, Manifest Mind kicks in, which, among other things, does this: (emphasis mine)

While manifested, the spectral mind can hear and see, and it has darkvision with a range of 60 feet. The mind can telepathically share with you what it sees and hears (no action required).

Now counts as communication (just). It isn't going to allow a back and forth on a myriad of topics, it's quite limited.

Maybe, at level 14?

The One with the Word feature, available at level 14, has another aspect that may count as active communication:

you have advantage on all Intelligence (Arcana) checks, as the spellbook helps you remember magical lore

There is scope to describe exactly how the spellbook helps you remember magical lore so I think a DM could allow that to extend to actual conversation on that particular topic. I doubt that is how it is intended but that's just my opinion.

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