The description of the Ersatz Eye from Xanathar's Guide to Everything reads:

This artificial eye replaces a real one that was lost or removed. While the ersatz eye is embedded in your eye socket, it can’t be removed by anyone other than you, and you can see through the tiny orb as though it were a normal eye.

Upon reading this, my assumption was that a user attuned to it can see through it at all times. However, the sentence is written in what seems to be the most ambiguous way possible. If we take "and" as joining two independent clauses, then the sentence is equivalent to:

"You can see through the tiny orb as though it were a normal eye, and while the ersatz eye is embedded in your eye socket, it can’t be removed by anyone other than you."

This would imply that the user can see through it whether or not it's in their head. There are other ways to restructure this sentence with that implication - but there are certainly ways to read it which imply the opposite. If there was no comma before "and", or if there was a semicolon instead of a comma, then it would be a different matter. However, I believe that rules of English grammar alone will not suffice to resolve this.

Is there any reason to conclude that the eye cannot be seen through while it is removed from the user's head?

It seems to me that this ability is commensurate with an attunement slot in 5e. Its power would be handily limited by the requirements for attunement - if it's left somewhere for spying purposes, the user would have to be within 100 feet of it at least once every 24 hours. I can't say if it fits the power of a Common magic item, though. There are very few Common items which require attunement in 5e, though, and the only directly comparable ones seem to be from Eberron.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If you really believe that last paragraph, it'd probably be better to remove it and submit a self-answer to see if others agree. Questions are really best when they are just questions, submitting an answer in them can be confusing. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 6, 2021 at 12:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I'm probably phrasing it wrong, but I mean that last paragraph more as a series of assumptions which are likely to be refuted by answerers who know 5e front-to-back. \$\endgroup\$
    – recognizer
    Apr 7, 2021 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Those series of assumptions read like an answer to me and really aren't necessary in your question. In fact, making assumptions is generally not a great idea. Let the answerers develop their answers, trust the experts! \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 7, 2021 at 22:26

3 Answers 3


The key phrase here is at the start of the description:

This artificial eye replaces a real one that was lost or removed. While the ersatz eye is embedded in your eye socket...

And this from the magic item section of the Handbooks:

Using a magic item’s Properties might mean wearing or wielding it. A magic item meant to be worn must be donned in the intended fashion: boots go on the feet, gloves on the hands, hats and helmets on the head, and rings on the finger. Magic armor must be donned, a Shield strapped to the arm, a cloak fastened about the shoulders. A weapon must be held.

The item clearly states that its intended method of being worn is in an empty eye socket. It will not work if it is not correctly equipped.

Thus the grammar mistakes made by the publishers later in the section is a non-issue.

So when you remove the eye from your socket, you are no longer using it in its intended fashion, thus loose its benefit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "While the Ersatz Eye is embedded in your eye socket [...] you can see through it as though it were a normal eye.". The item clearly and explicitly calls out that it only functions while in the eye socket, so I would say yes, you have it right. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2021 at 5:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ This passage about the need to wear any wearable magic item is quite compelling, even when entirely setting aside the issue of grammar. I'm going to have to take a look and see if any other items have less obvious consequences due to being wearable! \$\endgroup\$
    – recognizer
    Apr 6, 2021 at 9:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm accepting this answer in part because there are very close analogies with other magic items. For instance, a player might wish to hide a magic necklace in their pocket so that no one will see them wearing it while they use it. Not the same type of benefit as holding one's eye to look around a corner, but exactly the same type of disallowed action. Something a DM might allow, but which the writers of 5e clearly placed outside RAW. \$\endgroup\$
    – recognizer
    Apr 7, 2021 at 22:29

You can only see through it when it is in your eye socket

Part of the description says:

and you can see through the tiny orb as though it were a normal eye

Normal eyes can't be seen through when they are outside of your body. If it could be used externally I'd also expect some text indicating limitations on use as it would be way too powerful otherwise.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to know what your basis is for the conclusion that it's too powerful. I have a hard time even thinking of a situation where a removable eye beats out, for instance, Clairvoyance. \$\endgroup\$
    – recognizer
    Apr 6, 2021 at 9:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @reco Clairvoyance is a spell and many classes do not get access to spells, let alone Clairvoyance, but any class could get access to the eye. Clairvoyance uses a 3rd level spell slot. If a character could use the eye as a remote sensor, it could indeed be quite powerful. I think the better phrasing would be that allowing vision through the eye while it was not actively being worn carries the potential for exploitation by the player. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Apr 6, 2021 at 19:14

There is no actual ambiguity

The phrase structure is as follows:

While A, B, and C.

The question is which of the following it actually is:

  • [While A, [B]], and C.
  • [While A, [B, and C]].

However, the first structure is ungrammatical in English and the following show this:

  • While driving home, I saw a dog, and I hate cats.

  • When eating food, I use a spoon, and I hate forks.

The first sentence is ungrammatical, and has the same structure as the first case. The second, at least for me, is similarly ungrammatical. I would not expect sentences of these sorts (though they are really the same sort) to be written into the standard English rules of 5e.

That shown, the only remaining wording of the sentence is this:

While the ersatz eye is embedded in your eye socket, [it can’t be removed by anyone other than you, and you can see through the tiny orb as though it were a normal eye.]

Meaning you can only see through the tiny orb as if it were a normal eye while it is embedded in your eye socket.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That isn't what "ungrammatical" means. Perhaps you mean to say that a fluent speaker of English wouldn't choose these structures in everyday speech. \$\endgroup\$
    – user31662
    Apr 6, 2021 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Greg That is precisely what ungrammatical means. It's not that they wouldn't choose such structures, it is that such structures, even when heard, would not be interpreted correctly. They would sound entirely off. It is an unacceptable sentence for most English speakers \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2021 at 21:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ How about: "While driving home, I saw a dog, and I hate dogs." This fits the English grammar rules perfectly, and would be chosen by a native speaker. Giving two negative examples does not suffice to rule out all positive examples. \$\endgroup\$
    – HolKann
    Apr 7, 2021 at 9:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Holkann That still doesn't work for me without putting an extreme amount of emphasis on the word "hate". It can also work if they are separate sentences entirely such as "While driving home, I saw a dog. And I hate dogs." And it should be noted that that is not the same thing \$\endgroup\$ Apr 7, 2021 at 13:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ "While driving home, I saw a dog, and I hate cats." is jarring, and indicates that something funny is going on with the sentence. "While driving home, I saw a dog, and I hate dogs." doesn't mean that the period of driving is at all connected to the hating of dogs, while the first one does; the "and I hate dogs" becomes a commentary on seeing a dog, not on the period which the hating is happening. The cat case is either a joke on the dog dog case, or implies that the hate of cats is connected to the driving, both of which are jarring. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Apr 7, 2021 at 13:32

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