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Talking to items and gathering information from them can be very important. Asking them about how they were used, by whom, when etc. is the idea of my spell. It's similar to awaken but the item can only talk and remember.

Ask an item

4st level divination

Casting Time: 1 turn
Components: V, S, M (A tongue of an intelligent creature, 100 GP per question)
Duration: a few minutes

An item is woken to conscious, remembering all about how it was used and is able to speak.

The caster may ask the item 1 question about the item's past in 1 language the caster speaks.

The caster will roll a spellcasting ability check to determine if the item wants to answer. The personality of the item may hinder an interrogation so the DC will be (10 + 1d10 rolled by the DM). Any damage done to the item after casting ends the spell, a question that was not answered cannot be asked again for a week. An attempt to ask again or rephrase a question will offend the item and cause it to stop answering questions: start yelling, ignore the caster, cussing etc. according to DM's decision.

At higher levels each level adds one question available.

Examples for usage:

  • Ask a knife who wielded it.
  • Ask a door when was it last opened.
  • Ask a lock how to open it (may give advantage to picking it).
  • Ask a wall if a specific thing was said around it.
  • Ask a letter who wrote it.
  • Ask a torch how long does it have to burn.
  • Ask the floor when was it last washed.
  • Ask a box what did it have in it.

Is the level of the spell too high/low?

Is it balanced in comparison to other divination spells of this nature?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I was just about to pre-emptively post this before your edits but; please post follow-up iterations of the homebrew as new questions, not as edits to this question and wait at least 72 hours before doing so. It's also good if you can playtest the follow-up before posting the new iteration. We also recommend waiting at least 24 hours before accepting an answer to allow for other answers to be posted. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26 at 10:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ That could make a lot of new questions, is that common practice? I want to post another spell with a different questions \$\endgroup\$
    – Toma
    Apr 26 at 10:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't matter how many questions you ask, though I would highly suggest following Molot's advice on wording such spells before posting any others. As for posting following iterations as new questions instead of editing this one: editing this question would invalidate any existing answers and end up as a massive mess once new answers to the new edits are posted and it would snowball from there as you make more adjustments to this one question. Posting separate questions for each iteration means everything is easier to keep track of and vote on \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26 at 10:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ An important thing to know is that this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum and we work a bit differently to traditional forums. I suggest taking the tour and checking out the help center if you would like to get more of an idea of how the site works. But stick around, ask and answer questions (don't take it too hard if your first few questions or answers get downvoted, it can take a while to get used to the quality standards of the site) and you'll soon get the hang of it. If you want you can also check out the faq over on the meta site which will hopefully help as well. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26 at 10:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Slight aside: The ability to "read" objects is often called "psychometry". I believe this ability existed in a previous psionics book. \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Apr 26 at 10:40
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First of all...

...cool idea for a spell. It's an interesting expansion for the game's magic tool set. But there are some issues:

Items with Self-Awareness

That's not directly a balancing issue, but there are many open questions. If you can talk to items and the items can answer your questions... Can they lie? Can they lure you into an ambush? Are they loyal to their former owner? Can they decide whether to tell the truth or a lie? And if, how do you determine that? Is an item influenced by a Zone of Truth for example?

Or is it more like you can sense the surroundings of the item during the last X hours/days/whatever? In that case, I'd recommend to solve it like described in Find Familiar

While your familiar is within 100 feet of you, you can communicate with it telepathically. Additionally, as an action, you can see through your familiar's eyes and hear what it hears until the start of your next turn, gaining the benefits of any special senses that the familiar has. During this time, you are deaf and blind with regard to your own senses.

Wich is better depends on your campaign-setting. If in your campaign setting all objects have a consciousness go with it. It can be a cool asset. But if objects in your setting work like in every other setting, don't ask questions your campaign setting doesn't answer itself. Don't answer those questions (regarding objects' self-awareness) through a spell.

The Spell's Cost

That's dang pricey. 100gp per question is way to high. Compare it to Divination (4th level Cleric spell).

incense and a sacrificial offering appropriate to your religion, together worth at least 25 gp, which the spell consumes

Where Divination asks for a single event that will happen up to 7 days in the future, your spell asks for a single event in the past of the touched item. So they should be comparable. Hence: 25gp instead of 100gp.

Further there are no spell costs that rise with spell increments. So give it a flat cost and ask about a particular event or time frame within the last 7 days. Again, compare it to Divination (again the spell not the school). At many points it works like the opposite of your spell. So can compare the power level.

The Wording

I know, I get nitpicky... but right now, your spell needs a tongue (that can be substituted through a spell focus) and 100gp per question, that the spell doesn't consume. So if you want to ask 4 questions you had to have 400gp in your wallet for example. I doubt this is intentional.

Is it balanced?

Besides the mentioned issues... yes, I think it's okay for a 4th level spell, because it's somewhat on par with Divination that is also a 4th level divination spell. Just lower the costs to a flat 25gp and think about the questions I asked regarding the item's self-awareness. If you want conscious items, go for it... in that case I think 3rd level could be okay, too. Because if there's the possibility that an object can tell you fairy tales, it's a major decrement you can account through a lower spell level.

As promised in the comments

Speak with Object

3rd Level Divination

Casting Time: 1 Action

Range: Touch

Components: V,S,M (a tongue of an intelligent creature and incenses worth 25gp, which the spell consumes)

Duration: 10 minutes

For the duration of this spell you imbue a touched object with a temporary consciousness. It gains the ability to understand and speak one language the caster is able to comprehend and that can be heard in a 30ft radius. If not determined hidden by the DM the object is neutral towards the caster. For the duration of that spell, you can ask the item up to five questions (like in Speak with Dead). Depending on how the object's personality stands towards the caster it can answer a question truthfully or tell a lie. It can only answer questions about things that happened in their closest surroundings during their lifetime. For example: The names of former owners, the location and time of its creation or where it was stored, the name of its creator, information about other items that the object was stored next to, specific information that was talked about while the object was around, if the object spoke to someone through this spell in the past etc. Questions the object doesn't know result in useless information or a lie but count against the maximum number of five questions.

Classes: Bard, Artificer, Wizard, Sorcerer

(Disclaimer: I'm not a native English speaker... so, sorry for wrong grammar or strange sentences... you maybe have to tweak it a bit)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ 1) yes they can lie, if you role a 1 or just really low your DM can decide to lie to you. It's not straightforward as I do magic boom I get all answers I need. The answer depends on the spellcasting check If DM didn't say otherwise. Not ignoring other spells and conditions would just complicate things like adding charisma checks, persuasion and deception checks against the item. could be but only if the DM wants to not solve all that with 1 roll. \$\endgroup\$
    – Toma
    Apr 27 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ 2) The item speaks in a voice that others can hear and understand too, Depending on the language. If the DM wants it a mouth grows from the item as it speaks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Toma
    Apr 27 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ 3) yes I know. I'll post a new version as soon as I gather enough commentary. Price has sunk :) You could ask the item anything, an ancient item could answer about mythical events and so on. I see no reason for limitation on that. Of course the more resent things could be better used by a player but that's not always the case. \$\endgroup\$
    – Toma
    Apr 27 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ 4) Please give me all the nitpicky commentary you have :) The wording will also be changed in the next version. It was intentional but also a bad idea :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Toma
    Apr 27 at 13:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll add the wording to my answer. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 27 at 13:52
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While I don't feel overly qualified to judge the balance, I can point out some issues with how this spell is worded.

I believe we should use Speak with Plants as our basis of comparison, because your spell is about something really similar. Your spell is more useful as items have more chances to gather intel, so making it level higher makes sense.

Casting Time: 1 turn

I see no reason for it to be anything else than 1 action. Spell filter on D&D Beyond does not show "1 turn" as a viable casting time.

Duration: a few minutes

Be precise. The way it is now invites arguments about "how many is a few?". Just say it is 10 minutes.

Components: V, S, M (A tongue of an intelligent creature, 100 GP per question)

I know of no spells that have increased cost with upcasting. I don't believe it is beneficial in any way. Especially if it is not consumed by the spell. A tongue of an intelligent creature is also not realistic to cost 100gp when you can slay goblins by the dozen.

Be precise about what is supposed to be worth 100gp, your current wording is ambiguous. Looking at other spells, "rare herbs and oils" would be a decent way to deal with it. So maybe make it "tongue of an intelligent creature, mummified with rare herbs and oils, worth minimum 100gp"?

DC will be (10 + 1d10 rolled by the DM)

Opposed checks are not something used in D&D 5e often, and for a good reason. Caster already paid the spell slot and gp price. No point in denying him that answer. And especially no point of him not knowing what chance does he have to get the answer.

An item is woken to conscious, remembering all about how it was used and is able to speak.

Without time limit on how long item can remember things, this can get weird in the world of relics from ages past.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A tongue of an intelligent creature might be worth 100g when you realize it has to be preserved on some way and might fall under black market goods. And for reference speak with plants only allows answers to questions about the previous day. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Apr 26 at 14:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @John if it needs to be specially prepared, spell description should take care to tell that directly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Apr 26 at 16:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I'm just that kind of DM, but if it is not preserved you will be buying a new one every few weeks as it rots. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Apr 26 at 17:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the cost is too high now, for low level characters it would be unattainable and that would be unbalanced. I'm still not sure but maybe a symbolic 1GP per question for something like silver dust is better. \$\endgroup\$
    – Toma
    Apr 26 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @John Right now... how the wording says, you need a tongue that can be substituted through a casting focus and additional 100gp, that the spell doesn't consume. I doubt that it was intended this way but that'd be RAW \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26 at 18:40
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This seems a bit too weak as currently written.

If we compare the various Divination spells, then at level 1 - 3 we have the option to speak with Beasts (might have seen something, but keep their animal intelligence) Plants (unlikely to know much) and then Corpses (highly likely to have relevant information, but might mean your quest is already going poorly).

Then at levels 4-5 we start getting Divination and Commune, which is asking questions literally to the deities of the world, who know far more and about things you don't currently have in your hands.

Your spell lets you talk with an object on hand, regarding things that happened to it directly. It also allows only 1 question, and it's expensive. As currently written, you might as well cast Divination, hold up the item and ask your deity the same question you'd ask the item directly.

I'd personally increase the number of questions and remove the chance of the item not wanting to talk, to make it a little better than just Divining the answer. But I'd keep it at level 4, because many stories revolve around important items and getting answers from them is often better than getting them from a corpse (which you might not have, or might not like you).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I lowered the level to 3rd level, but I think that items have a very good chance to give good info so it's not a good idea to lower it more. I removed the cost and increased to 3 questions \$\endgroup\$
    – Toma
    Apr 26 at 10:19

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