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I am looking for a spell that allows a character to enchant an existing document or tome so that it cannot be read until dispelled. The closest thing I can find is Illusory Script, but this requires the text to be written by the caster and also only lasts for 10 days. What I'm looking for seems straightforward— I just wanted to make sure there were no options like this in the source materials before creating a homebrew.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the text expected to stay near where you cast the spell on it? \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    May 20, 2021 at 8:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you just restrict physical access to the tome, with or without magic? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    May 20, 2021 at 10:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just use the AES-256 spell ;) \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2021 at 17:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Haveaniceday the original name sounds more DnDish : Rijndael \$\endgroup\$
    – Jon P
    May 21, 2021 at 6:38

3 Answers 3

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Copy the document into a password-protected spellshard (and destroy the original)

A spellshard is a magic item from Eberron: Rising from the Last War that essentially functions as an arcane E-book. Beyond fulfilling the normal functions of a paper book, one extra feature it provides is this:

When the shard is created, the creator can set a passphrase that must be spoken to access the information stored within.

Obviously, this isn't a spell, and it doesn't "encrypt" an existing document. In addition, the passphrase (or lack thereof) is set upon creation. So in order to use this as a solution, you will probably need to commission a bespoke spellshard, or create one yourself. Then you will need to copy the contents of the document you wish to protect into the spellshard and destroy the original unprotected copy, so that the only remaining copy of the information is protected behind the spellshard's passphrase.

If all of those conditions are acceptable, then this is an excellent solution, because as far as I know there is no RAW effect that bypasses the password protection, short of using a divination spell to discover the password itself.

Store the document (or spellshard) in a Secret Chest on the Ethereal Plane

If copying the document and destroying the original is not an option, you could also limit access to the document by storing it in a chest hidden using Leomund's Secret Chest. There is a one-time investment of 5050 gp for the material components, and you'll need to recast the spell about once a month, but the result is a chest that you can store safely and indefinitely on the Ethereal Plane and then summon to you on command:

While the chest remains on the Ethereal Plane, you can use an action and touch the replica to recall the chest. It appears in an unoccupied space on the ground within 5 feet of you. You can send the chest back to the Ethereal Plane by using an action and touching both the chest and the replica.

Any document stored in this chest cannot be read by anyone else unless you allow them to access the chest. Depending on how paranoid you are, you can combine this solution with Arcane Lock as well as a password-protected spellshard or Illusory Script for multiple layers of security.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The fact that it needs to be spoken leaves you open to eavesdropping, mundane or of a more magical sort. Plus I wonder if the protection can be dispelled by a sufficiently powerful wizard or cleric. But as long as the requirement is that it needs to be magical (as opposed to something a rogue could do), you probably can't do much better. \$\endgroup\$
    – Blindy
    May 20, 2021 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Blindy Personally I would rule that the protection and storage are the same "effect" and dispelling one without the other would at least require an additional difficult Arcana check, but some DMs would probably disagree (especially if they wanted that as an option for plot progression). \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2021 at 15:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ "there is no RAW effect that bypasses the password protection, short of using a divination spell" - Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. \$\endgroup\$
    – aroth
    May 21, 2021 at 3:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aroth Yes, I suppose strategic application of mundane research implements, such as a crowbar, could also be used to discover the password. (Yes, a crowbar is a research implement. Just ask Dr. Gordon Freeman, Ph.D.) \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2021 at 3:42
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The Linguist feat sort of lets you do this. It's not a spell, but it's the only official option I know that last indefinitely. It also doesn't work on existing documents, but you could make a copy.

You can ably create written ciphers. Others can't decipher a code you create unless you teach them, they succeed on an Intelligence check (DC equal to your Intelligence score + your proficiency bonus), or they use magic to decipher it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Looks like Homebrew Spell it is then! \$\endgroup\$
    – Trekkie
    May 20, 2021 at 6:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd wait a few more hours at least, I'm not omniscient and might have missed something ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    May 20, 2021 at 6:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik 24 to 48 hours are best because it'll give people from all timezones a shot at answering. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    May 20, 2021 at 7:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suspect the drawback here is that the protection can be defeated by a DC check. Difficult is not the same as impossible or nearly impossible. Otherwise, this is 🧑‍🍳💋. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tom
    May 20, 2021 at 23:28
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Arcane Lock

The spell arcane lock can prevent a "door, window, gate, chest, or other entryway" from opening (or, at least, make it much harder to open). Its duration is Until Dispelled. If the tome, book or document cannot be opened, it cannot be read.

The trick is locking the book. A chest is an odd one out in that list as it isn't an entryway. An enterprising spellcaster could make the case that a book or tome, as an object that can be opened, might also be a valid target for arcane lock, although it might be a stretch. Failing that, one could build a locking clasp or a tiny document-sized chest and cast arcane lock on that. Arcane lock also protects against breaking the thing it affects, so breaking open the chest or clasp doesn't make bypassing the lock any easier.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Clever, but would rely on the DM considering a book to be an "entryway" (unlikely, IMO). Chests are large enough (and often fixed in position) that they might conceal some type of hidden stairway. You can also get in a chest to hide or be carried if you're small enough. That's probably the thought behind listing a chest in the description. The same isn't really true for a book. Personally, as a DM I would not consider a book to be an entryway for the spell, however, if the book had a clasp of some kind then I would consider allowing it to be cast on the clasp (or a more appropriate spell). \$\endgroup\$
    – TylerH
    May 20, 2021 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH Hence why I present the Plan B of using a locking clasp or a small chest to secure the book. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    May 20, 2021 at 23:55

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