In a discussion about how to covertly hide a spell, it was brought up that you might be able to disguise a spell with a verbal component by sneaking the spell component words into a normal conversation. Mxyzplk gives an example:

"Well, I was talking to <krztl quaranda> the other day and she said <shirak gumptiona>!"

Does a spell with a verbal have to have well-formed words in the correct order and nothing else, or can the spell fire off regardless of filler speech interjected into it?

Are there any examples in D&D material that reference the actual structure of a verbal component? What about Pathfinder's Words of Power?

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    \$\begingroup\$ great question. Something I've never thought of but can see a valid argument for both positions. Personally I think it's one of those they leave to groups to decide for themselves (like does dice that roll onto the floor get reroled or kept). \$\endgroup\$
    – Pulsehead
    Nov 2, 2012 at 19:06

2 Answers 2


Core D&D books have always deliberately stayed silent on the issue. (Get it? Silent? I crack myself up.) In Pathfinder, for example, the rules just say

Verbal (V)

A verbal component is a spoken incantation. To provide a verbal component, you must be able to speak in a strong voice. A silence spell or a gag spoils the incantation (and thus the spell). a spellcaster who has been deafened has a 20% chance of spoiling any spell with a verbal component that he tries to cast.

It doesn't specify language, format, length, etc.

Probably the most famous example of D&D verbal components, however, is the mage Raistlin from the Dragonlance novels, who always cast Light with the word Shirak. Go here to see a relevant quote from The Soulforge. There's some debate over whether that's a spell cast or a spell activation command word for his staff, but he also casts Sleep on someone with the words "Ast tasarak sinularan kyrnawi." That's their approach; most other gaming fiction BSes it away as "arcane syllables roll off the wizard's tongue..."

In general D&D tries to leave this undefined so that if in our campaign world you want arcane words that's fine, or if you want incantations or whatnot like the anime Slayers you can do that ("Darkness beyond twilight. Crimson beyond blood that flows..."), or Ars Magica real/foreign spell words ("Perdo Ignem!").

So the real answer to this is 'decide how you want it to work in your campaign!'

Having said that, a more recent example of "what spellcasting works like" is available in the Pathfinder comics (overseen by Paizo and some written by Paizo employees). There they appear to have made the artistic decision to use several of these models, the "weird words" model for arcane spellcasters and the "Slayers" model for clerics. See these panels starring the Pathfinder iconic NPCs:

Ezren and Seoni cast Ezren casts Kyra casts

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    \$\begingroup\$ Makes sense. This was the answer I was expecting, and +1 for including Dragonlance examples. Love those books. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Nov 4, 2012 at 15:51

I don't think there's any actual rule about the content of a spell's verbal component. That said, anyone observing you who has the Spellcraft skill can make a check to figure out what you're doing if your spell has a verbal or somatic component, so spell casting has some sort of telltale evidence that a trained eye can see unaided (and it's so specific that it can identify exactly what you're casting before it actually happens).

I guess the takeaway is whatever it is that gets said, those in the know can tell you're up to something in general and exactly what you're up to on a successful skill check? That Spellcraft can identify exactly what's going to happen should probably indicate that everybody who casts say Magic Missile has to say the same sort of thing to get it to happen.


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