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The wizard in my campaign has just been petrified after his first encounter with a cockatrice. He had his familiar 'out' at the time of his petrification.

I'm sure that the intent of the rules is that this wizard can not communicate with his familiar whilst petrified (although I welcome suggestions to the contrary). However, I can't find anything in the rules which explicitly forbids it. The petrified condition imposes the following limitations (ignoring those with no bearing on this ruling):

  • A petrified creature is transformed, along with any nonmagical object it is wearing or carrying, into a solid inanimate substance (usually stone).
  • The creature is incapacitated
  • The creature can’t move or speak
  • The creature is unaware of its surroundings.

The incapacitated condition means only that the target can't take actions or reactions.

Communicating telepathically with the familiar conjured by the Find Familiar only requires that the familiar is within 100 feet of you. It does not:

  • Require an action
  • (Explicitly) require awareness of surroundings
  • Require movement or speech

Is it therefore possible (according to RAW) for a wizard to communicate telepathically with their familiar whilst petrified?

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This question is really two questions. The direct question is whether a petrified creature is capable of using telepathy; but the implied question is whether a petrified creature is conscious. If the creature is not able to think, then there are no thoughts to transmit.

The implied question has been asked before:

Does a petrified creature stay conscious (and mentally sane)?

To quote a bit of my answer from that question:

Other than the actual name of the condition, the "incapacitated, can't move or speak, and unaware of surroundings" bullet point is as close as the Unconscious condition ever gets to specifying that your mind is shut off, and that text is present in Petrified as well.

So, for whatever it's worth, it seems like Petrified includes the mental component of unconsciousness, in so far as that state is represented in rules text at all.

A DM could decide to rule the other way, but I think there's a point where we're all just supposed to understand from the simple word "petrified" that we're talking about turning a person to stone, and at that point they are a rock, only capable of doing what rocks do (to wit: be heavy and fall on things).

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No, they cannot

And I'm basing this mostly on this part of Petrified:

The creature is unaware of its surroundings.

This line is also present in the Unconscious condition and represents the Wizard's senses being shut down.

It does not make any exceptions for special senses, it just says you're not aware of anything going on outside your body. That means you have no idea where your familiar is, whether it's still alive, still in range, or where to reach it.

You could rule differently, but that would mean your Wizard can also communicate with their familiar while they're sleeping or knocked unconscious and dying. Those don't really make sense either, since the Wizard's mind isn't available to do anything in any of these situations.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically, they don't need to sense their familiar to send the message to it. They just wouldn't be able to hear any of the familiar's telepathic responses, or determine if the familiar actually received the message. "that would mean your Wizard can also communicate with their familiar while they're sleeping" Well, who's to say that the wizard can't send communications to the familiar from inside their dreams? \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Jun 9 at 16:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 it's one way to play it, of course. Like I said, you could rule differently :) \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jun 9 at 16:44
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No

One point that is unclear from those rules is whether telepathic communication is considered to be speech under the rules of D&D 5E. That is answered in the rules of a feat from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything:

You can speak telepathically to any creature you can see within 60 feet of you. Your telepathic utterances are in a language you know, and the creature understands you only if it knows that language. Your communication doesn't give the creature the ability to respond to you telepathically.

That rule clearly links speech and telepathy together. Since being petrified prevents speech, it also prevents telepathic communication.

Keep in mind, the rules don't always spell out things that is considers to be obvious. I don't believe that there are any rules specifically preventing a creature that is dead from taking actions as normal. It's just taken as being understood that dead creatures can't act on their own.

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    \$\begingroup\$ actually every telepathic ability works differently in terms of speech. Some, like the warlock awaken mind, requires the target to be able to speak at least one language, but doesn't have to be able to understand you. Others require a shared language, others like the monster ability, don't require any shared language at all. Also some use the word speak, and others communicate. Every telepathic ability is slightly different (feats, spells, monster abilities, etc.) \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew A DeMarco Jun 9 at 1:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AndrewADeMarco They do all work differently true, but I'm trying to establish the 5E considers telepathic communication to be speech regardless of what the source of the power is. About the only difference between the two words is that speech is saying something while communication is both that and having someone speak to you. \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Jun 9 at 2:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ that and you can communicate without speech, like we are right now by typing. Also body language, etc. what is stopping telepathy from being a different form of communication and not considered speech? \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew A DeMarco Jun 9 at 2:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AllanMills I always rule that telepathic communication w/ a familiar is independent of language, since casters don't share a language with their familiar. I take inspiration from the Telepathy spell, which involves sharing 'words, images, sounds and other sensory effects' \$\endgroup\$ – Lovell Jun 9 at 8:04

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