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Gem Dragonborn, from Fizban's Treasury of Dragons (p. 11), have the Psionic Mind trait:

You can send telepathic messages to any creature you can see within 30 feet of you. You don’t need to share a language with the creature for it to understand these messages, but it must be able to understand at least one language to comprehend them.

The summon elemental spell from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything (p. 111) says:

[The summoned elemental spirit] obeys your verbal commands (no action required by you).

Can a gem dragonborn use Psionic Mind to telepathically issue commands to a summoned elemental spirit?


I think it hinges on a couple things. One is "verbal". The spell does not say "spoken aloud". You can certainly verbalize in your head without saying anything, I'm doing it now, as I type.

Clearly the elemental understands the gem dragonborn. The question is, do commands have to be spoken aloud to be "issued"?

Obviously, in the end it's up to the GM, but I want to be informed for the discussion.

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Yes if you have any kind of reasonable DM.

I am not worrying in this answer about RAW, RAI or RA, other that RAF (rules as fun), and I never do, and would always encourage others to view DND in the same light.

A telepathic character essentially has a new form of communication that isn't standard, so we can't expect it to be covered on all the standard rules. It is little beyond a roleplaying gimmick so to not allow the player to make the most fun uses of things like this is against the spirit of the game and all DMs should be encouraged to allow it.

If I wanted a deaf character who communicates in sign language and my DM was pedantic about verbal communication I would probably be annoyed at them neutering my artistic vision for no reason, and this falls into exactly the same category. As a DM, don't be a killjoy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In this case, the DM's answer was "sure", pretty much along your lines, and my various arguments for why it works RAW weren't even needed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Jan 30, 2022 at 19:56
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No, there is a distinction between Verbal Commands and Mental Commands

When a spell or effect calls for you to issue a command to a creature, it will ask for a Verbal command or a Mental command. Consider the text of Dominate Person:

While the target is charmed, you have a telepathic link with it as long as the two of you are on the same plane of existence. You can use this telepathic link to issue commands to the creature while you are conscious (no action required), which it does its best to obey.

While there is no link between Verbal spell components and Verbal commands necessarily, please also consider the text of the Verbal spell component for a better understanding of what the system means by "Verbal"

Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The words themselves aren't the source of the spell's power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion. Thus, a character who is gagged or in an area of silence, such as one created by the silence spell, can't cast a spell with a verbal component.

It's likely the reason some things call for a "Verbal" command is so it can be blocked by the Silence spell. If a spell allows you to command a target mentally, it will say so in the text.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the stack Hikari, this is a great first answer! Take the tour when you have a moment, and if you have further questions about how things work here, visit the help center or our FAQ. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2022 at 5:31
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It can go either way

According to Merriam-Webster, verbal means:

  1. a: of, relating to, or consisting of words
    verbal instructions

    [...]

    c: consisting of or using words only and not involving action
    verbal abuse

[...]

  1. spoken rather than written
    a verbal contract

By one definition, verbal simply means "in words": that just leaves the questions of a. is telepathy "in words" and b. would the elemental follow my verbal instructions if they were written down, or in sign language rather than spoken.

By another definition, verbal means only using words rather than actions, this changes a. to is telepathy in words or is it an action? and for b. leads to the issue of if sign language is word or actions.

By yet a third definition it means "spoken rather than written"; which leaves question a. above and resolves the written part of b. but leaves the signing part to be resolved.

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Yes, at least in our case.

In our case the DM ruled that yes, a telepathic command counts as verbal. The basic reasoning is that since Psionic Mind requires that the target be able to comprehend a language, it follows that telepathic messages sent this way are understood in terms of language.

More importantly, the DM ruled that they weren't going to quibble over RAW, it seemed reasonable and not overpowered, and RAI, and they'd allow it.

The wizard in question frequently summons elemental spirits, particularly air, and uses Psionic Mind to communicate with them. It has worked out well over many game sessions.

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