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The bard in my group lost his mother and 2 sisters under mysterious circumstances. Unbeknownst to him (or them) his father traded the wife and children to Asmodeus in exchange for success in business.

The bard just turned 5th level and has announced that next session he is using Sending to contact his mother and/or sisters.

I haven’t completely settled on whether or not they still live a tortured existence as playthings for Asmodeus’s favored minions or if they are dead and their souls are continually tormented. (Very dark part of the campaign, I know.)

If they have been slain will the bard’s sending be able to contact them or does Sending only work on the living?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Can you use Sending on a dead creature? (May be a duplicate, but the question here has some devilish complications thrown in). \$\endgroup\$ May 2, 2022 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin Do you not think that yours is a duplicate? What do you think is different when you asked yours? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 2, 2022 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Is a soul a spirit or a creature and Could Sending be used to message a reborn creature? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 2, 2022 at 19:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Most importantly, Howdy Eric J! Welcome to our stack - this is a pretty awesome scenario that's played out with your players. If you'd like to learn more about how we operate, please take the tour and you can dig on deeper in our help center as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 2, 2022 at 20:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nautarch: In spite of the title here, this question is about reaching the soul of someone who died, like in the question I linked, or who went to hell. I think that other question has the same answer as this one, although I believe the answers here explore the matter more thoroughly now. And I do not think this one is a straight duplicate, because the victims might still be alive but in hell, and in particular are under the dominion of Asmodeus. \$\endgroup\$ May 2, 2022 at 20:13

3 Answers 3

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Sending would not work for contacting the dead

The first line of the spell:

You send a short message of twenty-five words or less to a creature with which you are familiar.

You must choose a creature to hear the message. Since death causes a creature to, in game vernacular, change from a "creature" to an "object", with regards to targeting, the spell will fail.

However, you did mention in the question that they might not be dead. If that is the case, it should work barring other problems:

  • Torture includes being in an anti-magic zone
  • They live on a different plane (5% failure rate)
  • Asmodeus has other powers to prevent it from working
  • Etc...
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  • \$\begingroup\$ What if a wizard magic jarred and his soul inhabits another body, would Sending contact them in that body? If so, where the body is really would not matter, but where the soul is would. \$\endgroup\$ May 2, 2022 at 7:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin, feel free to ask that as a separate question. That's not life/death like we're talking about here. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    May 2, 2022 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ This reads like they would be targeting the corpse, but they are actually trying to reach the soul. Are you saying that is also an object? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    May 2, 2022 at 17:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri, I'm saying the soul is not a creature so it is an invalid target. The corpse is an object, and the soul is an undefined. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    May 2, 2022 at 18:28
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Sending likely cannot contact the soul

Sending says

You send a short message of twenty-five words or less to a creature with which you are familiar.

Creature: It is unlikely to work, because sending needs a creature to target. The former creature they are trying to contact consisted of a body and a soul,

  • the body now that they are dead counts as an object
  • the soul of a creature is not the same as the former creature. Whether a soul or spirit counts as a creature at all is not entirely clear, but I think it does not, unless it got turned into a ghost, specter, or similar entity.

So the spell would not work. What the caster knew as a creature to contact now is part object and part up to the DM, but probably not a creature.

Familiar: the body of a creature can be polymorphed, petrified, and exchanged in many other ways by magic such as the Clone, Magic Jar and Reincarnation spells. For example, if your character's soul were to inhabit a new body from Clone, and you were contacted by Sending, no matter if the old body lies rotting in a dungeon somewhere, you would expect the sending to reach you.

If the DM rules that the soul is really what makes the essence of a creature, and souls count as creatures, sending also demands you are familiar with the creature, and this is a hurdle the DM will need to allow you to clear, too. Are you still familiar, when the target has changed in such a substantial way?

Lastly, whether alive or as souls, it certainly would be within Asmodeus's power to block sending (it is not a divination spell, so normal anti-divination measures do not work, but Asmodeus is a deity).

So, in essence, you can decide if you want them to be able to reach their relatives, or not, but the rules would point to no.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have a question about what counts as familiar when using sending. It would be interesting to hear your take. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    May 2, 2022 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott, interesting question. I did answer the one you linked to, here. I guess I am not supposed to provide answers in comments; given that most definitions of familiar (except Scrying's) do not have that high a bar to clear, I would tend to agree with your accepted answer. \$\endgroup\$ May 2, 2022 at 16:57
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It is up to the DM to turn this into an interesting story.

As other answers have noted, RAW the spell only works on living creatures. Even if you decide they still live somewhere in the Nine Hells, Asmodeus probably has measures against such spells to reach his prisoners.

However, just disallowing it would be "boring and therefore wrong (tm)". Instead, think of how this could lead to an interesting story arc. Here's how I would solve this:

When the Bard casts sending, instead of his family, he manages to contact some minion of Asmodeus, who (after a lot of chatting) might propose the following:

"The souls of these people have bored my lord, who is searching for someone of more potential, of ambition. Someone like that would make a fine addition to his collection of fiends. As such he is willing to make a trade. Give him the soul of the one that sent these useless mortals into his realm, or someone of similar capabilities, and he will trade them for the mortals you seek"

This way, your bard gets sent on a quest to find the one who sold them (his father) and trade him in for the others. First he has to find out it was his father who did this, and then the bard needs to either murder him in Asmodeus' name with the proper rites, or if he does not want to do this, he has to trade his own soul for those of his family members. I think a devil like Asmodeus would be far more interested in a greedy businessman or a powerful bard than a couple of poor girls (which I assume to be less powerful than both the Bard and the father, because otherwise the father would not be able to sacrifice them so easily without their consent).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much. That was my inclination; to make it interesting. I was going to allow it and have the mother be confused as to what is happening. Screaming in constant pain not knowing why or even that she is dead. Begging. the bard to help her snd the sisters. Telling him to tell his father believing the father would do anything to save his wife not knowing he sent her there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eric J
    May 3, 2022 at 16:21

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