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I'm playing D&D 5th Edition. I'm a wizard 8 / artificer 2 with access to 5th-level spells. For the purposes of this question, I can cast any spell that is in the wizard spell list that's 5th level and lower, and any spell on the artificer spell list that's 1st level and lower, although I'm using one 4th slot on Galder's Speedy Courier.

In the speedy courier's box will be an item the wizard is returning to someone, and a note on paper that will be an apology - the problem is, we're not entirely sure what languages the someone in question can read. We are in a new land where our written common is not the same as the written common in the area - we've been able to manage with Tongues for the time being, but written is another issue.

How can I write something that anyone reading it, or at least our intended target, will be able to understand? Is there a spell that makes the text readable by anyone? I was considering using Magic Mouth, and implanting the spell on the paper, with the condition that it's picked up, but that would limit me to Sending's rules of 25 words, and at that point, I might as well use Sending. Is there any way I can write a page of text and have anyone able to read it? Would Illusory Script fit this bill, although they don't know our written languages?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE (or at least to the posting side)! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Sep 15, 2022 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ IIRC wizards only gain access to 5th level spells at level 9, so the highest level wizard spell you can prepare at level 8 is 4th level. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 15, 2022 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson Artificer multiclass. Have 5th level slots, and RAW allows you to add spells to your spellbook, even if you can't cast them. Mizzium Apparatus allows them to be cast. It's a weird niche case, but you can cast 5th level spells as a Wizard 8 / Artificer 1, if you're Izzet. \$\endgroup\$
    – SpaceMouse
    Sep 15, 2022 at 20:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SpaceMouse It looks like the Mizzium Apparatus should allow you to cast any 5th level wizard spell in this case, regardless of whether it's in your spellbook (pending a DC 20 Arcana check), which is sufficient for this question. But as far as I can tell you cannot scribe 5th levels spells until you are a wizard 9. From the PHB: "you can add it to your spellbook if it is of a spell level you can prepare" (which is up to 4th level for a wizard 8). \$\endgroup\$ Sep 15, 2022 at 23:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could write in simple pictograms, a la: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. (Only you're not limited to a Unicode character set, so you could just draw pictures.) Maybe not as precise as you need though... \$\endgroup\$ Sep 16, 2022 at 17:15

4 Answers 4

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Include a potion of comprehension in the chest.

If you can get your hands on (via purchase or crafting) a potion of comprehension, you can just include it in the chest with your written message:

When you drink this potion, you gain the effect of a comprehend languages spell for 1 hour. This liquid is a clear concoction with bits of salt and soot swirling in it.

The potion is a common magic item published in Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage. As a common item, it shouldn't be too difficult to acquire.

Alternatively, if you know the recipient can use a scroll of comprehend languages, that will work as well, though a potion does not require being a spellcaster to use. And so that the recipient knows who it is from and that the potion needs to be consumed, you can use magic mouth to include a brief message to this effect. This is probably the best option for leaving a magic item, as a helm of comprehend languages is considerably more valuable than a common potion.

Use the spell dream.

Dream (5th) is probably the easiest option for delivering the message if the target is a creature that sleeps, and doesn't require using Galder's speedy courier (4th):

You, or a willing creature you touch, enters a trance state, acting as a messenger. While in the trance, the messenger is aware of his or her surroundings, but can't take actions or move.

If the target is asleep, the messenger appears in the target's dreams and can converse with the target as long as it remains asleep, through the duration of the spell. The messenger can also shape the environment of the dream, creating landscapes, objects, and other images. The messenger can emerge from the trance at any time, ending the effect of the spell early. The target recalls the dream perfectly upon waking. If the target is awake when you cast the spell, the messenger knows it, and can either end the trance (and the spell) or wait for the target to fall asleep, at which point the messenger appears in the target's dreams.

This allows you to appear to the intended recipient in a dream and just have a conversation with them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hm! Now this is an idea. This doesn't return the item to them (the reason I'm using the Courier) but is a very good way to have an extended conversation with them! \$\endgroup\$
    – SpaceMouse
    Sep 15, 2022 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SpaceMouse Just added another option. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 15, 2022 at 14:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ How did I think of the Helm and Scrolls without thinking of potions... \$\endgroup\$
    – Grooke
    Sep 15, 2022 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aschepler Nope, not sure how that happened. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 16, 2022 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TonyEnnis The potion instructions are delivered audibly via the magic mouth spell. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 17, 2022 at 15:53
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Ask a local.

'What written language would anyone understand?' is a good one.

Find a scribe.

A good scribe should be able to write a few languages that are well known in the local area. Dictate your message to him, have him write it in a few languages. Likely even if your intended target doesn't speak those, if they are common enough, they can find a learned man to translate for them.

As you are a wizard, if you don't have the readies to pay for these services, you can potentially use any number of spells to earn enough currency to afford some advice and/or scribing services.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the baseline / sanity-check answer: if the means to do other answers aren't already at hand, this option sets an upper bound on how much trouble is necessary to solve the real problem of communicating, if you don't insist on using magic to do it. Of course we can dream up situations where there's value in allowing literally anyone to understand a message, e.g. leaving a time capsule for unknown beings from other planets or planes that might share no natural languages with you. Or where the recipient might be under time pressure. But not all future readers will have those constraints. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 16, 2022 at 6:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Using brains instead of magic, good good. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tony Ennis
    Sep 17, 2022 at 15:56
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Use Illusory Script

The 1st level wizard spell Illusory Script says

To you and any creatures you designate when you cast the spell, the writing appears normal, written in your hand, and conveys whatever meaning you intended when you wrote the text.

If you know enough about the recipient for you to "designate" them, include them in the spell. If not, designate "any creature". Then the meaning is "conveyed" to the recipient. The spell does not need to say the designated creature needs to be able to read a language you know or any language at all. The creature just needs to be able to see (or sense?) the writing affected by the magic.

Is this an abuse of Rules As Written going against Rules As Intended? Maybe, but the fact that the intended meaning is always conveyed guarantees there won't be issues with the ambiguities present in written (or spoken) languages. So something about the magic is using more than a language's words. It's not unreasonable to imagine that the magic can impart understanding, independently of the words. Or maybe even that the understanding is the main effect, and a literate reader's belief that the message contains certain words in a language they know is just a part of the illusion's apparent consistency.

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It might not be the most practical solution, but you could include a Helm of Comprehending Languages in the chest. This allows the wearer to cast Comprehend Languages at will.

For the duration, you understand the literal meaning of any spoken language that you hear. You also understand any written language that you see, but you must be touching the surface on which the words are written

A cheaper/smaller/lighter alternative would be to include a scroll of Comprehend Languages, but that would assume the receiver is or has access to a spellcaster that can use it.

Scrolls are written in a "mystical cipher" that anyone can read so long as the spell is on their list.

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