Can a character that is naturally blind but has blindsense read a scroll or a magic book to learn a spell? What about if you cast Read Magic?


1 Answer 1


Blindsight never allows a creature to distinguish color or visual contrast. A creature cannot read with blindsight.

Other creatures have blindsense, a lesser ability that lets the creature notice things it cannot see, but without the precision of blindsight.

Blindsight cannot be used to read, and blindsense is “a lesser ability” “without the precision of blindsight,” so it should not have a significant ability requiring considerable precision that blindsight explicitly lacks.

As From pointed out, we have a Q&A about reading with blindsight when blind, all of which should work equally well for blindsense. (Actually, all of them appear to work when you’re just blind with no compensating senses of any kind.)

For reading magic specifically, read magic does say “the subject can read […]” without regard for whether the subject is blind—though this seems to be likely an oversight. Scrolls do specify that you have to be able to “see and read” the scroll, so even with RAW read magic, I don’t think that works.

What might work better—assuming a DM who doesn’t go for read magic overcoming blindness—is the alternate scroll styles mentioned in Complete Arcane on pages 138 and 139. A blind character should be able to feel out the knots of a macrame scroll, for example—someone with training and practice doing so may well be able to match typical reading speeds. And the incense-based scrolls should be basically identical for both sighted and blind wizards.

Likewise, Complete Arcane has alternative spellbooks on pages 186-187, including “tokens,” “engravings on stones, bones, wooden rods, ivory, teeth, or statuettes, […] often carried in a nondescript pouch.” The advantage of these is

Tokens can be designed for “reading” by touch alone, enabling spells to be prepared even in darkness or while blinded,

(Complete Arcane pg. 187)

The downside is that they take longer to “scribe” in the first place, and also take longer to prepare—and require Search checks to find the right one while working by touch; you can retry as much as you want, but it wastes even more time. Still, the amount of time here isn’t that onerous.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, and if you're a wizard and want to write spells of your own, just use Braille. I don't THINK a spellbook or scroll must be written in any specific language... \$\endgroup\$
    – From
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 19:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @From I think there’s some implications that they’re (usually?) written in Draconic, but the books aren’t very consistent about it. The bigger problem is the lack of evidence that any campaign world (to my knowledge) has anything like Braille. We know sign language exists (among the drow of all people, oddly enough—used when maintaining silence, might be a limited language outside of tactical contexts). Of course, even a low-level wizard is likely to be a genius, so they could probably invent something for their own use. Some of Complete Arcane’s alternate spellbooks, e.g. knots, might work. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 19:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Trivia: "Mind flayers use a unique written language known as Qualith. Qualith has no spoken form; it is a record of pure telepathic communication. Qualith script resembles four parallel lines of raised dashes and spaces, intended to be read by touch" (Lords of Madness 71). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan wasn't there a language written with megaliths in the landscape? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 20:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Those are literally the official descriptions of blindsight and blindsense in the Dungeon Master’s Guide glossary, or in the SRD. They’re the first place you’d look. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 2:18

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