This is a bit of a convoluted question with several parts that didn't fit in the title.

  1. The Telepathic feat gives +1 in either Int, Wis or Cha to a maximum of 20. There is no question here, one cannot exceed an attribute of 20, that's clear.

  2. However, the Telepathic feat also enables the once-per-long-rest free casting of Detect Thoughts, to which it states that "Your spellcasting ability for the spell is the ability increased by this feat." The problems start here.

  3. As you see, Detect Thoughts has two ability scores associated with it: it first needs a Wisdom save for a successful casting, than an Intelligence contest for keeping it up. So my first question is, which one is changed by the Telepathic feat?

  4. My second question is, can I still select Charisma to be increased by the Telepathic feat, even though I am already at 20? I know I wouldn't get to 21, but I would like to use Char instead of either the Wis or Int part in Detect Thoughts.


2 Answers 2


You can but it won't work the way you seem to think it will

If your Charisma is already at 20 and you pick it for the Telepathic feat, it will remain at 20 but the feat will allow you to use Charisma as your spellcasting attribute for Detect Thoughts. This will be used to calculate the DC of the save the creature gets, instead of using whatever your regular spellcasting attribute is (if any), or a set DC if casting from an item for example.

It does not change anything else about the spell.

The creature still performs a Wisdom saving throw (not Charisma) against that DC and the contested check further into the spell will still be their Intelligence against your Intelligence (not their Intelligence against your Charisma).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "The creature still performs a Wisdom saving throw" Thanks for spelling it out, I haven't even thought I needed that to understand. \$\endgroup\$
    – oliver.c
    Commented Jan 9 at 15:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yea, the key thing is that spellcasting ability is only used in "spellcasting ability modifier", which is used in Spell DC by default, but some spells have an extra mention of that phrase in the description. Some spells use spellcasting ability modifier to deal damage, for example. But if a spell doesn't mention "spellcasting ability modifier", then it's not using spellcasting ability stat (except for the aforementioned Spell DC which is part of general rule of spellcasting) \$\endgroup\$
    – justhalf
    Commented Jan 10 at 9:34

Yes but it will not increase beyond the maximum of 20

Telepathic has three distinct effects. The first one says:

Increase your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

So you cannot increase the stat you pick over 20, because the increase is to a maximum of 20. If you pick Charisma, and your Charisma is already at 20, this will do nothing. As you under normal circumstances cannot have all 3 stats at 20, it would be a better idea to pick one of the stats that is not yet at 20.

The third benefit is

You can cast the Detect Thoughts spell, requiring no spell slot or components, and you must finish a long rest before you can cast it this way again. Your spellcasting ability for the spell is the ability increased by this feat. If you have spell slots of 2nd level or higher, you can cast this spell with them.

If you picked Charisma, the stat to cast this (and which determines the save DC for the target) is Charisma. If your Chrisma was already at 20 when you picked the feat, it still is the "ability increased by this feat", but the increase is to a max of 20 (so effectively 0, not 1). If you however picked another stat, say Intelligence, then you use your Intelligence bonus for the spell's saving throw DC.

The spellcasting ability is only used for determining the DC to save against when casting the spell. The Intelligence check that the creature later can make to end Detect Thoughts has nothing to do with your spellcasting ability. It is not a save. It is always a contested Intelligence check, no matter wich ability you picked for the feat's increase:

the creature can use its action on its turn to make an Intelligence check contested by your Intelligence check if it succeeds, the spell ends.

If you coincidentally chose to increase Intelligence with the feat, you benefit from a possible bonus increase there for this check, but not because Intelligence is your spellcasting ability, just because it may have increased your Intelligence bonus. If you picked Charisma, it does not affect this contested check at all.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast, I don't think they interact with the feat: these items by themselves can increase the ability score above 20, but they change not how the feat works. Even if you read one and have max Cha 22 when you pick the feat you still only can "Increase your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20." Because it already is over 20, the effective increase is still 0. The ceiling here is imposed by the feat itself, not by a general rule that you normally cannot exceed 20. Of course, as a DM one could still allow it, feels a bit cheap not to. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 9 at 13:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ (As an aside, I think you are mixing the items like gauntlets of ogre power that set your stat to 19 with the tomes? The tome of leaderhip and influence adds 2 to your charisma, and to your maximum charisma, but it does not set it to 20.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 9 at 13:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @stevenjackson121 I removed it as its not material to the answer. What I meant is that each bullet provides its own benefit. For example, there is a SAC on xbow expert, that states that the benefit to ranged attacks even works on attacks with spells, not crossbows, as each bullet provides the value it describes, independent of the context of the feat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 9 at 14:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @oliver.c Thanks for the kind feedback, no problem. Its important that the other answer helped you solve your problem, and that is what your checkmark is for. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 9 at 21:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin: The tomes that raise your max are a more-specific rule that overrides the limits for ASIs and half-feats, the way I read it. According to your argument, the tome would also not override the wording in every class's rules that says When you reach 4th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can't increase an ability score above 20 using this feature. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 10 at 9:43

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