Psychic Paper is an item carried frequently by the Doctor in the revival of Doctor Who. The Doctor sometimes uses it as a form of changeable ID, and people see on it what he wants them to see. Using it often goes like this:

Guard: You cannot enter.

Doctor: Oh yes I can! Here are my documents.

Guard: (checks papers) Forgive me, sir, I did not know you were (important person).

Doctor: Alright. Let's go, companion!

Companion: (reads paper as well) Doctor, this says that (something humorous befitting the situation).

It has its limits though: psychic paper does not work on highly intelligent people, psychics and certain kinds of aliens. I think that an item such as this has incredible roleplaying potential in 3.5e, but I haven't been able to find something like this.

The closest that I have found is a wonderous item (I forgot which book it was) that gives a +4 bonus to any Forgercy checks that use it as a component, but of course this doesn't really mimic the psychic paper.

What I am looking for is something that combines Bluff and something like a Will save, or perhaps something like a Sense Motive check. Does an item like that exist, or would it require homebrewing to make the equivalent of psychic paper?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you be okay with homebrew solutions in answers, or do you only want RAW? I've got a couple potential solutions to this, but all of them are at least partially homebrew. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 11:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ The item you're thinking of but couldn't remember (and that I almost posted as an answer) is papyrus of deception (Complete Adventurer 134) (2,000 gp; 0 lbs.), and you're right: It doesn't do what it should. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 13:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I prefer printed rules over homebrew, but I'll take either. And yes, it was the papyrus I was thinking about. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Technically, in the show, psychic paper shows what the viewer expects to see, not automatically what the Doctor wants them to see. His usual usage of it works because, when someone checking credentials is shown a paper and told it's the credentials they're supposed to require of people, the person checking the credentials tends naturally to expect that paper to be the credentials. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 3:25

5 Answers 5


Yes, it does: a Mirror of Suggestion:

This small hand mirror manifests its power up to twice per day against creatures that see their reflections within it, as a gaze attack with a range of 30 feet. Potential victims can attempt to avert their eyes or look away as they would from a normal gaze attack. A creature meeting its own gaze in the mirror must succeed on a DC 13 Will save or be affected by a suggestion chosen by the mirror’s wielder.

The suggestion encoded is "I have a right to be here as a duly appointed representative of your superiors. Tell me who I am."

Or, much the same can be done with a potion of glibness, as in fantasy settings, authority isn't vested in paper, but in recognized people.

Or, barring that, you could be a level 1 binder (on top of whatever else you were, probably factotum/bard) having bound naberius, and just use disguise self to disguise yourself as someone who is appropriate to be there. (I note naberius qua binder rather than a normal spellcaster because a binder can keep this charade up all day at very low levels without excessive resource use.)

Or, barring that, you could be a diplomancer and just cause whomever you speak with to become fanatically aligned with your interests.

Or, barring that, have a piece of paper with "I prepared explosive runes today" written on it. It's the ultimate password.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the explosive runes comment because i can totally see the doctor doing that and running away (provided it doesn't kill them of course) \$\endgroup\$
    – Nacht
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 3:30

Yes (Kind of).

There is a spell that would allow you to have words and writing of whatever you choose for whomever you choose. But due to a longer amount of casting time, it would require a little preparation.

For example, if you know ahead of time you are going to be infiltrating a location where ID would be required, then casting this ahead of time before going forth would do exactly what you desire.

For Wondrous Item creation with this particular spell, just pay the cost and have the words appear due to a spell trigger. That would allow the one paper or one ID to suit all of your needs on the fly.

Illusory Script

(Player's Handbook v.3.5, p. 243)

Illusion (Phantasm) [Mind-Affecting]
Level: Ebonmar Infiltrator 2, Bard 3, Magewright 3, Court Herald 3, Savant 3 (Arcane), Sha'ir 3, Wu Jen 3, Vigilante 3, Wizard 3, Sorcerer 3, Spellthief 3
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 minute or longer; see text
Range: Touch
Target: One touched object weighing no more than 10 lb.
Duration: One day/level (D)
Saving Throw: Will negates; see text
Spell Resistance: Yes

You write instructions or other information on parchment, paper, or any suitable writing material. The illusory script appears to be some form of foreign or magical writing. Only the person (or people) designated by you at the time of the casting are able to read the writing; it's unintelligible to any other character, although an illusionist recognizes it as illusory script.

Any unauthorized creature attempting to read the script triggers a potent illusory effect and must make a saving throw. A successful saving throw means the creature can look away with only a mild sense of disorientation. Failure means the creature is subject to a suggestion implanted in the script by you at the time the illusory script spell was cast. The suggestion lasts only 30 minutes. Typical suggestions include "Close the book and leave", "Forget the existence of the book", and so forth. If successfully dispelled by dispel magic, the illusory script and its secret message disappear. The hidden message can be read by a combination of the true seeing spell with the read magic or comprehend languages spell.

The casting time depends on how long a message you wish to write, but it is always at least 1 minute.

Material Component: A lead-based ink (cost of not less than 50 gp).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Aha, so the suggestion could easily be something like "Recognise this paper as a legitimate set of credentials" or "Believe what the person showing you this says." Nifty! \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 0:16

That depends on how far outside the RAW you want to go.

D20 Modern Solution

There is a spell in d20 Modern called Magic ID. It works as sort of a limited-use psychic paper, but it will always work, from the looks of it. It doesn't work if the person takes the ID out of your hands, but otherwise will do basically what you want.

Magic ID
Level: Arcane 0
Components: V, S, F
Casting Time: Attack action
Range: Touch
Effect: Illusory identification card
Duration: See description
Saving Throw: Will disbelief (if interacted with)
Spell Resistance: No
With this glamer, you make a small card or slip of paper appear to be a valid
identification card of your choosing. The card bears your name, likeness, and all other
data expected by anyone examining such a card. However, it is only visually accurate and
does not contain any valid machine-readable data or electronic coding. You cannot use
this spell to make an electronic passkey. The illusion lasts only as long as you touch
the card, to a maximum of 5 rounds.
Focus: A small card or slip of paper.

Homebrew Magic Item

Another possible solution is to make up a homebrew item, using the normal magic item creation rules.

Psychic Paper

This ordinary-looking piece of paper is just the thing to get into a place without having the proper identification. If you show this item to someone asking you for identification, it applies a suggestion to them, saying "This paper is valid identification". The will save is DC 14. If the target has reason to believe that you should have access to the restricted area, they take a -2 to the will save. For example, if you're wearing a guard uniform and trying to get into the guard barracks, the target would get a -2 to the save.

Faint Enchantment; CL 5; Craft Wondrous Item, suggestion; Price: 5000 gp; Weight -

The price is based on the following: 2000 (use-activated) * 3 (spell level) * 5 (caster level) * 1/6 (ad hoc price discount, since it can only make exactly one kind of suggestion).

  • \$\begingroup\$ You know, technically, if you used the rules, it isn't homebrew. If I recall correctly, homebrew by definition, introduces a new rule or provides a possible interpretation where a rule or rules don't cover a specific circumstance. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 19:06

Yes, Programmed Image.

From http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Programmed_Image

Programmed Image

Illusion (Figment)

Level: Brd 6, Sor/Wiz 6

Saving Throw: Will disbelief (if interacted with)

Spell Resistance: No

This spell functions like silent image, except that this spell’s figment activates when a specific condition occurs. This spell creates the visual illusion of an object, creature, or force, as visualized by you. You can move the image within the limits of the size of the effect. The figment includes visual, auditory, olfactory, and thermal elements, including intelligible speech.

You set the triggering condition (which may be a special word) when casting the spell. The event that triggers the illusion can be as general or as specific and detailed as desired but must be based on an audible, tactile, olfactory, or visual trigger. The trigger cannot be based on some quality not normally obvious to the senses, such as alignment. (See magic mouth for more details about such triggers.)

Using the Programmed Image spell you could create a piece of paper with triggering conditions to appear in your pocket when uttering a command phrase that you set during the casting. The image would appear in your hand and have all of the properties of Psychic Paper. The person checking the paper would see what you want them to see on the illusion.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good answer but I suggest you to link from www.d20srd.org instead. D&Dwiki is infamous for mixing homebrew and official material and for being often wrong as a consequence. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 9:16

The Complete Wizard's Handbook, 2nd edition:

Paper of Writing

"Any words that the user speaks or thinks magically appear in writing on this paper."

Could give you a bonus to your skill checks.


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