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Slavery is commonplace in this setting. Slaves routinely have their tongues cut out, to prevent them organising a resistance movement, or back-chatting their owners.

The party has freed some slaves after decades of enslavement, and would like to permanently restore their ability to speak.

What is the cheapest item, or lowest level spell, that can do this?

  • Healing magic that can restore missing body parts would suffice.
  • A magical effect allowing the user to speak using a 'prosthetic voice' would also suffice.

I don't think the regular Cure X Wounds spells will work, as removing an entire appendage is a bit different to normal hit-point damage.

All 3.5 ed books are available.


This campaign is set in the world of The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, on Tamriel. The slaves are mostly Argonians (lizard-people) and Khajiit (cat-people). Mechanically, they are Humanoid-type creatures.

The party's motivation for re-growing the slaves' tongues is to symbolise their freedom, by permanently reversing the trauma inflicted when they were enslaved.

The various answers below also give temporary means of communicating with the slaves until the party is powerful enough to effect a permanent cure; these answers are also useful and appreciated.


Amusing anecdote: The actual reason the slaves are tongue-less is because this happened in the first session:

DM (me) : "You have defeated the smugglers. You search the area and find three wooden crates, a boat, two slaves, and 10GP of coins."

Players: "We talk to the slaves!"

[DM has no prepared dialog for the slaves, and has no idea what they would talk about.]

DM: ".... the slaves have had their tongues cut out!"

Players: "That's terrible! We're going to lead a slave revolt and free all the slaves in Morrowind!"

And that's how the entire campaign got sidetracked from "Defeat the evil Dagoth Ur" to "Restore the tongues of every slave in Morrowind".

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So the loss of body parts is awkward at best in 3.5, since the rules never describe any process by which it might happen or what it means when it does. Because the system doesn’t get into it, it doesn’t give a whole lot of options for dealing with it.

The regenerate spell can definitely fix a lost body part. It is one of only two references to the idea that limbs might be lost: regenerate, which heals it, and the ring of regeneration, which prevents it. These appear, to many, to simply be nods to earlier editions of D&D, and not indication that body part loss is intended to be a part of the game.

In particular, besides the inclusion of the classic ring and spell, Wizards never bothered to add more or more detailed ways to deal with lost body parts, because there wasn’t really a way for that to happen in the first place. This means there isn’t a real alternative to regenerate for the slave.

Regenerate is a 7th-level spell, which means a Cleric 13 is typically required to get it. A lower-level cleric could activate a spell-trigger device that contains regenerate, but wands are capped at 4th level, and none of the default staves contain the spell (there is some debate about whether custom staves should be allowed). However, Lost Empires of Faerûn describe scepters, spell-trigger devices like wands but without a maximum level limit. A scepter of regenerate would cost 68,250 gp, or 1,365 gp per slave regenerated.

Various temporary measures are available, but do not really help the slaves much. Still, as interim measures, these allow for communication between the party and some of the slaves.

  • One, if you are particularly cruel (which you’re clearly not, but whatever), there’s the option of killing the slave and then using speak with dead; that’s a core 3rd-level cleric spell. Note that speak with dead is notoriously unreliable, however; even if you are cruel enough, this isn’t a particularly effective solution, especially since physical damage to the body explicitly damages the corpse’s ability to return coherent answers; so long as it has a mouth at all, apparently, it can give an answer, but it probably won’t be a useful one.

  • Various polymorph effects, starting with the 4th-level polymorph itself, could probably turn the creature into a creature capable of speech (including itself), but since the loss of body parts is not defined by the rules, this is up to the DM: it may be that under his or her houserules for body part loss, such losses are maintained when you polymorph.

  • Telepathic bond is a 5th-level spell that lets a bunch of creatures speak with one another telepathically. No need for a tongue to do that.

    • Lesser telepathic bond is a 3rd-level variant, available to clerics, sorcerers, and wizards, allowing the caster to speak telepathically with one target.

Some options that are permanent, but problematic:

  • Instead of killing them for speak with dead, it would be slightly less cruel, and much more effective, to bring them back to life to restore the ability to speak. You will need a powerful effect to do it, though, as raise dead (and thus the previously-recommended revivify) lack the ability to restore body parts. Resurrection and true resurrection are up to the task, but unlike revivify, those cost a level or Constitution damage, and they’re extremely high-level to begin with. Reincarnate and thus its revivify-analogue, last breath, will work and are a reasonable level, but both would change their race, which is a tough sell in the highly-xenophobic Tamriel.

  • Just for completeness’s sake, unlike polymorph, polymorph any object would be permanent if you polymorphed the slave into herself. Permanent spells are still vulnerable to dispel magic, and polymorph any object is an 8th-level spell while regenerate is 7th-level, so there is really no reason to use this.

  • Telepathic bond can be made permanent with permanency, but only between two creatures per permanency spell. This requires caster level 13th, which would ordinarily be sufficient to simply cast regenerate, but bonuses to caster level might possibly allow this before regenerate is available. But costing 2,500 XP a pop is not great at all; that’s roughly equivalent to 12,500 gp per slave-pair, vastly more expensive than the scepter of regenerate. Also, permanent spells are always subject to being forcefully ended, like with dispel magic.

  • Sign language exists in D&D 3.5: Drow of the Underdark describes “drow sign language” as a regular language that someone can learn. Learning a new language typically requires leveling up (so one can put skill points in it), but it’s conceivable that something could be worked out for NPCs to “partially level-up” or something so they could do this. Or else just homebrewed rules for learning a language without skill points. Alternatively, Player’s Handbook II allows the retraining of languages at no cost, but that means the slaves have to forget some other language. And this only allows organization, not talking back to owners.

    • A crystal mask of languages allows the wearer to “speak” and write five different languages. They technically don’t even have to be the same five known by the crafter, which could potentially allow a psion to be commissioned to make one bearing drow sign language even if the crafter doesn’t know it. At 2,500 gp each, though, this costs more than the scepter of regenerate if there are 28 or more slaves.

      • A more limited crystal mask of languages granting only one language (crystal mask of language?) could arguably cost a mere 100 gp, following the general trend of magic items costing (numerical bonus)2 × (some factor in gp): 2,500 gp for 5 languages is 52 × (100 gp). Talk to your DM.
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    \$\begingroup\$ After PCs communicated via Drow Sign Language for several levels and grew complacent, they did so in forest managed by high elves and were attacked after by high elves accusing the PCs of being drow spies. Thus, in case Drow Sign Language is inappropriate, alternative nonspoken languages include the "gurgling sounds and handclapping" language Odopi (Monster Manual III 114-5) and the dance-based language Deadly Dancer (Tome of Magic 80-1). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 8 '15 at 20:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 just for "killing the slave and then using speak with dead" \$\endgroup\$ – isanae Jun 9 '15 at 2:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Many of these are not appropriate solutions to their problem (permanently reverse slavery damage) and probably should be culled out. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 11 '15 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk All of them aside from regenerate itself are partial, incomplete, incompatible, or problematic solutions. I feel this is adequately stated in the text. Depending on their level, they may have to pick a suboptimal solution, and then it becomes worthwhile to know what those are. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 11 '15 at 16:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Partial is fine, "kill them and speak with dead" does not accomplish their goal in any way. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 11 '15 at 17:04
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I was after a means of permanently restoring the ability for the slaves to talk. This symbolises the reversal of their enslavement.

The suggestions included:

  • 3rd level - the dark wanderer's proposed analog to Remove Blindness / Deafness
  • 4th level - Restoration
  • 5th level - Psionic power Restore Extremity - specifically re-grows limbs, like arms and legs.
  • 6th level - Heal - general purpose healing of the blind, sick, and the lame.
  • 7th level - Regeneration, Limited Wish - will re-grow or heal anything.
  • 8th level - Polymorph Any Object - massively over-powered for this application.

I thought the dark wanderer's suggestion of a 3rd level spell, analogous to Remove Blindness/Deafness, was a bit too cheap. The spell description reads:

Remove blindness/deafness cures blindness or deafness (your choice), whether the effect is normal or magical in nature. The spell does not restore ears or eyes that have been lost, but it repairs them if they are damaged.

I would consider the slave's tongues to be "lost", not "damaged". So a 3rd level spell analogous to Remove Blindness/Deafness isn't powerful enough.

Jack Lesnie also suggested the 5th level psionic power Restore Extremity. This restores entire arms and legs, so it's certainly powerful enough to restore a tongue.


I conclude from the above that 3rd level spells aren't powerful enough, and 5th level spells are more powerful than needed.

Therefore, I will take the middle ground and allow a 4th level spell to restore a tongue.

Creating a new spell specifically for this purpose would only clutter the spell list, so I will allow Restoration (Clr 4) to re-grow tongues and similar size body parts, like fingers and toes. Regrowing bigger body parts, like hands, arms, and legs, would require Restore Extremity at 5th level.


The party doesn't have 4th level spellcasting yet, so for the time being they will have to use one of the numerous "low-tech" alternatives (sign language, chalkboards).

This gives the party a good roleplaying reason to learn sign language, which may be useful for stealthy party communication in the very sneaky, underhanded, and back-stabby world of Morrowind.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think an analog to Remove Blindness/Deafness would be appropriate. Remember, a human(oid) uses their mouth to speak, not just their tongue; therefore one could argue that the removal of the tongue is damage of the mouth and thus "repairable". EDIT: @thedarkwanderer also pointed something out -- the tongue attaches way in the back of the mouth; the slavers likely only cut out the part of the tongue past the frenulum and therefore even the tongue itself would only be considered "damaged", not "lost". \$\endgroup\$ – Doktor J Jun 9 '15 at 21:16
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Fixing lost body parts (from most expensive but will certainly work to cheapest but least likely to work):

Regenerate, which explicitly does this for sure, is spell level 7, as is Greater Restoration and Limited Wish.

Heal is likely to work, especially if your DM is familiar with older editions, but is spell level 6.

Reincarnate and other slightly advanced 'Raise Dead' type spells become an option around spell level 4, but this requires killing the slaves. Modify Memory is also spell level 4, but is Brd/Assassin only.

Remove Blindness/Deafness: This isn't just about magical blindness, this spell can regenerate mutilated eyes, among other things. Since versions of the spell exists for both sight and hearing, devising a version to fix speech should be relatively easy. The spell research guidelines indicate that this should probably be a 3rd level divine spell, costing 3000 gp and taking 3 weeks to research. The resulting spell text would be something like:

Remove Muteness
Conjuration(Healing)
Level: Clr 3, Pal 3
Components: V,S
Casting Time: 1 standard action Range: Touch Target: Creature Touched Duration: Instantaneous Save: Fortitude negates (harmless) Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

Remove muteness cures muteness, whether the effect is normal or magical in nature. The spell does not restore tongues or vocal chords that have been completely lost, but it repairs them if they are damaged.

If the slavers are cutting out tongues, this should work fine; the tongue attaches way in the back of the mouth and there's almost definitely bits of it left.

Cure Minor Wounds heals 1 hp of damage, and is a level 0 Cleric spell. A few castings of this should heal it right up. This assumes that healing hp damage can regrow the tongue, which is valid RAW but somewhat unlikely, especially given that the slaves have been alive for an entire decade (50 million rounds of forced servitude) and thus would be exceedingly old in worlds where 8 hours is an unreasonable time for a cure to take.

Bed rest is free, but takes freaking forever. After an entire 8 hours of time the slave will recover some hp, and presumably the tongue. As long as you stop cutting it out or take out the item in their mouth that is doing so or whatever they should be fine. This assumes both that healing hp damage can regrow the tongue and that the campaign will last at least 8 hours in game, which both are technically valid RAW but probably not both of these are the case or you wouldn't be asking the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good catch on remove blindness/deafness; that does make remove muteness rather appropriate. Your thought on prostheses appears to be incomplete, however, and I am not sure these slaves are going to be capable of the whispers that message requires. Most importantly, though, I just don’t buy that healing HP damage is up to this. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 8 '15 at 20:02
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You can use either Regenerate to regrow the targets limbs, which is a seventh level spell, or using a polymorph effect such as Polymorph any Object to turn them into an exact copy of their body plus a tongue, which is an 8th level spell.

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Have the slaves communicate using magical chalkboards

Use the feat Craft Wondrous Item (PH 92-3) to create use-activated custom magic items of the 0-level Sor/Wiz spell chalkboard [illus] (Dragon #324 70) which, while the caster concentrates plus +1 round/level, at close range,

[...] creates an intangible, opaque, floating plane with the appearance of a chalkboard. The chalkboard must be square and size of the sides range from 1 ft to 10 ft. It first appears at arm's length from the caster. Thereafter, as long as the caster concentrates, as a free action, the chalkboard moves anywhere within range. The caster may draw on the chalkboard with their finger as if they were using a piece of chalk. An illusory line appears as the caster wants, in any color the caster wants, on the chalkboard.

The caster may erase existing lines by wiping them off with the flat of his hand. The caster can choose for the chalkboard to be created blank or full of writing and pictures of the caster‘s choice. If the caster moves, the chalkboard moves with him, staying in the same relative orientation and distance to the caster. A large chalkboard can grant cover for those hidden behind it.

As a custom magic item, such an item's price must be determined by the DM, but the table ballparks such an item's price at 500 gp assuming the item's created at caster level 1. (A comparable item, the horn of volume (Miniatures Handbook 43) (1,000 gp; 0 lbs.), incorporates the spell ghost sound but at caster level 3.)

Picking a command word that can be spoken by the tongueless isn't that difficult, as evidenced by this Ask Me Anything interview "I Have No Tongue."

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Homebrew

The cheapest item or spell that does this, is homebrew. An artificer making a fake golden tongue, a prayer to a god (cleric spell) that is a lesser form of Regenerate but takes multiple days to regrow even a small body part (and weeks for arms or legs), going to a specific forest spring which contains a naiad with a 'gift of healing', and so on.

The costs for this effect should be story-based, so either a quest, a favour, or an amount of gold that tests the PCs resolve to do it.

Barring that

You have the regenerate spell from the PHB, or restore extremity from the EPH. Restore Extremity is cheaper, but finding an Egoist when most settings don't even have psions, is probably problematic.

If you just want to get this done

Have lesser restoration restore small lost bits of flesh, like a tongue. Technically cure light wounds does that every time it heals an actual wound, but players aren't used to thinking in those terms and 'lesser restoration' sounds like it would 'restore' a tongue. If there's a bunch of slaves, have your cleric pray to his god (assuming a god who cares about slaves, or healing) and have the opportunity (Briefly) to let healing power wash out of him and restore all tongues in a certain radius (that encompasses the slaves). This removes all his prepared spells (although he can prepare new ones the next day), and likely this God will expect continued piety and maybe a large gratuity at a local temple, but it's a simple and easy and story-appropriate way to keep the game moving.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. I have used Restore Extremity as part of my solution. See my self-answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Li-aung Yip Jun 9 '15 at 4:23
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Research New Spell and roleplay the issue

While regenerate is an option for sure, but what's to stop the PCs from finding or creating a "repair organ" spell. IMHO this is "Campaign Gold" too often players expect the DM to lead them thru the story and wait for things to happen. Like remove blindness, the spell should be 3rd level. For the mass effect spell, make the PCs go on some sort of pilgrimage/quest to honor the deity chosen to heal the slaves.

On HP damage: spells that cure the body as a whole cannot restore limbs, cure blindness etc. unless specifically mentioned. If they could there would be no need for the more specific spells IMHO.

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Not just the wrong question, but the wrong starting point.

Have you ever met anyone without a tongue? I actually have. And with a bit of concentration, and a bit more focus on lipreading, she was perfectly possible to have a conversation with. You can get close enough sounds using just your lips and glottal stops. The myth that cutting someone's tongue out stops them talking is exactly that - just a myth.

Even if they cut the vocal cords, lipreading still works. And in fact we all rely on lipreading a huge amount anyway.

Now a truly nasty punishment would be cutting off the slave's lips and tongue. But that kind of visible mutilation probably won't be too appealing if the owner is likely to see the slave regularly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, but do note that both races here are very different from humans. Argonians, in particular, have very lizard-like heads, and minimal lips. Khajiit have cat-like heads, and thus are probably more expressive if anything, though. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 9 '15 at 17:33
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Probably the lowest level solution is someone who knows and can teach sign language. Unfortunately teaching a language is a rather obscure topic for an RPG and I can't think of anywhere you might find rules for it, so I'll describe my experience with ASL for a rough guideline.

Most people who can hear and/or read can learn the alphabet and some common words within about a week, and be competent with those in two or three weeks. Physical speech in combat seems impossible even for someone who is an expert in sign language and in combat, as one will always be interrupting the other. Keep in mind though that if they can hear, they can still get commands, just not give them. Talking speed is largely limited by how many distinct words you know - only using the alphabet will always be very slow, even if you can use it very quickly. I have seen professional interpreters who can match or exceed a normal talking speed, but that takes years of study and practice. Someone who is only communicating in sign language will become proficient faster than someone who isn't, but I can't estimate what difference this would make. Within a month of devoted practice, I think it is reasonable to say one sentence is equivalent to 1-3 full actions, depending on the sentence.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you don't mind borrowing from other systems, you could recommend Pathfinder's rules for Retraining for New Languages, which allows any creature (within limits) to gain 1 new language. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 9 '15 at 19:25
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Teach Them Sign Language Via Roleplay

My Morrowind knowledge is somewhat aging, but I seem to remember an Argonian Mission building in one of the larger settlements. Perhaps the NPC's at the mission can help teach them signing.

In addition, I think there is a faction devoted to helping the slaves, Twin Lamps somewhere in the game.

http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Argonian_Mission

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There is an Argonian Mission in Ebonheart, and the Twin Lamps does exist. The players haven't explored enough of the world to find these yet, but I will introduce them later. \$\endgroup\$ – Li-aung Yip Jun 12 '15 at 1:03

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