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In our 5e game, we stole a boat. And a horse carriage. And a lot of other stuff for moving things between cities.

Our DM meant for this to be a way to skip road encounters. We decided to fund a shipping company and hire managers (Knights retainers, etc.) to turn a profit. The DM ruled that these would cover lifestyle expenses, provide us with easy smuggling, etc.

However, we want to keep tabs on the treasure we're moving back and forth.

What can we use for communicating with our managers from anywhere in the world? What about from say, across the city?

We don't need to communicate often or for long - a single round will work. All we need is for the manager to say "we need you back"

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Long-distance: Sending

3rd-level spell: "you send a short message... to any creature with which you are familiar.... You can send the message across any distance...." (PHB p.274)

You could purchase use of the spell from a mage-for-hire; Adventurers League guidelines* would suggest you're probably looking at 90gp per usage.

You could hire someone with the ability to cast the spell: What's a good pay rate... might have some useful advice on that matter.

You could invest in scrolls or potions of sending. (In any world that makes a modicum of sense you've got to have 5th-level wizard drop-outs churning this exact item out as a way of making a living.) The DMG has advice on fashioning magic items that may help you and your GM.

You could train up the talent yourself—befriend an NPC, bring them along to fifth or sixth level, then station them at HQ.

Sending Stones are a similar magical item

You could invest in sending stones (DMG p.199) which allow for the casting of sending once per day; the DMG would price them at 101-500 gp (uncommon item), though the Sane Magic Item Prices index would put them at 2000 gp. (With thanks to @anaximander for the pointer.)

The spell's there; the possibilities are endless.

Intra-city: Animal Messenger, or human messenger

2nd-level spell: similarly short message, range of 50 miles, a tiny beast delivers your message in your voice. There's the possibility of your messenger getting nabbed along the way, but at half the price* you can send redundant messages and still save 10gp!

Of course, at this distance and cost it's not clear why you wouldn't use the solution known since time immemorial: street urchins. (Available at 2cp per mile, per PHB p.159 "Services", thanks to @Sebkha.)


* - a list of spells available through "Spellcasting Services" is provided in the front-matter of every Expeditions module. Remove curse and speak with dead are the only two third-level spells listed, at a price of 90gp each. Various second-level spells are priced at 40gp each, divination (4th-level) is listed at 210 gp.

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1. The Sending spell.

PHB, page 274:

Sending

3rd-level Evocation

You send a short message of twenty-five words or less to a creature with which you are familiar. The creature hears the message in its mind, recognizes you as the sender if it knows you, and can answer in a like manner immediately. The spell enables creatures with Intelligence scores of at least 1 to understand the meaning of your message. You can send the message across any distance and even to other planes of existence, but if the target is on a different plane than you, there is a 5 percent chance that the message doesn't arrive.

Also in the SRD here.

To ensure the managers can use this, an entire quest could be devoted to learning the formula (DMG, page 141) to create Potions of Sending. These potions could then be distributed among the managers to be used if necessary.

2. Put your familar to good use!

Summon a raven as a familiar and use it as a carrier pigeon. The raven can carry messages to and from your managers (it can travel a route between them every day), and while this won't be instantaneous, it'll be a heck of lot faster than running a team of messenger slaves/employees on horseback.

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Non-magical methods:

Smoke signals Used by native Americans, used in Lord of the rings. Doesn't work well at night. Fog and storms are an issue.

Morse code via light from mirrors Good range, can be used at night with a large fire, fog or storms can limit it.

Carrier animals Trained birds have been used in real life and Game of Thrones. I wouldn't risk a familiar as a long distance messenger! But there's no need to. Common animals can be trained to return to specific locations.

Other methods could include signal kites or hot air balloons, depending on your campaign's technology level.

Magical means could include Crystal balls or clairvoyance. Someone writes messages for the other forts or locations, then posts then on a bulletin board in the communication room. People at other sites then scry the bulletin board to read messages. Do this at each fort and it's almost a BBS forum.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the bulletin board idea's a good one. It'd be worth mentioning that clairvoyance is a 3rd-level spell, though perhaps well worth it if the BBS-system cranks up the throughput. Also, crystal ball/*clairvoyance* is a pull-medium, rather than the push- implied by OP. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 11 '16 at 18:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree, but I can't think of a magical push-medium of lower level than Sending, which has been covered. I feel that clairvoyance is far superior, especially for a network as opposed to two parties communicating, because it drastically increased the amount of information transmitted, the number of recipients at the same time, and allows for visual information (pictures of a man wanted for robbery, maps of a new area, long inventory lists, charts of data, allows remote inspections of gems or other valuable goods by buyers or experts). Granted it also makes the maps kind of obsolete too... It \$\endgroup\$ – user3573647 Jul 11 '16 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the lord of the rings approach - we will probably use something like it as we get more renowned. \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Takagi Jul 12 '16 at 0:01
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Why not have a unique magic item in the form of a book that would be connected together, and what one gets, all gets? To make it secure, any one can delete their message(s) so that the information can't be used against them, but the others would still have the information. Think of such a system as a primitive texting system.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You can call it an Eyebook. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Jul 11 '16 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE There's something like this (albeit only with 2 books) in the Sword of Truth series. But there's nothing to say it can only be with just 2 copies. \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse Cohoon Jul 11 '16 at 22:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sending stones are a baseline for something like this. Just ensure that they can be keyed to each other such that you can get more than pair connected at a time. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Nov 24 '17 at 15:17
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Work with your DM to create a spell for exactly this

I homebrewed a magic letter spell for my swashbuckling campaign that's basically a 2nd level Sending. It can't go between planes and magic items stowed in the envelope will cause the spell to fail (it also has a weight limit). What's delivered is far more fragile that what was sent so sending a knife is basically like sending ash. Otherwise though, it lets you communicate with backstory NPCs and people the characters care about, and you don't have to justify how mail would reach your characters across the seven seas. It's pretty fun.

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If you have a very rules-as-written GM, you might be able to get away with creative use of "Locate Object".

Describe or name an object that is familiar to you. You sense the direction to the object’s location, as long as that object is within 1,000 feet of you. If the object is in motion, you know the direction of its movement.

Detecting the direction to the object has a range limitation of 1000 feet. The sentence allowing you to sense the direction of movement has no such restriction. This allows for one-way communication between locations. The sender of the message would carry a small object with unique markings, known to the caster. At a pre-arranged time of day, the caster casts Locate Object. The sender then moves the small object. The direction in which the sender moves the object allows for messages to be sent. The sender could move the object north, east, south, or west, allowing for two bits of information per motion. With a proper code, any letter could be encoded as a series of three such motions.

Granted, if you are playing by the letter of the law, the GM may respond in kind. Lead is present in the earth's crust at an average density of 14 ppm, and as such may block the scrying. Time zone differences and a lack of accurate clocks may make it difficult to coordinate a time at which to send the message.

This is more complicated, error-prone, and subject to GM discretion than Sending, but it only requires a level 2 spell slot rather than level 3.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it is abundantly clear that the 1,000ft restriction applies to both clauses. If anything, a very rules-oriented DM would be more likely to read it that way than not. \$\endgroup\$ – Ladifas Jul 11 '16 at 22:13

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