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One of the abilities that you can use Thumaturgy for is: "You create an instantaneous sound that originates from a point of your choice within range, such as a rumble of thunder, the cry of a raven, or ominous whispers." The range is 30ft.

Could this be used to remotely speak (or whisper) to somebody within its range, for example to give a command or to tell somebody a secret?

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No

The spell text reads:

You create an instantaneous sound that originates from a point of your choice within range, such as a rumble of thunder, the cry of a raven, or ominous whispers.

'Rumble of thunder' and 'the cry of a raven' are both non-verbal sounds. 'Ominous whispers' could be words, but the intention seems to be that they are not being used for communication (hence 'ominous').

Overall, the intention of the spell seems to be to create sound effects, not words.

This is supported by sage advice:

“Ominous whispers” : Can you form actual words using the Thaumaturgy cantrip?

I’d say no – context indicates to me it’s more for sound effects than communication.

An Alternative

There is in fact another cantrip that can perform this function, called message:

Range: 120 feet

You point your finger toward a creature within range and whisper a message. The target (and only the target) hears the message and can reply in a whisper that only you can hear.

You can cast this spell through solid objects if you are familiar with the target and know it is beyond the barrier. Magical silence, 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood blocks the spell. The spell doesn’t have to follow a straight line and can travel freely around corners or through openings.

Therefore, allowing thaumaturgy to also do this would impinge somewhat on the usefulness of message.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A pure cleric doesn't have access to message. \$\endgroup\$ – Protonflux Nov 15 '16 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Protonflux I added that just to point out that, if thaumaturgy had this property, it would step on the shoes of message. \$\endgroup\$ – Ladifas Nov 15 '16 at 21:18
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I would suggest that it is within the power of the Thaumaturgy cantrip to create at least a whisper of real words, a real message. Two of the lines of the spell description below support why I think this:

You manifest a minor wonder, a sign of supernatural power, within range.

You create an instantaneous sound that originates from a point of your choice within range, such as a rumble of thunder, the cry of a raven, or ominous whispers.

The first line supports the general idea of being able to do this. Being able to whisper guidance or warning in someone's ear, for instance, would be a minor wonder, a sign of supernatural power. It fits the description, it fits the remit.

As to what you can do within the limits of the spell's power, the second line states that you can produce things such as ominous whispers. Non-ominous whispers are clearly within the scope of "such as". The word "ominous" is used for colour and to refer back to the "sign of supernatural power". I would go further and suggest that if the volume of the sound is up to a rumble of thunder, then normal spoken words would be possible too.

Therefore it is in my opinion both within the remit of the spell and the power of the spell to produce meaningful words close to someone's head within range, perhaps coloured by the domain of cleric casting it.

Of course the range is only 30', anyone else can hear it if they are near enough, if there is background noise it will be as difficult to hear as any other communication and it will be limited in length. I would suggest 3 or 4 words would be on the same scale as a raven's cry, a rumble of thunder or ominous whispers, though that is merely my estimation as a DM.

It has been compared to Message, another cantrip with the express purpose of doing exactly this, suggesting that using Thaumaturgy is undermining it's purpose. However by contrast the range of Message is 120', the target and only the target can hear the message as a whisper, they can reply and you don't need to be able to see the target nor have line of sight, just be familiar with them. Much, much more effective. Also just because one spell impinges on the purpose of another does not make it invalid. Minor Illusion could also be used for this purpose, for instance, and I would not use that as an reason to limit it's usage. There are other examples.

In the end there is nothing, RAW, making it clear if it can or can't be used for this purpose but for the reasons given above as a DM I adjudge it to be a reasonable use for the cantrip in terms of flavour and power in my campaigns, as long as the cleric applies its version of "ominous" :)

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I'm not sure about 5e, but as far as I remember earlier incarnations of cantrips, they could never be used for anything really useful, they were more rp fluff than actual magic abilities, hence their ranking as spells of level 0.

also, if it's about in combat, you can speak to someone during your turn, for a free action. if you want to expend a normal action to send someone a message, fine. Still, in the midst of battle, a whisper might be overheard.

Outside of battle, I'd rule that you could only do it within line of sight, as there are other, higher level spells that can convey messages to more remote places, and it would render them useless if that cantrip could do that; Still, it would be a stretch, as it might convey a strategic advantage if the cantrip could do that, and that's really not the point of them - they're for flavor, not for something substantial.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, 5e cantrips are designed differently and are intended to be rather more generally useful. But in any case, message was a 3.x cantrip that allowed precisely what the OP is asking for, except for 10 minutes/level at a stretch. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Nov 11 '16 at 23:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've downvoted this answer because it fundamentally misunderstands the context: the presumed utility of cantrips in 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 12 '16 at 19:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ An example of a very useful cantrip: Spare the Dying, or more proactive: True Strike. Cantrips were a game mechanic that grew out of allowing spell casters to be on a level field with other classes that can "hit with sword" or "find traps" etc every round. Obviously the complexity goes well beyond that but that's the gist of it. \$\endgroup\$ – Protonflux Nov 14 '16 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I totally forgot about the message cantrip. Probably because I always regarded it as somewhat useless... it's quite possible that the cantrips all got upgraded somewhat in 5e, I stuck to pathfinder after 4e was such a letdown. \$\endgroup\$ – khaoliang Nov 15 '16 at 9:45

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