GM of a homebrew 5e campaign. Weird question that came up in one of our sessions; what does Speak with Animals sound like to the caster, beast, and any onlookers?

The spell only says the following;

You gain the ability to comprehend and verbally communicate with beasts for the duration.

This is a bit lacking in description. Does the caster (through magic) speak the language of the beast and understand it in turn? Are they speaking Common and the beast is made to understand it for the duration of the spell (and the caster understand the beast as if it were also speaking Common)? Some other arrangement?

(Not that it matters but) we're working towards a scenario where a spell casting beast will end up wanting to make itself understood by the members of the party, and I'm trying to decide whether the beast should seem to speak Common and be understood by all of the party, or only be understood by the party member the spell's been cast on.

Since this is homebrew I can make up whatever I want, but it got me thinking and now I'm really just curious if there's anything RAW and/or any other supplementary writings that break down how Speak with Animals works or if it's been left up to the group's discretion.


2 Answers 2


It sounds like whatever you want it to sound like. As you say, RAW is only:

You gain the ability to comprehend and verbally communicate with beasts for the duration.

Breaking this down you can comprehend their verbal and non-verbal signals and you can only "verbally communicate" i.e. talk to them. The simplest explanation is that you each speak in your own "tongue" but the Magic makes this comprehensible. However, if you prefer, you speak in the native tongue of the animal. Or you each speak in a mutually comprehensible ur- language. Or an angelic/demonic translator appears. Or ...

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    \$\begingroup\$ I prefer to run this as the caster being able to speak the animal's language, because that means the magic is only actually affecting the caster. That avoids problems like "Shouldn't unwilling animals get a saving throw?" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnDallman what if the creature speaks mostly language of smells and gestures? (like dogs, rats or horses) \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 9:31

The spell is Range: Self. Therefore, it only affects the caster and does not grant other party members the ability to communicate with the animal.

Of course you're free to implement your own variant of the spell, possibly at a higher level.


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