The ultimate low-level stealth communication method, Message, is a common tool for groups or individuals who prefer to avoid making a scene. Secret whispers allow the user to communicate almost undetectable to another individual.
The rules for Message can be found in the Players Handbook on page 259.
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 120 Feet
Components: V, S, M (a short piece of copper wire)
Duration: 1 Round
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.
The description for Message outlines it’s benefits as well as the versatility. Low-level parties generally don’t have access to magic items that duplicate this function, so the cantrip comes in handy often. The limit is the range and, of course, the limited obstructions that block it.
Is Message a Good Cantrip?
Message is a great cantrip for roleplay and practical use in-game. The idea that a stealthy character can communicate practically secretly offers great potential for the group to pull off precision timing events. The range is decent, and it works both ways. The recipient can reply to the whisper allowing for conveniently shared information.
The other interesting roleplay feature is that the caster doesn’t need to know the target. This could be used to tell hostages of a plan or confuse an unsuspecting target.
The mechanical and practical applications are numerous, but the best way to use this cantrip might be with the party scout. If the one member scouts ahead of the group, they can use this cantrip to subtly alert the followers to any approaching danger while keeping a safe distance from noisier party members.
Can Others Hear Message?
Spells in 5e are very specific in what they do and don’t do. The spell description clearly states that only the targeted person can hear the whisper and may respond in a whisper only the caster can hear. This clearly answers the question as a no, others can not hear the message.
This doesn’t mean that others would not recognize casting the spell. It does have verbal, somatic, and material components that are part of the casting. Pulling out the piece of wire, making the gesture, and the movement of the caster’s lips could all be noticed. Pointing at the target is probably the most obvious.
Does Message Work in Silence?
The Message spell in 5e requires verbal, somatic, and material components. The verbal component is the key here if there is an effect in place that prevents the caster from making sound, the spell will fail. This is true for all spells in 5e. If one of the component requirements cannot be met, the spell will automatically fail. This does cost the caster the spell slot for spells higher than cantrips.
While silence-type effects prevent Message from working, loud ambient noise does not. This would be a great way to communicate over distance in the midst of loud noise like a battle. It may not always be a great option to use an action for communication, but it could be imperative in certain circumstances.
What is the Difference between Message and Sending?
Aside from the obvious difference of spell level, the function of the spells varies quite a bit, although they serve much the same purpose.
Message works over short distances but has effectively unlimited uses, and the whisper can be of significant size. Sending, on the other hand, works over vast distances but is limited to only 25 words. Both can be replied to by the recipient and offer little chance of being discovered. In other words, both spells have their uses depending on the situation.
For a cantrip, Message is a great pick. As stated before, it is popular as a cantrip, but that shouldn’t discourage the player from choosing it because the overlap doesn’t make the spell less useful. In fact, it may enhance the ability to separate but still stay in contact.
Suppose there is a character who is going to scout ahead like an Arcane Trickster Rogue. In that case, the spell can allow them to play the way they want but still maintain party involvement without trying to solo the entire scenario. There are numerous opportunities to use the spell in roleplay scenarios as well. Few cantrips are as versatile.