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Detect Thoughts 5e D&D Guide

Detect Thoughts 5e D&D Guide

Detect Thoughts is a very powerful 2nd-level utility spell. It is a part of the Bard, Sorcerer, and Wizard spell lists.

Detect Thoughts have a profound meaning, as you can probe a creature, seeing its deepest fears and pleasures. It allows players to destroy an enemy from the outside and the inside.

The Player’s Handbook description specifies the following:

Detect Thoughts 5e

2nd-level Divination

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: Self

Components: V, S, M (a single copper piece)

Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

For the duration of the spell, the caster can read the thoughts of specific creatures.

When the spell is cast, its caster can use an action on each turn until the spell comes to an end to focus their mind on any one creature that can see them within 30 feet.

If the creature chosen has an Intelligence of 3 or lower or cannot speak any language, the creature will remain unaffected.


Initially, the creature’s surface thoughts are revealed – what is on its mind the most at the current moment.

Used as an action, the caster can shift their attention to another creature’s thoughts or may attempt to probe deeper into the mind of the current creature.

When probing deeper, the target must make a Wisdom saving roll.

If the roll fails, the caster will gain insight into the creature’s reasoning (if it has any), its emotional state, and something that looms laregly in its mind (something it worries over consistently, loves, and hates).

If the roll succeeds, Detect Thoughts will end.


Regardless of what conspired, the target will know that the caster is trying to probe into its mind.

Unless the caster shifts their attention to the thoughts of a different creature, the affected target may use its action (on its turn) to make an Intelligence check.

The check is contested by the caster’s Intelligence check, and if the target succeeds, the spell ends abruptly.

Note: Questions that are verbally directed at the target creature shape naturally shape the course of its thoughts. It makes Detect Thoughts particularly effective when used as a part of an interrogation.

Creature Detection

Players can also use Detect Thoughts to identify the presence of any thinking creature not visible to the caster.

When the spell is cast or used as an action during the duration, players may search for thoughts within 30 feet of them.

The spell can penetrate barriers; however, 2 feet of rocks, 2 inches of any metal besides lead, or a thin sheet of lead can block it.

Note: Players cannot detect creatures with an Intelligence of 3 or lower or creatures unable to speak any language.

Detecting the presence of a creature this way enables the caster to read its thoughts for the remaining duration. This can be done even if there is no vision of the creature, but it must remain within range.

Classes That Can Pick Detect Thoughts

Traditional classes that have access to Detect Thoughts are the Bard, Sorcerer, and Wizard classes, which fall under their spell selection.

Subclasses don’t have access to Detect Thoughts without having to either level up (unlocking skills to use other classes’ spells) or change their spell lists with the DM.

Is Detect Thoughts Good in 5e?

Detect Thoughts isn’t powerful in a literal sense, yet players can use it as successfully as any attack spell. The only difference being it sacrifices attack power for utility power.

Advantages of Detect Thoughts

Low Level

Since Detect Thoughts is a 2nd-level spell, the three abovementioned classes can learn and use this spell at level 3. This is very early in the game and will allow the players to experiment with the spell before really having to use it.

Disadvantages of Detect Thoughts

Concentration Spell

Concentration spells are some of the easiest spells to cancel, as all the enemies have to either damage the caster or force them to cast another ability using Concentration.

Note: Be careful of digging deeper into the mind of a creature when their subordinates are near; he may order them to attack you.

Low Range

Even though the Handbook range for Detect Thoughts is Self, we can effectively say it’s 30 feet, as that is the maximum range its detection magic works.

Any range below 30 feet will make it increasingly difficult for players to hold their Concentration successfully, so have another player keep watch or find the safest hiding spot.

When To Use Detect Thoughts

Detect Thoughts has quite a few useful utilities players can work with. It is aided by the easily obtainable material (copper piece) and low level, making it less straining for the caster.

During Interrogations

Use Detect Thoughts after your party has captured an enemy and plans to interrogate them.

To get even more truthful information out of the interrogated creature, use another 2nd-level spell, Zone of Truth, as it gives the players insight into the truthful thoughts of the creature.

When everything is ready, cast the chosen spells, and pry deeper into their mind to find their true intentions. Only there will you find what you are looking for.

Before Ambushes

Before ambushing a camp, reading a creature’s mind could come in handy. Maybe they were given special orders, their units were tired, or they spoke about where their master was.

All this information can help players formulate an attack strategy, allowing them to work with a plan.

Note: A DM might note this as strategic, allowing bonuses to certain characters (but that depends on the DM).

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Detect Thoughts Be Twinned?

Detect Thoughts has a range of self, which means it doesn’t meet the requirements to be twinned.

Do Targets Know When You Use Detect Thoughts

While a player is busy searching through their brain, they are fully aware. They can even send their minions to attack you or aim to target you specifically when the spell ends.

Final Thoughts

Detect Thought is an overall useful spell. Its true potential is unlocked by using it with other spells, but its base ability can also be extremely effective.

Just make sure not to lose concentration, or else the targetted creature will come out furious!

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