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Speak With Dead 5e D&D Guide

Speak With Dead 5e D&D Guide

The spirits of the deceased are all around you. Their mortal flesh hides secrets and knowledge only some can uncover.

Necromancers, but only for a brief moment, can reach out to these spirits. Asking them five questions as the corpse regurgitates what they once knew. Only then can the lost secrets be uncovered.

The Player’s Handbook states the following:

Speak With Dead 5e

3rd-level Necromancy

Casting Time: 1 Action

Range: 10 feet

Components: V, S, M (burning incense)

Duration: 10 minutes

When a corpse of your choice is within range, you can give it the appearance of life and intelligence to respond to your questions.

The corpse cannot be undead and must still have a mouth. If the corpse was the spell’s target within the previous 10 days, the spell fails.


You may question the corpse up to five times before the spell expires. The deceased only remember what they knew while alive, including the languages they spoke.

Answers are frequently brief, cryptic, or repetitive, and if you’re hostile to the corpse or it perceives you as an enemy, it won’t be obligated to give you an honest response.

Only the creature’s animating spirit is returned to its body by this spell; the creature’s soul is not.

As a result, the corpse cannot acquire new knowledge, understand what has occurred since it died, or predict what will happen in the future.

Spell Type – Communication

Which Classes Can Pick Speak With Dead 5e?

Traditional classes like the Bard, Cleric, and Wizard can freely unlock Speak with Dead.

All three traditional classes can unlock and use Speak with Dead at level 5.

Subclasses like the Knowledge Domain (Cleric), The Undying (Warlock), and The Undead (Warlock) also have Speak with Dead in their spell lists.

All three subclasses can unlock and use Speak with Dead at level 5.

Is Speak With Dead Good in 5e?

Speak with Dead is a useful spell. It works well when problem-solving and enjoying some unique role-play. Using this spell can add some much-needed flavor to your campaign.

Advantages – Speak With Dead


Speak with Dead has a duration of 10 minutes. Out-of-combat spells lasting anything from 10 minutes to 1 hour are extremely powerful.

It allows you to gather more information, interrogate the dead for longer or learn about a story thoroughly.

No Concentration

Concentration are duration are usually linked, and luckily Speak with Dead gets lucky with both. Having no Concentration, coupled with a longer duration, will make the spell nearly impossible to cancel outright.

You can also defend yourself with other spells while you do this (by casting Concentration spells or spells using bonus actions).


Having a low range, like Speak with Dead has (10 feet), is a negative trait. The thing is, Speak with Dead isn’t a combat spell.

The range doesn’t matter when the spell is mainly used for information gathering and role-play. If you only use it out of combat, you don’t ever have to worry about range.

Disadvantages – Speak With Dead

Material Component

Speak with Dead uses burning incense as its Material component. This can be seen as a positive if you play a Cleric, as they use a lot of incense for their rituals/religious practices.

The problem arises when you leave town. Finding incense in the wilderness is impossible, and keeping it intact while traveling can also be arduous.

So check your materials before leaving a city, or Speak with Dead will be useless!

Spells Similar To Speak With Dead 5e

Similar spells to Speak with Dead are Augury, Commune, and Divination.

Note: These spells focus more on the questions asked and the answers than using the dead to answer them.

When or How Should I Use Speak With Dead?

Ancient Battlefields (Role-play)

You’ll come across many ancient battlefields that house thousands of dead.

Each one of them will have some sort of knowledge, so if you’d like to find out about what happened, then try speaking with them.

Maybe they’ll even provide you with a new exciting quest!

Befriend Victims

If you are looking for a villain, speaking to his victims (if you know where their bodies are) would be best.

Most victims would probably want revenge on their murderer. So if you promise to use the information they tell you to hunt that person, they’ll give you as much information as possible.

Doing this is also a great way to make friends with spirits. You might not think spirits are capable of anything, but having some friends is better than having none!

Uncover Secrets

Uncovering secrets is one of the best ways to use Speak with Dead.

Let’s say your campaign revolves around your party having to find out who murdered a king as your first quest. Sure, it’ll take some time, but what if you can find his corpse?

If you were to uncover his corpse, you could question him about his murder. Maybe he remembers a dagger, facial features, or the last person he saw.

That little bit of information can go a long way!

Note: Just be careful not to put all your hope on one spell; even though it can be effective, it’s good to have backup plans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use Speak With Dead on a Skeleton?

It depends on what the DM finds is an acceptable conversation.

The final answer depends solely on your DM, but most will likely allow it in some form.

Can You Intimidate the Spirit?

There are ways to intimidate the spirit.

You can threaten to kill the ones he loved while still alive or use magic to enter his realm. Entering the realm, he resides in might enable you to damage him.

Note: The DM will make the final decision.

Final Thoughts

Corpses hold more secrets than adventurers think. Simply skipping over potential information because you think it’ll have nothing of value might make you miss an entire quest line.

Adventurers need to stop and think not only about the usefulness of a spell but its roleplay ability.

This spell can open up many new paths or lead you to a dark one where only the dead reside!

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