You gain the ability to comprehend and verbally communicate with beasts for the duration. The knowledge and awareness of many beasts is limited by their intelligence, but at minimum, beasts can give you information about nearby locations and monsters, including whatever they can perceive or have perceived within the past day. You might be able to persuade a beast to perform a small favor for you, at the DM’s discretion.
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S
Duration: 10 minutes
School: 1st-level divination (ritual)
Player’s Handbook, pg. 277
Speak with Animals 5e
Speak with Animals — the DnD spell that lets you be a Disney princess for 10 minutes. A spell that’s power level is largely determined by player creativity and DM decision-making, we’ll go over both sides of the DM screen when it comes to casting Speak with Animals.
Who Can Cast Speak with Animals in 5e?
The following classes have Speak with Animals on their spell list:
The following subclasses get Speak with Animals for free:
Cleric (Nature Domain)
Paladin (Oath of the Ancients)
Additionally, 2nd-level Warlocks (and anyone who picks up the Eldritch Adept feat; TCoE 79) can get the Beast Speech Eldritch Invocation, which allows a player to cast Speak with Animals at will without expending a spell slot (PHB 110).
At 3rd level, Rangers also get the ability to cast Speak with Animals once per long rest without expending a spell slot, if you’re using the optional class features from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (TCoE 57).
Finally, Druids from the Circle of the Shepherd subclass get the Speech of the Woods feature at 2nd level, which essentially allows for a player to permanently have Speak with Animals active (XGtE 23).
What Does Speak with Animals Do in 5e?
Speak with Animals grants the caster the ability to verbally communicate with beasts (any creature with the “beast” tag in their stat block) and understand them.
Beasts are in no way charmed or automatically convinced they should help the player talking to them, but through a combination of roleplaying, ability checks, and DM discretion, beasts will be able to give you limited information about their surroundings and perform favors that are within their intellectual and physical capability.
That “DM discretion” note means that, for many of the “rules” below, you should take them with a sizeable grain of salt.
What Are the Rules for Speak with Animals in 5e?
The rules for Speak with Animals in DnD 5e are as follows:
Speak with Animals allows you to cast spells like Command or Suggestion on beasts. A nice, succinct answer on Sage Advice confirmed this. And it checks out with common sense as well, since all three spells involve verbal communication.
Telepathy doesn’t work with Speak with Animals. Based on this Sage Advice thread on a different topic, as well as the “verbally communicate” detail of the spell description, it appears that telepathy cannot be used in conjunction with Speak with Animals.
Speaking with animals doesn’t guarantee friendliness, intelligent responses, or cooperation. As the Circle of Shepherds’ Speech of the Woods feature makes explicit, “this ability doesn’t grant you friendship with beasts, though you can combine this ability with gifts to curry favor with them as you would with any nonplayer character” (XGtE 23).
While this note is about a particular subclass feature, it provides great insight for DMs and player expectations around the spell Speak with Animals. It’s basically a universal translator — just because you can suddenly speak Mandarin, doesn’t mean that everyone in China will suddenly drop what they’re doing to help you out for no reason.
Being able to “persuade a beast to perform a small favor” doesn’t mean you necessarily need to make a persuasion check. It means it’s up to the (very loose) rules on roleplaying described in the Player’s Handbook (pg. 185) and Dungeon Master’s Guide (pg. 244). That’s what this Sage Advice thread suggests anyway.
In other words, once again, it’s very much up to DM discretion of how easy it is to persuade a beast, what circumstances improve or detract from the player’s odds of success, what check is required to succeed in persuading the beast, what favors an animal is able to perform, and how intelligent a beast can be while it carries out its task (to name a few factors).
I’ll give my two cents on all of this in the DM tips section below.
Animals never get the ability to speak, so only the caster of Speak with Animals can interpret their communication. This is an important distinction, as a player will have to relay the animal’s responses to their party members, and all communication toward the animal must go through the spellcaster.
You cannot speak with a familiar with Speak with Animals. Because the familiar is a fey, celestial, or fiend — not a beast.
Ritual casting takes 10 minutes. Speak with Animals has a ritual tag, so you can cast it without expending a spell slot if you have 10 minutes to spare (PHB 201-2).
How Do I Use Speak with Animals in 5e?
Speak with Animals might provide a straightforward ability to the caster, but the applications are incredibly numerous:
Find out happenings in the a natural area. This is the minimum that a beast will be able to tell you, as laid out explicitly in the spell’s description. How you make the most of this is speaking to beasts that have a wide range of travel and so will have plenty of information.
Or speak to an animal that has blindsight if you’re in a dark place, or one that’s likely to notice the sort of things you’re looking to learn more about. The point is, be thoughtful about which specific animals in your environment are most likely to have the best information for your particular situation.
Pair with bribery or Charisma-boosting effects. As we laid out in the rules section above, just because you can speak with a creature, doesn’t necessarily mean that it wants to speak with you or will be inclined to help you.
But animals are also usually pretty easy to bribe with food, so come prepared for the occasion (cheese for a mouse, a chicken for a fox, etc.) and you’ll have a much easier time steering the conversation in a productive direction.
Employ spies. As for favors, a good trick is convincing a small, unassuming creature (like a spider, rat, etc.) to scout ahead for you and report back on what they see. This can give you a significant advantage when planning how to proceed.
Just note that DMs might set pretty big restrictions on the complexity of your instructions and the level of detail animals will be able to provide.
Retrieve small objects. Another simple task that many beasts will be able to comprehend and complete is to simply pick up an object and bring it back to you. If it’s small enough to fit into a normal mammal’s mouth, you’re probably good to go. Perfect for a jailbreak from a rat-filled dungeon.
Tame mounts and gain pets. There’s nothing much in the way of rules on taming wild beasts to be your mount or companion, but a DM certainly can’t deny that the ability to communicate directly with an animal ought to improve your odds of success and/or speed up the process.
Just don’t expect to gain a full-fledged combat companion out of this — that’s what the Beast Master Ranger subclass is for.
Is Speak with Animals 5e a Good Spell?
Speak with Animals is as good as your creativity and your DM allows it to be. The abundance (or lack thereof) of beasts in your campaign setting is also a huge factor in the power of Speak with Animals.
The ritual casting option is nice if you’re not in a rush, as you’ll be able to cast the spell for free. Overall, if you like utility spells and gaining a strategic advantage through roleplay rather than blasting spells, you likely won’t be disappointed with Speak with Animals.
Speak with Animals 5e DM Tips
An unfortunate and common complaint for players is that their DM makes Speak with Animals basically useless by making animals too stupid, forgetful, aggressive, etc. to effectively communicate. Don’t be this DM.
Players who pick a spell like Speak with Animals are drawn to spellcasting for the unique utility it provides rather than the raw DPR they can provide for the party. Don’t make those players feel like they made the “wrong” choice for not picking a straightforward blasting spell instead.
Instead, reward them with meaningful roleplaying moments, subtle hints about their surroundings that track with what an animal would actually know, and maybe a not-instantly-vicious carnivore once in a while.
Try to be thoughtful and honest about the scope of each beast’s world. A bird may cover a huge range, but wouldn’t likely be able to tell you anything about an encampment that’s underground, for example.
Also, do consider the intricacies of language without being a total hardass about it. For instance, a wolf might describe a spear as a “long shiny tooth” and leave it up to the player to decipher the human word for such an object.
You could skip the direct dialogue and just describe images that the animal conveys to the caster directly. Or you could have the animal paw, chitter, etc. in a way that makes sense to the caster.
But when players try to give instructions to a beast, you do need to remind them of the “limited intelligence” element of this spell and beasts in general. For example, asking a squirrel to grab a sapphire from a desk probably won’t work. Asking him to grab the “blue acorn-sized rock on the flat wood” might do the trick.
But if there are several sapphires on the table and your players need a specific one, then your squirrel might just bring the wrong one back.
Basically, try your best to empathize with how an animal would think/behave in each situation. I also recommend having an outside-of-game chat with players about the limitations of Speak with Animals so that they don’t get frustrated with it.
Simple Speak with Animals 5e Spell Text
Speak with Animals: (1st-level divination (ritual), Self, 10 minutes, V/S) Can comprehend and verbally communicate with beasts for the duration.