[RPG] A slave’s tongue has been cut out. How to restore her ability to speak


Slavery is commonplace in this setting. Slaves routinely have their tongues cut out, to prevent them organising a resistance movement, or back-chatting their owners.

The party has freed some slaves after decades of enslavement, and would like to permanently restore their ability to speak.

What is the cheapest item, or lowest level spell, that can do this?

  • Healing magic that can restore missing body parts would suffice.
  • A magical effect allowing the user to speak using a 'prosthetic voice' would also suffice.

I don't think the regular Cure X Wounds spells will work, as removing an entire appendage is a bit different to normal hit-point damage.

All 3.5 ed books are available.

This campaign is set in the world of The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, on Tamriel. The slaves are mostly Argonians (lizard-people) and Khajiit (cat-people). Mechanically, they are Humanoid-type creatures.

The party's motivation for re-growing the slaves' tongues is to symbolise their freedom, by permanently reversing the trauma inflicted when they were enslaved.

The various answers below also give temporary means of communicating with the slaves until the party is powerful enough to effect a permanent cure; these answers are also useful and appreciated.

Amusing anecdote: The actual reason the slaves are tongue-less is because this happened in the first session:

DM (me) : "You have defeated the smugglers. You search the area and find three wooden crates, a boat, two slaves, and 10GP of coins."

Players: "We talk to the slaves!"

[DM has no prepared dialog for the slaves, and has no idea what they would talk about.]

DM: "…. the slaves have had their tongues cut out!"

Players: "That's terrible! We're going to lead a slave revolt and free all the slaves in Morrowind!"

And that's how the entire campaign got sidetracked from "Defeat the evil Dagoth Ur" to "Restore the tongues of every slave in Morrowind".

Best Answer

So the loss of body parts is awkward at best in 3.5, since the rules never describe any process by which it might happen or what it means when it does. Because the system doesn’t get into it, it doesn’t give a whole lot of options for dealing with it.

The regenerate spell can definitely fix a lost body part. It is one of only two references to the idea that limbs might be lost: regenerate, which heals it, and the ring of regeneration, which prevents it. These appear, to many, to simply be nods to earlier editions of D&D, and not indication that body part loss is intended to be a part of the game.

In particular, besides the inclusion of the classic ring and spell, Wizards never bothered to add more or more detailed ways to deal with lost body parts, because there wasn’t really a way for that to happen in the first place. This means there isn’t a real alternative to regenerate for the slave.

Regenerate is a 7th-level spell, which means a Cleric 13 is typically required to get it. A lower-level cleric could activate a spell-trigger device that contains regenerate, but wands are capped at 4th level, and none of the default staves contain the spell (there is some debate about whether custom staves should be allowed). However, Lost Empires of Faerûn describe scepters, spell-trigger devices like wands but without a maximum level limit. A scepter of regenerate would cost 68,250 gp, or 1,365 gp per slave regenerated.

Various temporary measures are available, but do not really help the slaves much. Still, as interim measures, these allow for communication between the party and some of the slaves.

  • One, if you are particularly cruel (which you’re clearly not, but whatever), there’s the option of killing the slave and then using speak with dead; that’s a core 3rd-level cleric spell. Note that speak with dead is notoriously unreliable, however; even if you are cruel enough, this isn’t a particularly effective solution, especially since physical damage to the body explicitly damages the corpse’s ability to return coherent answers; so long as it has a mouth at all, apparently, it can give an answer, but it probably won’t be a useful one.

  • Various polymorph effects, starting with the 4th-level polymorph itself, could probably turn the creature into a creature capable of speech (including itself), but since the loss of body parts is not defined by the rules, this is up to the DM: it may be that under his or her houserules for body part loss, such losses are maintained when you polymorph.

  • Telepathic bond is a 5th-level spell that lets a bunch of creatures speak with one another telepathically. No need for a tongue to do that.

    • Lesser telepathic bond is a 3rd-level variant, available to clerics, sorcerers, and wizards, allowing the caster to speak telepathically with one target.

Some options that are permanent, but problematic:

  • Instead of killing them for speak with dead, it would be slightly less cruel, and much more effective, to bring them back to life to restore the ability to speak. You will need a powerful effect to do it, though, as raise dead (and thus the previously-recommended revivify) lack the ability to restore body parts. Resurrection and true resurrection are up to the task, but unlike revivify, those cost a level or Constitution damage, and they’re extremely high-level to begin with. Reincarnate and thus its revivify-analogue, last breath, will work and are a reasonable level, but both would change their race, which is a tough sell in the highly-xenophobic Tamriel.

  • Just for completeness’s sake, unlike polymorph, polymorph any object would be permanent if you polymorphed the slave into herself. Permanent spells are still vulnerable to dispel magic, and polymorph any object is an 8th-level spell while regenerate is 7th-level, so there is really no reason to use this.

  • Telepathic bond can be made permanent with permanency, but only between two creatures per permanency spell. This requires caster level 13th, which would ordinarily be sufficient to simply cast regenerate, but bonuses to caster level might possibly allow this before regenerate is available. But costing 2,500 XP a pop is not great at all; that’s roughly equivalent to 12,500 gp per slave-pair, vastly more expensive than the scepter of regenerate. Also, permanent spells are always subject to being forcefully ended, like with dispel magic.

  • Sign language exists in D&D 3.5: Drow of the Underdark describes “drow sign language” as a regular language that someone can learn. Learning a new language typically requires leveling up (so one can put skill points in it), but it’s conceivable that something could be worked out for NPCs to “partially level-up” or something so they could do this. Or else just homebrewed rules for learning a language without skill points. Alternatively, Player’s Handbook II allows the retraining of languages at no cost, but that means the slaves have to forget some other language. And this only allows organization, not talking back to owners.

    • A crystal mask of languages allows the wearer to “speak” and write five different languages. They technically don’t even have to be the same five known by the crafter, which could potentially allow a psion to be commissioned to make one bearing drow sign language even if the crafter doesn’t know it. At 2,500 gp each, though, this costs more than the scepter of regenerate if there are 28 or more slaves.

      • A more limited crystal mask of languages granting only one language (crystal mask of language?) could arguably cost a mere 100 gp, following the general trend of magic items costing (numerical bonus)2 × (some factor in gp): 2,500 gp for 5 languages is 52 × (100 gp). Talk to your DM.
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