[RPG] Is using the effect of the Comprehend Languages spell too strenuous to be done as part of a short rest


The PHB describes a short rest as:

A short rest is a period of downtime, at least 1 hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds.

Here's the scenario.

The party holes up and declares the intention to take a short rest. The wizard casts comprehend languages as a ritual, and then spends the hour of the spell reading pages from a written text written in a lost language, one page a minute. While the literal words of the text are easy to decipher, due to the spell, it is challenging to make sense of the text as a whole, and the wizard needs to go back and forth to make sense of it, sometimes having to reread pages in light of the information on other pages.

Is this activity more strenuous than "eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds"? I am inclined to rule that it is, but I want to know if there are aspects that I am missing.

I am looking at the hour of the spell's effect as occurring during the short rest, excluding the time required to cast the spell, so the effort required to actually cast the spell is out-of-scope for this question. I'm just asking if the effort described to actually make use of the spell's effect is more than allowable in a short rest.

I'm interested in both RAW and in people's actual experiences with similar situations.


Best Answer

Reading with comprehend languages is probably no more strenuous than reading normally

The text of comprehend languages says:

For the duration, you understand the literal meaning of any spoken language that you hear. You also understand any written language that you see, but you must be touching the surface on which the words are written. It takes about 1 minute to read one page of text.

It doesn't say you need to concentrate, use your action, or do anything at all in order to understand spoken words, and the only requirement for understanding written words is touching the surface they're written on, which is already part of normal reading. It just says that you understand the literal meaning. In fact, understanding spoken language isn't even optional: the caster understands all speech that they can hear whether they want to or not until the spell ends. There is nothing in the spell text to indicate that reading or listening using the spell is any more strenuous than doing so without the spell. (One minute to read a full page of text is pretty consistent with how long it takes me normally to read and fully comprehend (i.e. not just skim) a page of text in real life.) Hence, I see no reason you could not benefit from a short rest while reading using comprehend languages. You probably would not say that hearing and understanding someone's speech using the spell should interrupt your short rest. So why should reading be any different than comprehending speech?

It's entirely possible that certain kinds of reading, such as focused study involving constant cross-referencing between multiple books and keeping track of many trains of thought at once, would be too strenuous to be part of a short rest. But that has nothing to do with comprehend languages.