[RPG] Must a creature be able to hear the caster’s whisper to be targeted by the Dissonant Whispers spell


Dissonant whispers says:

You whisper a discordant melody that only one creature of your choice within range can hear, wracking it with terrible pain. The target must make a Wisdom saving throw.

I initially took the first sentence to mean that the creature must be able to hear the caster's whisper to be targeted by dissonant whispers, but now I'm not so sure.

Perhaps I've read it one too many times… although only one creature can hear the whisper, the spell doesn't require that the creature must hear the whisper. Am I reading too much into this?

Best Answer

The target doesn't need to hear the whisper to be a valid target

Dissonant Whispers notes that (PHB pg. 234):

A deafened creature automatically succeeds on the save.

Dissonant Whispers does still deal half damage on a successful save. So, even if the creature can't hear the whisper, it does still take damage, but it won't be forced to move away from the caster. It would make very little sense for the game's designers to specifically note that a deafened creature (one that can't hear the whisper) still suffers a negative effect if they weren't supposed to be valid targets.

Contrast this spell with the Suggestion spell

The Suggestion spell states (PHB 279, emphasis mine):

You suggest a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two) and magically influence a creature you can see within range that can hear and understand you.

In this case, the spell explicitly notes that a creature which can't hear you cannot be targeted. Dissonant Whispers has no such clause. Based on this, we can determine that Dissonant Whispers can still target a creature that can't hear you (because the spell doesn't say that you can't do that) and the creature would succeed on the save automatically (because the spell says that's what happens in this case).