Detect magic as quick search.


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


I know a group of players that pretty much never search random rooms. they search the enamies and maybe the bosses room but as they are wandering around they never bother to use a search to find anything interesting in the room. Instead they simply go "detect magic the room"

on the one hand this frustrates me because no matter how difficult the search WOULD be ... detect magic auto finds it... got a magic ring hidden in a secret desk drawr?
Detect magic the room, ZING! i sense magic.. focus... focus... got it.

on the other hand the party is complining about lacking enough loot... why? because if that same drawr has no magic items but a ceremonial dagger worth 2000 gold they never bother to look in the drawer and find it.

Now... I know that the easy answer to this is that not getting loot is a valid penalty for their lazyness.

however the long term result is the game is missing certain elements of fun. The fun of conducting the search and possibly dealing with traps or just RPing the search itself for cleverly hidden items. the fun of finding unexpected stuff and the fun of having the loot they need to buy the items they want.

how do you.. or would you deal with this issue in your game?

I have tried hints and suggestions but they tend to roll over them... and when they later complain about the low level of loot in a particular dungeon and I tell them that they missed aboug X000 gold in stuff that they failed to search for they look at me like I am a horrible person for not giving it to them.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Key here is the word 'fun'. Now you say that the game is missing an element of fun because the players are not searching these rooms. Do you think maybe its possible they dont think searching every room in a dungeon is 'fun'? DO you know how tedious it can be to play that out in some of the dungeons we see as gamers with hundreds of rooms?


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"The room pulsates with magic, from the walls to the floor, making your ability to isolate any particular sources impossible."


Give them an otherwise useless DMPC who searches for them and pockets a share of all the loot he finds.


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Roll their perception checks to search the room yourself - you seem to find it more fun than they do.


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This is pretty interesting that this is an issue. My players and myself have always done our best to pick through every room or desk. I've even nearly killed a Gnome Summoner I was playing when I reached into a Giants trap door on his desk.

As Kolokotroni said, maybe they don't find searching for the loot 'fun' but maybe instead of having it hidden, add the loot as part of the room.

"To the left you see a wall encrusted with valuable gems" or "In the center of the room you see a pedestal with an ornamental, yet expensive looking ceremonial dagger on it"

The fun for you here is determining the difficulty of retrieving the seemingly obvious loot, be it adding traps or cursed items, or some sort of puzzle to get to it.


I get your point kolo.

but I am not expecting them to spend 15 mins per room.

in fact I dont actually expect them to search EVERYTHING... but they dont search ANYTHING.

game time and real time are not the same.

If the players say we spend 10 mins searching the room and roll perception checks. that takes 10 to 20 seconds of real time.

on the other hand if I roll the perception checks as ben suggests I am taking a bit of character sovereignty from them and it can lead to later problems because the search may take game time that effects spell durations and the like.

I have used the "this room has a general aura of residual magic making it hard to detect any items that may be here." device on them before, they happened to be searching a wizards lab. they actually got a bit upset about it, first trying to rule check it, then kind of grumbling through a quick roll and moving on. they actually spent 5 or 10 mins on a situation that could have taken 10 seconds... well probably a minute or two as it was a bit of a complex room.


Kaelizar wrote:

As Kolokotroni said, maybe they don't find searching for the loot 'fun' but maybe instead of having it hidden, add the loot as part of the room.

This is a good point... but I cringe at it because beyond loot some time a search is part of the plot development of the story.

I mean... should all secret doors be conspicuously left ajar? should all of the flavorfull journal documentation be left out on desks?

it starts to break story submersion if every one seems to leave their valuables on desks or plastered to the wall does it not?


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This is how I deal with detect magic, since it is now a cantrip an can be cast an unlimited amount of times.

Any spellcaster can use Detect Magic as often as they want, so society has adapted; look at this part of the spell:

The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.

Basically, if you have a hidden drawer, a chest, etc, society would adapt to lining such containers spots with a thin sheet of lead. The players would know this, so therefore using Detect Magic to just ignore a room because they don't spot any auras within wouldn't happen.

I let my players know this at the beginning of the campaign so they don't use such tactics themselves.

People are crafty. They would adapt to such use of magic to counter it.

Just my two cents.


blue_the_wolf wrote:
it starts to break story submersion if every one seems to leave their valuables on desks or plastered to the wall does it not?

Point taken. but they aren't just plastered or laying on the table, the document is in a code that needs to be figured out, the gems are protected by some force etc.

And as for GM/DM perception rolls, I thought that was kind of how it was supposed to be, especially in regards to secret doors. (that or every room you enter you say " I roll a perception check to search for secret doors" which also kind of breaks submersion)

I know that that stance is a bit odd b/c like you said, players like their rolls.

As for having it be part of Plot development, that leads to another can of worms. Say you did have players that did search rooms and they just so happen to roll poorly in the 'plot point' room and miss it anyway.


I think I'd start by talking to them - find out why they don't search rooms. It might be that they just haven't gotten into the habit of doing so and the occasional prodding from the GM will help. Or maybe they find searching rooms less fun than killing monsters and would rather be doing that. Or there might be a gaming style conflict here. You won't know until you ask.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Maybe explain to them that Pathfinder isn't a computer game and there isn't a convenient combinations of keys to highlight the loot?

Actually there are several spells whose function is to fool detect magic, creating false auras or suppressing them and a small number of magic items that don't have a magic aura.
A detected magic aura can easily be a magic trap too.

If they don't want to take the time to roll themselves or declare their actions they can arrange with you a standard set of search actions they will take when searching a room, as an example the rogue will search for traps while the spellcaster try detect magic and the high perception ranger search for secret passages and compartments. After the rogue say the room is safe they will open all drawers and containers.
So when they want to search a room they only need to say "we check the room" and you would already know their routine and will only have to make a few rolls.

Maybe finding stuff that way will teach then that searching a room can be interesting and rewarding.


As Swashbuckler says, a world with detect magic being used like candy will end up with virtually any person wealthy enough to have magic items buying and using furniture with lead sheets to hide their stuff.

Even kobolds and goblins would use this technique. Lead is not an expensive metal and is among the easiest metals to work with.

Most of my NPCs have lead lined furniture and some even have lead lined pouches and cases to carry stuff in.

Remember also that using detect magic to get any real info requires time, it's not an instant process. Make them take the time.


My players search a lot. Over time, they have learned that the best elements of my games are often mundane and are not "treasure" in the standard sense. They are clues, in the form of diaries, histories, maps, keys, and the like.

Without the right clue or key, mysteries cannot be solved, killers cannot be uncovered, loot goes unfound, and even the character's own relationships with the world remain flat and uninteresting.

So my advice is, hide plot elements in the walls and make them exciting leads to new plots and locations. You may have to shove them in the direction of the first one or two, but once they get started, they should get the idea.


If the primary problem is what I think it might be, lead-lining hidden loot is only going to make things worse. blue_the_wolf wants to play a game where searching the room, RPing searching the room, and realism come into play. It sounds like his players want a game like a computer game (or Munchkin) - you kill the monster, the loot gets automatically deposited into your inventory.

Getting everyone together and discussing player and GM expectations about where loot is found and how to get it is probably the best option.

Shadow Lodge

Swashbucklersdc wrote:

...

Any spellcaster can use Detect Magic as often as they want, so society has adapted; look at this part of the spell:

The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.

Basically, if you have a hidden drawer, a chest, etc, society would adapt to lining such containers spots with a thin sheet of lead. The players would know this, so therefore using Detect Magic to just ignore a room because they don't spot any auras within wouldn't happen.

I let my players know this at the beginning of the campaign so they don't use such tactics themselves.

People are crafty. They would adapt to such use of magic to counter it.

Just my two cents.

If they don't mind missing items in chests, then feel free to have them move on and miss it.


blue_the_wolf wrote:


on the other hand if I roll the perception checks as ben suggests I am taking a bit of character sovereignty from them and it can lead to later problems because the search may take game time that effects spell durations and the like.

The flip side is that it is totally within the purview of the GM to roll Perception checks when determining the general DC for such checks may reveal too much information to the players. Or, where the level of the result determines the outcome due to multiple DCs/hidden locations.

In my games, I typically roll for any check where calculating the DC would result in too much information or where a level of "success" or "failure" is in question.

All I'm saying in bringing this up is, as others have pointed out, your players don't seem to find it fun to do all this searching and rolling. So it is okay for you to take control on occasion.

I also am in favor of treasure sitting right out on the wall, where removing it and taking it away involves the solving of a puzzle or disarming of a trap, etc. Hide the tools to remove it in the room somewhere and you are halfway to getting them involved in searching.


Avatar-1 wrote:

I'm surprised this thread is getting so many varied answers. This one explanation should make the entire point moot. If they don't mind missing items in chests, then feel free to have them move on and miss it.

It's a standard hardliner's reply, but it only leads to more grief for the GM. You are, taken to its natural conclusion, asking him to stop playing with these people, because your solution has already been stated to lead to a boring, colorless game for him. Something he does not want, and should not have to tolerate.

Now, at some point, the GM may have to consider whether these are the right people for him to play with. The question we have, and the reason this thread goes on, is whether he is still in a position to get these people involved.

I think maybe yes, because I suspect not all of the players are totally disinterested in finding interesting clues. It may be they haven't yet been involved in the right way, or may be they're following the lead of one specific player who does not care for searching.


I suspect its a style thing, I've never had a group that doesn't like looking for the rewards. In another thread the original poster has mentioned something about a conflict with a player and also has quite a hard line on charm person.

It may be that the party are used to being led through the story as it is being told and are into a pattern that has the group playing combat encounters but not really thinking through the options. When they have tried to go off the dictated route (player thinking like a GM and Charm Person being examples)they are chastised. In this case maybe it has extended to the point where they don't bother looking because they haven't been told to and it's obviously not part of the main perceived plot - they are following the story as it's being told. Detect magic has become de facto way of identifying if a room is significant or just a red herring, if it was important then they would be told it was important.

With regard to Detect Magic as a cantrip, as a GM I hate it as it does encourage scanner mode and has no real cost. Lead lined drawers, chests etc have become common place as a result. But there are many situations where concealment or trickery is not appropriate and the detect magic scan is just a give away.

Shadow Lodge

Throw a non-magical McGuffin that they need to find into the storyline.


Use magic aura liberally. Maybe the undead wizard has the good stuff cloaked by magic aura and uses false magic auras to make gaudy trash look valuable. You could even be mean and have the gaudy trash be trapped with stuff like contact poison.

Use lead lined chests and containers for storage of caches of magical treasure or even stuff like secret chests.

Or you could just establish a rule that they are taking 20 to search each room and thus finding everything but also risking wandering monsters.


actually I like the comments about using lead lined stuff. I had not thought of it because the only thing that stuck in my mind (and probably theirs) was the one foot of stone part. Its not perfect, its not a catch all but I think its something that can get the ball rolling when it comes to training the characters to think more like a role player and less like a WOW player.

I think it will be a bit of a long road though... We once had a situation where they killed a giant that was ambushing people on the road. they checked him for loot and continued walking along. I figured a giant with a lair is not going to carry all his loot around with him so when they searched the body (which generally doesnt requrie a roll) I said "he has a bag with a few gold coin, what looks like a lamb leg and a potion of some sort." but then I said to the ranger, "The vegetation around here is tramped down a bit and you get the impression that he spends time here, maybe setting up ambushes but your pretty cirtain he doesnt live here." I put that in there as a bone to the ranger to use his tracking ranger skills but would have given hints to anyone who did a search. But the caster was like, "detect magic, nothing? OK lets go" and off they went I even asked them if they were sure and they were like yea its cool.so a few minutes later I said, "Ok Im not going to let you go back but you just passed up a bunch of loot at the giants cave."

They got very upset with me because in their mind the giant should have his loot on him.

anyway ... thanks for the suggestions I will try to implement some of them and encourage them to use skills other than stealth and the occational knowlage.


blue_the_wolf wrote:


They got very upset with me because in their mind the giant should have his loot on him

I'm curious, do your players tend to walk around with all the contents of their bank accounts on their person? :)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Look is character sheet: "Yes, with all of his 17 sp" ;-)

Objectively most of the player characters wealth is in the form of magic or masterwork equipment, so they go around with most of it on their person.
On the other hand most PC are wandering murders hobos, and that is the norm for that kind of subjects.

More normal wealthy people generally has some real estate, a deposit in the local Adabar vault, a will and some parent.
Even a wandering Varisian will not have all of his wealth on his persons. Some will be in a easy tor each location in his wagon and the rest well hidden in some in a secret compartment in the same wagon.
And some will be the wagon and the beasts towing it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Random request: Can we stop saying "DMPC" ?

Saying "Dungeon Master Player Character" makes no sense to me.. lol

Just kidding.. kind of.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Correct, it should be GMPC on these boards. :)


Diego Rossi wrote:

Look is character sheet: "Yes, with all of his 17 sp" ;-)

Objectively most of the player characters wealth is in the form of magic or masterwork equipment, so they go around with most of it on their person.
On the other hand most PC are wandering murders hobos, and that is the norm for that kind of subjects.

More normal wealthy people generally has some real estate, a deposit in the local Adabar vault, a will and some parent.
Even a wandering Varisian will not have all of his wealth on his persons. Some will be in a easy tor each location in his wagon and the rest well hidden in some in a secret compartment in the same wagon.
And some will be the wagon and the beasts towing it.

Oh no, I didn't mean the PC's, I meant the players themselves. Clearly, if they expect any and all encounters to have all of their valuables on them at all times and nowhere else, they must walk around with theirs too. That, or they're being illogical :)


One of the things I do with my players when I GM is explain to them the concept that all of my NPCs behave rationally if they are capable of rational thought. That means if they have valuable stuff, they protect it, hide it, lock it up, trap the chests and otherwise make it convenient for them to use and keep track of, and difficult for others to find and steal.

They have long ago learned that after the bandit battle if they want the good stuff, the better go find the bandit lair. Oh, and the bandit lair probably has....

... more bandits.


blue_the_wolf wrote:
training the characters to think more like a role player and less like a WOW player.

That was seriously uncalled for. There are very, very many WoW players who role-play. WoW was practically lifted from D&D insofar as the way stuff worked in it. There are entire servers on WoW dedicated to Roleplaying. Roleplaying has elaboration on introductory or reference sites such as WoW-wiki. WoW did not magically appear one day and destroy roleplaying as you know it. Someone sees something they don't like in their games (as it has been since the dawn of D&D in the 70s) and then blames whatever is convenient in the same ways that foolish parents blamed D&D for their unstable children.

EDIT: Furthermore, whether using detect magic as a substitute for Perception or actually searching a room with Perception has absolutely nothing to do with roleplaying. One is no more role-playing than the other.


spoken like a dedicated WOW player ^_^

dont fret. I was not disparaging WOW. however i was thinking about the way a player in WOW (or Diablo, or any other such game) generally ignores anything that is not collor coded to be in the top level of power.

in other words the players are just spamming detect magic in order to find all of the uber loot. why bother with searching the room and going through grey stuff when detect magic is supposed to find it all for you.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Lead-lined drawers and compartments.

That is all.


blue_the_wolf wrote:

spoken like a dedicated WOW player ^_^

dont fret. I was not disparaging WOW. however i was thinking about the way a player in WOW (or Diablo, or any other such game) generally ignores anything that is not collor coded to be in the top level of power.

Oh. Okay. I think that clarifies it a bit (though some of we people who have played WoW aren't all about color coding :P). It just gets very old when people keep using WoW to describe what they see as bad gaming. A great example is the old "4E=WoW" thing, which only tells me they've never played WoW or something. I like WoW's mechanics. They remind me of 3.x/PF's mechanics. PvP in WoW is very, very similar to a real-time D&D game (there is no aggro mechanic, you adapt to what is going on, and fights are interesting and intense). I didn't like 4E's mechanics (I felt they discarded the good things about a tabletop RPG that CRPGs have difficulty emulating) and I didn't find it very fun (and the combat felt stale to me, as quite literally tactics went like this: Burn your 1/encounter powers ASAP, then fall back to spamming at-wills, if boss monster or emergency, burn daily power, quick-rest).

Personally, WoW has actually helped me find things that make my games better. I've seen mechanics that exist both in WoW and in 3.x/PF that could be used more frequently. Healing in WoW is not a bad idea in WoW (it actually is something you really appreciate during combat where it is tensest), and martial types are very fun to play in WoW (the Fighter/Barbarian class "Warrior" is one of the strongest classes in Wrath of the Lich King p3.3.5 and combat is very tactical). There is not the huge caster/martial disparity, everyone gets nice things, and believe it or not, you can definitely roleplay in WoW (but it's important to remember that WoW is also a game that appeals to non-RPers as well because it's still fun and fairly engaging experience, so you meet lots of non-roleplayers from all walks of life).

Even the instances in WoW are pretty engaging with a wide variety of interesting locations. Interesting combinations of creatures exist. Traps during combat exist. Everything from pirate ships to haunted castles full of werewolves to giant demons and undead are pretty much things you can find about. Everyone brings something fun to the table. Things like these can give cool ideas.

Quote:
in other words the players are just spamming detect magic in order to find all of the uber loot. why bother with searching the room and going through grey stuff when detect magic is supposed to find it all for you.

Well like others mentioned, special linings and magic aura suppression is a decent way to go about it. Another method is to include awesome loot that isn't magical. This is especially true for things like art objects, books, and jewels, but also trade goods and things of that sort. For example, a room full of tapestries worth 1,000 gp each is pretty amazing loot for a low to mid level party.

Really cool treasures might include a collection of masterwork books (50 gp / book, and a shelf with one for each knowledge skill), or rare spell components, or items that may be useful for trading (the memoirs of the late Lich Al'themar D'Blightmoon and his study of magically enhanced herbal teas might be something you could trade for magical goodies to an NPC you know somewhere).

It's actually quite rare to see lots of magic stuff on my NPCs (other than potions, scrolls, etc) because frankly magic stuff is expensive and doesn't fit into the NPC WBLs / Treasure values very well).

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