Detecting magic


General Discussion

Sovereign Court

I see that detect magic only lets you sense its presence within 30' and at higher level castings you can pinpoint it to a 5' area.

Identify lets you find magic properties of a magic item.

But how do you pinpoint that item?

Say a dead foe is in the 5' area you pinpont must you move one item at a time to another 5' area to find if it is magic or is there another way to find magic on fallen foes.

Am I missing something in the RAW?


Read Aura Cantrip.


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Blave wrote:
Read Aura Cantrip.

I think splitting Detect Magic into two cantrips is a bit... "too much". I have been searching how to identify items for some days, and if you did not answer this, I would have never known there was a Read Aura cantrip.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Almarane wrote:
I think splitting Detect Magic into two cantrips is a bit... "too much". I have been searching how to identify items for some days, and if you did not answer this, I would have never known there was a Read Aura cantrip.

I agree. I'd like to think something like this will get fine-tuned for the final product. There are quite a few things in the play test that I have to remind myself 'it's only a play test document.'

Sovereign Court

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Blave wrote:
Read Aura Cantrip.

OK thanks, but it looks like you need to go through opponents items 1 at a time at 10min each to determine if they are magic.

I hope they do as Almarane proposes.


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You put the items you want to check into a square where there is no other nearby magic and cast Detect Magic. If something is magic, then split the items into 2 equal-sized piles (where only 1 pile is in range) and repeat the Detect as needed. That should go faster than checking the items one at a time, and way faster than Read Aura.

Although I can see how to get by with just Detect Magic as written, I think it will be a pain to explain my sorting techniques at every PFS table, and I also hope they change it.


whew wrote:
You put the items you want to check into a square where there is no other nearby magic and cast Detect Magic. If something is magic, then split the items into 2 equal-sized piles (where only 1 pile is in range) and repeat the Detect as needed. That should go faster than checking the items one at a time, and way faster than Read Aura.

This seems to me like an exploit, not a feature. This technique makes Read Aura useless since it's faster until you can cast 6th level spells (3th level spells if the ennemy has less than 10 items on them. And player paranoia tells me coins could be magical too), and I don't think it was the intent.

Or maybe it was, but it feels like cheating.


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whew wrote:
You put the items you want to check into a square where there is no other nearby magic and cast Detect Magic. If something is magic, then split the items into 2 equal-sized piles (where only 1 pile is in range) and repeat the Detect as needed. That should go faster than checking the items one at a time, and way faster than Read Aura.

Well, if my players start such shenanigans, I'll have some jokster archmage cast a permanent and invisible Sigil on all manner of items my party comes across. So the items register as magical when you use this method but the (secret) arcana rolls to identify their magic properties will just keep failing.


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

I completely missed read aura, too, but the 10 minutes casting time makes it more or less useless, or at least impractical.


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Blave wrote:
whew wrote:
You put the items you want to check into a square where there is no other nearby magic and cast Detect Magic. If something is magic, then split the items into 2 equal-sized piles (where only 1 pile is in range) and repeat the Detect as needed. That should go faster than checking the items one at a time, and way faster than Read Aura.
Well, if my players start such shenanigans, I'll have some jokster archmage cast a permanent and invisible Sigil on all manner of items my party comes across. So the items register as magical when you use this method but the (secret) arcana rolls to identify their magic properties will just keep failing.

Because apparently the players should be punished for wanting to actually know what they found... Right.


Fuzzypaws wrote:
Blave wrote:
whew wrote:
You put the items you want to check into a square where there is no other nearby magic and cast Detect Magic. If something is magic, then split the items into 2 equal-sized piles (where only 1 pile is in range) and repeat the Detect as needed. That should go faster than checking the items one at a time, and way faster than Read Aura.
Well, if my players start such shenanigans, I'll have some jokster archmage cast a permanent and invisible Sigil on all manner of items my party comes across. So the items register as magical when you use this method but the (secret) arcana rolls to identify their magic properties will just keep failing.
Because apparently the players should be punished for wanting to actually know what they found... Right.

Yeah well, I was joking, you know?

With identify taking an hour, I actually think this hour could/should include knowing whether an item is magical or not.

I'm not a fan of the split detect magic, eithe, though I do understand what they are trying to do with this clchange. At the very least I'd like the casting time of read aura reduced to one round (or maybe a minute) if cast on an item in your possession.


Fuzzypaws wrote:
Blave wrote:
whew wrote:
You put the items you want to check into a square where there is no other nearby magic and cast Detect Magic. If something is magic, then split the items into 2 equal-sized piles (where only 1 pile is in range) and repeat the Detect as needed. That should go faster than checking the items one at a time, and way faster than Read Aura.
Well, if my players start such shenanigans, I'll have some jokster archmage cast a permanent and invisible Sigil on all manner of items my party comes across. So the items register as magical when you use this method but the (secret) arcana rolls to identify their magic properties will just keep failing.
Because apparently the players should be punished for wanting to actually know what they found... Right.

I take it more like "punished for trying to use a loophole" ;) Said loophole would not be used if the rules did not already punish players and remove them the ability to quickly identify magic items.

Edit : ninja'd by Blave. I agree with their idea to at least reduce casting time, if Read Aura can not be merged back in Detect Magic.


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whew wrote:

You put the items you want to check into a square where there is no other nearby magic and cast Detect Magic. If something is magic, then split the items into 2 equal-sized piles (where only 1 pile is in range) and repeat the Detect as needed. That should go faster than checking the items one at a time, and way faster than Read Aura.

Kudoes on introducing binary search algorithms to spellcasters in Pathfinder. :-)

While I'm not satisfied with the ubiquity and failproof nature of detect magic in PF1, I think they might have hit it with the nerf bat a bit too hard. Personally, I think just making Detect magic a spell instead of a cantrip would have worked sufficiently to keep people from walking through dungeons using D.M. like a silent metal detector...


It would be nice to have good guidelines for mundanely guessing what is likely to be magic:

* permanent items must be at least expert quality
* alchemicals come in expensive glass bottles
* single-use ammunition and trinkets have runes
* etc

Of course, there should also be ways to try to conceal the magic, but that should cost and be rare not-everyday.

Is there a skill check to know if an item is expert quality?


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whew wrote:
You put the items you want to check into a square where there is no other nearby magic and cast Detect Magic. If something is magic, then split the items into 2 equal-sized piles (where only 1 pile is in range) and repeat the Detect as needed. That should go faster than checking the items one at a time, and way faster than Read Aura.

My day job is as a software developer, and we have computers precisely so that humans don't have to do this kind of thing.

I mean, you're doing it correctly based on how the rules are written. But it's really, REALLY foolish that it works this way.

I'm not sure what they were trying to accomplish by making something so basic, that you do so often, so very, very tedious.


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ENHenry wrote:
Personally, I think just making Detect magic a spell instead of a cantrip would have worked sufficiently to keep people from walking through dungeons using D.M. like a silent metal detector...

What I don't get is why "using Detect Magic as a metal detector" is a problem. I like it as a GM because it makes my players happy when they can immediatly use this cool Demon Bane weapon I gave them (and in most scenarios, they don't have enough downtime to identify magic before the BBEG flees or assemble their troups to kill them), and they get even more excited when they stumbled on a magic item they can't identify, because it means it's a powerful magic item. I like it as a player because I don't have to bother my GM with keeping note of which item was found where and was not identified, and I can immediatly use that sweet +2 longsword.

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