Identifying Magic Items is really annoying


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


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I've been GMing Second Edition for almost a year now (going great!) and my #1 problem has been that whenever there's a loot drop, the game just grinds to a halt.

By the core rules, it takes 10 minutes to TRY to identify the properties of a magic item using Arcana/Occultism/Religion/Nature. Often, multiple small magic items drop in 1 encounter/treasure room, after that, the all items have to be individually checked for magic and then identified, usually taking over 30 minutes of in-game time and a buncha dice rolls. This has started to annoy my players as well, since they want to ID everything as soon as they find (otherwise they'll forget to do it later). This takes longer at the table than I'd like to admit, with 4/5 chars just twiddling their thumbs (They say they'll refocus or something).

I realize there's some value in not immediately telling them what each magic item is, so they can fail to ID an item and either experiment with it (they'll never do this) or be unable to use until they retry the next day. Sometimes this just feels like a relic of old school D&D and it's not adding a lot of value... If they don't ID the item on the first try, it just gets ignored, possibly forever.

Do any of you house rule this? How? I remember IDing was automatic in the playtest. I'm looking for ideas of what to do with this slow system. Perhaps only high-level items should require Identification, or maybe IDing takes just a few seconds if the item is low level.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

James Jacobs just answered a similar question about appraising treasure items.

James Jacobs wrote:

And don't be afraid to simply tell the players what items are worth. It might sacrifice a bit of verisimilitude, but the time you save yourself in having to keep track of the value of every single bit of treasure on your own and the complexity to players having to split up treasure when they don't know or can't trust their character's appraisals of the loot they earned is more than worth it in my opinion.

I'd suggest doing that and saving the Craft check to appraise things ONLY for items that aren't obviously of value.

You might think about adjusting magic evaluations to something along those lines


I ID'd items throughout the early levels in AoA, but it wasn't that the mechanic got cumbersome for us, we just forgot it. We were just fine with picking up an item and saying, "Yup, it's this." But now that I think about it, big magic items didn't feel like they came up that often. Runes, scrolls, and potions they've interacted with I gave a pass to, but...

Anyway, I think if your table isn't enjoy it, just don't do it? I hasn't seem to have broken anything for me.


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For run-of-the-mill items (+1 weapons, common consumables like potions, etc.) you can give strong hints about their nature (healing potions are always bright green, for example), or just handwave it after a certain point (x number of sessions, character level higher than the item, etc.).

You could also identify items in a batch: Roll a skill check vs the average DC of the items, and use the result to determine how many are identified.

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The game works fine if you just tell the players what items their characters find, and save the Identify Magic action for things like figuring out truly unique magical effects in adventures, or even just limiting the requirement to Identify Magic on Uncommon and/or Rare and/or Unique magic items.


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

We encountered similar issues in our games recently as well.

Everyone is 3rd-level and often don't know which item their detect magic is pinging, if any.

You need to know that an item is magical before you can use your skills to identify its properties.

My players have become adept at separating the loot out, then using detect magic over and over in a simple process of elimination. All just to determine which item(s) were magical in the first place.

THEN they can waste an additional half hour attempting their skill checks!


In my games I just tell them what items are worth, appraise is a garbage skill and why 2e folded it into craft. And I have only had 1 player EVER that wanted to dicker over EVERY item, they loved the 1e haggle rules and wanted every copper. meanwhile the rest of the party is bored to tears and the appraisals just ended up happening by text between sessions. I hated it, most of them hated it. so I ruled that if they can ID the item with spellcraft or in 2e's case Craft or other appropriate means, they know what it is and what its worth, and they always know what the worth of mundane items there and common their level or less is worth. I only keep the price of strange, rare or story plot items secret as that encourages them to research it some more, a good example is in the 1e RotRL campaign they came across a lost crown of a dwarven dynasty, its worth a certain amount as art but if they get it back to the owner there is a much larger reward, so I gave them a, "you've never seen a royal crown before and are uncertain exactly how to appraise it, and know enough its worth may be subjective based on its origin, but requires more research", if they try to hock it Ill just give them the listed worth as Art when they do.

my 2 cents.

Dark Archive

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I mean it is option also to just leave identifying items to downtime completely. As in gm just telling players when they get to downtime "and during downtime when you carefully examine everything, this is what you have"

If you prefer style where players can just immediately without break pick up a weapon in dungeon and start using it, then just allow them instantly recognizing the item. Thats how I do it :p

The 10 minute thing is more of "realism" thing than game balance thing, you don't need to run everything 100% by the raw. There is quick identify if GM wants to run things by raw/"realism" and party wants to as fast as possible know what each of items does.


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I like it because, whether because of a failed check, lack of time or even dangerous environement, it helps to push players using items which might be cursed.


In my case, the players have an excell were they put the loot with the description. When they have spare time to identify, they will try to identify the most important things. This spare time happens when the medic needs to patch someone for 10 minutes and the mage doesn´t have to do other tasks. Other times they will use exploration tim or downtime to try this identifications, a running gag in our games is when al the party sits in a round table with all the loot in a pile and they hand around the items to identify.

In the end, when they are on an adventure (constrains in time) they care more about what they should identify (prioritazing what is more important for them), and when they are out of adventure, they will mass indentify the things.

Also, if your party is annoyed and wants to indentify a lot of things while adventuring, they could get the Quick Identification feat. It´s a skill feat lvl 1, and makes identification 1 min instead of 10 min. That should solve their problems.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I agree with James: handwave it, except for exceptional or plot-related items. I mean, it's supposed to be a secret check anyway, so it's more effective to simply read out a list of items found, unless for some reason the group has no chance of identifying a given item (say, if nobody has the relevant magic skill) in which case they may need to turn to an NPC of the appropriate flavor later on.

Of course, then you run the risk of forgetting what it was. <g>


Generally, I tend to ask for checks only for permanent items of the players' level or higher that they find and have never seen before and for uncommon items.

In the end, most of the time, I just tell my players what they found. If an npc gives them an item, obviously, they get told what it is. If they find something pretty common or that they have found previously (say, their second +1 weapon), they know what it is. As for potions and scrolls, I figure they would be labeled unless there is a plot-related reason for them not to.

Even when players don't know the name of an item yet, I usually give descriptions that give a vague idea of what they do. That also helps me know what the item was if players ask about it later.

Also, if they know what an item is, they know everything : how much it's worth, how it works, etc. I just send them a link to Archives of Nethys so they can look it up.


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It's always been handwaved in games I've played


I generally only make my players roll to ID items that I myself care enough about to describe the looks of in detail.
When they find a +1 bastard sword, I'll just tell them like it is, but if I've planned for a specific item which I know one of the players is gonna be super excited about, I'll make them roll to increase the suspense.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

*looks at thread title*

Insert "always has been" meme here.


I describe the loot, if people are interested then they either ID it there or just wait till downtime whe. They are checking the total haul

Takes less than 5 minutes in play and since only people who have seen the item be magical or have read aura can ID it it isn't a whole party rolling checks.
I find it harder to give false info about magic items on critical failures than anything else.

My alchemist misidentified a greater thunder stone as a healing bomb so we rollplayed it as blowing up when he tried to disassemble it. No mechanical effect other than losing the free formula.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32

I am only Gm-ing Pf2 for the first time playing plaguestone. And we are doing everything by the book, yes it is annoying. But I wanted to play our first game as close to the real rules as possible so that when we jump into an AP or another module, I'll have a better idea on what rules to change to fit my needs.


Grumpus wrote:
I am only Gm-ing Pf2 for the first time playing plaguestone. And we are doing everything by the book, yes it is annoying. But I wanted to play our first game as close to the real rules as possible so that when we jump into an AP or another module, I'll have a better idea on what rules to change to fit my needs.

Keep in mind, in my experience virtually no one plays using every detail of the rules. For example, nobody worries about how long it takes to don armor, or whether you have to remove it to sleep, etc. Spell components, and even Familiars, are also pretty much universally ignored except in those rare instances where they affect the mechanics. So I wouldn't feel guilty about ignoring the Identify Magic rules from the outset if you don't see an obvious benefit to using them.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
mrspaghetti wrote:
Grumpus wrote:
I am only Gm-ing Pf2 for the first time playing plaguestone. And we are doing everything by the book, yes it is annoying. But I wanted to play our first game as close to the real rules as possible so that when we jump into an AP or another module, I'll have a better idea on what rules to change to fit my needs.
Keep in mind, in my experience virtually no one plays using every detail of the rules. For example, nobody worries about how long it takes to don armor, or whether you have to remove it to sleep, etc. Spell components, and even Familiars, are also pretty much universally ignored except in those rare instances where they affect the mechanics. So I wouldn't feel guilty about ignoring the Identify Magic rules from the outset if you don't see an obvious benefit to using them.

I probably wouldn't lump sleeping in and donning armor in with those other rules. It isn't that people house rule it so much as it just doesn't come up very often because ambushes while parties are sleeping are best used sparingly if ever. So these rules have no real impact on actual play. You're absolutely going to find magic items and need to ID them, though, so skipping that is an actual house rule.

But I'm nitpicking and agree with your broader point. House rule it out of you like. PF2 is pretty resilient as long as you respect the underlying math.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

So as others have said and I'll reiterate, it's your table, as long as you and your players are having fun, there's no real "wrong" way to play.

With that said, I ran into a similar issue with my games but I liked the idea of misidentifying items to still be a thing. So the way I've been running it is have one roll at the beginning of the session or just as they enter a dungeon.

On a crit success they identify everything,
Success they identify ~2/3 of the loot,
Failure, they identify ~1/3 of the loot
and Crit Fail, same as failure except they misidentify one piece of loot.

This also gives me time to think up a good misidentification instead of floundering on the spot ("Ummm... that item I just described as a scarf is actually... a Demon Mask... I swear I didnt just make that up)

Then anything they haven't identified, I assume they "take 20" while camping for the night and tell them the remaining item during their daily preparation.


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On our home group, we just have one person be the treasurer of sorts.

He notes down what items they find and where, and on downtime the players roll on identifying them.

I find this works much better than handwaving the whole identification process away.

Especially in low levels, where you don't yet have your "core" equipment and secondary as well, since it may force using "unknown" magic items and etc.

That said, it's something that difficult to do in a VTT environment, so when I gm there I do in fact handwave everything not important enough.


My character in one of my games has Read Aura on his spells known, he uses that to filter down what needs identify checks, and when I was GMing and now, we auto-identify either anything we already have (+X rune looks other +X runes), or items 2 levels lower than the party (we're now level 5, we found a bundle of 3rd level bombs and mutagens, our alchemist knew what they all were after ~5 minutes). I know one group I've met, the GM handed out Quick Identify for free so as they leveled up, they just learned what stuff was faster and faster, so that's another method.


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Two issues with waiting to identify items until downtime are (1) you now have less downtime for other things, and (2) many published adventures give you valuable aids to better prepare you for coming encounters (such as rings of swimming and potions of water breathing for an underwater encounter, or a vial of silversheen before a boss fight with a wearwolf). Waiting on identifying items will make many published adventures even harder.


In general in every video game / TTRPG identifying always felt pointless. In PF2E I also don't feel it really adds much except allowing a character to feel good about specializing in identifying magic items.

If I was a GM I would pretty much just give items to players identified except maybe super rare unique items. IMO it really is just feels like wasted time in game and out of game.


Ravingdork wrote:
Two issues with waiting to identify items until downtime are (1) you now have less downtime for other things, and (2) many published adventures give you valuable aids to better prepare you for coming encounters (such as rings of swimming and potions of water breathing for an underwater encounter, or a vial of silversheen before a boss fight with a wearwolf). Waiting on identifying items will make many published adventures even harder.

Depends on where the writer's placed the difficulty curve.

Are those tools placed to balance an encounter that's harder than normal? Or are the tools a boon for parties that invested in magical IDing (perhaps at the cost of combat ability)?
More than a few PFS adventures have easier paths for parties that have a face, so why couldn't there be a similar mindset for parties that have a magic-item sage? Much like one should warn a guy building a face not to bother for the "lost in the jungle forever" campaign, if one's going to skip magical IDing you should tell your players.
And I see silversheen (cool perk) much differently than potions of Water Breathing (plot crashes to a halt without it). I'd likely label the latter if their purpose is so meta. Then again, maybe the water's there to pause the party so they take time to recharge before the next encounter.
Trouble of course being we don't know the writer's intent!
(That's why I love me those sidebars that share that.)

I've had a high level party (PF1) blow through a majority of an AP module using one casting of Extended Haste (and tons of other buffs). The natural consequence of that was being unable to use several useful items along the way. Given PF2 makes such exploits difficult, and arguably even factors in multiple lulls in one's adventuring day, I don't see finding time to ID as much of a hassle, no more than Medicine.
And like the Medicine feats, I think there should be a reward for PCs investing in IDing skills & feats. That would be use of the treasure on the fly.

And as someone mentioned above, developing a system cleans up many of the issues. I can't see IDing taking as much time as stated. That sounds too sloppy.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Identifying magic items doesn't take up a meaningful amount of downtime either. In fact, I'd assume characters probably identify items again in downtime just make sure they didn't screw it up the first time.


Captain Morgan wrote:
Identifying magic items doesn't take up a meaningful amount of downtime either. In fact, I'd assume characters probably identify items again in downtime just make sure they didn't screw it up the first time.

Yeah, just give the relevant characters a roll each day and be done with it unless their downtime really really suggests no free time at all (as in, custom downtime activities not covered by the CRB)

It is as tedious as people make it.


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Generally speaking, I just tell people what they get, if it's obvious (the bottle of red shimmering liquid labeled "potion of healing"), or at least give some hints (the morningstar is etched with profane looking runes and seems to recoil from the paladin when she picks it up). Mages can instantly ID scrolls of spells they know, and, again, most scrolls are labeled anyways.

Most of the time I make people ID items is if it's function is being deliberately obscured, if it's super rare, or if people want to see if it's cursed. I don't usually give out cursed items, and when I do, it's in situations where the players might have a reason to be suspicious


Tangent re: labels
I had an early big boss who could brew Cure potions that she'd mark w/ an arrow upward (to indicate to herself they healed). Killed, she returned later as an undead and she marked her Inflict potions the same way for the same reason. :)
Party hadn't fallen for it since by that point they mistrusted labels anyway, especially those found w/ bosses.


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yeah, them labels be tricky^^

i had an Alchemist BBEG that had a full box of poisons marked as "elixirs of health" and placed on a storage room just in case thieves or attackers came to his den.

Grand Lodge

If you have magic-using characters or someone (like a rogue) who has invested a lot into the tradition skills, consider letting them automatically ID any common item of their level or lower. You really don't gain anything game-wise by gating those behind a lot of die rolls.

You can scale this up if people have more resources invested in magic identification, giving them level+1 or perhaps expanding to uncommon items, etc.


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I just give them the milk for free. I can’t be bothered to keep track of a loot backlog, nor do I want to deal with doing background math when they use an unidentifiable item. It doesn’t fit what I want in a game I’m running, so... away it goes! When they find stuff, they know what it is.

Identifying in my games is for when the big bad is doing something magical and the plot is about figuring out both what and how to stop it.

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