Identifying Magic Items (D&D)

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Unofficial rules compendium

There are several ways to identify magic items; this is an attempt to gather and encode there in one place.

Spells and Powers

First, there are specific spells and abilities, like identify, that are specifically designed to allow identification, but generally have a cost.


A character can experiment and use his skills to try an identify an item. This takes ten minutes and exposes you to all the risks of using the item, such as curses. It cannot be attempted again until you increase your skill bonus somehow. The DM will often give only an approximate description, enough for everyday use item but with a few key facts withheld.

Circumstance Example DC
Use-activated abilities Ring of spider climb, boots of striding and springing 15
Generic or common item Ring of protection, Wand of magic missile 20
General item Chime of opening, Scroll of snare 30
Combination item or item using rare spells/powers Staff, metamagic rod 40
Extraordinary items or items that bend the rules or limitations Intelligent sword, potion of wish 50

Special cases
Item is legendary Knowledge skills only 15
Item is famous or patterned after a legendary item Knowledge skills only 25

If you have several relevant skills, you can roll all of them in the ten-minute experimentation period. Apply the best result.

Rings, Wands, Staffs, Rods, and Wondrous Items

Knowledge (Arcane) can be used to guess at the abilities of an arcane magic item; Knowledge (religion) does the same for a divine item. Spellcraft, Use Magic Device and Bardic Knowledge can be used for either. This method works for rings, wands, staffs, rods, and wondrous items.

Magic Arms and Armor

Magic arms and armor can be identified with Bardic Knowledge, Appraise, or the relevant Craft skill. You can also use a roll of Base Attack Bonus + Wisdom, adding in any attack bonuses or penalties due to feats or lack of proficiency but ignoring other attack bonus modifiers such as magic items, size, etc.


Potions can be identified using Bardic Knowledge, Craft (Alchemy) or Spellcraft.


Scrolls can be identified using Knowledge (Arcane) (arcane scrolls only), Knowledge (religion) (divine scrolls only), UseMagicDevice, or Deciper Script. Spellcraft has a specific function for this, with a DC of 20 + spell level.

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