Friday, June 4, 2010

Identify Spell - Modified Also Differences Between Editions

Ever since d&d was released the identify spell has remained one of the more iconic spells that every adventuring group wizard's takes as soon as they can.  Its much easier, and cost effective, to just have your wizard cast the identify spell and tell you what wondrous or "not so" wondrous magical items, weapons, and gizmo's you've found.  Much easier than waiting to track down the local sage, paying his very high wage, and then having to wait the "two weeks" for him to discover the mysteries of the items.  It was a running joke that everything in our campaign took two weeks regardless of the actual time frame to cast the spell or have something constructed. The identify spell doesn't take that long to cast, but maybe the sage had a back log of work from other adventurers!  It could happen! he he.

I've always thought of casting spells taking a lot out of a wizard, sapping away their life force in exchange for powers in the arcane arts.  I also thought that discovering the secrets hidden in items would always take time and an amount of effort on the wizard otherwise anyone could do it!  I always thought that the old sage would perform alchemical tests, go to their library and research the items history or origin, another reason they have so many books, and may even consult with a spirit or two from a summoning circle.  

So i'm a bit disappointed with the current versions of the identify spell.  The spell has been regulated to almost a cantrip like spell where you can cast it once, everything about all the magical items you have on hand are revealed in exacting detail and the cost is negligible.  I'm also a big fan of spell components and I love it when the resident wizards, alchemists, and meat vendors (its a profession!) salvage pieces of exotic creatures they've defeated to use in their spells, potions or to sell on their meat cart. So to see components go from many to zero is also souring, plus the use of components allows for another area where you can inject a bit of role playing.  Did I mention that identify isn't even in Forth Edition Dungeons and Dragons as a spell...

Here is the breakdown of the spell over the years:

The original spell out of the AD&D Players handbook consisted of an expenditure of time playing with the object in question and then having the wizard save vs magic. Only then the DM would roll percentile dice and there would be a 15% +5% per level per segment of playing with the item that the wizard could then determine the ability.  Even then if the wizard was able to discern something, nothing specific would be revealed in the way of pluses or charges. Only a vague notion of "few" or "many" would ever be revealed.  In addition the spell itself once completed caused the loss of 8 CON! Yes 8 CON (Khaaaaan)! The 8 CON would only be restored at the rate of 1 point per 6 turns (that's 60 min) or  1 hr per point restored, so a full nights rest would get you back to normal and why many wizards did the action as they were going to sleep/preparing their next day spells.  If though that CON loss dropped the wizard to 3 or below then the wizard would become unconscious and not recover until a 24 hr period had passed!  The spell components consisted of ALL of these items too, a 100 gp pearl, owl feather, wine, and a mini-carp swallowed, and you could include a luckstone for a 25% boost if you liked, but it wasn't needed.  It COULD be used on artifacts.  It also took 1 turn or 10 min to cast.

Second and third edition DnD simplified the spell and removed the con loss.  Identify would last for an hour but still could only be used on 1 item.  The components were a pearl worth 100 gp crushed into some wine and stirred with an owl's feather. The wizard could determine everything about an items, pluses, charges, etc.  and no loss of CON would be the result.  It could not be used on artifacts.

Pathfinder simplified it even more.  Identify now acts like a detect magic spell, as a cone effect and lasts 3 rounds per level of the caster, and gives you a +10 to spellcraft checks for determining what you find out about all magic items in that cone of effect.  The component now is only some wine stirred with an owls feather, there is no gold piece cost.  It could not be used on artifacts.

Forth Edition DnD has the most simplistic in that its not even a spell.  Anyone and their brother can determine a magic item's effects, there is no CON loss, there is no gold piece cost.  You just fiddle around with an item and, BAM you've got a +2 Sword.  With that said they do mention that your DM may have you go on a small quest or seek out someone for certain "unique" items, but I guess if you're walking around and see a +2 sword you'll know it.

Ok, with all that out of the way here is the version that I'm currently using in my campaigns.  While I like the original 1st edition spell, with the loss of CON, I know my players wouldn't, so I excluded that.  I did include a "chance" of success or failure and I included all of the components per the traditional spell, but now you only need ONE component to cast the spell.  If you have the others you can stack them up for added bonuses.  I also included the use on Artifacts again, however its more expensive and is 3x more difficult.  So Here is the ending result:

Identify (Modified)
School: divination; Level bard 1, sorcerer/wizard 1
Casting Time: 1 standard action (full round action/Artifacts)
Components: V, S, M(100+ gp pearl, or 100+ gp bottle wine,or 100+gp Miniature Carp); 
    (1000+ gp pearl, or 1000+ gp bottle wine,or 1000+gp Miniature Carp/Artifacts)

Range: 5', Touch.
Duration: 1 hr (8 hrs/Artifacts)
Saving Throw: None

When an identify spell is cast, for the next hour the item in question must them be handled and scrutinized by the caster in order that he or she may possibly find what dweomer it possesses.  The item in question must be held, worn, wielded, examined, fiddled with, etc.,  as the item normally would be for any such object. e.g., a  bracelet must be worn on the casters wrist, a dagger held and or thrust/slashed, a cloak worn and hood raised, etc.  Note that any consequences of this use of the item fall fully upon the caster,  charges expended, curses bestowed, etc. Normal saving throws are allowed including magic resistance, etc.

After the hour of examination and experimentation the caster makes a spellcraft check where the DC is calculated by the DM in secret using the following formula:

d20 + X (X = Number of Abilities the item has)

If the casters spellcraft check fails by only 1 point a "false reading" is given.  If the casters spellcraft check fails entirely no discernible information is given.  A 1 is always a failure and a 20 is always a success.

If the spellcraft check  is successful, a number of abilities are revealed including if there are any further undiscovered abilities.  The number of abilities discovered is determined by how much the caster's spellcraft check exceeds the DC, as determined above. If the spellcraft check hits target DC or exceeds it by 4 then the character making the check discerns one ability, if the check exceeds the DC by 5 and for each increment of 5 thereafter one additional ability is discerned if applicable. (e.g. one additional at 5, 10, 15, etc. pts exceeded if applicable.)

For each 100 gp spent in material components beyond the initial cost, the caster may add +2 to their spellcraft check.

The material component need be only one of the following three things:
  • A Pearl 100gp; Crushed into a powder and swallowed - (additional effect) +2 To Reflex Save for 24 hrs.
  • A Bottle of Wine 100gp; Drunk - (additional effect) Save vs Fort (DC is d20 +10 rolled by DM)or become "Confused" per the condition.
  • A Miniature Carp (live); Swallowed - (additional effect) Save vs Fort (DC is D20 +5 rolled by DM) or become "Nauseated" per the condition.
  • If all items are used together, (crush/dissolve pearl in wine then drop mini carp in wine then drink) their spellcraft bonuses will stack with each other, in addition if an Owls feather is used to mix the infusion you can get an addition +2 spell craft bonus
The spell can be cast any number of times upon the same item in any given period of time as long as the caster has the ability to cast the spell.


The spell can be used on artifacts however the minimum cast time is 8 hrs, the cost for the material component is a minimum 1000gp item, and the DC is 3d20 + X (X = Number of abilities the items has).  Any failure reveals nothing.  A success reveals only ONE ability and there is no indication if there are, or are not, further abilities to discover.  Like with regular magical items the caster can increase his spellcraft check by +2, but it costs 1000gp spent on material components for each increase beyond the initial 1000gp cost.

Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for stopping by!

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