[RPG] As a DM, what are important changes to the play caused by Detect Magic no longer being a cantrip in 5e


In D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder 1, Detect Magic was a cantrip. That meant it was possible to cast it a lot / infinite number of times per day, and get useful information in 1 to 3 rounds.

In 5e, it is a 1st level spell, but a ritual. It means that it still can be used quickly, or can be used indefinite number of times per day, but not both.

Given that worlds I DM are usually magic rich, what changes to the gameplay should I expect? How can I utilize this change in Detect Magic for the benefit of the story?

I'm not looking for an essay, just for main points that came with your experience in DMing 5e adventures with significant magic to be detected, or to stay hidden.

For future reference, in 3.5 Detect Magic uses were not always infinite, but they were much more accessible for three reasons:

  1. they didn't compete for spell slots with Magic Missile and other non-cantrip spells, and there were more cantrip slots to begin with.
  2. if needed, they still could use 1st level spell slots and
  3. Magic Sensitive Reserve Feat (Complete Mage, p. 44) allowed you to effectively have it always on even without casting it at all.

Best Answer

It makes time pressure more important

Unless the party has a Warlock who can cast Detect Magic at will, the party will have to make a choice. Do we use a ritual and take 10 minutes, or do we use a spell slot to know the answer right away?

I've had players who are absolutely paranoid and will try to keep Detect Magic active at all times, just in case some creature is an illusion, or they miss some sort of other magical phenomenon.

Because it takes 10 minutes (and 6 seconds) to cast the spell as a ritual, and the duration is 10 minutes, you can't keep it up permanently, so my party would walk around for ten minutes, then pause for 10 minutes to recast the spell.

Eventually they realized it was taking them twice as long to get to places and there was a risk/reward system at play when it comes to always wanting to be able to Detect Magic, and after a village was burned to the ground because they arrived an hour too late to stop it (because their 3 hour trip back from the dungeon became a 6 hour trip), they stopped trying to keep it active at all times.

If it is a cantrip, there's no real reason not to have it on if you're not concentrating on anything else.

If that's a good or a bad thing depends entirely on your own personal opinion.