[RPG] Can a non-spell-casting character determine if an item is magical


I'm a DM for a Curse of Strahd game with four characters: a rogue, barbarian, wizard, and paladin. Note the CoS is DnD5e rules.

Let's say the adventurers find a magic sword. Since the rogue has fairly good perception (+5 to the skill), are they able to determine if it's magical? Assume they roll, oh, a 19. So that's a 24 point total- a very good perception check. But is it even possible for a non-magic user to detect?

Or is magic exclusively the domain of magic characters, such as wizards, paladins, warlocks, and the like?

Best Answer

Anyone can determine if an item is magical, and usually what all of its properties are.

And no rolling is required.

The rules for identifying a magic item state (Dungeon Master’s Guide, pg. 136; bold for emphasis mine):

Whatever a magic item’s appearance, handling the item is enough to give a character a sense that something is extraordinary about it. Discovering a magic item’s properties isn’t automatic, however.

The identify spell is the fastest way to reveal an item’s properties. Alternatively, a character can focus on one magic item during a short rest, while being in physical contact with the item. At the end of the rest, the character learns the item’s properties, as well as how to use them. Potions are an exception; a little taste is enough to tell the taster what the potion does.

The exception to this is cursed magic items (DMG, pg. 138):

Most methods of identifying items, including the identify spell, fail to reveal such a curse, although lore might hint at it. A curse should be a surprise to the item’s user when the curse’s effects are revealed.

In summary, anyone can tell an item is magical just by handling it, no ability checks are required, and anyone can learn its properties by spending a short rest focused on the item. These rules do not restrict this to any one class or group of classes - they apply to the wizard and the fighter in the same way.

If you want identification to be more difficult than that, the DMG suggests:

Variant: More Difficult Identification

If you prefer magic items to have a greater mystique, consider removing the ability to identify the properties of a magic item during a short rest, and require the identify spell, experimentation, or both to reveal what a magic item does.