[RPG] How to identify ongoing magical effects on a creature


Pretty much as the title says, if I go up against an uberbuffed evil cleric, how can I identify what buffs he has?

Detect magic only gives away the school of the spells, but I want to know if he has specific spells, and the details of those spells if possible.

I have no way of seeing him when he's buffing himself.

Best Answer

At low levels, identifying spells already in place probably can be done with a combination the spell detect magic and the skill Knowledge (arcana)

As you're already aware, a caster of the spell detect magic can, on the third round of study, attempt to detect the schools of any active spells within the detect magic's effect.

Simultaneously, while able to view such auras so distinctly, a caster can attempt to "[i]dentify a spell effect that is in place" with a successful Knowledge (arcana) skill check (DC 20 + spell level).

At least, that's what I assume.

Pathfinder's antecedent Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 uses the skill Spellcraft to do this, but that skill's description for this skill use says

Identify a spell that’s already in place and in effect. You must be able to see or detect the effects of the spell. No action required. No retry.

Pathfinder moved this skill use to the skill Knowledge (arcana) and shortened the description even more to where this skill use says only

Identify a spell effect that is in place.

The Retry: No entry of the Knowledge skill answers one question, but others remain. Thus the GM determines how to identify a spell in place in Pathfinder. I assume many GMs (like me) port over how this works in 3.5 to Pathfinder with little distress. (In my campaigns a creature can't identify a spell in place without first identifying its aura; yours may vary.)

Under these rules, the spell detect magic allows an knowledgeable caster to take 3 rounds to attempt to identify spells in place, the spell arcane sight allows a knowledgeable caster to take a free action to attempt to identify spells in place, and the spell greater arcane sight allows even an ignorant caster to just know what spells are in place.

Identifying a spell as it's being cast remains a use of the skill Spellcraft.