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Detect Magic 5e D&D Guide

Detect Magic 5e D&D Guide

Detect Magic is a versatile spell. Most commonly used to dig through piles of loot to find magic items, the newest edition provides some commonly overlooked applications.

The rules for Detect Magic are found in the Players Handbook on page 231.

Detect Magic 5e

1st-level Divination

Casting Time: 1 Action (Ritual)

Range: Self (30-Foot Radius)

Components: V, S

Duration: 10 Minutes (Concentration)

For the duration, you sense the presence of magic within 30 feet of you. If you sense magic in this way, you can use your action to see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic, and you learn its school of magic, if any.

The spell can penetrate most barriers, but it is blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt.

The rules for Detect Magic show the potential beyond simply finding magic items. It allows the caster to see magical effects on items and creatures.

It also allows the caster to know the school of magic affecting the creature or item as well. There are a few limitations provided, as the spell can be blocked by various materials and varying thicknesses.

Is Detect Magic Good?

Most commonly used for quickly sifting through loot piles of magic items, Detect Magic has some practical uses that will benefit any adventuring group. Unfortunately, Detect Magic can’t be used to identify illusions, as it’s only capable of outlining creatures and items that are VISIBLE!

Detect Magic also has a duration. This allows the caster to preemptively cast the spell in anticipation of stumbling across something of importance.

It is important to remember, though, that the duration is only 10 minutes, so it is best used as a general scan or as a way of confirming the use (or non-use) of magic in an area.

Hot Tip
Detect Magic is a ritual spell, but if you are planning to use it in a hurry, it is best to have it prepared. If it is more likely that it will only be used to clear rooms or in potentially non-time-constrained situations, then you might be able to get away with not having it prepared.

How Does Detect Magic Work?

While the rules for the Detect Magic spell are presented well, it can be difficult to discern what they mean in-game.

When a character casts Detect Magic, nothing special happens unless there is a visible creature or object present that is affected by magic. That creature or object will then give off a faint aura of magic. The aura is what shows up under the use of the spell.

The aura will be visible unless it is behind the materials of a specified thickness and if it’s invisible. This means that even if the magic item is in a pocket or tucked under a shirt, the aura should be visible.

Hot Tip
To make Detect Magic a little more interesting, DMs will often assign a color to the various schools of magic. When a player casts Detect Magic, the DM simply tells the player what color the aura is. It adds a little bit of mystery and also can help the party find a specific item if there are many to go through.

Can Detect Magic Reveal Invisible Creatures?

No. Detect Magic cannot discern invisible items or creatures, even if they have a magical item on them. The item or creature must be visible for Detect Magic to work.

Detect Magic can be paired with Identify to solve more complex issues.

Cast Detect Magic to reveal if there is magic affecting the target. Then cast Identify to figure out what that magic actually is.

In this way, you can develop a plan according to the problem. This works best on things like Charm Person that might affect your group or NPC companions.

Can You Cast Detect Magic as a Ritual Spell?

Detect Magic has the ritual spell property, so it can be cast as a ritual spell. Spells cast as rituals have a longer time to cast but do not use a spell slot to do so.

This makes using Detect Magic while adventuring even more feasible since it doesn’t tie up resources to do so.

Ritual casting a spell does take longer, 10 minutes, plus the level of the spell. For Detect Magic, that equals 11 minutes (10 minutes + 1st level). They also still require concentration for the duration. The duration doesn’t change when cast in this manner, either.

Hot Tip
Players should take great care to know what spells they have available and which of those are ritual spells. Wizards only need to have them in their book (not prepared) to be able to cast ritual spells. Usually, there would be no need to take up a prepared spell slot for spells of this manner.

Detect Magic 5e FAQs

Is Detect Magic Actually Useful in 5e?

When looking at Detect Magic, it’s easy to think it’s only good in certain situations, and you’ll be right, but not entirely.

While the usefulness of Detect Magic depends on how magical the campaign you are playing in is, in most cases, DMs can’t help but add at least a few magical items, discoverable hideouts, or entire quests based around magic, and it’s because magic is cool.

That means, instead of using your skills to find magical items, you’ll use a 1st-level spell that can be ritual cast to find some exceptionally rare items. That sounds like a steal to me.

Remember that detect magic detects any visible magical creatures and objects within 30 feet, so finding other things you didn’t bargain for is always possible, which adds to how fun the spell can be.

Note: Without a doubt, parties who consider themselves dungeoneers will find this spell the most useful, so be sure to pick it up if you constantly go dungeon crawling.

What Can Detect Magic Not Detect in 5e?

There are a lot of things Detect Magic doesn’t identify, and most of them make a lot of sense.

Detect Magic cannot detect spellcasting concentrating on spells. It also doesn’t detect creatures or items created by instantaneous magic or spells, as in most cases, magic no longer lingers within them (but that depends on the items and the DM’s rules).

You also won’t be able to detect creatures and objects that aren’t visible, and the spell doesn’t detect itself, but that’s a no-brainer.

Final Thoughts

Detect Magic is available at 1st level and has a multitude of uses. It is, by and large, one of the most fundamental spells for all wizards.

Even if it is only ever used as a sifter for magical loot, it can pay for itself rather quickly. That being said, it is possible to expand beyond the typical application and use it in a variety of creative ways.

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