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
Divination 1st Level
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 for magic items, Detect Magic has some practical uses that will benefit any adventuring group. It can be used to identify illusions – potentially revealing traps, passages, and enemies. If an enemy is found, it could also give a cursory glance at what they are working with.
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, 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.
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 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 specified at the specified thickness. This means that even if the magic item is in a pocket or tucked under a shirt, the aura should be visible.
This would also include an illusion just beyond a doorway as well. The object or creature needs to be able to be seen, i.e., not invisible.
Can Detect Magic Reveal Invisible Creatures?
The answer is yes and no. The ability to discern an invisible creature’s location is tied to any magical items the creature may have. If the creature doesn’t have any magical items Detect Magic will not give a precise location of the creature.
If, however, the creature is in possession of magic items, the aura from those items will be revealed, and perhaps from that, the creature’s location can be identified.
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 (10minutes+ 1st level). They also still require concentration for the duration. The duration doesn’t change when cast in this manner, either.
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.
Death Ward 5e D&D Guide 
Thursday 11th of May 2023
[…] you suspect an enemy has Death Ward active, you can cast Detect Magic and find out if that’s the […]
Identify 5e D&D Guide 
Thursday 30th of March 2023
[…] TipCasting Detect Magic, Identify, and spells like Legend Lore in unison are the best way to truly learn all of the […]
Detect Thoughts 5e D&D Guide 
Wednesday 22nd of March 2023
[…] Thoughts is Self, we can effectively say it’s 30 feet, as that is the maximum range its detection magic […]
Locate Object 5e D&D Guide 
Thursday 16th of February 2023
[…] spells to Locate Object are, Detect Magic, Find the Path, Clairvoyance, and […]
Scrying 5e D&D Guide 
Thursday 17th of November 2022
[…] who can use detect magic can notice your scrying sensor following them around. However, they usually only attempt to see it […]