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Identify 5e D&D Guide

Identify 5e D&D Guide

Identify is a key spell in figuring out what all the magic loot does once the party gets it. It also has an expanded purpose in this edition of the game, stretching into figuring out what effects may be impacting a character.

The rules for Identify can be found in the Players Handbook on page 252.

Identify 5e

1st-level Divination

Casting Time: 1 Minute (Ritual)

Range: Touch

Components: V, S, M (A pearl worth at least 100 GP and an owl feather)

Duration: Instantaneous

You choose one object that you must touch throughout the casting of the spell. If it is a magic item or some other magic-imbued object, you learn its properties and how to use them, whether it requires attunement to use, and how many charges it has, if any.

You learn whether any spells are affecting the item and what they are. If the item was created by a spell, you learn which spell created it.

If you instead touch a creature throughout the casting, you learn what spells, if any, are currently affecting it.

The rules for Identify explain the main purpose or use for the spell as learning the properties of a magic item. It also lets you understand any charges the item has remaining and any spells that are affecting it. The spell can also be used to acquire the same information if used on a creature.

How Do You Identify?

There are two different methods for identifying items and conditions using Identify. The first is as an instant cast spell.

Provided you have the pearl for the material component, you simply touch the item or creature, and you learn the properties of that item and the condition for the creature.

The information floods in like an info dump. You learn how to use it if it requires attunement and how many charges it has. Slightly less common is finding out spells that are affecting it and which spell created it (if any).

The second method of utilizing Identify is through ritual casting. This involves a much larger and more elaborate setup.

Casting as a ritual takes longer (11 minutes) but does not use a spell slot. It does still need the material components and the ability to focus on the task. Ritual casting is most commonly done around a break, short or long, when the group has time.

Hot Tip
Casting Detect Magic, Identify, and spells like Legend Lore in unison is the best way to truly learn all of the object’s properties. Curses and sentience are typical things not revealed by Identify alone.

Does Identify Consume the Pearl?

Material components are part of casting most spells. Most of the time, a focus is sufficient, but for spells like Identify, a focus cannot be used to replace the pearl worth 100 GP.

The spell will specifically state if the material component is consumed. For example, Revivify requires a diamond worth 300 GP, which is consumed when the spell is cast. Identify has no qualifier. Therefore it doesn’t happen.

Hot Tip
Most DMs are pretty lenient with material components but usually make the players find or buy ones with value. This can be some of the best ways to get the group moving at early levels. Instead of selling the pearl, let a shopkeeper know where to find one for an instant hook and quest.

Identify vs. Short Rest

Attuning to an item takes an hour or the equivalent of a short rest. At this time, the character learns all the same information as the Identify spell would provide.

This would lead players to pass on or question the importance of Identify. Especially considering that Identify doesn’t let you know if an item is cursed or not.

The key is the other use for Identify. Using Identify on a creature can reveal some incredibly important information. It can tell you what spells, if any, are affecting the creature. This can be vital for dispelling a charm effect or any type of de-buff such as enfeeblement or blindness.

The other aspect is time. There is a three-item limit to the number of attuned items a character can have. If the character is at the maximum number already, then they would need to un-attune to one item first.

This doesn’t take any time; however, if they decide they don’t want the new item, it will take another hour to reattune it. This results in a two-hour total minimum. Identify as a ritual only takes 11 minutes.

Hot Tip
Curses can be a fun way to develop characters, but only if they are balanced. A curse should not always just be a penalty. It is significantly better if the curse comes along with a boon that makes the cursed one question the issue of keeping the curse.

Does Identify Reveal Curses?

The simple answer is no, Identify does not reveal curses. Identify provides the item’s magical properties. Curses are not magical properties; therefore, they do not fall under Identify.

The best possible setup is to use all of the divination spells at your disposal. Detect Magic, Identify, and Legend Lore makes the best team, but other spells and either Religion or Arcana checks might help if you can sell them to the DM.

Identify 5e FAQs

What’s the Point of Identify in 5e?

The whole point of Identify is to not only discern what the item is but what its properties are, how to use it, if it requires attunement to be used, if it has any charges left, whether spells are affecting it, and if the item was created by a spell.

All of these questions are sometimes crucial for a player to know before using the object, as there are many items in D&D that seem harmless but can cause a lot of damage to a player if used without caution.

You should also be careful of traps set by the DM, as there are some DMs that will specifically target inexperienced players and lure them into using a cursed item!

What Is the Difference Between Attunement and Identify in 5e?

Attuning to an item will reveal its abilities; however, some items might only show their benefits and drawbacks later on, so if you want to be cautious, you should look to the Identify spell.

Using Identify won’t only give you a ton of information on the item, but it’ll also reveal all its properties and drawbacks. 

So the difference is that Attunement basically “binds” you to an item, while Identify only “inspects” the item and gives you information.

What Is the Difference Between Identify and Recognize in 5e?

To Recognize an item means that you’ve already researched something about it or know enough information about the item to be wary of it. 

Identify can be seen as the first stepping stone, as before you can recognize an item, you first need to understand what it does, and Identify helps you with that.

Final Thoughts

The shortcomings of Identify are obvious in 5e. It is still one of the most commonly taken spells in the game. It offers a little versatility and more upside than not.

It is also one of the best ways to sort through piles of loot without wasting a day doing it. There are few adventuring groups that will not have Identify prepared by one of the members, and that is for a good reason.

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