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View Full Version : Unidentified Magic Items, what do they do?



Gnaritas
2010-02-23, 09:05 AM
You find a pair of boots, which are boots of levitating, but you do not know it, you put them on, what happens?
You find a belt of giant strength, you put it on, what happens?

I ask this question because my party will find a bunch of items next sessions, but they wont be able to identify them until they go to a city.

kamikasei
2010-02-23, 09:12 AM
Depends on the item. If it simply supplies a constant bonus, it does so. If you have to activate it somehow, you don't know how to. So in this example, putting on an unidentified belt of giant strength means you're immediately stronger (and probably can sense that, or at least test it out), while putting on the boots means you have some nice boots that won't do anything cool without a command word you don't know to use.

They could try using detect magic and making educated guesses based on the aura results.

Starbuck_II
2010-02-23, 09:15 AM
You find a pair of boots, which are boots of levitating, but you do not know it, you put them on, what happens?
You find a belt of giant strength, you put it on, what happens?

I ask this question because my party will find a bunch of items next sessions, but they wont be able to identify them until they go to a city.

Use Magic Device skill will activate unidentified items.

Douglas
2010-02-23, 09:17 AM
You find a pair of boots, which are boots of levitating, but you do not know it, you put them on, what happens?
Nothing. This item is activated by command word and has no other effect. Unless you say the command word, it does nothing.

You may, as DM, provide hints for what the command word might be or what the item's power is if you want. The DMG suggests allowing the players to guess and rewarding successful experimentation to some degree, such as having the wearer feel lighter if he starts flapping his arms, but this is a very loose guideline and suggestion rather than a rule.

If there is no hint about the command word or function, a character with the Use Magic Device skill might try to activate it that way instead. If this is successful, the wearer would be affected by Levitate. He would still have to correctly guess the effect after a successful activation, as Levitate has an effect only in response to the user's direction. If a player succeeded on UMD and then stated something to the effect of "I try to move upwards", it would work.


You find a belt of giant strength, you put it on, what happens?
You get stronger. The belt's effect is an automatic passive bonus, and works just from putting it on. Some simple experimentation would easily reveal the increased strength, and the wearer would probably notice pretty quickly even without deliberately checking for it.

Ianuagonde
2010-02-23, 09:18 AM
One of my groups tried that years ago, to save the 100 gp pearls for Identify. It worked well, until I introduced cursed items. This was in AD&D, where there are some very nasty items indeed. Now I always suggest a gentleman's agreement with the group. They don't experiment to work around Identify & friends, I don't put cursed items in the treasure. It's one of those things we avoid, like the 10ft pole/ladder price thingie.

AustontheGreat1
2010-02-23, 09:19 AM
if its boots of levitation or similar then have them activate at a critical life saving moment or some-such. for the things with a constant bonus you could either remember the bonus and apply it when necessary (such as when making an attack and dealing damage, just rememeber that his result is actually 1 higher.) or you could just tell the player about that one, but remind him that his character doesn't know.

Lysander
2010-02-23, 09:28 AM
One use of the uses of Use Magic Device from the srd:


Activate Blindly
Some magic items are activated by special words, thoughts, or actions. You can activate such an item as if you were using the activation word, thought, or action, even when youíre not and even if you donít know it. You do have to perform some equivalent activity in order to make the check. That is, you must speak, wave the item around, or otherwise attempt to get it to activate. You get a special +2 bonus on your Use Magic Device check if youíve activated the item in question at least once before. If you fail by 9 or less, you canít activate the device. If you fail by 10 or more, you suffer a mishap. A mishap means that magical energy gets released but it doesnít do what you wanted it to do. The default mishaps are that the item affects the wrong target or that uncontrolled magical energy is released, dealing 2d6 points of damage to you. This mishap is in addition to the chance for a mishap that you normally run when you cast a spell from a scroll that you could not otherwise cast yourself.

So if your players don't know an item's command word they can take a risk and try activating it this way.

Myou
2010-02-23, 09:36 AM
One of my groups tried that years ago, to save the 100 gp pearls for Identify. It worked well, until I introduced cursed items. This was in AD&D, where there are some very nasty items indeed. Now I always suggest a gentleman's agreement with the group. They don't experiment to work around Identify & friends, I don't put cursed items in the treasure. It's one of those things we avoid, like the 10ft pole/ladder price thingie.

Why spoil their fun? That's just mean. If they want to try and figure out what items do without wasting gold it's hardly gonig to break the game.

Greenish
2010-02-23, 09:47 AM
Also:
Sometimes the command word to activate an item is written right on the item. Occasionally, it might be hidden within a pattern or design engraved on, carved into, or built into the item, or the item might bear a clue to the command word.

The Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (history) skills might be useful in helping to identify command words or deciphering clues regarding them. A successful check against DC 30 is needed to come up with the word itself. If that check is failed, succeeding on a second check (DC 25) might provide some insight into a clue.Other handy ways are:
Kobolds can get Identify as a SLA 1/day with the Dragonic Rite of Passage from Races of the Dragon.
Artificer's Monocle allows anyone who can cast Detect Magic to simulate Identify, without material components cost. (The item itself costs 1500gp though, but if you don't like the taste of pearl/owl feather/cheap wine coctail...) Cleric's magic domain gets Identify as 2nd level spell, without material components.There are probably others, too.

kamikasei
2010-02-23, 09:51 AM
There are probably others, too.

Dragonfire Adepts can take an invocation that gives them detect magic at will, and can be spent for a free identify. It can immediately be reinvoked, so that's pretty much free.

Loremasters get Greater Lore as an (Ex) ability at 6th level (13th level due to PrC entry requirements).

ericgrau
2010-02-23, 11:30 AM
I ask this question because my party will find a bunch of items next sessions, but they wont be able to identify them until they go to a city.

This is where the fun and hilarity begin. Some may have command words written on them, others are activated the moment you wear or swing them. Others may have command words that are unknown, in which case the PCs are out of luck. Let the PCs experiment or wait until they identify the items later if they want. If you want to be mean but make it even more crazy, throw in a cursed item. Just don't go overboard on cursed items and it should be fine.

The best PC way around this IMO is to carry a bunch of scrolls of identify.

Sinfire Titan
2010-02-23, 11:33 AM
One of my groups tried that years ago, to save the 100 gp pearls for Identify. It worked well, until I introduced cursed items. This was in AD&D, where there are some very nasty items indeed. Now I always suggest a gentleman's agreement with the group. They don't experiment to work around Identify & friends, I don't put cursed items in the treasure. It's one of those things we avoid, like the 10ft pole/ladder price thingie.

Thank Tzeentch for the Artificer's Monocle and Dragonfire Adepts. Free Identify, no material component.


That's seriously one of the dumbest spells in existence. Sure, the idea behind the spell is a nice concept, but couldn't they have just rolled it into Spellcraft?

ericgrau
2010-02-23, 11:45 AM
Then you have no idea how much fun there is to be had with unidentified magic items. That style seems to have been lost since AD&D. For those groups the unidentified items are merely an inconvenience and often they rightly houserule it away.

Sinfire Titan
2010-02-23, 11:48 AM
Then you have no idea how much fun there is to be had with unidentified magic items. That style seems to have been lost since AD&D. For those groups the unidentified items are merely an inconvenience and often they rightly houserule it away.

Have you ever noticed you double-space after every sentence?

It doesn't help that a previous DM caused some havoc when he refused to allow me to learn Identify because he wanted the magic items to remain mysterious. Never mind that the party's Cleric cast it the same day we found the item. I wanted to learn it to craft a wand of it (since I was the only person with any item crafting feats at all).

bosssmiley
2010-02-23, 12:17 PM
You find a pair of boots, which are boots of levitating, but you do not know it, you put them on, what happens?
You find a belt of giant strength, you put it on, what happens?

The item activates in whatever way the DM finds most cataclysmically hilarious. There's a reason you identify these things before putting body parts in them. :smallwink:

Of course, some items just sit there being smug and inscrutable until you puzzle out their function. The Gamma World/Barrier Peaks artefact experimentation tables are perfect for modeling this experimental process.

Vampire D
2010-02-23, 12:20 PM
Use Magic Device skill will activate unidentified items.

Speaking of use magic device you might suggest to your party that they buy a wand of identify for about 750gp, that can be cast once per day. This with use magic device will allow them to ignore the chance of getting cured....mwhaaaa


It worked well, until I introduced cursed items.
His idea first, lol.

Eldariel
2010-02-23, 12:29 PM
Speaking of use magic device you might suggest to your party that they buy a wand of identify for about 750gp, that can be cast once per day. This with use magic device will allow them to ignore the chance of getting cured....mwhaaaa

Material component, the cost is increased. Eternal Wand is what you're looking for, but with the Mat Comp. it's a tad expensive. What you really should be looking for tho is Artificer's Monocle; ~1000gp and enables using Detect Magic to identify items. Magic Item Compendium.

Kobold-Bard
2010-02-23, 01:24 PM
One of my players accidentally used a Pearl of Power as a material component for an Identify Spell. They were pissed when it exploded. Serves him right for not Identifying it first :smallamused: