Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

You can use spellcraft to identify a spell as it is being cast. But does this check let you know the target of the spell? As an example of when this could matter quite a lot, Dominate allows you to control someone telepathically. You'll really want to know who the evil wizard just tried to dominate!

The rules (3.5/PF) do mention that

You make all pertinent decisions about a spell (range, target, area, effect, version, and so forth) when the spell comes into effect,

so clearly for spells with a longer casting time, you can't know the target until the very end.

I believe the RAW are simply silent on this issue (certainly the spellcraft skill itself provides only minimal guidance) but I'm wondering if there's something I've missed. Also, I chose target for concreteness, but the situation in general applies to each of the "decisions" mentioned above.

share|improve this question

No. Spellcraft only allows you to identify the spell, so you just learn what spell it is. No other attributes of the spell as cast (target, exact duration if it varies by caster level, other results of variable rolls, DCs, CLs, etc) are given to you. Expectation otherwise is not supported by the text or commonly used in play in my experience.

You would expect to get the information in the spell description, at least for commonly available spells - like 'that can target one humanoid' - but not which humanoid got Charm cast on them, that it's going to last for 5 rounds, or where the demon Teleported to. In some cases (fireball) it's obvious, in others you might allow a Perception or other check (possibly opposed by Bluff if they're being sly) to determine things that could reasonably be determined, like a spell's target. If it's a custom or rare spell not known to the Spellcrafter in question, I would require some more intensive-DC Knowledge:Arcana rolls to get some description elements, just like when identifying a monster.

share|improve this answer

Spellcraft or Sense Motive

There is no listed use for determining the target of a spell. This can be important, however, in terms of all sorts of things - immediate-use abilities, spells without visual identifiers (like Dominate, although Dominate/Charm are special in that it allows a Sense Motive check to identify dominated individuals).

It's also reasonable to assume that someone with a decent knowledge of practical magic (which is the definition of the Spellcraft skill) would be able to determine such things when they can witness the spellcasting. For example, a pointed finger can determine where a fireball was fired, and i'm sure other spells have similar clues.

As such, i'd allow a successful Spellcraft roll to determine the target of a spell if the Spellcraft roll beat the DC by at least 5, as a Houserule. Currently though, there are few RAW ways to do this. I believe Battlemagic Perception is one, but I am afb at the moment.

I'd also allow a use of Sense Motive to determine if the Wizard was concentrating on anyone or any particular area when he cast a spell, as that seems within the bounds of the listed uses of Sense Motive. If the Wizard is all but eye-banging Jim when he casts Delayed Necrotic Cyst, well, he probably cast the spell on Jim (and if he didn't, that's probably a Bluff check on his part, which would be measured against Sense Motive as normal).

share|improve this answer

RAW doesn't state it explicitly, but I'd be forced to lean no. d20srd's table for possible Spellcraft checks notes this among the possible uses for Spellcraft:

20 + spell level : 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.

I mention this because it implies that although a Spellcraft check will let you identify the spell being cast, it doesn't give you any information about the effects of the spell. You have to deduce that information from what you know about the spell and the caster, or whatever other sources of information are available to you. Fortunately, most spells make this pretty obvious. When the caster points in a given direction and a fireball flies out that way, you can get a good idea of what the target is. But spells like dominate person (and its cousins) are more subtle. They're designed not to leave clues quite so out in the open.

If the goal is to detect when someone has been dominated, there are other ways to do that. The spell has an ongoing effect, so you can look for its aura with detect magic. Once you've detected the effect, you could then work backwards: for example, attempting a Spellcraft check to figure out that this was the work of a dominate person spell.

share|improve this answer
"I mention this because it implies that although a Spellcraft check will let you identify the spell being cast, it doesn't give you any information about the effects of the spell. " -- I don't follow the implication here. – starwed May 20 '14 at 10:38
This type of Spellcraft check requires you to see or otherwise detect the effect before you can make a check: in other words, you have to already know about the effect in some way. If you could get that information from the check, then you wouldn't need to know it beforehand. – The Spooniest May 20 '14 at 18:41
That type of spellcraft works if you can see the effect but weren't present for its casting; it doesn't indicate anything in particular about what the other type of check gives you. – starwed May 20 '14 at 19:54

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.