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Recently, my players traded for a batch of putatively magical items. They were given physical descriptions of the items and were left wondering what they did. While it is certainly possible to investigate an item in detail by spending a season on it, does there a sufficiently difficult Intellego Vim effect that can indicate the presence or absence of magic within an item (charged and invested both) and potential arts?

For example: How could my players know that lighting a specific candle has a PeCo effect (without actually activating the item or spending a season?)

The candle in question has a PeCo 30 effect that causes everyone within a room to catch smallpox. They were rather expecting the candle to give them some sort of lab bonus.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Intellego Vim spell guidelines mention this in the (badly layed-out) text, though not in the table of effects (emphasis mine):

Magic items cannot be investiged with simple magic spells. Investigation requires that you spend at least one season in the laboratory to discover what magic an enchanted item contains. A spell will suffice to tell you that an item is magical, however, and may give you some idea of its powers.

(ArM 5th edition, p.158, Intellego Vim Guidelines sidebar, top right column)

What I take from this is that the general guidelines for detecting magic apply to enchantments on an item as well, though it would take a different spell than the one used for active magic. So PeCo 30, a sixth magnitude spell, would be a base level 3 effect (same sidebar), modified with +1 (Touch) and +2 to discern technique and form (based on the lv40 spell Sight of the Active Magics) for a total of lv10 - not bad, but we're not finished yet.

If we want it to be able to detect any magnitude, we'll start with the lv5 effect. Also, Sight of the Active Magics only detects Form/Technique, not magnitude, so we'll put another +1 in there, pushing us up to lv.25 (Base 5, + 1 Touch, + 2 Techniques and Forms, +1 Magnitude).

That's nice, but judging by similar mechanics for investigating enchantments (p.100), we see that multiple powers are usually detected separately, and an Instantaneous spell probably won't be able to do that.

So our final version would be able to slowly read all powers of an item, in ascending order of power, with their techniques, forms and magnitudes: Base 5, +1 Touch, +1 Conc, +2 Techniques and Forms, +1 Magnitudes, for a total of Intellego Vim 30.

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So this spell would, in this case, output "Perdo Corpus" And then end output. But in a greater item. It might output "Rego Corpus. Pause. Perdo Corpus." Right? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 16 '12 at 7:05
Hmm. I originally read Sight of the Active Magics to include magnitudes, but now I see it doesn't. I would add another +1 to the effect to know that as well, so InVi30 will give you both Technique/Form and magnitude, in ascending magnitude. I'll edit the answer. –  lisardggY Oct 16 '12 at 7:09
Hrmmm, is it appropriate to add a magical sense to this? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 17 '12 at 0:45
I don't think so. I think Touch is the right range here, unless you want the magus to be able to divine an item's powers even when it's in someone else's hands. Touch limits it to perliminary lab activity. –  lisardggY Oct 17 '12 at 5:22
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