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I'm GMing for a party that has no casters with spellcraft (crazy I know), and needs to pay NPCs to identify magic items for them. Especially potions, which they find en masse. I was surprised that I could find nothing on how much such a service would cost in town. The best I could find was either buy a potion of identify for 50g and try your luck, or pay for spellcasting.

To pay for a cast of identify costs 10g, but it has a target of self, so the shop keeper would be casting it on herself, and then what? Identify the items for free? That doesn't seem right.

Are there any actual rules for this? If not, are there any systems or house rules that have worked well for anyone?

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Remember the Perception skill can identify potions through taste. At +6, +7 and +8 you can auto-id potions of level 1, 2 and 3 respectively by Taking 10 on the roll. – leokhorn Dec 1 '13 at 9:50
While that's a very good tip, and one I did not know, none of them took perception either. – Eric B Dec 4 '13 at 15:49
up vote 10 down vote accepted

10g per item.

That's exactly how it works: you find and hire someone who can cast identify and they use their spellcraft skill to determine the properties of the item. (The charge is for the service performed – obtaining the benefit of a spellcasting. There's no service performed if they just cast it on themself and then sit there refusing to identify your stuff.)

Note that:

  • one attempt at identifying an item using spellcraft takes 3 rounds
  • the duration of identify is 3 rounds per caster level
  • the cost of a spellcasting is caster level × spell level × 10 gp

So no matter how high level your NPC spellcaster is, it costs 10gp per item identified, assuming they don't fail the check (which they likely won't, with a +10 bonus due to the spell). Also, unless they're of high enough level to be able to cast multiple identify in one day and identify multiple items per casting, it may take some days to get a whole haul of items properly identified.

The trick then is in finding someone who can perform this service. Not every shopkeeper – even a shopkeeper of a "magic item shop", if you have those in your world – will be a spellcaster.

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Wouldn't Detect Magic + Spellcraft skill also help? – leokhorn Dec 1 '13 at 10:07
@KRyan: From Detect Magic: If the aura eminates from a magic item, you can attempt to identify its properties (see Spellcraft). And from Spellcraft: This skill is also used to identify the properties of magic items in your possession through the use of spells such as detect magic and identify. – leokhorn Dec 1 '13 at 19:07
@leokhorn Ah, Pathfinder changed things. That first sentence is annoyingly ambiguous but I looked it up and you are right. However, the question-asker specified that no one in the party has Spellcraft. – KRyan Dec 1 '13 at 19:52
@leokhorn Yeah, but identify gives a +10 bonus to the spellcraft check. The only advantage to detect magic is that you could get 3 items-identification attempts for the price of one casting, but with a greater chance of spellcraft check failure each try. – SevenSidedDie Dec 1 '13 at 22:17
@Zibbobz It's 100gp for spell components in 3.x, but in Pathfinder that cost's been removed. But if there had been additional costs, you're right: it would be (spell component cost) + (NPC hire cost) + (any premium markup that the market will bear) = total. – SevenSidedDie Dec 4 '13 at 17:24

I run a campaign where more often than not, NPCs capable of casting "identify" are a rarity, and as such, can charge what the players will pay. Early on the charge was 100gp (too many hours of Diablo), not for a rules reason, but because the NPC asked and they happily paid. Later, those who could cast the spell were too important, or made too much money in other endeavors to be bothered. This left the players tracking down spellcasters that owed them favors, or doing special tasks for some, to get the facetime for answering their questions.

One Wizard, known through the realm for being truthful (result of a curse) provided provenance with any "identify" done, but charged 1000gp or more, and it went up with item value. However, any item he "identified" went for full market price in any major market, or 3/4 value when offloaded, as the buyer was assured of the value and validity of their purchase.

In the end, charge what you want, what would be reasonable based on market conditions. Make it interesting when you can. Magic users are usually covetous of magic items. Have the NPC offer a lowball price, or trade a service to acquire what they want identified. Or employ someone to "retrieve" it later that night.

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I really liked the concept of a truthful wizard. :-) – LIttle Ancient Forest Kami Dec 2 '13 at 11:34
This was a pathfinder campaign? A thousand gold just to identify even powerful magic items is an absurdly exorbitant fee given even basic assumptions about magic item availability and pricing. – Eric B Dec 2 '13 at 14:54
Even a 100gp for a potion costing 25gp to craft or with a market value of 50gp to buy is vastely over cost. – Duncan Dec 2 '13 at 21:13
+1 for whatever the characters can be convinced to pay. After all, would the characters turn down more money for an object they were selling because the book said some other price? Also truth-telling wizard is great. Nice way to turn a curse into profit! – GrandmasterB Dec 4 '13 at 16:16

Conversely, you could start making players buy Scrolls of Identify. A single scroll with one use would cost the NPC in question 25gp to make according to the SRD about Creating Scrolls. You can inflate the cost however you please from there.

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