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The Sahuagin have an ability

Shark Telepathy: The sahuagin can magically command any shark within 120 feet of it, using a limited telepathy

I would say this mimics the telepathy spell?

Detect Magic says

For the duration, you sense the presence of magic within 30 feet of you. If you sense magic in this way, you can use your action to see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic, and you learn its school of magic, if any.

Would detect magic sense magic off (provided you spent an action to locate the aura) : the shark the sahuagin is controlling, the sahuagin only, both, or neither?

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Yes, if the ability is called out as magic. Detect magic doesn't have any wording that limits it to the effects of discrete spells — it instead detects the “presence of magic”.

Magically commanding something easily qualifies, so a sahuagin using magical telepathy to control sharks would have a detectable aura of magic. (The shark may or may not — I can see arguments both ways that hinge on where the magic is present, and I'll think that's a call for the DM on the scene to make. Personally, it would depend on whether I decided “command” meant “control” [magical] or “given orders” [not].)

Mimicking a spell isn't the point to consider though. An ability that just does the same thing as a spell, but is explicitly non-magical, wouldn't qualify. The thing to ask yourself when considering what detect magic can do is “is it magic?”

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If you were the DM how would you rule both, Sahuagin only, or Shark only? \$\endgroup\$ – Voromir Kadien Dec 22 '17 at 2:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VoromirKadien Personally I could rule either way. Without context, I would rule both, reasoning that the sahuagin is not only magically telepath-ing, but that the shark is being magically commanded in the “controlled” sense of the word.. But that's absent context and setting. In a setting where these sharks are intelligent allies of these exact sahuagin (not a stretch at all), I would rule that only the sahuagin has a magic aura, because the sharks are only being commanded in the sense of issuing them orders, like soldiers, without any magical control involved. See? I can go either way. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 22 '17 at 2:24

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