Are active supernatural abilities of a creature detected with the detect magic spell?

For example a doppelganger shapechanged into an innkeeper doing detect thoughts on patrons. If a PC enters the inn and cast detect magic, would he notice the innkeeper as radiating a magical aura?


1 Answer 1


A doppelganger that's changed shape and detecting thoughts radiates two magic auras

Supernatural Abilities says

Supernatural abilities are magical but not spell-like. Supernatural abilities are not subject to spell resistance and do not function in areas where magic is suppressed or negated (such as an antimagic field). A supernatural ability’s effect cannot be dispelled and is not subject to counterspells.

(Also see Player's Handbook 180, Dungeon Master's Guide 289, and Monster Manual 315.)

Thus on the first round a patron uses an effect like detect magic and catches the disguised mind-reading doppelganger in the effect's cone, the patron will detect the presence of magic. Then, on the second round, if no other auras are present, the patron will detect two auras, with the DM determining which aura is stronger. (While the doppelganger's supernatural ability detect thoughts is the equivalent of 2nd-level spell, the doppelganger's supernatural ability change shape isn't given a spell level, although the alter self spell seems a reasonable comparison to this DM.) On the third round, the patron knows the auras' precise locations and can try to identify the auras' schools.

It will be up to the doppelganger to either notice the concentrating patron and subtle try to disrupt his concentration or explain away the magic auras of divination and illusion as ongoing tools for keeping his inn safe from intruders and looking nice, respectively.

  • \$\begingroup\$ But on page 219 of the PHB, it is indicated in the detect magic spell description that ''An aura's power depends on a spell's functioning spell level or an item's caster level" (emphasis mine). Would not that indicates that detect magics detects only spell's or magic item's auras? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2018 at 23:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @KilrathiSly That's a convenient shorthand the game often uses to avoid having to say spells, spell-like abilities, and supernatural abilities. Spell-like abilities and supernatural abilities are just like spells except in the ways that they're explicitly not, and one of the ways they are like spells is that they're picked up by detect magic. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2018 at 23:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .