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The description of the Cubic Gate (DMG, p. 160) states:

The six sides of the cube are each keyed to a different plane of existence, one of which is the Material Plane. The other sides are linked to planes determined by the DM.

I'm the DM in this situation, and I've decided which planes the cube is linked to. However, since the item does not require attunement, is there any way for the PC who now has the cube to determine those planes other than by experimentation?

(If the item did require attunement, I'd assume that attuning to it would let you know, since attuning to items allows you to understand its properties, but that's not the case here as it doesn't require attunement.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ As per the artwork for Cubic Gate, why not with symbols on the item itself? \$\endgroup\$ – Yvihs Sep 10 at 9:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yvihs Y'know, I almost added that to my question, but if there are no rules suggesting it, I was worried that might come under "as a DM, you can invent whatever ways you like", and didn't want this to become a polling question for "how would you do it"? Otherwise yes, I may very well go with that if the answers confirm my suspicion that "RAW, it's just via experimentation". \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 9:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your note about attunement is actually a misunderstanding: attunement doesn't reveal an item's properties. The relevant rules text (this can't be the same short rest used to learn the item's properties) is what led to my answer, but I didn't have the reputation to comment before I made it \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Sep 10 at 19:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not an answer, but, ultimately the question boils down to this: How easy do you WANT it to be for them? Easy: Tell them. Hard: Make them really really work for it. \$\endgroup\$ – Reginald Blue Sep 10 at 20:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS Of course you can. You decide how much to tell them. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Sep 11 at 14:44
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This is an example of identifying a magical item, and the DMG lists a few options besides experimentation:

Identify

The identify spell is the fastest way to reveal an item's properties.

Short Rest

Alternatively, a character can focus on one magic item during a short rest, while being in physical contact with the item. At the end of the rest, the character learns the item's properties, as well as how to use them. Potions are an exception; a little taste is enough to tell the taster what the potion does.

The item says a lot about itself

Sometimes a magic item carries a clue to its properties. The command word to activate a ring might be etched in tiny letters inside it, or a feathered design might suggest that it's a ring of feather falling.

Source: I copied most of this from this related answer. I found it quite interesting that, even without attunement, a short rest can be used to identify. Actually, RAW, the attunement short rest (if any) comes after the identify short rest!

(this can't be the same short rest used to learn the item's properties)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that the premise of my question was flawed (i.e. that I thought the short rest to attune was the same short rest to learn its properties), and this answer clears that up, I'm going to accept this answer. But PJRZ's answer was still helpful with the detail about the symbols on the Cubic Gate's art matching the symbols in the PHB's planes section, so honourable mentions to that answer too. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 11 at 9:52
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The description doesn't say so likely it would be up to the DM.

It's interesting to note, however, that the illustration of the cube shows each side with a different symbol. And those symbols match up to the symbols accompanying the description of the planes in the Player's Handbook! (As somebody pointed out in the DnDBeyond comments).

If you decide to use this method, you could decide that a character could use an Arcana check to determine the symbol and thus the plane. Or, if nobody is proficient in Arcana (or you want them to work for their knowledge), you could require the players to investigate around the city for a knowledgeable sage or for access to a library for a bit of old-fashioned research.

The Identify spell is another alternative. It allows the caster to know the properties of an item and that could, if you allow it, determine the meaning of each face.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I completely forgot about the identify spell! Probably because the party doesn't have a wizard. That's interesting to note about the symbols, though; they do match with the PHB, so "good old fashioned research" may well be what I go with... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 9:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Half of Divination school could help: Commune, Contact other Plane, Divination, Legend Lore... \$\endgroup\$ – Revolver_Ocelot Sep 10 at 13:29

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