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In the 5th Edition description of detect magic, it states:

...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.

The sensing of auras has been pretty universal throughout many editions of D&D. In a campaign I'm building, the schools of magic will play an important role. Each school is represented by a color, is diametrically opposed to another, and so forth. Because of this, I'd like to adjust my descriptions accordingly. Instead of:

The wand radiates Enchantment and some Necromancy.

I want:

The wand is glowing orange with black veins pulsing to the beat of some unknown heart.

However, in all my research, I've never seen a list where magic items have been matched up to the aura they radiate. Some I could guess as being what spell they replicate, but there are too many that wouldn't match up easily.

I understand that the description states, "...learn its school of magic, if any." I would prefer not to rule, "If it doesn't cast a spell, it doesn't have a school of magic." That just seems like a cop out, but it may be the only answer.

I'm not asking for how to match items up; that would be opinion-based and likely "needs focus". I am asking for something WotC (or an affiliate) has put out with a table/ruling. Obviously, if the list came from an older edition, things won't match up exactly, but would give me a good starting point. And if it turns out, that non-spell casting items have no school, then so be it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As for the "if any"; I wouldn't say it's a cop out, but then I may understand schools of magic differently. If the known spells can't approximate the effect, nor understand how they work, they can't be classified in one of the schools of magic. E.g. let's say you had an item that did time travel (ignoring that 5e has a time magic school now, because a) I don't like it, and b) I can't think of another example off the top of my head). If you therefore had a device that dealt with time travel, it wouldn't be one of the 8, but would be magic. So it wouldn't have a school. No school = weird stuff. \$\endgroup\$
    – sharur
    Nov 2, 2022 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @sharur: "ignoring that 5e has a time magic school now" – To be fair, Chronurgy Magic is a wizard subclass from EGtW, and has some exclusive spells, but it isn't an actual "school of magic" like abjuration or conjuration. The spells from EGtW each still fall into one of the 8 schools of magic. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Nov 2, 2022 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Fair enough, it appears you are right. I was trying to think of something that wasn't covered by the 8 schools, and time travel came to mind, and then "they made a school for this in EGtW, didn't they" popped into mind, and I couldn't think of another example, hence my disclaimer. \$\endgroup\$
    – sharur
    Nov 2, 2022 at 20:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @sharur The Dunamancy spells from EGtW were each given one of the conventional spell schools, for the purpose of being compatible with non-Wildemount games, but if your game is taking place in Wildemount, labeling these spells "dunamancy" instead of the listed schools would be appropriate, and probably preferable for the setting. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 3, 2022 at 14:02

2 Answers 2

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I keep a "world inventory" of magic items in my campaign notes that contains this information.

Is there an official list? No, at least, not for 5th Edition. But I have to make this answer more interesting than that, so I'll tell you how I handle exactly this issue in my campaigns.

First, and I think everyone should do this for longer campaigns, keep an inventory of the magic items that exist or could exist in the world. This doesn't work so well if you use random tables for giving out loot, but I don't do that. At any given time, this list will have the party's existing magic items and information about those items, any magic items owned by significant NPCs and information about those items, and a pool of items I've hand selected for adding to loot or shops. The biggest this list has ever gotten for me is 15 or 20 items, thereabouts.

As I mentioned before, there is no official list for this. But because I have had my players ask me several times what school of magic a magic item was, I started adding that information to the details I include in my magic item inventory. The way I determine the school for a particular item is to compare to spells of similar effect, and consult the brief school descriptions given in the Wizard class description. For example, I give basic +X armor and weapons the Transmutation school, since magic weapon is a Transmutation spell and the description of Transmutation is about magically altering natural things.

I do this for every magic item I add to the world, so when a player inevitably detects magic on an weapon in a shop, or the sword on the king's side, I've already taken the time to think through it and don't have to give an off-the-cuff answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That is exactly what I was planning. Just hoping that there was an official starting point. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Nov 1, 2022 at 21:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ The rule that detect magic discovers the school of magic is one of the more annoying in the game. Its forcing every DM forever to define what the school of various items and effects is, and creating a mostly useless admin burden, that would just go away if the spell would not have that rider. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 1, 2022 at 22:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin Yeah, I’ve played with a DM that ignored that part. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 1, 2022 at 22:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ For armour and weapons, it seems like the school should depend on how you interpret the enchantment to work. If you say +1 armour has had its defensive properties magically enhanced, then transmutation makes sense. If you say +1 armour has a defensive magical aura, abjuration seems like a more logical choice. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 2, 2022 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JordiVermeulen Sure. You can, of course, do whatever you want with it, I think the important thing though is consistency. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 2, 2022 at 16:30
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There is no official list for 5e, you can use D&D 3.5

If you are looking for someting blessed by WotC, you can use the lists from D&D 3.5. The items are mostly the same, the schools are also the same, and 3.5 gives you an offical school, for example for bag of holding, it is moderate conjuration. Most of them are freely availabe via the SRD, too.

I don't think there is an offical mapping list for 5e. You can guesstimate the school based on the function of the item, by looking at the school that spells with these functions have. Or you can look up the spell used to create the item in 3.5, which determines the school and is always provided, and assuming the spell is still the same, use its school (in case the school has changed between editions). For example, spells and effects that conjure something or transport you are all conjuration.

I have used this one as a quick lookup in my DM screen, to save myself the boring administrative task to maintain long lookup lists. My experience is that during play time, flow and quick resolution trumps poring over books to look up the "correct" answer (even if there was a list, really). For the most part, it does only matter for the players to get a suspicion of what something could do:

  • Summon gate teleport: conjuration
  • Alarm lock imprison anti-magic: abjuration
  • Scry detect locate observe: divination
  • Time transform telekinesis: transmutation
  • Energy (fire cold, acid, force etc.): evocation
  • Invisibility illusion phantasm: illusion
  • Curse disease death healing: necromancy
  • Charm fear confuse hold: enchantment

For the color of the various auras, D&D Beyond has a symbol for each school of magic next to the spell (the symbols match those in the various depictions of magic items of those schools), representing the school, and these school symbols are tinted in color. I'm not sure how official those are, but this is about the most "offical" color I am aware of:

D&D Beyond Auras

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think we had different understandings if what the question asking. I thought it was asking if there was an official which school each magic item was. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 1, 2022 at 22:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ It’s worth noting that 1. the school of the item should be the school of the spell used to create it (every 3.5e magic item listed the spells required for its construction), and 2. the schools of some spells have changed from 3.5e to 5e, and so items created using those spells should probably be the new school used by the spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 1, 2022 at 23:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll have to check out my 3.5 books again. As for color/symbol/etc, I already have that decided and they don't match what WotC use. Mine are based on the color of stone that represents each school, the normal blending of light (the green school is based on the philosophies of the yellow school and blue school). That sort of thing. And like I mentioned in Thomas' answer, this will all be prepped ahead of time so no time wasted looking it up at the table. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Nov 1, 2022 at 23:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK - well, I hope checking out the 3.5 books is going to be useful. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 1, 2022 at 23:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that 5e spells like Healing Word are Evocation school; healing isn't Necromancy like it was in older editions (Critical Role fans may remember that this came up in the folding halls of Halas...) But IDK if Evocation makes sense for a Periapt of Wound Closure. Necromancy would make some sense for it, but to avoid that you could go with Transmutation if you think of it as accelerating the body's natural healing, like how Enhance Ability is transmutation. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 3, 2022 at 4:20

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