In some upcoming loot the players are going to find a Broom of Flying. One slight problem, the broom does not come with a note stating what its command word is in order to use the broom. As such is there a way for the players to figure out the command word?

I was initially thinking of the Identify spell, but our table has always played that the Identify spell essentially reads the description of the magic item, and thus would only tell the players that they need to speak the command word not what the command word is.


3 Answers 3


Sometimes, command words are hidden in the design

The DMG offers this on p. 136 (bolding added):

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

So the third official option is to hide a clue on the item - you could etch a riddle where the answer is the command word. The benefit if this is that you do not need to have the identify spell, and you do not need to spend an hour of short rest to find out. And of course, it can be fun to discover it that way.

Identify in 5e can even unravel what artifacts do. If you don't like how easy it is to learn how to use an item, the DMG also has a variant rule called More difficult identification, where a short rest does not suffice (which is a nod to how it worked in older editions). In that case, identify should work, or you can demand both identify and experimentation to learn everything. If you play with this rule, and the party has no identify spell or you rule it also is not sufficient, their only recourse is a hidden clue, guessing it, or finding someone who knows the command word.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Has there been an official statement to the effect that "learns ... how to use them" in the Identify description means "learns what the command word is" as opposed to, say, "learns that there is a command word"? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 0:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RussellBorogove Not an explict one, as far as I can tell. The SAC which is the sole source of official rulings (i.e. rules interpretatin guidance, unless you count Sage Advice the column) says: "During a short rest, which takes at least 1 hour, a character who meets the qualifications can determine the properties of one magic item", and even if the command word may or may not be "how it works", it is a property of the item, so this is indirect support. But the question is not about command words, it is about what use identify is at all, if you can do all it can do with a short rest. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 4:27

Take a short rest or use identify the way it was written.

The rules for identifying a magic item state:

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.

By spending a short rest with the broom, a character learns how to use it. Of course, this is almost the exact same wording as the identify spell:

If it is a magic item or some other magic-imbued object, you learn its properties and how to use them

The important part here is that both methods tell the character how to use the magic item. If the character doesn’t learn the command word, they haven’t learned how to use the magic item. So the way your table has been playing the identify spell is not how the spell is written.

Or tell them the command word.

You’re the DM. You can include a note with the command word if you like. Or any number of other fun and interesting methods, such as a quest or riddle.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is almost exactly the same wording as the Identify spell - "you learn its properties and how to use them". Would you rule that both work? \$\endgroup\$
    – A_S00
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 0:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @A_S00 Yes. Added a note about identify. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 0:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, you are the DM. You can send them on a side quest to learn the broom's command word from this wise Spriggan who lives in the woods where the broom's handle was harvested from. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have to disagree. Knowing that it is activated by a command word is how the item works. Being able to use something correctly and 'knowing how' to use it are two different things. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 13:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Which isn't to say that you can't give them the Command word for attuning/spending a short rest studying it. Just that you don't have to if you have different plans for the reveal. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 13:38

Make it a (simple) puzzle

Many remember the door to Moria translated to:

Speak Friend and Enter

It wasn't really a puzzle but due to time.

Maybe the command word is the name of the original owner's first familiar (which can be found in a journal) or even have it written on broom as part of a longer inscription "Fly with me always Mittens" for example.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I’ve downvoted because this seems like an untested “here’s an idea” sort of answer. This sort of answer should be supported with experience implementing similar solutions at the table of play (see our citation expectations for more guidance). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Did you downvote the accepted answer as well? It's basically the same solution I posted, just slightly better written. Or is it just because i didn't cite the DMG? \$\endgroup\$
    – aslum
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 15:06

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