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I'm GMing for a party that has no casters with spellcraft (crazy I know), and needs to pay NPCs to identify magic items for them. Especially potions, which they find en masse. I was surprised that I could find nothing on how much such a service would cost in town. The best I could find was either buy a potion of identify for 50g and try your luck, or pay for spellcasting.

To pay for a cast of identify costs 10g, but it has a target of self, so the shop keeper would be casting it on herself, and then what? Identify the items for free? That doesn't seem right.

Are there any actual rules for this? If not, are there any systems or house rules that have worked well for anyone?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please put "tips" in answers. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Nov 19 '18 at 16:18
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10g per item.

That's exactly how it works: you find and hire someone who can cast identify and they use their spellcraft skill to determine the properties of the item. (The charge is for the service performed – obtaining the benefit of a spellcasting. There's no service performed if they just cast it on themself and then sit there refusing to identify your stuff.)

Note that:

  • one attempt at identifying an item using spellcraft takes 3 rounds
  • the duration of identify is 3 rounds per caster level
  • the cost of a spellcasting is caster level × spell level × 10 gp

So no matter how high level your NPC spellcaster is, it costs 10gp per item identified, assuming they don't fail the check (which they likely won't, with a +10 bonus due to the spell). Also, unless they're of high enough level to be able to cast multiple identify in one day and identify multiple items per casting, it may take some days to get a whole haul of items properly identified.

The trick then is in finding someone who can perform this service. Not every shopkeeper – even a shopkeeper of a "magic item shop", if you have those in your world – will be a spellcaster.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One could craft a wand of Identify -- then there appears an additional cost of each charge, which is 7.5 GP if they can craft it themselves or 15 GP if they buy the wand (which would be more likely for the said group). Then they can identify the whole bunch in a shorter time gap. \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy Nov 14 '17 at 7:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Baskakov_Dmitriy I've re-read the question and my answer and I must admit I still don't know what your comment is supposed to mean. Are you suggesting that I edit my answer to include this alternative? If so I'm not sure why it would be on-topic to add to the answer, since the question is asking what NPCs charge for spellcasting. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 14 '17 at 7:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ You say "Also, unless they're of high enough level to be able to cast multiple identify in one day and identify multiple items per casting, it may take some days to get a whole haul of items properly identified." -- I say that this can be circumvented by using a wand. The costs of identifying each item increases by 7.5-15 GP in this case. \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy Nov 15 '17 at 12:30
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I run a campaign where more often than not, NPCs capable of casting "identify" are a rarity, and as such, can charge what the players will pay. Early on the charge was 100gp (too many hours of Diablo), not for a rules reason, but because the NPC asked and they happily paid. Later, those who could cast the spell were too important, or made too much money in other endeavors to be bothered. This left the players tracking down spellcasters that owed them favors, or doing special tasks for some, to get the facetime for answering their questions.

One Wizard, known through the realm for being truthful (result of a curse) provided provenance with any "identify" done, but charged 1000gp or more, and it went up with item value. However, any item he "identified" went for full market price in any major market, or 3/4 value when offloaded, as the buyer was assured of the value and validity of their purchase.

In the end, charge what you want, what would be reasonable based on market conditions. Make it interesting when you can. Magic users are usually covetous of magic items. Have the NPC offer a lowball price, or trade a service to acquire what they want identified. Or employ someone to "retrieve" it later that night.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You have to be careful how much you charge or the players will just start throwing magic items away. I could buy a potion of CLW for 50gp or get the one we just found identified for 100? \$\endgroup\$ – Duncan Nov 20 '18 at 21:51
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Conversely, you could start making players buy Scrolls of Identify. A single scroll with one use would cost the NPC in question 25gp to make according to the SRD about Creating Scrolls. You can inflate the cost however you please from there.

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