For a homebrew class that I’d like to make sure remains consistent with existing rules on this subject, I need to know if any rules exist that cover the following.

Suppose you know a character is a cleric, and you see him cast a spell that you know (via spellcraft) is not on the cleric list. Which skill can you roll to learn which domains that spell appears in?

Or suppose you know which domains a particular god offers (via knowledge: religion); what skill would it be to determine what spells are potentially available to that god’s clerics?

It seems pretty obvious to me that it should be knowledge: religion or spellcraft, since those are the skills relating to knowing things about divine magics and spells in general, but which one? At what DC?

I am only interested in official, published answers to these questions. If you cannot cite a source, speculation or personal preferences do not interest me, since I'm specifically looking for what rules already exist in order to ensure consistency.

If your answer is that there are no such rules, I’d like an idea of how certain you are of this. For example, I could not find any such rules on the SRD. Knowing where the rules aren’t is useful.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Did a slight edit to emphasise the problem frame being the search for existing mechanics for consistency reasons. That should short-circuit anyone tempted to jump in with "but it's obviously like X!" answers before reading the last line, like I almost did. ;) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2014 at 18:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Sure, looks good. If no one finds an answer, I'll probably open it up more for opinions since I'm curious, but right now I have a very specific need. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 4, 2014 at 18:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ How, exactly, did I find out a character was a cleric? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5, 2014 at 11:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ThalesSarczuk I think the key is that in your campaigns classes don't exist--it sounds like KRyan's going a different direction. I can totally imagine a campaign in which identifying a creature as being a wizard or cleric--or even fighter or barbarian--is a thing, if a bit odd when it comes to NPC classes. (I struggle to imagine anyone saying, "Why, yes, I'm a commoner.") Also, some prestige classes already tightly bind roles and occupations; to do so with core classes isn't a stretch. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6, 2014 at 18:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThalesSarczuk If the game rules are the rules of reality, their effects can be discovered in-character. That includes specific sets of spells that go together, as spell lists. Those available to arcanists (after all, wizards explicitly must be able to write theirs down, and recognize intuitively whether a given spell is one they can use). Clerics know what spells they can and can't pray for. And so on. Many, many classes include Knowledge DCs to know of the class and Gather Info DCs to find members of it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 7, 2014 at 5:18

5 Answers 5


You Must Progress without Guidance1

Unwilling to rely exclusively on memory and gut and just say No, I also checked Chet Eraz's "Skills and Actions"2 then checked sources published in Oct. 2007 and after.3 I scoured neither adventures for ultra-specific uses of the mentioned skills4 nor Web content.

I came up empty. No answers to your questions revealed themselves. It's possible, of course, that an answer exists in some dusty alcove, but I doubt it.

  1. And not get a +1 competence bonus to your next single attack roll, saving throw, or skill check.
  2. "Skills and Actions" is fairly complete; it omits the skill Profession (taxidermy)--and that's disconcerting--, but most of the big uses for skills are present, including those from Dragon.
  3. That is, Dragons of Eberron, Rules Compendium, Anauroch: The Empire of Shade, Elder Evils, City of Stormreach, and An Adventurer's Guide to Eberron (which is mostly fluff).
  4. For example, the Forgotten Orrery (DE 74) has a seal that to be breached requires both epic magic and a Knowledge (arcana) skill check (DC 80).

All the evidence points to spellcraft, either at DC 15+spell level, or DC 30+. At worst case, Knowledge(Religion|The Planes) 15 (basic questions+5 (one useful fact) should suffice.

As a catch all, we start with some givens:

  • Given: Gods have portfolios (deities and demigods) which are a fundamental aspect of their religion
  • Given: For every 5 points one beats a knowledge check by, one:

    For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

  • Given: Spellcraft can serve to:

    • (15 + spell level) Identify a spell being cast.
    • (30+) Understand a strange or unique magical effect.
  • Given: Knowledge (the planes) can know about:

    ... magic related to the planes)

There are multiple routes to this knowledge.

First, the crucial question is: "what does Identify mean". Mxy answered here that:

You would expect to get the information in the spell description, at least for commonly available spells - like 'that can target one humanoid' ...

If this definition of "identify" is correct, then what spell lists it is on is in the spell description. If this definition of identify is not correct, then it is considered a "strange ... magical effect". Either way, a spellcraft check can serve to understand the spell in question.

Given that clerics can summon various servants of deities and pose: "is this spell castable by your clerics" it is possible to use an adequately high knowledge (religion | the planes) (depending on the domain) to derive spells from first principles. In the worst case, the methodology by the rules is "What portfolios does this god grant" and use the +5 DC rule to extend that "useful information" to "this spell is on this domain." While this line of reasoning is tedious, it replicates the "known good" nature of asking outsiders, which indicates that it is possible, insofar as the question has been posed in the past.

The closest mechanics to "what spells do you has?" appear in the rather unfortunate Erudite:

No matter what the powers source, the character must first make mental contact (a process similar to addressing a power stone, requiring a Psicraft check against a DC of 15 + the highest-level power contained in the stone or the repertoire). ... Once mental contact is achieved, the erudite becomes aware of all the powers stored in the power stone or all the powers known by the target up to the highest level of power the erudite knows himself (if the powers' host fails a Will save [DC 13 + erudite's Int bonus]).

This suggests that understanding the casting list of a character is fundamentally related to [spell|psi]craft. The archivist prayerbook preparation rules also suggest a similar thing, though more weakly. Unfortunately, the spellthief offers no useful insights, as she is forced to play "go fish" with her targets or, at level 14, automatically knows the spell list with no checks needed.)

We can conclude therefore, that spellcraft can provide the necessary capabilities as the two options identify have no "excluded middle." Unfortunately, the literature doesn't state this specifically, and so we may have to fall back on the generalized "useful facts" elements of knowledges.


From the SRD for Spellcraft:

DC 30 or higher
Understand a strange or unique magical effect, such as the effects of a magic stream. Time required varies. No retry.

A cleric casting a divine fireball would count as strange. This check would allow the character to identify it.

Looking at this article on Knowledge: Religion:

Use a Religion check when a character tries to draw on knowledge about gods, religious traditions and ceremonies, divine effects, holy symbols, or theology. The skill also covers knowledge of immortal and undead creatures, as well as the Astral Sea with its dominions.

A domain would fall under divine effects. Unfortunately no DC is entered.


I couldn't find anything

I went through Complete Divine, Deities and Demigods, Complete Scoundrel, OA (expanded skills), and a few of the faerun and eberron setting books whose names I am not going to look up trying to answer a similar but different question.

I found nothing even remotely related to this. I think if there is an answer, it's in Dragon, a web article, or some random comment by a developer. So, worse than useless.

I question the utility of trying to adhere to the rules to this degree, and recommend use of consensus houserule or expert houserule (giantitp homebrew forums, minmax homebrew forums) to solve problems like this.

Knowledge: Religion already gives facts about what clerics are capable of, and Spellcraft explicitly identifies spells. You've obviously read this the opposite way, but to me this implies that knowing that 'clerics of Loki can shoot fire from their hands, but not clerics of any other God' is Kn: Religion, and identifying the spell as 'shooting fire from the hands' and not 'calling flame from heaven' (flame strike vs burning hands) is Spellcraft. Combining the two should allow one to work out whether a Cleric of Loki could actually do these things or not. And if not, which God the Cleric is a Cleric of.

All I can give you, sorry.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with your assessement. I don't think the concept of metaskills is existent, but in the mostly german RPG "The dark eye" there are so called meta-talents. You add your value in several talents and divide it by a predefined factor and thereby get a new "meta-talent". This might be a situation where this could be useful, since the ability seems clearly tied to those two allready existent skills and imo shouldn't be sperated from them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy
    Jun 5, 2014 at 13:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, DnD covers this, as I outlined. You 'combine' the two by rolling both, and succeeding at both. Failing at either means you don't have all the bits to put together into a conclusion. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    Jun 5, 2014 at 13:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh sry. I didn't want to do imply you didn't cover it. I just wanted to elaborate on the concept, as it's used in other systems, since I agree with your suggestions :). \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy
    Jun 5, 2014 at 14:23

There's a Void in what you seek.

I scoured not only the SRD but my physical copies of my D&D material. (PHB and PHB II, Completes) and even some Quintessence stuff that I had (Not quite 3.5, but worth a shot). Nada.

Sure, it is possible to have this somewhere in the middle of a Dragon, but I think that this is unlikely.

I found this however, on the SRD:

Independent Research

A divine spellcaster also can research a spell independently, much as an arcane spellcaster can. Only the creator of such a spell can prepare and cast it, unless he decides to share it with others.

So... I THINK there are some issues with such a thing like "knowing a domain spell list". I will speculate below. If it don't interest you, feel free to ignore it.

The following is some thought on the game desing. Ignore it if it don't interest you.

Things like "Spell Lists" and "Classes" are meta. We never saw nothing that seemed like "Know which spells are avaliable on which spell list", mostly because this would require you to know the "Class" of someone, and that is a concept that don't really exists in-game.

A "cleric", as a role, have a completly different sense than a "cleric" as a class. He could have cast that spell as a Sorcerer. Or as a Wizard. Or even as a Bard. You can't really tell what is the "class" of someone, because no-one identify themselves as having a "class".

A Cleric 1 / Sorcerer 19 is still a cleric. Heck, even your Favored Soul 1/ Wiz 5, while being really unoptimized, is still a "cleric", not on class but in in-game role. At the same time, seeing someone using Flame Strike don't automatically gives you the rest of the spell list - Rainbow Servant send you a "Hi".

That's why I don't think it will be something like "DC 25 - Know which spells are on the spell list of a given domain".

Alas, Spellcraft let you know what this spell does if you see it being cast. Seing a spell being cast means seing components (verbal, somathic, etc) and all the "mumbo jumbo" that goes with the spell. You don't really knows the name of the spell, but you understand what it can do by seeing that those gestures that the wizard is doing probably have something to do with fire exploding. He may even don't know that the name of the Spell is Fireball. Heck, spellcraft even let you identify spells that are caster-exclusive. If my wizard creates a new spell that was never show to anyone, every foe can still roll a Spellcraft check to identify it. How did they knew that I created "Malachias' Unstoppable Diarrhea"? They don't, but looking at the spell components, they can estimate what it should do. It is like a Mathematician looking at a formula on a chalkboard - he may not know exactly what the formula is called, but he can figure what it is trying to do.


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