My players have come across a cache of wands in my Pathfinder campaign. Some of the wands have 50 charges while some have less. At the moment I've house ruled that Detect Magic will only state if a wand has maximum charges, some charges missing, or is totally drained. Players need to use the Identify spell to find the exact number of charges. However, I'd like to know what the official ruling (or general consensus) is for getting wand charges.

In 3.5, Identify specifically stated that it revealed how many charges were left on a magic item (if any). However, in Pathfinder, most of its functionality was moved to Detect Magic, and the only description given is:

This spell functions as detect magic, except that it gives you a +10 enhancement bonus on Spellcraft checks made to identify the properties and command words of magic items in your possession. This spell does not allow you to identify artifacts.

Detect Magic doesn't specify that it identifies charges remaining either, only that it can identify the properties of a magic item.

3rd Round: The strength and location of each aura. If the items or creatures bearing the auras are in line of sight, you can make Knowledge (arcana) skill checks to determine the school of magic involved in each. (Make one check per aura: DC 15 + spell level, or 15 + 1/2 caster level for a nonspell effect.) If the aura emanates from a magic item, you can attempt to identify its properties (see Spellcraft).

Does that mean Detect Magic identifies the charges remaining on an item, because that would be a property of that item? Is Identify still required to discern the number of charges, despite not being stated? Does it require a higher level spell such as Analyze Dweomer, which does say it reveals charges?


The Detect Magic spell states:

If the aura emanates from a magic item, you can attempt to identify its properties (see Spellcraft).

Spellcraft states:

Identify the properties of a magic item using detect magic: DC 15 + Item's CL

So what, you might ask, is a "property?" Well, they don't define in a legalese way exactly what is included in a magic item's properties, except to note that it definitely gets you command words ("The spells detect magic, identify, and analyze dweomer all reveal command words if the properties of the item are successfully identified..."). One simply has to assume from general English definition and logic that it gives you anything beyond that, including what the item even does.

I think it's best to interpret "properties" as "All of what it does, including charges, command words, and whatnot. Its full rules stat block." (Excepting, of course, other defined exceptions like artifacts and spells on a scroll.) Analyze dweomer specifically says it gets charges, but relying on a 6th level spell to get the charge level of a plain old wand is pretty lame IMO.

In earlier editions of D&D I was fine with not telling people charges and letting them find out when they ran out - it added a nice randomization factor - but in Pathfinder where the Christmas tree syndrome tends to dictate that it's players' God Given Right to liquidate all treasure for a union-decreed cost to buy other gear, not knowing charges and thus value would be an impediment.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, If you're wanting to add penalties for a failed Spellcraft check then you just tell them it has (1-3)D6 charges more or less than it truly has, they'll discover it soon enough. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 23 '15 at 18:00

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