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There are some artefacts and other magic items which have the attribute "Aura overwhelming" in their description. (e.g. Thorncrown of Blasting)

Does this attribute mean anything rules-wise? E.g. if a spellcaster does a "Detect Magic" check in an area, and there is this artefact around. Does the caster get overwhelmed by something? Does it have any impact on his abilities?

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Having an Overwhelming aura means two things, both related to detect magic.

First, it means that the item detects as an "Overwhelming" power source of magic. This just means that it involves a 10th level or higher spell, or a 21st or higher caster level. There is nothing in the description of Detect Magic that says that you take any kind of penalty from looking at an Overwhelming source of magic, so you don't. It's just another descriptive word to describe magical power, like "Faint" or "Strong".

Second, it means that the item leaves a source of Dim strength magic when it is destroyed for 1d6 days afterwards. This works like any other magical aura, it's just weaker than even the weakest spell.

There is a common misconception that looking at Overwhelming sources of magic is blinding or stunning, which comes from the description of the spell detect evil, which says:

If you are of good alignment, and the strongest evil aura's power is overwhelming (see below), and the HD or level of the aura's source is at least twice your character level, you are stunned for 1 round and the spell ends.

Unlike magic, if you detect a source of the opposing alignment that is both Overwhelming and twice your level, you get stunned. This only happens with alignments, though, not magic.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I once heard that the reason detect magic lacks vulnerability to overwhelming auras is that, unlike the detect alignment spells, it can be made permanent, and having a permanent effect end so easily was considered rather annoying back when 3.0 was being developed. I don't know what basis that story has, though. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe May 15 '15 at 6:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ In most cases, the "the spell ends" clause is redundant. The detect spells require concentration, and you can't concentrate while stunned, since you can't take actions while stunned. In the past, I've seen DMs rule that a permanent detect evil doesn't end when you get overwhelmed, it just breaks your concentration and you don't get any more rounds of info while looking at that source. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl May 15 '15 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a reasonable ruling to make if you want to add detect evil onto permanency's list. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe May 18 '15 at 4:49
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No, it has no in game effect. The overwhelming is just another signifier for the strength of the aura.

Note that the aura designations are (from http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/spells/detectEvil.html):

None < Faint < Moderate < Strong < Overwhelming

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