If a Paladin uses Detect Evil on a single target by a move action, does the eventual aura of their equipment count?

Let's say for instance, if the target is Chaotic Neutral and not intending to harm anyone but has in his bag a Darkskull. Does the Paladin detects evil if she focus on him with a move action?

If not, what if it's worn, like an evil ring?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I changed the example to better reflect my question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luris
    Jan 23, 2016 at 0:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ As per my answer, it matters whether you're asking about the use as standard action or as move action. \$\endgroup\$
    – Julix
    Jan 23, 2016 at 10:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited. The French version of Detect Evil is worded in such a way that it seems only the move action option is possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luris
    Jan 23, 2016 at 12:57

2 Answers 2


A paladin that takes a move action to use the special ability detect evil can focus either on a creature to get 3-rounds-worth of detect evil information about that creature or on an object to get 3-rounds-worth of detect evil information about that object.1 While the game usually makes no distinction between a creature and gear it attends, this is a rare exception. In your example, the creature would not be discerned as evil when the paladin focused on it but focusing on the creature's carried or worn darkskull would reveal it as evil.

A paladin that takes a standard action to use the special ability detect evil detects evil like the spell in 60-ft. cone.2 Were the creature toting the darkskull alone in the area, in the first round the paladin learns of the presence of evil, in the second round the paladin learns that in the area there's 1 evil aura and that the most powerful evil aura in the area is faint, and in the the third round he learns the location of that aura, be it in the bag or on an oversized, ridiculous 5-lb. ring.

1 Because the paladin's special ability functions much like the spell detect evil, only aligned magic items with caster levels higher than 5 will be detected as evil. Such items are often indicated as possessing an aura of evil in their Aura entries, for example, the darkskull, the demon armor, and the hydrodaemon runestone. Even some items listed as possessing an evil aura won't show up when the paladin uses the special ability detect evil because such items just aren't evil enough, like the amulet of the Abyss and the voidstick. It'll take a detect magic spell and an identification of the item's properties to learn of such minor evil auras.
2 That the paladin has these two different methods of detecting evil using its special ability is confirmed by the FAQ. Also see this question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I forgot about the demon armor, there is no better example. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Jan 22, 2016 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does this mean that the CN character that possesses the Darkskull will appear to be evil itself? Essentially, when the Paladin locates the location of the aura, and it's in the same square as this CN character, does the Paladin know (or think) the aura emanates from an item in the CN's possession or is the CN character itself? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ellesedil
    Jan 26, 2016 at 0:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ The spell detect evil says after 3 rounds of study that the viewer knows the "power and location of each aura." The phrase each aura implies that the precise locations of individual auras on the scanned creature's body should become known to the detector so, I'd say No, the CN dude would not appear to be evil if the dude totes a darkskull, but it is open to interpretation by a strict reader. And, either way, those first 2 rounds could make such an examination... exciting. (Similiarly, detect magic and the potential inconvenience of needing to put each item in a different square.) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2016 at 0:12

Items and equipment will only "ping" on Detect Alignment spells if they have a special aura that says so. Like a Nine Lives Stealer.

has the power to draw the life force from an opponent. It can do this nine times before the ability is lost. At that point, the sword becomes a simple +2 longsword (with a faint evil aura).

But even so, only after it has stolen nine lives, until then, it has a strong Necromantic aura, which is neither good or evil.

The Holy Avenger, for instance, despite being the iconic paladin sacred sword, does not emanate a Good aura because it only shows it's special powers in the hands of a paladin, otherwise it's a simple +2 magical longsword made of cold iron.

But, if the item is said to have a certain aligment, like being good-aligned from Holy enchantment or evil-aligned from Unholy, then it will also show with the corresponding aura, as per Detect Aligment spell description, but only if the caster level is 5 or higher. This is also the case for a Holy Avenger being wielded by a paladin, which gets the Holy enchantment and becomes good-aligned.

Artifacts sometimes will have auras that are different from regular magic items, and will state so on their Aura field, like the Book of the Damned

Aura overwhelming all schools [chaotic, lawful, evil];


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