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Detect Magic

For the duration, you sense the presence o f magic within 30 feet of you. If you sense magic in this way, you can use your action to see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic, and you learn its school of magic, if any. [...]

If this spell is used in presence of a magical item, does the aura assume the exact shape of the item, or just a general shape? The question can be read as: is the caster able to guess the item's shape by just seeing the aura?

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You probably can

But is a pointless action since the object has to be visible in order for you to be able use your action to see the aura (emphasis mine).

Detect Magic: you can use your action to see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic

There is also no indication that the aura can pass though solid objects, thus, in a case of a partially covered object the aura will be of no use to determine the shape.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I suppose it remains to decide whether an object is "visible" when it is in plain sight, but difficult to clearly discern from its background. So for example is a white magic item on a white backgound visible, and if so does the aura give you a clearer view of its shape than you might otherwise have? \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Oct 11 '16 at 17:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SteveJessop Technically speaking, if you haven't spotted the object, it is still no visible and, therefore, you can't use your action. Although this is DM territory, I (and maybe any sensible DM) would rule that if you have spotted a part of the object (since now you have something to focus on) you could use your action and find/delimit the rest of the blurry object as per the rules. It is DM territory because a part of an object is not THE object, so there is that. \$\endgroup\$ – Chepelink Oct 11 '16 at 20:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess it depends on if "any visible..." really means "any not-invisible", "any visibly discernible" or "any visibly perceptible". The white-item-on-white background case is visibly perceptible, but not visibly discernible. A magic sword swinging at you in the dark isn't discernible or perceptible, but if not invisible, might be able to be detected by a less strict interpretation of the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – InverseFalcon Oct 11 '16 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @InverseFalcon As far as I can tell, the intention of this spell is that, in order for it to work, you have to be able to focus on the object. Think of it as a touch screen, if you can "click" the object in the screen the spell should work (no matter how blurry or camouflaged it is). Therefore, in a pitch black breaking-nose pillar-hitting darkness the sword that you mentioned would not be a valid object since you cannot focus on it (even if is piercing your guts). \$\endgroup\$ – Chepelink Oct 12 '16 at 16:56
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a faint aura around

"Around" means located or situated on every side: it does not contain within it any notion of how far from the object it extends or how tightly it conforms. Interpretation of this is therefore is entirely up to the DM. A tight, bright outline or a diffuse glow filling half the room both meet the definition.

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