Similar to this question, but specific to D&D 5e, how are players meant to find out the effects of items/potions/scrolls/weapons/armor?

Say, they find a potion in some chemist's chest. It is red and smells nice. Should they perform an investigation/perception check? Or an arcana/nature check? If I tell the players specifically to do an Arcana check, then I am already hinting at the fact that this potion will have some magical effect. It could just be a natural elixir concocted by Druids to help your health regen.

Same goes for weapons. They find the legendary bow of X, which has a +3 to hit and a 10% chance of striking other enemies near the target. I describe the bow as unique, glowing, made from dragon scales and hovering on air. Would they investigate their properties? Or just I just let them fire at a wall until something happens?

Our playstyle so far has been to use active checks for a quick understanding of the item (drink a little bit of Potion as an Investigation check to find whether it heals or not, sensing magical properties of the bow with Arcana checks). When time is available, and experimentation is necessary, allow the PCs to do some creative testing and, based on their ideas, "After Y time, you realize that the bow sometimes hits several points of the wall instead of just your target".

According to the RAW, is there a specific way of checking the stats/effects of such items?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have access to the Dungeon Master's Guide? Have you read the section on magic items there and the details for identifying them? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ We only have the PHB \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 14:24
  • 12
    \$\begingroup\$ You should obtain a DMG, then :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 14:25

1 Answer 1


Rules for Identifying items are found in the DMG, though they can also be found in the basic rules, which I will be referencing here. The basic rules are free to use and can be a good substitute until you can buy your own DMG:

Dungeon Master's Basic rules, pg. 58 (Emphasis mine)

A magic item’s description explains how the item works. Handling a magic item is enough to give a character a sense that something is extraordinary about the item. The identify spell is the fastest way to reveal an item’s properties. Alternatively, a character can focus on one magic item during a short rest, while being in physical contact with the item. At the end of the rest, the character learns the item’s properties, as well as how to use them. Potions are an exception; a little taste is enough to tell the taster what the potion does.

So, you can just taste potions to identify them. For all other items, you learn what they do immediately upon casting the identify spell, or you can spend a short rest identifying the item. The tasting is not drinking the whole potion down without knowing its effect. It's just a small sample, maybe a few drops or a small sip in quantity.

Flavor, such as what kind of experimentation you do to discover the properties, or how the properties manifest themselves to the characters, is up to DM discretion. Playstyles can vary from just telling the party what the items do after the identification, to giving the players clues and having them figure it out themselves.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .