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Background

I'm running an Eberron (read: "industrialized magic") campaign under the Pathfinder rule system. They have a (semi-GM) PC who is a warforged artificer, which at their APL of 8 means the party is really good at identifying nearly all magical items I send their way. This issue has come up before, but they're about to encounter a large number of treasure troves, and we have little time to spare. As much fun as it is, we don't have time to experiment to identify each and every magical item.

Question

I could describe the items and let my players decide what they want to identify, but they generally want to know what each and every item is. In that case, they'd need to identify each item, but takes more time than it is often worth.

What's a time-efficient way to handle multiple magical item identification?

  1. I could have them manually identify each and every object with a magical aura. This is slow, but it gives the artificer usefulness and does not give any hints about what is an ordinary magical item vs. a "special" magical item.
  2. I could just tell them what the items are. This is fast, but somewhat nerfs the artificer's abilities.
  3. I could have them automatically identify "ordinary" magical items (perhaps stuff that they would have likely seen in magical shops?), but make them identify new items manually. This seems like the best option, but it requires drawing a line between ordinary and special magical items.
  4. I could have them make a single check to identify everything. That check applies to all items.
  5. Other???

Note about Taking 10 (or 20):

Many people have suggested something about taking 10 to identify items. This made me ask the following question: Can a character take 10 or 20 on a Spellcraft check to identify magical items?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by GMJoe, Miniman, DuckTapeAl, Oblivious Sage, Lino Frank Ciaralli Apr 11 '17 at 3:10

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ When you say the artificer is a semi-gm PC, what do you mean? Does a player play that character? \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Apr 10 '17 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking about in-game time ("the artificer has to spend an hour on each item") or table time ("I don't want to spend thirty minutes watching the artificer making all those rolls")? \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Apr 10 '17 at 18:10
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By this level, in Eberron, the whole identify minigame is getting really old. Special items (artifacts, maybe some cursed items) might pose special challenges that are interesting, but random loot isn’t.

Magic Item Compendium to the rescue! This is a 3.5 book, but it’s a great one, well worth using in Pathfinder (and by-and-large, its items don’t really need much in the way of porting). In particular, within its pages you will find the artificer’s monocle, which can be combined either with a check from the artificer’s artificer knowledge class feature or with a casting of detect magic and 5 ranks (2 in PF) in Knowledge (arcana) to identify a magic item as with the identify spell. It costs 1,500 gp, and the identification process takes 1 minute.

So in your Pathfinder game, just allow the warforged artificer to find/buy/acquire/otherwise have such an item. Since it’s a GMPC, you don’t even really need Magic Item Compendium for this: it’s not really necessary to track the GMPC’s wealth or worry about item slots or whatever. This will allow the party to just spend a minute per item to identify all of them. And, of course, your special items that you wan to get more attention, you can always just rule as immune to identify for whatever reason.

I use these all the time, and strongly recommend them to every group. Personally, I find very little of interest in the identify minigame to begin with, but by 8th-level in Eberron it is particularly unnecessary. In fact, if a minute/item is still too slow, I would feel it more than reasonable to consider an 8th-level artificer or spellcaster capable of speeding up the process, and make it a round per item, or a minute to identify a whole pile of items, or whatever.

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Suggest that they take 10 on all identify checks. I assume that these identify checks are made after combat is over.

When your character is not in immediate danger or distracted, you may choose to take 10.

This would allow you to figure out which items they will be able to identify ahead of time. You know their Take 10 roll. The only choice left is whether they want to use the spell identify.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Taking 10 in this situation would only work if the item is not cursed or booby-trapped in some way. For example, if trying to identify the item causes it to self-destruct (or causes any harmful effect), then the character cannot take-10 or -20. If the GM were to allow players to take-10 for all non-harmful magical items, but not for cursed/harmful items, they would soon learn which items are cursed/harmful. \$\endgroup\$ – jvriesem Apr 10 '17 at 19:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jvriesem Taking 10 works for a cursed item the same way it works for a regular one. If the players don't like this solution, give them a roll on the cursed item, and when they fail it make them put on their big boy pants and roll play like they are excited to use it. \$\endgroup\$ – BobTheAverage Apr 10 '17 at 19:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the item is cursed, they simply do not know about it. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Apr 10 '17 at 19:33
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By now somebody (or everybody) probably has permanent Arcane Sight. This means that items with a CL of ~14 or less should be identified by default within 3 rounds or so of encountering them (11 spellcraft ranks plus 6 int mod plus 2 from enhancement bonuses plus taking 10). Items with a CL of ~24 or less will be identified within a period about 20 times as long or less, or 6 minutes or less.

An 8th level hoard will generally not have more wealth in it than is enough to move the players from 8th level WBL to 9th. That's 13-26 K gp per player, or 104 K gp as the highest estimate for a party of 4. Even in this extreme case, experimentation with ~104000 gp hoards indicates that an hour is more than enough time by far for a single character to identify every object. Since none of this relates to the artificers ability and an hour of downtime around the collection of a massive treasure hoard is likely to be available, just telling them what they find won't actually nerf that ability at all.

Even in the most extreme case where the entire 104000 gp hoard is in miscellaneous level 1 spell scrolls worth 25 gp, identifying the whole lot is a single day's work for a single character. At this point in the game, identification can definitely be skipped over unless you are planning an encounter during a period the party is trying to do rest/downtime things.

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Allow them to take-10 on their check.

This is what i do at my tables, and is allowed by the rules without any modification.

The Take-10 rule for their spellcraft checks allows them to automatically identify any item which the CL is lower than their Spellcraft bonus minus 5.

Example, a belt of giant strength has CL 8, which means a DC 23 to identify, so a character with +13 Spellcraft could identify it automatically by taking-10 on the check.

This should speed up the process considerably, you only take notes of this character spellcraft bonus, and of whichever item has a CL higher than that value plus 5. So potions and scrolls, that have a low DC (5+CL), you shouldn't even bother with, they will identify those automatically. And when the character encounters an item that is beyond his ability, you simply say "Nope, you have no idea what that item does".

Another example, a pearl of power has CL 17, which means a DC 32 to identify, so this character requires a Spellcraft bonus of at least +22 Spellcraft to identify it. He will need to prepare Identify.

Why minus 5? Because the identification DC is 15 + CL of the item, so if a character can beat a DC that is 5 points higher than 10 (from taking-10), they can identify the items. 15-10 = minus 5.

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It sounds like you're concerned about real-world time rather than in-setting time.

I've found that the thing that takes the most real-world time when identifying magic items is the part where you describe what the item does to the players, not the mechanics surrounding identification. To cut down on the time spent describing each item, prepare in advance a series of index cards; On each index card, write a description of the item, then simply hand the appropriate card to your players each time they succeed at an identification check.

It also has the pleasant side effect of creating a physical object that the players can pass from player to player if need be, which simplifies inventory tracking.

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