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This came up in this question: What's an efficient way to handle magical item identification?. Many people suggested taking 10 on Spellcraft checks to identify magical items. I certainly see the appeal—but is it possible in all cases?

I thought that taking 10 or 20 was only possible if many attempts could be made and failure was not harmful (or if it was, the character accepted the harm). Since some magical items could be cursed or booby-trapped, it seems that trying to identify the item could be enough to trigger its harmful effects. By trying to identify such items, a character may be in "immediate danger" without knowing it. Does this mean that one cannot take 10 or 20?

For convenience, here's what Paizo says about it (link):

Taking 10 and Taking 20

A skill check represents an attempt to accomplish some goal, usually while under some sort of time pressure or distraction. Sometimes, though, a character can use a skill under more favorable conditions, increasing the odds of success.

Taking 10:

When your character is not in immediate danger or distracted, you may choose to take 10. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the skill check, calculate your result as if you had rolled a 10. For many routine tasks, taking 10 makes them automatically successful. Distractions or threats (such as combat) make it impossible for a character to take 10. In most cases, taking 10 is purely a safety measure—you know (or expect) that an average roll will succeed but fear that a poor roll might fail, so you elect to settle for the average roll (a 10). Taking 10 is especially useful in situations where a particularly high roll wouldn't help.

Taking 20:

When you have plenty of time, you are faced with no threats or distractions, and the skill being attempted carries no penalties for failure, you can take 20. In other words, if you roll a d20 enough times, eventually you will get a 20. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the skill check, just calculate your result as if you had rolled a 20.

Taking 20 means you are trying until you get it right, and it assumes that you fail many times before succeeding. Taking 20 takes 20 times as long as making a single check would take (usually 2 minutes for a skill that takes 1 round or less to perform).

Since taking 20 assumes that your character will fail many times before succeeding, your character would automatically incur any penalties for failure before he or she could complete the task (hence why it is generally not allowed with skills that carry such penalties). Common "take 20" skills include Disable Device (when used to open locks), Escape Artist, and Perception (when attempting to find traps).

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No, you cannot take 10.

Normally, as long as you are not in a situation of danger, such as combat, or being intimidated, or under stress (like climbing a wall), or being distracted by a traveling bard, you can Take-10 on your Spellcraft checks.

However, as pointed out on this answer (confirmed by a developer), concentrating on a spell is considered a distracting situation and you are not allowed to Take-10 while concentrating on Detect Magic.

Nor you can take 20.

Because there is a penalty if you fail on trying to detect the magical properties of a magic item:

Taking 20 means you are trying until you get it right, and it assumes that you fail many times before succeeding.

Additional attempts reveal the same results.

And the Spellcraft skill does not allow more than one check per day on the same item:

Retry? When using detect magic or identify to learn the properties of magic items, you can only attempt to ascertain the properties of an individual item once per day.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ IMO, a character could take 20 if they are able and willing to spend several weeks on figuring out the item, failing once per day until they succeed. It could be narrated as the character performing every experiment they can think of and consulting all the literature and experts they can gain access to until they finally figure out what the item does. However, if the item is cursed, you could assume that the character will definitely trigger that curse during their research. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Jul 27 '18 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Philipp using the rules for library research is actually a better idea than spending 20 days on that. You could hire a spellcaster to cast Identify Magic, or buy a scroll way sooner than that. Regardless, the rule says when you have plenty of time and no distractions. Can you say you won't be distracted not even once in those 20 days? \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 27 '18 at 14:36
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The other answers are mostly correct. However, in addition to not being able to take 20 while using detect magic, as the dark wanderer says, you also cannot take 10 while using detect magic. Per Jason Buhlman.

TetsujinOni wrote:

Deep Understanding: ... In addition, whenever you attempt to identify a magic item using detect magic or a similar effect, you can take 10 on the check to determine its properties.

When you are maintaining detect magic to study an item to identify its properties, this suggests that the concentration requirement normally precludes taking 10? Is this accurate and intentional? (Yep, this is a case of mythic affecting core rules by implication).

This is intentional.

Jason Bulmahn Lead Designer Paizo Publishing

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "this is a case of mythic affecting core rules by implication" Regardless if it's by implication, this stands correct. I will edit my answer accordingly, and you deserve more votes for bringing this up. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 27 '18 at 12:53
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Yes, you can take 10

Nothing unusual prevents it, so you can do this in any situation you could do so with any other skill.

Yes, you can take 20.

As long as you are not using detect magic or identify (for example via Arcane Sight, Detect Charm, Greater Detect Magic, or Analyze Aura) you can retry your spellcraft checks indefinitely. Each check takes 3 rounds. If you are using detect magic or identify you cannot retry the checks for a 24 hour period. There are no cursed items with effects that activate upon attempted identification, but if there were you could not take 20 when attempting to identify those items (which would be a pretty good indication that something is up with that item).

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