Identify 5e Guide: How to Use The Identify Spell?

There’s a lot of items in 5e, and even in TTRPG’s as well. While many of them are pretty common or are explained by those given to you, others are things you will need to figure out yourself. However, in a life or death situation, you don’t want to yank out an unknown potion and wonder if it is a potion of healing or a poison of instant death. Especially if you are at a few fewer hitpoints.

However, when that happens Identify is one that is a very useful spell for that scenario. If you are a bard or a wizard, it’s one of those spells you need to have in your arsenal so you can be even more useful for your party. Here is our guide to the Identify spell.

What Is Identify?

  • Identify
  • 1st level divination
  • Casting Time: 1 minute
  • Range: Touch
  • Components: V S M (A pearl worth at least 100 gp and an owl feather)
  • Duration: Instantaneous
  • Classes: Bard, Wizard

You choose one object that you must touch throughout the casting of the spell. If it is a magic item or some other magic-imbued object, you learn its properties and how to use them, whether it requires attunement to use, and how many charges it has if any. You learn whether any spells are affecting the item and what they are. If the item was created by a spell, you learn which spell created it.

If you instead touch a creature throughout the casting, you learn what spells, if any, are currently affecting it.

Let’s break the spell down. It is a 1st level divination spell and lasts for 1 minute. Once you touch a magical object, you instantly learn the properties of the object and how to use it. You would also learn any charges it might have and if it needs to be attuned to be used. You also learn of any spells affecting an item as well.

Also, if you touch a creature using the spell, you will learn of any spells that are affecting it. This spell is pretty interesting and can be very helpful if you want to start looking at magical items. So how do you get started with using the spell, and how helpful is it really?

Who Can Use The Identify Spell?

Identify Spell

The identify spell can be used at 1st level by Bards and Wizards who can cast divination magic. It’s a fairly easy spell that you can use whenever magical loot crops up in a dungeon, and it saves you time and money. Rather than dragging all your loot towards an appraiser to have your loot appraised and identified every single time, you can at least identify it yourself.

Now, there are two ways you can cast the identify spell and while most people only know about the first option, we are going to go through both of them.

Casting the Identify Spell

The instant you touch someone or a magical item with the identify spell, all of the information floods into your character’s brain like a modern-day information dump. You know what it is, how to use it, if you need to attune to it, and if it is charged. All you need is a pearl and an owl feather, and you can cast the spell as many times as you would like.

The 2nd method is by using ritual casting. To use a ritual, you will cast the spell as normal, but it doesn’t expend a spell slot to use the spell. Identity does have a ritual tag, so you can spend 11 minutes. It’s good to use whenever you are on a break and don’t want to burn a spell slot, while the regular spell can be cast in a dungeon.

Where Can You Get A Pearl and An Owl Feather?

A pearl and an owl feather are the two components for the Identify spell, and where you can get one is often a question most players ask. While an owl feather is pretty easy to get, just with a bit of foraging or combat with a giant owl, a pearl can be a little trickier to get. It’s a fairly expensive item, however, they are easy to come by.

Well, the pearl is 100 gp, and while that seems like a lot it isn’t the most expensive. Most of the time you will find that in gold coins or found from selling the loot in your adventure. Pearls themselves are pretty easy to find. Drow uses pearls all the time and most jewelry stores house pearls. If you are by a coastline or a beach, then you can often find pearls inside of clams or possibly on the coast just like in the real world.

The good thing is that the identity spell does not consume both items, so once you find a pearl and an owl feather, you will be able to use them to cast the spell as many times as you want.

An Example Of The Identify Spell In Action


Your party has slain the orc chieftain, fought through the entire dungeon, and has gone through all of the loot. In between all the swords, armor, and gold coins is a simple hat. It seems like nothing special, but your bard isn’t so sure. So she casts Identify and finds out that the hat is a Hat of Vermin.

The Hat of Vermin is a magical item that isn’t anything special, but you do know that since it is now a magical item, you can sell it as such. Some of the most mundane items can be magical if you know how best to look at them. Also, there’s a lot of other magical items that look like actual magical items, such as a longsword with a fantastic-looking hilt and a flame-shaped blade.

You can also identify a wand, such as a wand of Magic Missile, and see how many charges it has left. This can be very helpful if you want to use the wand itself, but also don’t know how many charges you have inside the wand. Knowing that the wand has 8 charges certainly helps whenever you use the magic missiles against the enemies, without having to fire the wand indiscriminately and wonder when it will run out.

If you see those items, you can either pay an appraiser to figure out what type of item it is and how much it is valued. However, if you come with a lot of magical items from a dungeon, it can really eat into your gold reserves if you need to get them professionally appraised and identified. Having an identified spell that only costs time and a few spell slots, will save you a ton of gold and will give you the same information as a professional.

Should I Identify Every Magical Item?

Especially at low levels, whenever you have 1-3 spell slots and you also have a few other spells you might want to cast, you might be wary about casting identify if you want to save it for another time. If you find various magical items, you might only try to identify the cool magical sword and leave the helmet and amulet after a long rest.

You will know when you have to identify a magical item, so go with that gut feeling and don’t feel like you need to identify every single item. If you look for the one that is obviously magical, then you will often find one that is very interesting for your party.

Using Identify On A Person

D&D Dice

If you’ve noticed that one of your party members is acting not quite right after an encounter with a witch, or another character is a little tipsy after battling a succubus, you might need to figure out if something is going on with them. You can use Identify on a person and then see what, if any, spells are affecting it. You can see if they are charmed, commanded, or otherwise influenced by another spell.

You can use this spell as long as you can touch a creature, and you can find out all the spells affecting them. That doesn’t mean you can dispel them, or know what they do, but at least you know what is messing with your friend’s mind.

What Spells Pair Well With Identify?

Identify is perfect whenever you pair the spell with detect magic because you will then be able to see if that cool club you found is magical, or just a masterwork club. Detect magic is a 1st level divination spell that takes an action and you can sense the presence of magic within 30 feet.

Legend Lore can also be a really good spell if you are at the 5th level, as it does bring some extra lore to your mind about the weapon you are looking at. Most magical weapons often have some legend behind them, and it can be interesting to learn the stories of the magic weapon as you, or before you identify it.

Identify 5e Guide: FAQs

Question: Does Identify Reveal Curses?

Answer: Identify will show you all the magical properties of the item that you are using the spell on, however, it doesn’t show curses. Curses are not magical properties, so while you will know if a set of armor is magical or not, you will not know if it is cursed. This can be pretty fun if the characters do not know this, and they decide to put on the suit of magical armor only for it to be cursed.

You could allude to the curse and say that there’s darkness or something about the item you cannot identify, which might make the players prick up their ears and be a bit cautious. However, they can also ignore you entirely and use the cursed item, and 9 times out of 10 there are consequences for that! Now they’ve got to find a way to remove the curse!

Question: Can I Make Identifying Items Harder?

Answer: Even at a 1st level spell, your PCs can quickly become reliant on the spell if they identify every single magical item and learn everything about it. Most DM’s can tire of this and they can use house rules to make the identification of items much harder for the player characters. One rule is that you can use arcana checks to make your best guess about the item. Some parties don’t have a wizard or bard with access to the spell to make the checks, and the Arcana check description itself even says this in the Player’s Handbook:

Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes.

So you can lock some higher-level items behind arcana checks rather than the 1st level spell slot. The higher the role, the more information they learn. So rolling a 12 might let them know that the item is magical while rolling a 20 or above lets them know everything about the item, similar to the identity spell.

You can also have the character cast the spell at a higher level (and burn a spell slot as a result) if they want to identify a higher-level object. It can also work if they know that an item is magical but want to know its properties or more information about it.

Question: Can Identify Ever Fail?

Answer: This spell cannot fail, as once you cast it works. However, you can add a check depending on how important the item is. Common magical items and even some uncommon ones might work as normal, while perhaps rare and legendary items have wards that prevent them from being identified without very powerful magic.

After all, some magical items are warded, protected, or even sentient, and it’s likely their original owners placed some protections on them to make sure that they wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands.

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