Friday, July 25, 2014

Identifying Magical Items in AD&D

Identifying any legendary item, magical or not, while in the field requires either the Identification spell or a bard's Legend Lore or Item Knowledge.
Identifying any legendary item back in town just takes longer.
Identifying In the Field
Identify Spell
The Identification spell must be cast within a number of hours of finding an item equal to the caster's level. So a 4th level wizard can identify anything found in the last 4 hours. To cast the spell, the wizard drops a 100 gp pearl into a goblet of wine mixed with an owl feather, drinks the wine, then swallows a gold fish. Casting the spell gives the wizard a 15% + 5%/level of learning one property of the item. You can make a number tries equal to your level. So a fourth level wizard has four chances, each at 35%. After casting the spell, the wizard loses 8 temporary CON, regaining 1 CON per hour. If their CON drops below 3, they fall unconscious for 24 hours.
Bard's Legend Lore of Item Knowledge
Bards have a percentage chance at each level of immediately identifying a legendary item. They get one chance per item.

Identifying Back in Town (New Rules)
Consulting a Sage
Player characters may visit a local sage knowledgeable in history and legends to see if they can shed any light into the mysterious object. There is perhaps one such sage for every 1000 townsperson, more if there is a large temple, wizard's guild, or university in town. There are five sages in Swallow, and twenty in Thither. Each sage will have 2-4 specialties as per page 31 -32 in the DMG.
Appropriate specialties include: History, Legends and Lore, or Theology and Myth depending on the specific item in question.
The specialty must be in an applicable category for the creator of the item: humankind, demi-humans, humanoids and giants.
  • Any Sage with the appropriate specialty has a percentage chance equal to 60+1d20 (61-80%) of identifying an item per day of research, for which they will charge 300 gp/day.
  • If they fail after one day, they will give up after 2d6 days.
If the sage lacks the appropriate specialty but is an expert in other specialties in the same category or major field: 
  • The chance to identify drops to 25+1d10% (26-35%) per day of research, for which they will charge 600 gp/day.
  • They will give up after 3d10 days.

If the sage lacks the appropriate specialty or major field, but is familiar with an appropriate minor field: 
  • The chance drops to 10+1d10% (11-20%) per day of research, for which they will charge 1100 gp/day.
  • They will give up after 5d8 days.
Conducting Your Own Research
Any character class with access to a well-stocked library containing tomes on history, legends, genealogy, etc. can spend time researching those tomes in an attempt to identify the properties and provenance of legendary items.
Only wizards, clerics, paladins, nobles, and sages may perform such research. Druids and Rangers are too outdoorsy to spend time poring over dusty books in a library. Fighters, thieves assassins, and other common riff-raff are not allowed in unless disguised, and even then lack the proper education and discipline to perform the research. Illusionists, as everyone knows, are nothing more than charlatans impersonating wizards and would never be allowed access to a proper magical library.
Any character conducting one day (minimum 8 hours) of research has a percentage chance equal to their INT + (Level x 5 for Clerics, Wizards; Level x 2 for Paladins and Nobles) of identifying an item, its properties, and its history.

Thus, a fourth level magic user with an INT of 13 will have a 33% of identifying an item each day.
Most DMs simply change the Identify spell, removing the time requirement and the CON cost. I'm keeping it as-written but providing a non-magical alternative. And even there, many DM's simply allow PCs to automatically know the identify and history of a relic. However, use of down-time is an important factor in my campaign. Players have to choose how they spend their days as time is a limited resource, and they have to prioritize their daily activities. Plus, since I use weekly random events, the more time they spend in town increases their chance of an unwanted city event occurring.
The sage rules above are technically rules-as-written, I've just re-written them to make them easier to understand. It's also an interpretation to allow them to identify magical items.

Edit to Add: The increased cost of sages hired to answer questions outside of their field of expertise is explained on page 33 of the DMG. There, it suggests that the sage must purchase new books, travel to other libraries, and otherwise go out of his/her way to locate the information, thus the increased cost to cover travel and other expenses.

Alternatively: As written, the percentages listed above are for the total time spent researching. My version is much more forgiving, giving them the same percentage chance each day. If you wish to hew more tightly to the original AD&D rules, then roll the number of days first and divide the percentage chance by the result.

For example, a sage who is expert in ancient legends has a 76% chance of identifying the object in 2d6 days. The 2d6 result is 8. Divide 76 by 8 for 9.5% per day for 8 days.
First day: 77, fail.
Second say: 94, fail
Third day: 7. Success!