Players trying to use "recal magical lore" in place of detect magic

So I had a wizard who came upon a lock in a dungeon. I did not inform the party that the lock was magical, but the wizard wanted to know if it was magical or not (because it had runes as part of the unlocking mechanism).

Instead of casting Detect Magic, he said he wanted to use his Recall Lore (magical lore) skill to see if he could recognize if it was magical or not based on how it looked and what he knew based on that info, and to avoid using a spell slot to cast Detect Magic.

At the time, I went ahead and let him do it, and he succeeded on the skill check. However, after thinking about it, I think I should have handled it differently.

I'm thinking it would have been more appropriate to give him some info about the lock that didn't reveal if it was magical or not, and still make him use Detect Magic for a definitive answer.

How would some of you have handled this? I want players to use the skill if they have it, but I don't want them to abuse it as a way to avoid using spell slots when they should be using a slot for it.
I would have given him a check (using Recall Magical Lore) to realize that the runes denoted a magical effect of some sort, definitely. DC 10 to realize that they're magical, probably DC 15 or 20 to realize that they correspond to sealing, warding or locking. If magical runes are easily visible, you shouldn't have to be able to Detect Magic to realize that they're magical runes, especially if you're specifically trained in the skill that represents knowledge of magic. A Recall Lore check won't let him be absolutly sure that it's magical (it could have worn out, or maybe somebody just forged the magical runes to make adventurers think it was a magical lock). But it's not out of line to think that knowledge of magical lore would let a Wizard know that a bunch of runes on a lock are probably magical in nature. 
Detect Magic is a ritual now, he doesn't have to use a spell slot.
Your dilemma is one of the reasons why I think that Read Magic and Detect Magic should be class features that get stronger with level instead of spells at least for wizards.

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Your dilemma is one of the reasons why I think that Read Magic and Detect Magic should be class features that get stronger with level instead of spells at least for wizards.



Precisely. Once you are trained in magic, you should know how to recognize magic and you should feel it like wave of wind around you. Read Magic and Detect Magic should be spells for those who aren't trained in magic.
Your dilemma is one of the reasons why I think that Read Magic and Detect Magic should be class features that get stronger with level instead of spells at least for wizards.



Precisely. Once you are trained in magic, you should know how to recognize magic and you should feel it like wave of wind around you. Read Magic and Detect Magic should be spells for those who aren't trained in magic.



I disagree. while you do make a lot of sense and wizards should have a similar ability i dont think it should be quite the same. As for how you, alienux, handled the lock, ambanguity couldn't have hurt but i think using Recall lore is a resourceful way to get around using a spell when it isnt used. I don't think that kind of thinking should be discouraged. perhaps just try to curb it so they dont go over board. 
 
Your dilemma is one of the reasons why I think that Read Magic and Detect Magic should be class features that get stronger with level instead of spells at least for wizards.



Precisely. Once you are trained in magic, you should know how to recognize magic and you should feel it like wave of wind around you. Read Magic and Detect Magic should be spells for those who aren't trained in magic.



I disagree. while you do make a lot of sense and wizards should have a similar ability i dont think it should be quite the same. As for how you, alienux, handled the lock, ambanguity couldn't have hurt but i think using Recall lore is a resourceful way to get around using a spell when it isnt used. I don't think that kind of thinking should be discouraged. perhaps just try to curb it so they dont go over board. 
 



Read Magic and Detect Magic aren't present in 4th edition and they have never been once missed. All is done using the Arcana skill and it is potent enough to deal with every situation.

Well, that's for explaining why I think training in magic is enough to recognise magic, and why those spells shouldn't be necessary to those versed into arcana (because obsviously they aren't).
I think only classes that have a magical background should be able to detect magic. I'm quite happy with it being a spell, although I think all spellcasters should be able to get it.

Having it as a ritual also means it doesn't take up a spell slot, which is awesome.

Don't forget spell scrolls are more of a big thing in Next. I would expect the PCs to find more Scrolls of Detect Magic and so on, to help them in their adventures.
Detect Magic is a ritual now, he doesn't have to use a spell slot.



I hadn't picked up on that in the new packet. That actually deals with the issue quite nicely.
Your dilemma is one of the reasons why I think that Read Magic and Detect Magic should be class features that get stronger with level instead of spells at least for wizards.



Precisely. Once you are trained in magic, you should know how to recognize magic and you should feel it like wave of wind around you. Read Magic and Detect Magic should be spells for those who aren't trained in magic.



Could not disagree more. 4E treated magic detection as a skill check (via Arcana), which pretty much meant anything with an aura on it turned the wizard into a Geiger counter. Runes are one thing, and I get it.  But the ability to basically detect an aura at-will, that's a game breaker. Had a player run a character min-maxed in it and he was constanly checking the wind for it. Since there was no resource expenditure, he could do it all...the...time. You couldn't hide anything magical from the PC, since he had a Moteborn, and ended up with something like a +15 on the check. If I wanted to enforce any challenge at all, due to this one single skill maxed out by this one single character, I had to get arbitrarily meta-gamey (I had a couple locations where pretty much everything detected as magic, effectively white-noising that stupid little gnome). If the magical geoger counter isn't always on, you have more options. It's equivalent to giving someone a constant detect traps. It removes an integral GM tool, and cheapens this aspect of the game (sorry for the tone, but this is one of those things I feel strongly about).

So, no, I don't believe for one minute that magic should be "felt in the wind" via an inherent trait or skill check. I don't have a problem with someone determining that a set of runes is arcane in nature. I do have a problem with them learning everything about the nature of said magic without having to spend resources. I also have a problem with someone drawing in breath and smelling the magical Flame Tongue sword hidden behind the wall in the next room, without spending some time to search for it, it being cleverly hidden. Magic is often part of the puzzles of the adventure. You shouldn't have a skeleton key to unlock it. Besides, as already mentioned, Detect Magic is a ritual and accomplishes the same effect, but with a time constraint at the very least. However, I will probably house rule that something as powerful as detect magic will cost a slot. Otherwise, it cheapens the ability. ALL detection abilities are priceless, since they help solve problems. I don't want to have to create artificial conditions to set sufficient challenges that could be handled with something as simple as resource management and rarity.

(Besides, there will probably be some add-on that has Geiger counter characters in it for folks that like to play that way).
Your dilemma is one of the reasons why I think that Read Magic and Detect Magic should be class features that get stronger with level instead of spells at least for wizards.



Precisely. Once you are trained in magic, you should know how to recognize magic and you should feel it like wave of wind around you. Read Magic and Detect Magic should be spells for those who aren't trained in magic.



Could not disagree more. 4E treated magic detection as a skill check (via Arcana), which pretty much meant anything with an aura on it turned the wizard into a Geiger counter. Runes are one thing, and I get it.  But the ability to basically detect an aura at-will, that's a game breaker. Had a player run a character min-maxed in it and he was constanly checking the wind for it. Since there was no resource expenditure, he could do it all...the...time. You couldn't hide anything magical from the PC, since he had a Moteborn, and ended up with something like a +15 on the check. If I wanted to enforce any challenge at all, due to this one single skill maxed out by this one single character, I had to get arbitrarily meta-gamey (I had a couple locations where pretty much everything detected as magic, effectively white-noising that stupid little gnome). If the magical geoger counter isn't always on, you have more options. It's equivalent to giving someone a constant detect traps. It removes an integral GM tool, and cheapens this aspect of the game (sorry for the tone, but this is one of those things I feel strongly about).

So, no, I don't believe for one minute that magic should be "felt in the wind" via an inherent trait or skill check. I don't have a problem with someone determining that a set of runes is arcane in nature. I do have a problem with them learning everything about the nature of said magic without having to spend resources. I also have a problem with someone drawing in breath and smelling the magical Flame Tongue sword hidden behind the wall in the next room, without spending some time to search for it, it being cleverly hidden. Magic is often part of the puzzles of the adventure. You shouldn't have a skeleton key to unlock it. Besides, as already mentioned, Detect Magic is a ritual and accomplishes the same effect, but with a time constraint at the very least. However, I will probably house rule that something as powerful as detect magic will cost a slot. Otherwise, it cheapens the ability. ALL detection abilities are priceless, since they help solve problems. I don't want to have to create artificial conditions to set sufficient challenges that could be handled with something as simple as resource management and rarity.

(Besides, there will probably be some add-on that has Geiger counter characters in it for folks that like to play that way).


I don't know how you ended up with arcana skill check being game breaker, and I won't refute your own feelings, but it seems like you let yourself being governed by a limited vision about this aptitude. The problem will be exactly the same with ritual detect magic - note that the very fact that you consider even the ritual to be too powerfull indicate that you might oversee something.

Never was it specified the duration an arcana check would take and this is a liberty for the DM that neither detect magic as a spell nor as a ritual gives. I always considered that the level of information would considerably depend on the time passed at feeling magic, be it for hours! Another thing you might note with interest is that it's pretty convenient to be able to tell something to your players even when they don't ask, it makes them feel like their characters are more than probing the world, they are also feeling it - and in my mind magic is like a sixth sense.

Finally, it's not because a way exist to constantly detect magic that it means magic couldn't be hidden. It takes more effort to hide that's just it and gives the player a feeling of reward for having bypassed an obstacle - like a simple disable trap check would bypass a trap, I don't see why you should make disable trap a limited ressource.
Honestly I think one of these things has to go. I just don't see why one game needs all of: Detect Magic, Read Magic, Identify and Recall Arcane Lore.

There is just too much overlap going on here. What does Read Magic do that Detect and Recall don't already cover? What does Recall do that Identify and Read don't? etc.  

I just don't see enough variation to warrant four different mechanics.

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Honestly I think one of these things has to go. I just don't see why one game needs all of: Detect Magic, Read Magic, Identify and Recall Arcane Lore.

There is just too much overlap going on here. What does Read Magic do that Detect and Recall don't already cover? What does Recall do that Identify and Read don't? etc.  

I just don't see enough variation to warrant four different mechanics.



Recall Lore should be about recalling knowledge about magic, spells, spellcasters, magical beasts and such, not identifying specific spells or items (that's what Spellcraft used to be for). But since skills are going to be optional, if it was a check-based approach it would have to be an Intelligence check that anyone can make, and I don't like the idea of an illusionist trying to deceive the party, but the 18-Int-Barbarian-for-some-reason identifies the illusion just like that. It should require a magical effect to detect and identify. I don't think there's a need for separate detect magic and identify spells, and they definitely need to be rituals (which detect magic is now, finally).
Here's how I'd break it down:

Recall Magical Lore is mundane. Anyone who's read the right books can do it. It entails calling upon foreknowledge and understanding of magic to make sense of magical things you are already seeing. It does not allow you to see new things.

Detect Magic is a power that magicians can learn. It allows them to see the unseeable.

The difference is a matter of complexity.

So let's say you've got two characters: A fighter and a wizard. Both have Recall lore (magical), but only the wizard can detect magic. So they've read the same books, but only one has actually managed to master the art of doing magic.

They come to a door. There is a glowing rune. The fighter rolls high and is able to identify its property, because he's seen similar runes described in his research.

They come to another door. It does not appear to be trapped. That is, until the wizard casts Detect Magic and discovers the lock to be exuding enchantment magic.

The wizard can then call on his own magical lore to figure out that turning the knob will curse you with a Quest. There is no way for the fighter to know this because he can't detect magic. Only magicians can.

On its own, recalling magical lore cannot tell you whether something is magical. You have to know it's magical to make use of that skill. In order to know something is magical, it either has to look/sound/smell/etc. magical (perhaps it glows?), or you need to cast Detect Magic.
Here's how I'd break it down:

Recall Magical Lore is mundane. Anyone who's read the right books can do it. It entails calling upon foreknowledge and understanding of magic to make sense of magical things you are already seeing. It does not allow you to see new things.

Detect Magic is a power that magicians can learn. It allows them to see the unseeable.

The difference is a matter of complexity.

So let's say you've got two characters: A fighter and a wizard. Both have Recall lore (magical), but only the wizard can detect magic. So they've read the same books, but only one has actually managed to master the art of doing magic.

They come to a door. There is a glowing rune. The fighter rolls high and is able to identify its property, because he's seen similar runes described in his research.

They come to another door. It does not appear to be trapped. That is, until the wizard casts Detect Magic and discovers the lock to be exuding enchantment magic.

The wizard can then call on his own magical lore to figure out that turning the knob will curse you with a Quest. There is no way for the fighter to know this because he can't detect magic. Only magicians can.

On its own, recalling magical lore cannot tell you whether something is magical. You have to know it's magical to make use of that skill. In order to know something is magical, it either has to look/sound/smell/etc. magical (perhaps it glows?), or you need to cast Detect Magic.



Yeah, I interpret "Recall Magical Lore" similar to this: anybody can do it, it's basically "did you pay attention in magic class".  Or possibly "did you survive the last magical trap, and remember wtf it looked like before you set it off?"  So, it's more a "hey, I remember that rune, that rune blows up when you say "sparky""

Detect Magic is something like "Hey, in that box over there, I'm sensing a magical aura".

You don't need so see, touch, smell, taste the magic.  You just detect it.  Magically.

I typically always run it as Recall Magical Lore as being similar to a history check, and can tell you more about it, but Detect can only tell you what the aura is like, and not nessicarily what it can actually do.  

A strong transmutation aura, for example, would come from both a Cloak of Etherealness and a Pearl of Power.  But detecting that it is magical, doesn't mean you know what it does.  However, a recall magical lore, looking at the item, you might recognize what it is, and have at least a guess of what it can do.

Salla, on minions: I typically use them as encounter filler. 'I didn't quite fill out the XP budget, not enough room left for a decent near-level monster ... sprinkle in a few minions'. Kind of like monster styrofoam packing peanuts.
Your dilemma is one of the reasons why I think that Read Magic and Detect Magic should be class features that get stronger with level instead of spells at least for wizards.



Precisely. Once you are trained in magic, you should know how to recognize magic and you should feel it like wave of wind around you. Read Magic and Detect Magic should be spells for those who aren't trained in magic.



Could not disagree more. 4E treated magic detection as a skill check (via Arcana), which pretty much meant anything with an aura on it turned the wizard into a Geiger counter. Runes are one thing, and I get it.  But the ability to basically detect an aura at-will, that's a game breaker. Had a player run a character min-maxed in it and he was constanly checking the wind for it. Since there was no resource expenditure, he could do it all...the...time. You couldn't hide anything magical from the PC, since he had a Moteborn, and ended up with something like a +15 on the check. If I wanted to enforce any challenge at all, due to this one single skill maxed out by this one single character, I had to get arbitrarily meta-gamey (I had a couple locations where pretty much everything detected as magic, effectively white-noising that stupid little gnome). If the magical geoger counter isn't always on, you have more options. It's equivalent to giving someone a constant detect traps. It removes an integral GM tool, and cheapens this aspect of the game (sorry for the tone, but this is one of those things I feel strongly about).

So, no, I don't believe for one minute that magic should be "felt in the wind" via an inherent trait or skill check. I don't have a problem with someone determining that a set of runes is arcane in nature. I do have a problem with them learning everything about the nature of said magic without having to spend resources. I also have a problem with someone drawing in breath and smelling the magical Flame Tongue sword hidden behind the wall in the next room, without spending some time to search for it, it being cleverly hidden. Magic is often part of the puzzles of the adventure. You shouldn't have a skeleton key to unlock it. Besides, as already mentioned, Detect Magic is a ritual and accomplishes the same effect, but with a time constraint at the very least. However, I will probably house rule that something as powerful as detect magic will cost a slot. Otherwise, it cheapens the ability. ALL detection abilities are priceless, since they help solve problems. I don't want to have to create artificial conditions to set sufficient challenges that could be handled with something as simple as resource management and rarity.

(Besides, there will probably be some add-on that has Geiger counter characters in it for folks that like to play that way).



Then just make the DCs higher, he doesn't detect anything, then the magical trap springs anyway, or they do not find the sword behind the wall, or they don't know the lock is magical in nature, whatever.  I have players that min/max the hell outta stuff too, I simply adjust the game to compensate, that is how I veiw the DM job though.  The rules are not set in stone, they are a guideline to help me make decisions and figure out what happens, but not the end-all-be-all.  Just cause the DMG says that the DC is 20 for that type of check does not mean it has to be 20, it can be 30.

Somewhat similar example, though probably more common.  I have a Warden in my group who is near impossible to hit, yet he marks things, so things want to attack him so they don't get a -2 on someone else, obviously.  Well, I made it now, if a target he has marked is attacking him it gets a +2.  He gets hit a little more often, still not in any real danger though, it just feels more fluid.  I also keep an eye on the damage a bit, if it was just barely a hit, only because of my bonus, I'll make it do half damage or something.

This is all invisible to the players though, behind the screen.  They have no idea it's happening, but they have fun.  Actually, he was not having fun before this change, and neither was I.  My monsters never hit, so I had the feeling of well why do they want to attack him and not someone else, well that doesn't work either damn it.  Ok, so now my monsters all feel worthless, and I can't just raise the level or the other chars will feel the pain.  He wasn't having fun because it's not fun to just steamroll everything, there should be a challenge or else what's the point in playing a game, just read a book. 

I think you ran it fine.  It had runes, recall lore seems apt.  Now, if there was no arcane clues...it wouldn't have worked.

I'd run Recall Lore to tell a player what arcane symbols and such are talking about, designed to do, etc.  Not if they're active.  So the runes on the lock might have told him that, yes, it's a ward intending to halt, warn, or damage, one without a key...maybe the basic spell class.  Better check, more info.  Now, is the spell active? can't tell without detect magic.  And that should take up a resource (spell slot, or time) to avoid the gieger counter routine. 

Otherwise, I can't figure out what you would use it on.

But I'm with people saying that we've a few to many rules on this.  I'd drop read magic and identify all together.  Make identify a time-dependent application of the Recal Lore ability.

If you want your magic item identification to take a lot of time, or be expensive, in my mind it should be an unusual item, or the PC's are worried about side effects, or not knowing about an extra ability.  But if it's just a +1 flaming sword, PC's should be able to figure that out when they swing it around a bit.  Or maybe the +1 bit, the wizard uses recall lore on some markings to figure out that, "hey!  It can flame too when you....."  They need time and money to figure out what that rare hidden artifact was though...
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