Detect Magic 5e

For the duration, you sense the presence of magic within 30 feet of you. If you sense magic in this way, you can use your action to see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic, and you learn its school of magic, if any.

The spell can penetrate most barriers, but it is blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt.

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes
School: 1st-level divination (ritual)

Player’s Handbook, pg. 231

Detect Magic 5e

There’s nothing more frustrating than wandering around an area of a dungeon where you think magical item is, but having no way to know for sure. That’s what the lifesaving Detect Magic spell is for, along with a few other fun applications we’ll cover.

Who Can Cast Detect Magic in 5e?

The following classes have Detect Magic on their spell list:

The following subclasses get Detect Magic for free:

  • Paladin (Oath of the Watchers) (XGtE 55)

  • Cleric (Arcana Domain) (SCAG 125)

Additionally, Warlocks with the Eldritch Sight invocation can cast Detect Magic at will, without expending a spell slot (PHB 110).

Elf (Drow) can also acquire the ability to cast Detect Magic at will from the Drow High Magic feature (XGtE 74).

What Does Detect Magic Do in 5e?

Detect Magic gives the caster the ability to sense the presence of magic within a 30-foot radius of herself. If magic is within range and not blocked by one or more of the materials/thicknesses outlined in the spell description, the caster will sense magic.

After sensing the magic, the caster can use an action to see a faint aura around the magic’s source and also learn the school of magic producing the effect.

Detect Magic lasts for 10 minutes so long as the caster maintains concentration. The spell can also be cast as a ritual without expending a spell slot, if the party has 10 extra minutes to spare for ritual casting.

Fun fact: Detect Magic is one of five spells in DnD 5e that is a concentration spell with a ritual tag.

detect magic 5e

What Are the Rules for Detect Magic in 5e?

The rules for Detect Magic in DnD 5e are as follows:

  • You can’t detect invisible creatures with Detect Magic. The spell description clearly states that the faint aura of magic is only present on “any visible creature or object” (emphasis added).

    Even if the invisible creature is holding a magical item, the Invisibility makes held and/or worn items invisible along with the caster. Since the magic object isn’t visible, it also isn’t detectable with Detect Magic.

    Here’s confirmation and a bit more detail from Sage Advice.

  • Detect Magic doesn’t reveal properties or curses. According to Sage Advice, “detect magic doesn’t reveal a magic item’s properties or a curse. It reveals that the item is magic.”

    In other words, you’ll need to follow up with the Identify spell to learn the item’s properties, and figuring out a curse is, well — an experience a player must go through to learn about, really.

  • Detect Magic does not detect the presence of non-casting spellcasters. A good way to think about Detect Magic is that you’re detecting a specific instance or persistent presence of magical activity. A spellcaster not engaged in the act of spell-casting gives off no more aura of magic as an ordinary creature.

  • Detect Magic does not sense golems or other magically-created beings. Again, it’s the presence of “active” magic that the spell is detecting. Here’s Jeremy Crawford on the subject.

  • Detect magic does detect spellcasters in the act of casting spells. If a continuous magical effect is happening within Detect Magic’s range and isn’t blocked by one of the stated materials, you’ll sense the magic. However, you won’t know whether a caster is concentrating on it or not.

  • You don’t automatically see magical auras. Remember, there’s a specific order of events with Detect Magic. First, you sense the magic when you’re within 30 feet of it (it’s on the DM to tell you the moment that that happens). Second, you use an action to see the faint aura and learn the school of magic.

    It’s not a huge thing to get wrong, but it’s important to point out that those are the rules as written.

  • Detect Magic is blocked by physical objects. 1 inch of metal or 1 foot of stone isn’t very thick — an ordinary lockbox or stone wall will likely obscure your range of detection.

  • You still need to prepare Detect Magic to use cast it as a ritual, unless you’re a Wizard. Those are just the rules regarding ritual spells (PHB 202) and Wizard’s ritual casting ability (PHB 114).

How Do I Use Detect Magic in 5e?

Detect Magic has a number of great uses in DnD 5e:

  1. Finding magical loot. This is the most obvious application that comes to most players’ minds when reading Detect Magic. When you’re digging through a sizeable horde of treasure, there’s only so much you can bring back with you. Knowing which items sizzle and which fizzle can help you make smart choices about what to throw in your backpack.

    Other times, magical items serve as a key or the objective of a quest. The ability to detect these items at a range of 30 feet helps make these jobs easier.

  2. Identifying illusions and magical traps. Savvy magical enemies are often fond of setting up illusions and magical traps to thwart adventurers who are foolhardy enough to enter their lairs. Bad guys trying to keep a low profile might also magically seal or obscure their hideout. Detect Magic can be a good first step toward overcoming these obstacles.

  3. Detecting a magically-influenced player or NPC. The world of DnD is chock full of swindlers and charlatans who aren’t above using enchantment to gain influence and power. Campaigns that are heavy on intrigue will find that Detect Magic’s ability to determine magic affecting creatures is extremely useful.

  4. Gaining a shopping advantage. This is a niche use of the spell, but if you ever find yourself in a shop of oddities, Detect Magic can help you cut through the mundane trinkets and see what (possibly) good stuff is hiding in plain sight. Plus, if the shopkeeper doesn’t know what he has, you might get a bargain deal on a powerful artifact.

Is Detect Magic 5e a Good Spell?

Yes, Detect Magic is a good spell from the first level to the twentieth. There are very few occasions where you need to use Detect Magic instantly, so the ability to cast the spell as a ritual means you’ll almost never expend a spell slot for it.

Having just one party member with Detect Magic prepared will save you a ton of time, both in getting to your destination efficiently and quickly determining the best pieces of loot once the job is done.

Detect Magic 5e DM Tips

As a DM, your role with Detect Magic is pretty big. It’s up to you to know exactly where the source of the magic is and recognize the moment that the player steps within 30 feet of that magic source. After all, they won’t have the chance to use their action to see the faint aura until you tell them they’ve sensed something in the first place.

Beyond that, DMs can have fun with Detect Magic by assigning each school a color and then simply describing the aura rather than stating the school of magic. This creates a more flavorful experience for the player.

It’s fun for players to feel like they know a bit of real magical lore because they’re aware that a green aura indicates necromantic magic, for example.

Other than that, DMs just need to remember the rules about Detect Magic; namely that it won’t detect curses, invisible creatures, or spellcasters. It’s not a game-breaking mistake to make as a DM, but it’s important that you let players know the real rules early on so that you can run Detect Magic consistently.

Simple Detect Magic 5e Spell Text

Detect Magic: (1st-level, self (30-feet radius), concentration, up to 10 minutes, V/S) Sense magic within range for the duration. If sensed, can use an action to detect an aura around the creature or item that bears magic, and you learn its school of magic, if any. The spell is blocked by 1′ stone, 1″ metal, thin sheet of lead, or 3′ of wood or dirt.