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D&D 3E
Detect Magic= See Invisibility...? 
12th-Mar-2006 07:04 pm
Okay, there's a bad guy, getting beaten, turns invisible to retreat... One of my cleverer pcs says "I cast 'Detect Magic' to see the invisible guys magic aura..." Holy shit... Of course, it's a spell, powered by magic, it should work... I can't find anything as I quick reference the rules, so I allow her to see the spell, and determine which space the creature occupies... However, she will still suffer a %50 miss chance for concealment since the creature is still invisible and she can only see the actual magic aura... Obviously, sneak attacks and other precision based attacks are quite impossible...
Has anyone else had to deal with this...? Are there actual rules for it...? Was my decision fair...? I couldn't just say no to such a great idea, but I also couldn't have a 0 level spell defeat a 3rd level... Then the questions came... "If I shoot arrows into it can I see the arrows...?" "I wanna throw dust on it so I can see it..." "If its caught in my fireball, it will be on fire and I can see it..." You can imagine... I've decided to keep my original on-the-spot rule, but would like to read anyone elses thoughts...
12th-Mar-2006 09:18 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure you nailed it down pat. Detect Magic doesnt equal See Invis though because you still have the whole concealment issue.

Invisiblity is also 2nd level not 3rd.

as for the questions

If you hit an invisible target with an arrow assume the arrow becomes invisble. The arrow is now "Part" of the body.

Covering an invisible target in dust or powder, Sure that works. I'd still say he has partial concealment with 20% miss chance though. The powder is not PART of the creature its COVERing it.

When someone is exposed to a fireball, its an instantanous effect. Meaning the fire is gone in a second. If you read the DM carefully it states that if an effected creature fails its save by rolling a 1 you can roll seprate savingthrows for its items and clothing. So, should a target fail its save on a natrual one, and then its clothes fail, then its caught on fire and at least the flames covering it, are visible. As with the dust, I'd still give a 20% miss chance for partial concealment. Though if someone was set on fire, I'm sure they'd do something to break the invis anyway.

12th-Mar-2006 09:51 am (UTC)
You've forgotten one very important point.

Detect magic doesn't give you all the info on the first round. You have to concentrate. On the first round, it just tells you "Yeah, there's magic here." On the second round, you know how many magic auras there are, and how strong the most potent is. Only on round three does the spell give you a precise location for each aura.

That's three combat rounds of doing nothing but concentration. Plus, if the invisible character moves out of the "cone-shaped emanation" of the spell, the counter starts all over again.

In other words, no, detect magic really cannot be used to locate invisible creatures in combat, in any real practical sense.
12th-Mar-2006 11:20 am (UTC)
Not in LIVE combat, but if the dude aint movin...its "possible" to be used as mentioned.

12th-Mar-2006 01:28 pm (UTC)
yeah. the first rule of escaping in the bad guy handbook is "turn invisible then stand still"
12th-Mar-2006 10:43 pm (UTC)
Even if the guy's standing still for some reason, that's three rounds of the caster taking no other action. Not exactly efficient. ;-)
13th-Mar-2006 01:47 am (UTC)
but he wasnt asking if it was efficient just if it was possible, right.

So, while it may be an incredibly stupid idea, that may not be efficient at all....It i'll work!

At the very least it would work for finding invisible items and doors :-p
12th-Mar-2006 11:28 am (UTC)
I agree this wouldn't work if they guy was moving around much / knew to avoid the cone of detect magic (Spellcraft check ? If the character told the rest of the party?).

Also : things hiting the invis character, I personally would rule become invisible as well. With the exception of the magic powder that specifically reveals invisibile things.
12th-Mar-2006 11:51 am (UTC)
Completely off subject, but I love your icon and LJ name! Too funny!
13th-Mar-2006 02:25 am (UTC)
Perhaps I didn't describe the scenario in enough detail... I WAS in a net-cafe after all...
Bad guy cornered and bleeding, casts invisibility after retreating to a safe ditance, fighter moves up and attempts an attack in the square that bad guy stopped in (and misses), cleric moves to block only exit and casts detect magic, barbarian bleeds on the floor, monk and rogue both try to attack (monk gets one hit in), round 2, bad guy moves closer to exit and casts summon monster to try and break the clerics concentration and possibly force her out of the way of the exit (cleric blitzes her concenration check and is unhindered), fighter makes a listen check to find bad guy and fails terribly, cleric continues to concentrate on spell, ignoring the auras of any magical items her and the party carry, barbarian continues to bleed, unconscious on the floor, rogue makes a listen check, gets an idea of the whereabouts of the bad guy, but picks the wrong square, monk attacks summoned fiendish dire ape and destroys it utterly. Round 3, bad guy casts spiderclimb and climbs up the wall, cleric locates his magical aura and tells the others whereabouts, fighter picks the right square and unleashes a volley of arrows, two of which hit(I was unsure at this point as to whether they would all see any arrows sticking out of him, but I said no), the barbarian continued to bleed(later to be healed by the cleric just in time!), the rogue threw a bag of crushed gem dust at the bad guy and covered him in it(I didn't give him a save)and the monk threw a couple axes at him (with only a %20 miss chance) and killed him...

I'm unsure as to why I felt I had to clarify this, mainly to express that I DID read the rules on 'detect magic' maybe... Oh well, I've written it now, it would be a shame to just delete it...
13th-Mar-2006 02:31 am (UTC)
Bah!, I know I mixed up the initiative order in round three, just swap the fighter and cleric around, it still works... Christ I'm a pedantic geek...
13th-Mar-2006 02:44 am (UTC)
Ah. My apologies, then, on jumping to conclusions. I've seen the question asked a lot on other forums by people who didn't realize detect magic requires three rounds, so I assumed that wast he case here as well.
15th-Mar-2006 08:54 am (UTC)
No probs... By the by, I also quite like your name and icon...
12th-Mar-2006 11:54 am (UTC)
Good decision! I think it was obviously within the established rules, and well done for on-the-fly.

Definitely mitigate the rule per the suggestions here (three rounds is a -very- long time in combat), and if it were me I would announce at the next game that the rule from now on will be such. But you players should be fine with that.
12th-Mar-2006 01:23 pm (UTC)
Dust works. There are alchemical effects that work like that. Our fighter used to carry a keg of flower for just such an emergency. Fireballs don't light things on fire. Read the spell description, and it would take several rounds for detect magic to discern the exact loaction of the aura. Read the spell description. As for the arrows, yes, you could see them, but it's like using a nerf gun to find the edges of a glass wall -- it doesn't work very well.
12th-Mar-2006 05:01 pm (UTC)
If dust works, why would anybody buy the alchemical stuff? Just throw dust at him and save money...
13th-Mar-2006 02:38 pm (UTC)
Because dust doesn't work very well.
12th-Mar-2006 02:21 pm (UTC)
I'm basically here to agree with what everyone else has said.

For detect magic, it takes 3 rounds to get a location, so the bad guy would have plenty of time to movie (Detect Magic is kind of a standard spell, so it's pretty likely a character who would cast invisibility would be able to recognize it). But if he is standing still, the caster would be able to determine his exactly location (until he moves again), that doesn't necessarily help the other PCs, since they still have a miss chance for striking randomly into a square.

I would rule that attaching an item onto the invisible creature will let you locate it. But this does take some effort. Shooting an arrow into a creature is hard if he's invisible: you have to hit him at least once. And I'd have to roll to check that the arrow actually stuck into the guy and didn't just skim him--otherwise imagine if every arrow fired actually sticks into someone. And then is if you want to houserule damage for pulling the arrow out and yadda yadda. Similarly, I'd say that throwing dust on someone will let you see their outlines. That's what the glitterdust spell does, and mundane dust should work the same way. But again, having that much dust around and actually getting it onto the invisible person takes some effort.

A fireball wouldn't set it on fire probably (that's usually how the spell works), unless you have been ruling that stuff sets on fire from certain spells. In which case, make sure you use the same ruling against the PCS--the bad guys fireball can torch their stuff.

Invisibility is only a second level spell; there needs to be these kinds of clever ways of getting around it.
12th-Mar-2006 05:27 pm (UTC)
I can't find anything as I quick reference the rules,

It is in the FAQ at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/er/20030221a
under "Is it possible for detect magic to locate an invisible creature?".

12th-Mar-2006 05:51 pm (UTC)
You might find the Rules of the Game article on Invisibility and Incorporeality to be useful:


Particularly, in Part Two:
"Since a visible object stays visible when an invisible creature picks it up (at least until the invisible creature tucks the object into its clothing), you may make an invisible thing visible (or at least reveal its location) by dousing it with something visible. My own favorite device for doing this is a bag packed with about a pound of flour. You could just as easily use ink or paint.

Toss the bag of flour just like a splash weapon. A direct hit leaves an invisible creature smeared with flour, which reveals the creature's location. An invisible creature caught in the flour's splash effect can attempt a Reflex save (DC 20) to avoid getting covered with flour. A creature can shed its outer clothing (at least a full-round action) and be rid of the flour. Otherwise, it must bathe or wait for the flour to wear off on its own (which takes an hour or two in dry conditions)."

Note that arrows fired at a creature which deal damage do not stick in the target. That would be a serious wound, and an attack which does not drop the target can't cause a serious wound.

As for detect magic, everything mouseferatu and highbulp said was quite correct, and sparkymark linked to the FAQ, where it's answered as follows:

"Yes, although not very efficiently. Remember that detect magic reveals the location of magical auras over the course of 3 rounds. A creature rendered invisible by a spell or magical effect could be located via detect magic, but only after 3 rounds of concentration. Furthermore, the invisible creature must remain within the spell’s area for the entire 3 rounds of concentration; if the creature moves out of the area, the process must start again from the beginning. However, even if everything works according to plan, you still don’t necessarily know that you’ve found an invisible creature -- at best, the caster of detect magic would know that she had located a faint aura of illusion magic in a particular space."

Another thing to remember is that detect magic doesn't let you "see" magic auras, just sense them. Arcane sight is the spell that allows this, and is higher level than see invisibility.
12th-Mar-2006 06:06 pm (UTC) - Detect Magic..
Detect Magic is for detecting magical auras. Invisibility in itself isn't an aura it is an effect of a "magic spell". You're detecting "auras" here not "effects". An "aura" is more something like a "magical trap". This is just my opinion and I could be wrong. However; nowhere under the Invisibility spell in Players Handbook does it say that "Invisibility" creates a "magical aura" around a person. It simply states that person becomes invisible; with a bit more detail than that.
12th-Mar-2006 06:10 pm (UTC) - Re: Detect Magic..
Any continuous magical effect produces an aura.
13th-Mar-2006 04:35 am (UTC) - Re: Detect Magic..
Your opinion is indeed wrong. Ongoing spell effects (like that of Invisibility) leave detectable auras.

As the other conversation here points out, Detect Magic doesn't work very well for pinpointing Invisibility-cloaked figures...Arcane Sight works much better.

It still doesn't negate Invisibility, though...it just reveals the location of the invisible creature (so you don't have to guess at which square to attack).
13th-Mar-2006 01:50 am (UTC)
I'm just going to concur. >_> There have been entirely too many comments already that have stated the exact same thing that I would have said.

^_^ But I'm commenting anyway!
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