According to the spell description in the PHB, "each item must be handled in turn by the wizard. Any consequences of this handling fall fully upon the wizard and may end the spell, although the wizard is allowed any applicable saving throw."
Question: Does handling merely mean picking up and inspecting the item, OR must the wizard put on gloves, wear a cloak, take a sip from a potion, slip a ring on a finger...etc.???
To me the word handling could mean the former interpretation, or the second. This is not at all a trivial semantic exercise when you consider that some magical items are cursed and could KILL you upon use.
Ex: Scarab of Death, Cloak of Poisonousness, Bag of Devouring, Periapt of Foul Rotting, etc. Handling them will NOT kill you, but actually putting them on WILL. So, if the Identify spell requires you to 'handle them' by pinning on the scarab, or donning the cloak, YOU ARE DEAD. Period (unless a merciful DM grants you a save vs. Death Magic). If this is true, why even cast the spell in the first place???
However, if 'handling' means to pick them up and inspect them, you are safe from pretty much instant death and have a chance to discern the nature of the item with minimal risk to self (though you still have to roll percentile to get any information at all! it is by NO means foolproof, and you are wiped out for 8 hrs thereafter!).
I ask for the collection wisdom to chime in. I know where I stand on this argument...
The intention seems to mean that the wizard must don the cloak, wield the sword, etc. as that is when he would suffer the appropriate "consequences" of doing so. However, as you point out, that seems to be extreme to the point of making the spell worthless, so I suggest you modify it somewhat.
The items just need to be touched, not implemented. Note that a scarab of death doesn't activate when pinned on, but when it is within 1 foot of flesh for one round, and a wizard must touch/handle an object for at least one round to identify anything about it. There are more than a few things that have bad effects when merely being touched. The scarab of death is one, intelligent weapons with egos and/or effects that target certain alignments/classes are another, as are lode stones and many other cursed/holy/unholy items. Some potions can actually end up being contact poison as well. _________________ - Moderator/Admin (in some areas)/Member -
Cebrion, I completely agree with your interpretation of what this spell entails, and it is precisely my stance that a wizard should be able to (merely) touch the item in order to 'divine' upon its abilities.
Only the 1e version of this spell makes a point to state that the mage must use the item as it was intended. 2e vastly modifies this spell in many ways, including making no specific mention about how the item is 'handled.'
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