Created By: TropeEater on January 12, 2013 Last Edited By: UltramarineAlizarin on July 9, 2013

Scroll of Identify

An item, mechanic, or spell that tells you what another item is.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
(Please bring content updates to Unidentified Item. I'm looking to make a single trope for both concepts. -UltramarineAlizarin)

In a lot of Roguelikes, the game doesn't tell you what an object is at first. It'll just say "a red potion" or "a scroll labelled 'FOOBIE BLETCH'". Often this is randomized each time you play, along with everything else in the game, so that you can't remember which item is which from a previous run. To find out what an item does, you have to use it first. This can fall right into Fake Difficulty if you throw any possible Poison Mushrooms that might be running around somewhere into the mix. How do the game developers fix this?

Enter the Scroll of Identify. It is an item whose sole purpose is to offer information on other items. Sometime they can only identify items one at a time, with only one identification per scroll, and sometimes they can identify multiple items at once, or even identify multiple times per item. It all depends on the mechanics of the game they are in. Our Identify Scrolls Are Different, after all.

If these things are one-use-per-item disposables, you're probably going to get the urge to just hoard them and never actually put them to use, especially in NetHack-influenced games that focus on being Crazy-Prepared, fighting dirty, and outsmarting your enemies with traps and such.

Oftentimes, it is a literal scroll, but it can also be something else, like magnifying glass, or a Great Big Book of Everything you use to look up whatever is in front of you. Sometimes it isn't even an item at all, but a spell you learn so you can do the deed yourself. Sometimes, it's all of the above.

Compare Everything Sensor and Enemy Scan.

Examples:


MMO Games

  • The Plus sign in Kingdom of Loathing, which identifies all items associated with the dungeons of doom/enormous greater-than sign when used.

Roguelikes

  • Castle of the Winds has the Identify spell as a scroll (single use), staff (multiple uses), or spellbook (permanently learn). Each town also has a sage that can identify items for a fee, and selling an item to a shop automatically identifies it.
  • Diablo has 'em. You can also take your items into town and have Cain identify them.
  • Dungeon Crawl has 'em. They are rather costly to buy from a shop (80 gp if it's identified), but luckily they are one of the most common scrolls in the game. If the save isn't "jinxed" to lack in the SoI department, it's a rather safe bet that if you have 4 or more of the same scroll in the early stages of the game, it's either Scroll of Identify, Scroll of Noise, or Scroll of Random Uselessness.
  • Elona has 'em. Similar to Diablo above, scholars in towns can identify items for you.
  • FATE has 'em, and also has books of identify, which can be used more times.
  • Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon has a few options. Appraisal Glasses and Scholar's Glasses are consumable items for identifying one or all unknown items Chocobo is carrying, respectively. The Scholar job has the Appraise ability to analyze all items as well. Finally, wearing the Appraiser's Collar lets Chocobo automatically identify items as he picks them up.
  • NetHack is the Trope Codifier. It also has a high-level spell for this purpose.
  • Shiren the Wanderer has scrolls of identify (which have a small chance to identify every item in your inventory), but also jars of identify, which can identify any item you put into it.
  • Scrolls of Identification double as Practical Currency in Path of Exile.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons 3.X has identify as a 1st-level spell usable by wizards, sorcerers, bards, and clerics with the Magic domain. It identifies all properties of a single magic item. And yes, you can make a scroll out of it provided you have the right item crafting feat. Another option is to use a Knowledge skill check to deduce the item's properties.

Western RPG's

  • Arcanum has unidentified magick items which must be identified to unlock their potential; this can be done by either learning 'Divine Magick', a fifth-level divination spell, or paying 100 gold to a wise-woman. Since character points are finite and gold isn't in short supply, sensible players opt for the latter.
  • Being based on Dungeons & Dragons, the Neverwinter Nights series has the identify spell. You can also use a Lore check to identify the item.
Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • January 12, 2013
    KTera
    • Diablo has them. You can also take your items into town and have Cain identify them.
  • January 12, 2013
    StarSword
    Tabletop Games:
    • Dungeons And Dragons 3.X has identify as a 1st-level spell usable by wizards, sorcerers, bards, and clerics with the Magic domain. It identifies all properties of a single magic item. And yes, you can make a scroll out of it provided you have the right item crafting feat. Another option is to use a Knowledge skill check to deduce the item's properties.

    Role Playing Game:
  • January 12, 2013
    TropeEater
    You can apply the examples directly to the article, you know.

    Oh, and does anybody object to the name?
  • January 12, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Fine by me. I think it's general enough to avoid Trope Namer Syndrome.

    As for adding examples directly, I don't really understand YKTTW etiquette yet so I'm hesitant to do anything other than minor tweaks without sponsor permission.
  • January 12, 2013
    TropeEater
    nevar mind

  • January 12, 2013
    Astaroth
    • Arcanum has unidentified magick items which must be identified to unlock their potential; this can be done by either learning 'Divine Magick', a fifth-level divination spell, or paying 100 gold to a wise-woman. Since character points are finite and gold isn't in short supply, sensible players opt for the latter.
  • January 12, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • Ancient Domains Of Mystery has Wands and Scrolls of Identify, which serve their functions as they should. Depending on whether they are cursed or blessed makes a world of difference though. A normal scroll of identify will only identify an item. A blessed scroll of identify would identify your entire inventory and show what items are blessed or cursed. On the other hand though, a cursed scroll of identify will give the player amnesia, removing knowledge of every item in his inventory instead.
  • January 12, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^ Careful about the FF ones, we're not talking about an Enemy Scan here but more of an "Item Scan" (though some spells can do both).

    Hey, where's the trope for unidentified game items and identification/appraisal in general?
  • January 12, 2013
    DRCEQ
    Oh right, I forgot that Enemy Scan already existed. The ADOM example applies though, being a roguelike and all.
  • January 12, 2013
    Megaptera
    Diablo I and II use this mechanic. Diablo III does the Great Big Book Of Everything thing, where all you have to do is right-click it and wait a few seconds to have it identified.
  • January 13, 2013
    Onitatsu
    In Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams whenever you find a treasure box and you can't solve the puzzle, you're given the chance of smashing it, though the item inside will be labelled as "Unknown". However, once you reach the merchant, he can identify it for you... for a small fee, of course.
  • January 13, 2013
    Astaroth
    • The Plus sign in Kingdom Of Loathing, which identifies all items associated with the dungeons of doom/enormous greater-than sign when used.
  • January 13, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • The Legend Lore spell could identify an item.
      • Bards had a special ability similar to Legend Lore.
      • Basic D&D had a couple of items like this.
        • The Slate of Identification could identify most magic items, but would give a false answer if used on a cursed item.
        • The Libram of Identification could not only identify almost all magical items but determine one of the magic item's command words (if any) per use as well.
  • January 13, 2013
    vanna
    They appear in D&D games like Neverwinter Nights, Baldurs Gate. Also, in many games including Diablo, having someone identify something or just buying the scroll costs 100 gold coins.
  • January 13, 2013
    Koveras
  • January 13, 2013
    TropeEater
    @ starsword

    I am the sponsor, and I give y'all permission to add examples directly to the article.

  • January 13, 2013
    StarSword
    Fair enough :D
  • January 14, 2013
    EnaiSiaion
    Hellgate: London even though the game is set in the future.

    Useful note: identification has become more and more common relative to the number of items to be identified, from "bloody rare" (Nethack) to "what is the point of even having items drop unidentified" (Hellgate London).
  • January 15, 2013
    StarSword
    bump
  • January 16, 2013
    dotchan
    More D&D stuff:
    • The spell "Detect Magic" can be used to, well, detect magical items, and then a high enough Spellcraft check can be used to identify what this magical item is.
      • Meanwhile, a scroll can be immediately identified with the "Read Magic" spell, so long as you're the right caster class (only clerics and druids can read "divine" spells, for example).
  • January 16, 2013
    dotchan
    More D&D stuff:
    • The spell "Detect Magic" can be used to, well, detect magical items, and then a high enough Spellcraft check can be used to identify what this magical item is.
      • Meanwhile, a scroll can be immediately identified with the "Read Magic" spell, so long as you're the right caster class (only clerics and druids can read "divine" spells, for example).
  • January 16, 2013
    Stratadrake
    I hate to host a duelling YKTTW but I think we need the trope for "unidentified items" first. I know they have a very close relationship (overlap), sure, but the unidentified item is the reason to have identifying skills in the first place. And nothing personal against the Trope Namer, but some systems don't give you portable versions of the identify skill (such as The Last Story), meaning that to identify an item you need to abandon your dungeon crawl first.
  • January 28, 2013
    TropeEater
    ^ You know, I think we could build them both up and then launch them in tandem.

    Maybe we should make this trope specifically about portable items or spells, rather than just "anything that tells you what an item is", counting out games that make you take them into towns to a scholar or whatever.
  • January 28, 2013
    TheAnswer
    • FATE plays this straight with not only scrolls but books that last longer..
  • March 15, 2013
    StarSword
  • March 17, 2013
    Koveras
    Can't we just merge Unidentified Item and Scroll of Identify YKTT Ws into a single trope like Item Identification Mechanic or just Item Identification?
  • March 17, 2013
    Stratadrake
    They are closely related, yes.
  • March 17, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    Western Animation
    • Xiaolin Showdown has the Scroll of the Shen Gong Wu, which identifies which the next artifact they've found does. Its only disadvantage is that it has to be read just after the existence of Shen Gong Wu is revealed in order to identify it, otherwise the reader will have to go through the entire scroll trying to find out which one it is.
  • March 18, 2013
    Koveras
    ^^ But how often are they seen separately? I mean, if there are some unidentified items, then there must be a way to identify it. I am just afraid you'll end up with duplicate examples.
  • March 18, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Lejendary Adventures. The Loviatskya's Infallible Energy Analysis and Read Power powers allow the user to see the energy inside an Extraordinary (magical) item and understand what it is and what it does.
  • July 9, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    I've copied descriptions and examples from here over to Unidentified Item (currently renamed to Item Identification), looking to make an all-encompassing trope. Any further updates should be brought there.
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