Tribal Troubles: Powder of Detection

Powder of Detection
Price 25 gp per pinch; Weight

Kept in a tiny leather pouch cinched with braided sinew, this bright purple substance can detect the presence of magic. A pouch containing powder of detection typically holds up to 20 pinches of the substance. Powder of detection is made from the spores of a rare desert fungus (wortworm), which feeds on arcane magic. Given time, it takes root and begin to sprout wortworm fungus in two to eight days if left upon an enchanted item (in this way the item itself can be used to create more powder of detection).

The powder visibly changes the spores react, glowing as they consume the energy of the enchanted item and allowing the user to discover if it has magical properties. One pinch of powder allows the user to detect magic for one item, creature, or 5-foot square surface. Whether or not the item is magic, the pinch of powder is used up by the attempt. The amount of energy consumed by the spores is negligible and has no effect on the magic of the item. Powder of detection can also be easily washed off with water.

powder of detection - justin andrew masonUsually found growing at intersecting lay lines where natural arcane energies node, wortworm fungi require hot, dry air to thrive, and usually grow just beneath the surface, embedded in sand or loose soil. A fully matured wortworm fungus stands about three to five inches tall, is pale indigo in color, and has a coral-like appearance. A mature wortworm fungus generates enough spores for 1d4 pinches of the powder of detection once per week. A single mature fungus can produce spores for decades.

Due to the nature of the wortworm spores, the color and intensity of the powder’s glow is based on the nature of the arcane energies being consumed. The intensity of the powder’s glow ranges from dim (for magic items with a weak and moderate aura) to brightly illuminated (for magic items with a strong aura). Magic items with an overwhelming aura cause the powder to pulsate with a glow the fades back and forth from faint to bright illumination.

Arcane School      Color
Abjuration              Red
Conjuration            Orange
Divination               Yellow
Enchantment          Green
Illusion                    Blue
Necromancy           Indigo
Transmutation        Violet
Multiple Schools      Shifting Rainbow
Other                     White


Powder of detection is somewhat rare, but its use and function would be relatively common knowledge amongst those who study the arcane. A DC 12 Knowledge (arcana) check reveals its purpose.

A DC 15 Knowledge (local) check reveals that the powder of detection is particularly favored by the Piseogach Clan of the Disputed Territories due to their distrust of magic. It provides the perfect medium for them to identify magic items without having to utilize magic in doing so.


Destruction As a mundane item, powder of detection can be destroyed by any normal means, though it is particularly susceptible to heat (bursting into an instantaneous flash when exposed to fire).

2 thoughts on “Tribal Troubles: Powder of Detection”

  1. I’m curious as to if there would be a profession that would be necessary to cultivate the wortworm fungus or is it more happenstance encounters for the creation? Also I’ve heard varying rules for rolling to determine an amount of an item, is it a permanent number from the first time someone collects the pinch(es) of the powder or varied every instance of collection?

  2. Justin Andrew Mason

    Thanks, Benjamin for your comment! The answer to most of your questions is, “yes.” All of those options are viable. The wortworm fungus is rare, but does grow “in-the-wild” where natural arcane energies build up; such as lay lines, earth nodes, or other such locations. This means is could be discovered by chance – perhaps a result of a particularly good roll of a Survival or Knowledge (nature) check when foraging in the desert. Cultivating wortworm wouldn’t require any special training (as it simply grows on/around magic items). However, someone with experience farming or who has a profession focused on nature might yield better results as a result of their experience with cultivation. Finally, if a magic item is found “used” then it’s common practice to randomly determine how many charges/uses remain unused in the item, however most “charged” magic items have a defined number of uses when they are created. In the case of the powder of detection, that is 20-pinches.

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