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File:Detectevilfulltweaked 9875.gif

For reference, it's detecting the crown, not the dwarf. Nobody said it was foolproof.

"I think this woman is evil... and not the good kind."
Sailor Mars, Sailor Moon Abridged

An ability to detect the presence of evil. Simple as that. Of course, for this to be possible, it must also be possible to define good and evil in black and white terms, which often leads to the appearance of many Card Carrying Villains. Depending on the work you may need to be Made of Evil for this ability to ping you, or simply being greedy or spiteful might suffice.

Has its origins in the dungeons crawler type games - the need to kill everyone on a Planet of Hats to take their loot and still make automatic exceptions for those whose hat has dropped without bothering with actually roleplaying each and every encounter.

If it's commonplace, its impact on the society is usually not explored.

The Trope Namer is Dungeons and Dragons' Paladin, as shown with Miko on the right. Detect Evil is one of their signature moves, along with Smite Evil (which is not to be confused with "bump uglies").

Usually only appears in works with Black and Gray Morality or Black and White Morality as it implies some form of Good or at the very least Evil standard. Has no problem appearing in works with multiple or just dual good gods/evil gods.

Compare Evil-Detecting Dog. If detecting evil causes harm to the character, it's Allergic to Evil.

Subtrope of Aura Vision. See also The Force Is Strong with This One.

Examples of Detect Evil include:

Anime and Manga

  • Astro Boy has this power, though it's not often referenced.
  • The mascot characters in Pretty Cure have the ability to sense evil to varying extents. Usually this only extends to the Monster of the Week and sometimes the Quirky Miniboss Squad, but there's at least one instance of them detecting the arrival of a pair of creepy self-proclaimed "chick magnets."
  • Sousuke from Full Metal Panic has been shown to have a freaky, almost sixth sense ability to sense "killing intent" (thereby allowing him to know if enemies who want to kill him are nearby).
  • Naruto: Karin's ability to sense chakra gives her an ability to indirectly detect that person's character. After Sasuke killed Itachi, she noticed how his chakra was significantly colder and darker, signifying his descent into evil.
    • Naruto himself learned how to detect such evil emotions directly as a result of his training to use the chakra of the 9-Tailed Fox without taking in such emotions from it. The 9-Tailed Fox himself had this ability, which was how he was able to start taking control of Naruto's body.
  • Neuro feeds off of "mysteries" and can sniff out the presence of deceit and cover-ups. Since he seems exclusively interested in murder mysteries, his sense of smell effectively functions this way.
  • Rei Hino, AKA Sailor Mars, can do this.
  • Bleach characters may have something akin to this. Several characters express the ability to feel killing intent and other negative emotions, but the most apparent examples come in the form of the Always Chaotic Evil Hollow, who have distinctive reiatsu that feels malicious in texture.
  • The Xingnese characters - Ling, Lan Fan, Fuu, and Mei - in Fullmetal Alchemist use their ability to sense chi/ki in this fashion when it involves the Homunculi. Because of the Philosopher stone each homunculus has in them, they feel the very unnatural presence of many people in one body.
  • While many characters in Soul Eater can sense souls and tell the difference between a good and evil human's soul, Maka sets herself appart by being able to see through a witch's Soul Protect which basically means that her Detect Evil is Up to Eleven by the Soul Eater world's standards.
  • Daphne in the Brilliant Blue plays this for laughs. Yu can detect Gloria even when she's in Maia's body because she feels like a 'horrendous evil presence'.

Comic Books

  • The Spider Sense has been known to give Spider-Man a subtle heads up when making small talk with individuals of ill intent.
  • The superhero Nightman had premonitions which only detected acts of evil.
  • Justice in The New Universe. Having an absolute certainty as to who was wrong made him into a Well-Intentioned Extremist serial killer. The newuniversal incarnation takes this a step further; because he detects everyone's evil thoughts, all the time, he is completely insane, and firmly convinced he is in Hell.
  • Although they don't actually have this ability, this is part of the Green Lantern's creed: "In brightest day, in blackest night/No evil shall escape my sight..."
  • In Marvel's Rom, the main trio of heroes (Rom, Starshine, and the Torpedo) all had this power — or at least the power to detect Dire Wraiths (which in this book was pretty much the same thing). It wasn't always-on, though, and it turns out the Torpedo's form of it could be fooled.


  • Quite a few Star Wars characters say things along the lines of "I sense the dark side in you" or "I sense good in you". Of course, there's also a glaring exception: the dark-as-they-come Supreme Chancellor met with top-level Jedi a number of times, so apparently there's also a way to Conceal Evil.
    • In Knights of the Old Republic II, Force Sight works like this, illuminating light-siders with blue light and dark-siders with red light. There are no mentions of this effect anywhere else in Star Wars, though, and this gameplay mechanic isn't even commented upon in the game—it's just sort of there.
    • The novelisation of Revenge of the Sith featured Dooku pulling out this ability in tried-and-true DnD-style Slaydar form - Obi-Wan was the Force equivalent of a tranquil sunlit meadow, Anakin was a cyclone, and Palpatine was a black hole.
    • The Jedi Academy Trilogy features a piece of technology whose main function is to detect whether someone has Force potential or not, but also appears to colour-code it red/blue for light/dark as in the above example.
  • Little Nicky: "You make the Lord very nervous!"
  • In the Lost in Space film, Gary Oldman uttered the line: "Evil knows evil," when the crew explore a dodgy area.


  • The first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant had certain magical artifacts that could apparently reveal ill intent and evil, if they rejected a person for instance. This almost happens to the protagonist at least once. Unfortunately if a person is sufficiently powerful they prove to be useless as tests either way, which was one way Big Bad Lord Foul the Despiser was able to do so much damage the last time he was around.
  • In The Wheel of Time books, channelers have the ability to sense Shadowspawn nearby, as do their bonded Warders. Unfortunately, the Myddraal that tend to be the commanders of said Shadowspawn have the ability to detect channeling, as well. It is also possible, for an evil channeler for example, to ward Shadowspawn against this effect.
    • The series also introduces us to Hurin, who is a 'sniffer'. A sniffer is a person who can smell places where violence has occurred and tract that smell to the person who caused it. The ability to smell the violence varies by the intensity and also the recentness of the violence. Since Shadowspawn live to kill, they always leave a scent trail stronger than any normal human could.
  • In Glenda Larke's The Isles of Glory, the Aware can sense sylvmagic (good) and dunmagic (evil).
  • Elvish swords in The Lord of the Rings glow blue in the presence of Orcs and other corrupted beings, although they do not appear to be capable of detecting evil in free races such as Elves or Men. (In The Film of the Book, they keep their swords sheathed when trying to hide, and only unsheath them about an inch to see if they're glowing when they need to Detect Evil.)
  • In John Varley's Gaea Trilogy, the Titanides can sense when a human has psychotic or self-destructive tendencies. They refer to this as having "worms in the head".

Live Action TV

  • The Doctor, from Doctor Who, sometimes described a "prickling sensation" at the back of his neck whenever he sensed evil, especially the presence of Daleks.
    • Some of the most overt examples are not involving the Daleks: He senses the War Machines (in the First Doctor story of that name), and the Sixth Doctor is certain the Sontarans are skulking about at the Spanish hacienda even though he hasn't seen them: "I can sense their presence."
    • He is characteristically dismissive of this ability in his companions, however, notably Leela:

 Leela: Can you not feel it?

The Doctor: No I can't. By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes - no I can't! And neither can you.


Tabletop Games

  • The original Detect Evil spell from Dungeons and Dragons. Used in The Order of the Stick and referenced in Darths and Droids, but not used. There's also a Detect Good.
    • Paladins are infamous for their innate power to Detect and Smite Evil (or at least, one might suspect, what their deity of choice considers evil), as in people with evil alignment, undead (even ghosts that aren't really evil), and infernal beings like devils and demons, as well as their offspring. Infamous, because that power is often abused by players who play a "radar paladin", who uses his power as an excuse to kill anyone who sets off his internal radar. Worse, real villains with some sense will use one of various spells that can block Detect Evil.
    • The Second Edition rules avoided this issue for Paladins. While they eventually gained the "Know Alignment" spell (at a very high level), their initial Detect Evil power didn't actually register evil alignments, but evil intent. Thus, scanning a priest of Bane might result in nothing at all if he isn't plotting at the moment (though, when weren't they back then?), while your good-aligned thief buddy might register as minor evil for considering plucking up that ripe apple back in the market without paying.

  AD&D 2ed. DMG:The ability to detect evil is really only useful to spot characters or creatures with evil intentions or those who are so thoroughly corrupted that they are evil to the core, not the evil aspect of an alignment.

    • Monster Mythology has a story of elven hero Lafarallinn. It involved one ranger who got enchanted ring with detect evil and used it to emulate "radar paladin", one god very annoyed by this behaviour, one "evil" pickpocket girl, a glimpse into her motives, and enough of suffering that not only this guy learned the lesson very hard way, but even god later realized it was a bit too much.
      • If you think about it, this is a Broken Aesop since he wouldn't have been cursed if he hadn't touched her out of compassion for her life story and had just killed her.
    • Detect evil as a spell or ability has many flaws. Ghosts, because they are undead, count as evil no matter what their actual alignment. Creatures with the [evil] subtype count as such regardless of actual alignment (so that Succubus paladin shows up under the spell).
    • Later editions of D&D clarified that Detect Evil would only detect creatures that were effectively incarnations of evil, like demons or some undead, and wouldn't register evil humans.
      • Fourth edition puts an end to the "detect then slay" paladin by removing all means of detecting alignment.
      • The Ravenloft setting abolished most evil-detecting effects years before that, to facilitate suspense. Detecting Law or Chaos was still possible, and the proximity of extremely evil forces such as demons could still be discerned by paladins (and only paladins), but not pinpointed.
  • The werewolves of the Old World of Darkness had an ability called Sense Wyrm. Unfortunately, evil really did work like a smell, and even completely innocent people could smell rotten if they'd been around too much evil. Conversely, some Vampires (a traditional rival) don't register as evil, and neither do Mages. While some people liked to believe it was an infallible tool for knowing who to kill, it just wasn't.
    • Eventually, one of the sourcebooks for Werewolf: The Apocalypse outright declared "It's Not Detect Evil," and informed players that "the taint of evil" could mean that someone just works as a ground-level shlub for Pentex, or maybe even just that the guy drinks beer produced by a Pentex subsidiary, and that killing him is not going to help the greater cause.
    • The developers had also clarified that Sense Wyrm only indicated when something Wyrm-tainted was in the area; it didn't reveal exact locations or targets. Considering how werewolves are prone to berserker rages, that doesn't actually help.
  • In Werewolf: The Forsaken, there isn't any ability smell evil, but there are the abilities to smell "Malice" (ie: hate, anger, jealous, ill intent) and "supernaturality" (ie: monsters, other werewolves, wizards).
  • Psykers in Warhammer 40000 can sense the presence of Warp energies, which almost always means Chaos, which always means evil.
    • The presence of Tyranids however, due to the psychic static caused by their Hive Mind, more often cause Psykers to go insane, often with Your Head Asplode as a side effect.
    • The same mind exploding effect is caused by lots of daemons. The detecting evil does however seem less impressive in a world where basically everything is evil.
  • GURPS Dungeon Fantasy in keeping with it's D&D-esq theme has this spell and its opposite available. Creatures descended from angels or demons will always detect as totally good and totally evil respectively, humorous sample consequences are provided.
  • Another White Wolf game, Exalted, has Sol Invictus, also known as Ignis Divine or the Unconquered Sun. The mightiest god, made by the Primordials to be the supreme defender of Creation. As a part of that function, Ignis Divine has the unique power to declare any category of creature or any specific individual a Creature of Darkness, should he honestly judge that creature to be inherently hostile to Creation. As another unique power, Sol Invictus is the origin and source of Holy magic, which may be used to detect as well as smite Creatures of Darkness. This is also the reason why sunlight destroys ghosts and hinders demonic magic (and why moonlight also hinders demonic summoning, as the Moon Goddess is borrowing the power of the Sun).
    • Though the Unconquered Sun's judgment power is entirely up to his discretion (ie: he could label anyone he wants a Creature of Darkness), it's against his nature to do so without a damn good reason. Should he decide, for whatever reason, to act against his nature and abuse this power, he temporarily loses one quarter of his unconquerable power... specifically, the part that makes him invulnerable to harm and death.
    • However, because he's not actually omniscient or omnipotent, he does tend to leave entire classes of beings—such as the undead—as Creatures of Darkness even when most ghosts are no real threat, because constantly keeping track of all the individuals who do or do not merit exemption would consume all his time. Also, the undead count among them some really nasty sorts (including dead Primordials), and really, being undead is unnatural in the first place, and they should all "give up the ghost" and let themselves vanish into the reincarnation cycle already.
    • It's also very possible for potential Creatures of Darkness to not get the label, simply because the Unconquered Sun simply hasn't noticed them yet, or considers them not enough of a threat to worry about.
    • The Chosen of the Unconquered Sun, the Solar Exalted, can learn how to mimic the judgment power of their patron, labeling a target creature as Unholy and thus vulnerable to their Holy powers. Unfortunately, unlike the Sun, they don't suffer any inherent consequence for labelling anyone thus, leaving them free to abuse it horribly.
    • In keeping with Exalted's Gray and Grey Morality, there are still other examples. Five Days Darkness is quite a nice guy but, since he's the Unconquered Sun's shadow, he registers as a Creature of Darkness. Similarly, there's a line in the Infernals book about the arbiter of good and evil being pretty much self-appointed.
  • In Blue Rose, there's an artifact called the Blue Rose Scepter that basically casts Detect Evil on people. Anyone who wants to become a noble in The Kingdom of Aldis has to pass the test of the scepter. (It only works once on any individual, however, so this doesn't stop nobles from turning evil after their test...)



  "By the pricking in my thumbs, something wicked this way comes."


Video Games

  • Lucario does this in Super Smash Bros Brawl, sensing the aura of people.
  • Kim Kaphwan seems to instinctively know whether or not someone is evil in The King of Fighters series. His special intro against evil characters is typically used to see who is or who isn't evil. Of course, as far as Kim is concerned, morally ambiguous and/or Punch Clock Villain are the same as evil, so make of that what you will.
    • His younger son inherits this power in Mark of the Wolves.
  • Demon Hunters in the Warcraft universe can develop an ability called Shadow Sight, which allows them to see demons and magic-users glowing brightly. They have to burn their eyes out for this, though.
    • In World of Warcraft, several classes can track one or more type of creatures, causing them to be shown on the minimap. The paladin ability to track undead definitely qualifies, same as the Warlock's ability to track demons. Both types generally qualify for being evil, after all. Referencing the above example, there is a headpiece that allows any class to track demons, which drops from Illidan, the most famous demon hunter.
    • Said headpiece is a blindfold, an item every demon hunter wears. Because, you know, they're blind.
  • Silent Hill's off-station radio, whose rising and falling static indicates nearby monsters.
  • Happens from time to time in Devil May Cry. Dante's sword(s) will crackle with energy or otherwise alert him to the presence of demons.
  • Paladins in Quest for Glory have this as a form of Spider Sense when obviously evil characters or creatures are nearby, they get informed via a narration box. Mind you, it seems to disregard evil humans.
  • Tellah from Final Fantasy IV was able to tell when they were near an archfiend by noting that dark magic was getting stronger as they approached. In the same way Palom and Porom could tell that one man was a monster in disguise.
  • Despite being powered by steam, Bioshock's security system can distinguish between you and the enemy by what is apparently an instantaneous DNA scan.
    • Or because your face isn't on file as a Rapture resident, and Andrew Ryan has some very definite ideas on what is supposed to be done to trespassers in Rapture (if they can have flying gunner sentries, is a computer system with facial recognition THAT unlikely?).
  • Parodied, perhaps, in Mother 3; on Tanetane Island, Boney can detect that the apparitions are enemies, but not because of any special power: He just didn't eat the mushrooms, so he isn't stoned off his gourd like the rest of the party & actually sees the monsters.
  • The Nanaya Clan in Tsukihime is instinctively attuned to detect demons and demon hybrids. However, they do not react to hybrids who have not inverted and are therefore still sane. Inverted individuals are incredibly dangerous and destructive. Upon seeing such people, the Nanayas will kill them. Technically, it's 'inhumanity' they're detecting, but it comes to the same thing mostly.
  • Aigis from Persona 3 was built as an Anti-Shadow weapon, and as such, has the capacity to detect them. Which is why it was so difficult for her to be in Ryoji's presence... until she realized why she felt uncomfortable around him. Fuuka and Mitsuru, through some limited form of telepathy, can also do this, but only with the aid of their Personas. They thus relay the relevant information to their teammates while exploring the Dark Hour or informing them of particularly nasty Shadows up ahead.
    • "Be careful! I sense Death!"
  • Dragon Age has a templar in the Alienage orphanage with this. Note: he is not a Knight Templar
  • From Touhou Project we have Shiki Eiki Yamaxanadu, who has the ability to magically detect whether a thing or person is good or evil. Since she's a Yama, in charge of final judgement of a soul's morality in life, it's an extremely useful ability for her to have.
  • Your suit in Strange Journey can detect particularly powerful demons. Granted, demons aren't inherently evil in this game, but when it starts beeping and marks them on your map, you can write off getting them on your side.


  • Subverted in the webcomic Goblins [1] as there is a Paladin that most definitively doesn't bother to detect evil; he just kills for even the slightest potential for even the weakest of eventual evil, and yet the Gods won't strip him of paladinhood. Why not is a central mystery of the strip. There is a justification [2] but here lies another Detect Evil twist; the axe can detect paladins to spare them, but will not spare any other super-lawful super-goody character types!
    • For the longest time, the paladin in question was never shown using any Paladin abilities (just magic items), leading some to theorize that he had lost his powers but no one had noticed. The question of his abilities has been laid to rest. He has cast Paladin-only spells and proven immune to blows from a weapon that does not harm Paladins
    • Subverted: a goblin smells cheese, and asks his paladin friend to detect evil on it because of the smell!
  • A Running Gag in The Order of the Stick involved an evil halfling, a paladin, Detect Evil, and a lead sheet.

 Miko Miyazaki: Detect evil!

Belkar: Too slow, sister.

    • The limitations of the Detect and Smite method is also made clear when Roy detects as evil. He's holding Xykon's crown, which has been around such an evil entity so long that anyone possessing it shows up as evil. Luckily for Roy, Smite Evil is a little more discerning than Detect.
      • It was also clear, though not directly stated, that the nobility of Azure City had access to means of thwarting Detect Evil. Otherwise Miko would've actually made herself useful by slaughtering the lot of them years ago.
    • Belkar apparently taught this basic trick to the resistance fighters left behind in Azure City (the Good aligned resistance uses lead sheets to block the Evil aligned Goblin occupiers from finding them using "Detect Good")
    • Or at least they copied him, as is shown when he wonders where his lead sheet got to.
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Mercy (who is the Anthropomorphic Personification of the commonly-held concept of angels) can detect "sin and iniquity", which while not quite the same thing as detecting evil nevertheless gets the job done.

Western Animation

  • Uncle and Tohru of Jackie Chan Adventures get the "willies" when evil is present. Sure enough, evil forces attack as soon as this is stated. Admittedly, they do have magic powers.
  • The benevolent dragons of Wakfu have this ability, which turns out badly since one of the Five-Man Band is carting around Sealed Evil in a Can.
    • And, interestingly enough, tells the dragon in question that the villain is not truly evil at heart.
  • In Filmations Ghostbusters, Jake's nose twitched whenever (evil) ghosts were present.

Other Reactions To Evil:

Anime and Manga

  • The Brand of Sacrifice in Berserk on Guts and Casca will start bleeding or hurting if demons are near.


  • The Toxic Avenger is a horribly deformed monster of superhuman size and strength that is driven to destroy Evil whenever his Tromatons react. This actually became a plot device when Apocolypse Inc created the Anti-Tromaton in the hopes of destroying Toxie.
    • This caused problems for him in the first movie too when he was driven to brutally kill an old lady who was the head of a slavery ring. The corrupt mayor easily turns Toxie into the villain of the situation since his victim wasn't Obviously Evil this time.


  • In Warbreaker, the sentient sword Nightblood was created to destroy evil, but being a sword has no real idea on its own what "evil" constitutes, and so was created with a version of this power. Essentially, anyone who would want to wield the sword for purely destructive purposes will be drawn to it, but when they attempt to draw it then it will attempt to suck out their life force (this is usually fatal, though there's at least one case of a Mook who figured out what was going on in time to pull away and got off with just a crippled hand). People who don't want to use the sword for destruction are made soemwhat uncomfortable by its presence, but can wield it safely. Unfortunately, this test isn't always reliable- The Dragon in the novel qualifies as "evil" by most definitions, but he's Genre Savvy enough to want nothing to do with Nightblood, and as such it has no more power over him than any other sword.

Video Games

  • Caren from Fate Hollow Ataraxia has this. When she is near people possessed by demons, her body will experience the same pain as the person possessed. She also experiences physical pain whenever people near her do evil things.

Web Original


  • Parodies of the blue-glowing elven swords in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings:
    • Parodied in Irregular Webcomic, where Lambert's sword, Sting, sings "Don't Stand So Close to Me" in the presence of orcs.
    • And also by the swords of the Nac Mac Feegle on the Discworld, whose swords glow blue if lawyers are nearby.
    • The enchanted sword in Zork, which glows when enemies are near, is presumably a reference to this.[1]
    • One short adventure from Dungeon magazine pointed out the flaw in this variant of Detect Evil, when an innocent elf charged with a crime has no choice but to steal a magic sword that glowed in the presence of liars. That's because he knew that it also glowed in the presence of elves, and the human owners who meant to use it to determine the truth at his trial had forgotten about that part.
  1. Although it doesn't actually react to evil or even enemies, just the power of a creature with hostile intent. The difference becomes a plot point in Zork III in the Land of Shadow, where the unseeing are given every motivation to make their game Unwinnable.