Genjitsu Games

September 28, 2007:
Simplified Gun Skills for Iron Kngdoms
October 10, 2005:
Blades of Purpose Sample Art
April 1, 2005:
Golems & Goldfish
February 26, 2005:
A Flock of Foes Sample Art
November 24, 2004:
Metablades art samples
October 29, 2004:
A Flock of Foes Hallowe'en preview
July 14, 2004:
Alternate multiclassing restrictions
March 15, 2004:
Self-charging staves
February 23, 2004:
Subrace racial levels
January 14, 2004:
Expanded Monk Class
January 9, 2004:
Turning Generalized
November 3, 2003:
Fighter Feat Prerequisites
October 20, 2003:
Artifacts of Martial Magic
October 20, 2003:
Metablade Spells for Arcana Unearthed
October 20, 2003:
Feat Templates
October 3, 2003:
Feat Descriptors

I know I always seem to start out by talking about how something bugs me, but that's sort of the way this column works. I'm offering some of my alternatives to portions of the game that don't quite satisfy me the way they are, in case you're interested, too.

One of those things is staves. Now, I understand the logic behind charged items like wands, and for the most part, I'm fine with it. But staves seem a little different to me, mostly because they're more powerful, and also more part the the image of a character, especially a wizard. To any of Tolkien's istarii, their staff was very important to their power; part of Gandalf's judgement on Saruman is declaring his staff broken.

But in D&D, a staff is basically a big wand. You use it up eventually, and you get different one if your DM and his treasure tables are kind to you. The following variant rule, presented as Open Game Content © Nevin Flanagan and reusable under the terms of the Open Game License v1.0a, gives a staff much more longevity—allowing it to become much more a part of your character—without completely eliminating its consumable nature.

(System Reference Document Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Bruce R. Cordell, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.)


A staff is a long shaft of wood that allows its wielder to cast several spells. Unlike wands, which can contain a wide variety of spells, each staff is of a certain kind and holds specific spells. A staff can hold a spell of any level, unlike a wand, which is limited to spells of 4th level or lower. The minimum caster level of a staff is 8th.

Physical Description: A typical staff is 4 feet to 7 feet long and 2 inches to 3 inches thick, weighing about 5 pounds. Most staffs are wood, but a rare few are bone, metal, or even glass. (These are extremely exotic.) Staffs often have a gem or some device at their tip or are shod in metal at one or both ends. Staffs are often decorated with carvings or runes. A typical staff is like a walking stick, quarterstaff, or cudgel. It has AC 7, 10 hit points, hardness 5, and a break DC of 24.

Activation: Staffs use the spell completion activation method, so casting a spell from a staff is usually a standard action that provokes attacks of opportunity. (If the spell being cast, however, has a longer casting time than 1 standard action, it takes that long to cast the spell from a staff.) To cast a spell from a staff, a character must complete any verbal or somatic components that the spell normally has, and include the staff (which loses one or more charges when the spell is completed) as an additional focus component.

Because the staff's holder does the actual casting, a spell cast from a staff uses the holder's key ability modifier and relevant feats to set the save DC, and is cast at the caster level of the holder or the staff, whichever is higher. This means that staffs are far more potent in the hands of a powerful spellcaster. Because they use the wielder's ability score to set the save DC for the spell, spells from a staff are often harder to resist than ones from other magic items, which use the minimum ability score required to cast the spell. Not only are aspects of the spell dependant on caster level (range, duration, and so on) potentially higher, but spells from a staff are harder to dispel and have a better chance of overcoming a target's spell resistance.

Charges: While most spells cast from a staff use one charge, some more powerful effects may require two charges. A staff has three charges, which are renewed each day.

However, a desperate wielder can dip into the staff's reserves of power, stripping away some of the energy that makes it work in order to use it more frequently. The staff's wielder can cast a spell from the staff when it does not have enough charges by permanently reducing the the staff's caster level by one. Doing so adds three charges to the staff, allowing the spell cast to function and restoring some of the staff's short term energy. Example: Casting a cone of cold spell from a staff of frost that only has one charge left (the cone of cold requires two), reduces the staff's caster level from 10th to 9th, and leaves the staff with two charges (one charge left, minus two for the cone of cold, plus three for the drained caster level). Notice that some staffs, such as the staff of life, have spells that cannot be cast without giveng up a caster level from the staff.

If a staff's caster level falls below the minimum level required to cast a given spell, that spell can no longer be cast from the staff. For staffs created during gameplay, use the minimum caster level of the creator. For staffs found as treasure, the DM may assume the staff to be created by a wizard (for arcane staffs) or select an appropriate class to determine minimum levels.

Special Qualities: Roll d%. A 01-30 result indicates that something (a design, inscription, or the like) provides some clue to the staff 's function, and 31-100 indicates no special qualities. A staff can be intelligent, unlike a wand; note that attempting to drain the staff's caster level for charges will almost certainly result in a personality conflict, and possible later disputes, unless the action falls within the staff's special purpose.