Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Charging Wands in Dungeons & Dragons

Looking through the rules in original D&D, wands and staves can apparently only be made by Wizards (Magic-Users of 11th level) or higher. It also says that wands are assumed to have 100 charges and staves 200 charges.

So if a wand or staff only has a limited number of charges, what happens when they are used up? Does it become a pretty but non-magical stick? Does it crumble or turn to ash? Explode? Or perhaps a "dead" one can be recharged?

If I remember correctly, it was the AD&D books (though I don't know specifically where) that said that wands and staves could be recharged. But (IIRC) specifcs were not given for how it could be done, presumably so that each DM could come up with their own methods.*

So here's mine:

Wands and staves can be recharged when they are empty, or at any time they have less than the maximum capacity of charges, by successfully casting the appropriate spell "into" the wand. How is that done?

First, of course, the magic-user must know the appropriate spell. If they do not, another magic-user must be sought out who can cast it. For the wands and staves listed in the OD&D Monsters & Treasure volume the spells would be:

Wand of Magic Detection = Detect Magic
Wand of Illusion = Phantasmal Force
Wand of Fear = Fear**
Wand of Cold = Ice Storm**
Wand of Paralization [sic] = Hold Person
Wand of Fire Balls = Fire Ball
Wand of Lightning Bolts = Lightning Bolt
Wand of Polymorph = Polymorph Others
Wand of Negation = Dispel Magic
Staff of Commanding = Suggestion**
Staff of Striking = Magic Missile** (or Cause Light Wounds)
Staff of Withering = Cause Disease

Next, the magic-user must hold the wand or staff while casting the spell and concentrating on storing the spell inside.

The device then gets a saving throw vs. spells: as a 6th level magic-user for a wand or as a 8th level magic-user for a staff. If the save fails, then a new charge is added to the wand. (Hurray!) But if the device makes its saving throw, then the spell is simply wasted.

Trying to charge a wand or staff beyond its capacity, of course, causes the spell to be reflected immediately back at the caster!

So what do you kind readers think? Cool? Lame? Do you do it differently?

* If there are methods in D&D 3.0 or onwards, I don't know them because I haven't played enough of those editions.

** These spells aren't in Men & Magic, but are in Supplement I: Greyhawk

*** In Men and Magic, the Staff of Striking didn't use charges, but in Greyhawk it says that it does (and therefore can be recharged).


  1. Maybe add some GP cost too, to keep parity with scroll creation (depending on the rules you use for scroll creation -- I'm partial to the rules from Holmes, which are 100 GP and one week of time per spell level).

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