On Wands, Dues Redux

I've talked about wands before, and also, about wand charges.

It has come to my attention that 100 charges (or rather 80 + 1d20 - 1 charges) is insane.

What was the chain of logic for wand and staff charges. 200 charges for a staff in OD&D? 1d10 charges in basic, 2d10 charges in expert, and then Advanced comes along and wands have 100 charges? I'm curious about how the thought processes behind charges evolved; anyone have any insight into how these choices were made.

Obviously we can solve the problem, and wands should have the charges we think they should have -- numerous options are in the articles linked above. I'm interested in a bit of history into how this happened -- who though 100 or 200 charges was a good idea?

That said, here are some more interesting quirks of wands:
  • The wand has a counter that counts down the number of charges left in the wand, but the counter is wrong.
  • The wand has no spell of its own, but if a certain spell is cast through the wand, the wand alters the spell to have a different effect.
    • Wand of Shooting Stars, when magic missile is cast through this wand, it fires one missile of the damage total of the number of missiles available. After striking the first target for this damage, the missile streaks to a second target doing one die less damage. A wizard with 3 missiles hits one target for 3d4+3 damage, a second target for 2d4+2 and a third target for 1d4+1.
  • Trapped wands often have keywords on them that disintegrate the wand or even cause it to detonate harming the wielder. 
  • The wand has a random effect, each time it is used. The effect isn't truly random, but is based on some variable that the players might become aware of (Day/Night, Aboveground/Belowground, N/S/E/W, etc.)
  • The wand is unusual in some way, made from living insects, solid light, coherent sound, The wand is actually a sword or a shield. etc.
  • The wand is represented in some fashion that communicates it's charges. Every time it is used a piece falls of, a strip is peeled away, it becomes shorter like a pencil in a sharpener.

Hack & Slash
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  1. Really like this. Especially the one about modifying a spell cast through the wand. I may steal that!

  2. I'm not certain, but I suspect that the original intent was that wands, staffs, etc were not able to be easily charged at all, and so the charges you got were pretty much all you'd have, ever, until you found (or, it is implied in AD&D, bought) a new one.

  3. Advanced was before Basic or Expert (well, not Holmes, and that has 100 charges)

    And the other thing is, there are only a number of different wand types. 3e seems to have a wand for every spell , and some people have reverse engineered the concept, so you have things like wands of cure light wounds and magic shops that you could just run to and buy them....

    1. Well, that would seem to indicate that they thought 100 charges was overkill also, if it went Holmes->100, 1e->100, B->1d10, E->2d20

  4. how I roll
    ROD, STAFF or WAND skill applies to usage of some of the most powerful enchanted items available. Most require a command word or phrase to activate. Although a DC 10 appraise check will recognize a rod, staff or wand as magical, it takes a RSW throw (DC = 10 + spell level to be harnessed) to use the item; i.e., for a wand of fireballs (fireball is a 3rd level spell), it takes a 13+ skill throw and one action to make that wand release a 6d6 fireball (wands are usually forged at 6th level, but rods & staves equal the power of their user). Wands are typically 6th level of enchantment or power and Rods & Staves function at the wielder’s level.

    Roll d12 for RSW skill if attempting to use a RSW restricted to another character class or race, i.e.; mage deploying a rod of resurrection (DC 17, as this is a 7th level clerical spell). Don’t forget to add one to the DC per hit point received during the previous round of combat/ action.
    .. .
    When using a RSW, if character rolls natural ‘1’, the item is out of charges and will take d6 days of suitable enchantment, mediation and/ or supplication before it becomes reusable or fully charged. When using a rod, staff or wand; if the character rolls a natural ‘2’, the item is stunned and it takes one day before being able to function again (mages can coax stunned wands to regain function in d6 turns).

  5. I originally thought wands in Pathfinder/D&D were tools that let you modify spells, like metamagic rods but more interesting (I think almost all metamagic feats are so boring and unimaginative despite the vast potential of the design space). No, turns out they're just canned spells in a stick. Implements in 4th Edition had the right idea, but they went WAY overboard by requiring every supernatural class to have a different type of implement. Even the developers admitted they screwed up when they made the monk have to carry a doll to empower their abilities.

    How about a system where a wand's number of charges does not actually indicate the exact number of charges it has remaining. The actual number of charges is uncertain -- it's only assured the wand will operate for 50 charges when they usually have more than that. When someone uses a wand with "zero charges," they must roll a die to see if the wand will fire. If they roll a 1, the wand is completely expended. Otherwise, the wand works, but the die to roll decreases by one category down to a minimum of 1d4.

  6. A lot of wands and staves had abilities that used more than one charge in AD&D. I think that was the rationale.


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