19 June 2016

Magical Staves of the Known World (Includes the Casting Times & Components system notes on Staves!)

New enchanted staves for your Magic User PCs, and some thoughts on Basic D&D's 'evolving' rules on charges for a staff.

As you may have noticed, the different editions of the Basic Rules have different notes on how many charges a staff has:

Original D&D (Book 2, Monsters & Treasures): 200 charges (2d100/2d% when found)
Holmes Basic: 100 charges (1d100/d% when found)
Moldvay Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)
Cook Expert: 30 charges (3d10 when found)
Mentzer Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found) Implied but not clearly stated
Mentzer Expert: 30 charges (3d10 when found)
Mentzer Companion: (DM's option) 40 charges (4d10 when found)
Rules Cyclopedia: 30 charges (3d10 when found) and DM's option 40 charges (2d20 when found)
"Challenger" (Post RC) Basic: Not stated. This 'edition' also (erroneously?) states that staves are only usable by clerics, so I consider it irrelevant for this topic

To reconcile these differences, I simply use 4 classifications of staves:

Minor Staves have 20 charges, 1d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Standard Staves have 30 charges, 2d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Major Staves have 40 charges, 3d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Epic/Legendary Staves have 100 charges, 10d10 remaining when found, purchased or traded. Consider also that many Staves of this magnitude would be considered proper Artifacts, and governed by the different rules for items of that type, explained in the Master Rules.

The different classifications of stavess otherwise function as described in the relevant rule book. Roll d%/d100 to determine which class of staff is found:

d100   Staff Classification
0-25   Minor
26-70  Standard
71-95  Major
96-00  Epic/Legendary

When a PC or NPC wizard is creating a staff, minor staves halve the time and money required to complete the task, and major staves double the time and money required. In addition, the DM may require the creator (or her PC customer) to procure a rare, exotic or magical material to be used in the creation of a major wand, sometimes requiring a side quest by the party.

Epic staves are the stuff of legends, created in the distant past or on the exotic planes of the Immortals and otherworldly beings. Such items are beyond the ability of mortal magic users of the Known World to create. Again, many Staves of this magnitude would be considered proper Artifacts, and governed by the different rules for items of that type, explained in the Master Rules.

It is important to remember that the classification of a staff has nothing to do with its powers, it reflects only the number of charges the staffis capable of holding.

For all types of staves, unless specifically noted in the description of the item, each use of one of the staff's powers costs one charge, and a staffmay only be used once per round. Note that in both the Moldvay and Mentzer basic rules, in the general notes on all magic items with charges, it clearly states that unlike other (advanced or d20ish) versions of D&D games, in Classic D&D, charged items may not be recharged. Though many DMs will surely houserule and override this, I will present this material in compliance with "canon" rules-as-written. In any case, even if you do bend the rule and allow PC or NPC magic users to recharge staves, Epic/Legendary staves may never be recharged, for the same reason they cannot be created by mortals of the Known World.

Finally, for those who followed my earlier blog articles on spell casting times and material components, here are the promised notes on expanding that material with staves. Rods and other items for clerics and other 'divine' spellcaster PCs will be covered in the articles specific to those items, forthcoming.

"Spell Staff" - The use of a staff to channel spell power while casting a spell is fairly ubiqitous in the fantasy genre, in the film versions of the Lord of the Rings saga, the wizards appear almost helpless without their staves in hand. If permitted by the DM, a PC magic user may construct a special staff that allows her to collect and store unused spell energies to quickly empower spells later on.

The creation of such a Spell staff takes 1d4 months and requires 500gp worth of exotic and esoteric materials (such as rare wood, exotic bone or even the hairs or sinews of magical creatures) per maximum level of spell the staff will be able to empower. In other words, a level 1 Spell Staff's energies may only be used to empower 1st level spells, while a 5th level Spell staff can empower 1st through 5th level spells. Remember, opting to create a minor or major variant of the Spell staff will either halve or double the cost in both time and materials.

When created, a spell staff has no charges, per se, but now has the capacity to hold up to 30 'spell levels' worth of energy (20 or 40 for minor and major staves, respectively). Each day, a magic user may opt to spend any unused spell 'slots' from that day by chanelling them into the staff, thereby 'charging' it. Aside from the unused spell, the magic user must succeed in an ability score check (d20 less than or equal to INT-1/spell level) to trasnfer the spell energy into the staff. Once charged, the staff's energy may be spent to cast a spell on the fly, as explained in the casting times article here on the blog, without invoking the initiative penalty normally associated with doing so. The magic user must still spend a daily spell slot to cast the spell! The staff's charge is spent simply to provide the boost of magical energy needed to compensate for not having the spell fully memorized and ready to go. Each level of the spell being cast drains one charge from the staff, so a magic missile spell drains one charge, while a fireball would drain 3 charges.

Although a Spell staff may only be used to empower spells equal to or lower in level than its own level, higher level spells may be used to 'recharge' it, so a magic user with an unused 2nd level spell at the end of a day may use that spell to reload 2 charges into a level 1 Spell Staff.

Obviously, the Spell staff is one of the rare exceptions to staves not being rechargable. If the DM is not using my optional rules for on the fly casting, casting times and material components, this item is rather useless in the campaign.


New Staves

"Stone Staff of Mirabilis" (Unique Item, standard staff)
SPOILER WARNING: This item assumes that the events in the (revised Green Cover edition) adventure module B3: Palace of the Silver Princess have transpired and been brought to a successful conclusion; in other words, Haven is freed from Arik's curse and most of the folk of that land and Princess Argenta's palace have been restored to life, with one exception, it is assumed that the palace magician, Mirabilis, did not recover from being petrified and perished. If you plan to use that adventure in the future in your campaign, wait until afterward to introduce this item, or change the background to suit events in your campaign story.

When the curse of the vile immortal Arik fell upon the valley of Haven, only the courage and swift actions of heroes freed the land and restored the doomed citizens of Princess Argenta's court from eternal petrification, but no hero is perfect, and a small handful of the folk of Haven perished during that sad affair. Lady Argenta's trusted court magic user, Mirabilis, was one of those lost souls.

Shortly after the heroes defeated the minions of Arik and broke the curse, Mirabilis's apprentice, Shaylee, returned from an errand in Velders, a small town on the border with Glantri that she'd been sent on by her master a few days before the curse struck. Shaylee was horrified to find the broken shards of stone that had once been her mentor, and gathered them all for an honorable burial in the palace cemetery, saving only one small sliver of stone, from what had been her master's heart, to craft into a magical staff to help prevent anyone suffering a similar fate in the future.

The staff Shaylee created is made from oak and stands a full 7 feet in length, beautifully carved with images of flowers and subtle runes related to peace and protection. The head of the staff appears crafted of stone, in the (literal, anatomical) shape of a humanoid heart, a striking contrast to the beauty of the rest of the staff. The staff head is actually the petrified heart of a medusa, purchased by Shayla for a small fortune from a band of adventurers who had slain the gruesome creature in some lost ruins in the Malpheggi swamplands. Embedded unseen into the wooden shaft just below the headpiece is the sliver of stone from Mirabilis's heart.

PCs who visit Haven, or one of the nearby towns (The original, orange covered version of the B3 module contains a map of Haven and its surroundings, on the western border of Glantri. This document was included in the free pdf library on previous incarnations of the Wizards.com/dnd website, and may still be available via dndclassics.com or other online sources.) may hear the troubling rumor of thieves and assassin's loyal to the cult of Arik who returned to Haven to finish their work. Though most of the cultists were killed or captured during their unsuccessful mission, a handful escaped, taking the stolen staff with them! Recovering the staff from the small band of brigands is left to the DM to work out, but if the party does recover it and returns it to Shaylee in Lady Argenta's court, she will be eternally grateful and reward them with what minor scrolls or potions the DM decides she has access to. In addition, since Shaylee herself hasn't the heart of an adventurer, she will insist that any apparent lawful or neutral PCs keep the staff, to use it in battling the wicked monsters of the world that employ petrification magic.

The Stone Staff has the following powers:

Functions as a quarterstaff +1, +2 vs creatures with an innate ability to petrify opponents, such as a Medusa or Basilisk. This aspect of the Staff functions for any wielder, regardless of class, though only a MU or Elf (or variant PC class capable of using MU items) may use the other powers.
May cast Flesh to Stone, as the spell, once per day, costs 2 charges, requires a touch 'attack', target is entitled to a save vs P/P to avoid.
May cast Stone to Flesh at will, costs 1 charge
The staff's abilities all become inert once the charges are spent.

Note: The astute reader might recognize this as a Known World adaptation of the White Staff of Meldorf, from Teutonic myth, as it appeared in the Role Aids rpg supplement Fantastic Treasures, vol. 2 (Mayfair Games, 1985) My apologies to the source myths for any liberties taken in this adaptation.


Staff of Lordly Magic
In the days of Alphaks I, Imperial court wizards held lofty positions of power and influence in the imperial government of Alphatia (and still do, to a lesser degree), and many would craft mostly ceremonial staves of great beauty and grandeur to denote them as high mages of the empire. Though the practice of creating staves like these has long since fallen from general use, a few of these ancient staves are known to yet exist, scattered throughout the Known World over time.

The wielder of a Staff of Lordly Magic inspires feelings of respect and admiration in those around her, with the following game effects:

+1 to wielder's CHA ability (18 max) when the staff is actually held
Verbal Understanding - By spending a charge, the wielder of the staff may speak with any one creature within 10 feet of her for 10 minutes, regardless of shared languages. Treat this as the 1st level MU spell Read Languages, but applied only to verbal, not written, communications.
Charm Person - As the spell (treat as 8th level for spell variables), costs 2 charges
The staff's abilities all become inert once the charges are spent.

These staves are highly sought after by current Alphatian magic users, who will sometimes pay as much as 5000 gp for an example with charges remaining (Half that for minor versions of the staff, double for major versions. No known Epic/Legendary examples have ever existed.)