Sunday, June 11, 2017

Eternal Wands

Disposable magic items were always a moral dilemma for me. Investing in something that's single-use leaves you really intent on getting your money's worth out of that one usage. A scroll, for instance, can cost you a pretty penny but holds a spell you can only cast once. Thus, it's not uncommon (in my experience, anyway) to hold onto the item indefinitely, always convincing yourself that it's being saved for when you really need it. Even when you do really need it, you'll save it for when you really, really need it. In such a case, it ends up being wasted money. Most players are more comfortable buying a ring or a +1 weapon or some other item with a permanent and tangible benefit.

Wands are the beginnings of a compromise in that direction. With 50 uses before they're spent, they have a large enough store that players are usually comfortable spending charges when they're needed. However, 50 is indeed a finite number, and for wands that aren't holding severely specific spells, one that is liable to run out eventually. Until you've used all 50 of those charges, you haven't actually gotten your money's worth out of the item - and yet after you have used all 50, you no longer have anything to show for your spent gold!

So what's the real solution? Is there a way to comfortably spend money on an item that isn't yet another +1 to something on your character sheet? Can one make appropriate use of an activated item and still have something to show for it one or twenty levels later? Surely there's a way to take the utility of a wand and stretch it out a bit, isn't there?


Enter the Eternal Wand.

The Magic Item Compendium sought to curb a few common issues among magic items in player usage, one among them being the threat of wastefulness scaring players from making use of disposable items. The solution in this case was items that can be only used a certain number of times - but at a rate that recharges every day.

An eternal wand is similar to a wand in a lot of ways: it holds an arcane spell of up to third level, which you can cast as needed. You can only cast the spell twice a day, but you can cast it twice every day. There are no charges and no running total. You could use an eternal wand twice a day from here until the end of time and it will always be recharged with two more uses upon the next sunrise (or its equivalent, after the sun burns out.) Now the "save it until you need it" mentality is limited to a timeframe that extends to your bedtime, not to mention being tempered by a "use it or lose it" mentality on top of that.

An eternal wand is priced as follows:

Spell Level Price (gp)
0 460
1 820
2 4 420
3 10 900

While simple in theory, there are some key points to keep in mind with the eternal wand. Only characters able to cast arcane spells can use an eternal wand. It has to hold an arcane spell, so no eternal wands of lesser restoration. However, the spell it holds does not have to be on your class's spell list for you to be able to use it, unlike with a regular wand. Now you're not only getting the original goal of lightening the load on your spell slots, you even can gain access to more spells! A duskblade or warmage now can have access to alter self and other great low-level, personal-only arcane buffs without having to cheese out a sky-high Use Magic Device score.
It's not just short-list casters who benefit, either. Even a straight wizard can pull some gems from other casters' lists, especially those who get spells in lower-level slots in return for a slow casting progression. The bard list in particular has a good amount of useful spells: some of it at reduced level, some that's otherwise restricted to divine casters and some that's just outright unique to bards. Thus, cure light wounds can be in an eternal wand since bards learn it as an arcane spell. The trapsmith from Dungeonscape has all sorts of powerful spells in low-level slots thanks to its wacky casting progression, letting everyone piggyback on its spell list. No matter how small or obscure the spell list is, if it's arcane and a spell appears on it, that spell can go in an eternal wand.


How Do They Work?

To put it in the simplest way, eternal wands work because they aren't wands.

Yeah, I know. But think about it - wands have charges and all that business. Obviously eternal wands have to be a wholly separate entity if they're bypassing that nonsense. Rather than making a new system for this obscure little item, though, eternal wands are created according to the creation guidelines in the Dungeon Master's Guide. You could go and make one - heck, even 'invent' the idea - in a core-only game, and the rules for their creation are all there. They're actually command word-activated items with a set number of daily uses, or something that I think the original authors assumed was going to spawn lots of otherwise-redundant Wondrous items. So really, you don't need to crack open the Magic Item Compendium to get one unless you're really hankering for that "As Sponsored by Wizards" seal of approval.


Spell It Out For Me

So you're willing to give eternal wands a shot, but the question remains - which spells are the best candidates? After all, this is something you're planning to cast most every day for the rest of your life (elsewise you wouldn't be looking at something with 'eternal' in its name) so you'd best make a choice you won't later regret.

Eternal wands are most suited to utility spells - the kinds of spells that wizards don't want to bother preparing and sorcerers don't want to bother learning. Think of the kind of spell you might need at any time without warning, so you aren't spending a spell slot every day on a spell you may or may not cast. Furthermore, such utilitarian spells aren't the type of thing you'll likely need more than once or twice in any given day. Other than that, spells that you know you'll cast often and spells that aren't much contingent on their caster level can be worth having. Caster level-dependent spells and offensive spells - the type of thing you might need ten of in a row one day - are better suited to the traditional wand.


Alter Self - Yeah, you know. Flight, burrowing, +8 AC, +15 to hide checks... all the usual insanity, twice
per day.

Animate Dead - Everyone in the party who can cast arcane spells can have 20 HD worth of zombies or skeletons to their name. Since you never have to pay for the material components, you can be extra reckless with your undead minions. From the adept list.

Benign Transposition - An all-around good choice: only level 1, the effect isn't CL-dependent, useful at all stages of the game and the type of effect you'll never be sure when you need.

Break Enchantment - Removes enchantments, curses and transmutations as needed. If your DM likes to throw out cursed items every now and then, having this around should take the edge off your paranoia. From the trapsmith list.

Confusion - Great spell for creating a distraction or negating huge numbers of enemies. Excellent answer for a horde of marauding orcs. From the bard list.

Continual Flame - Having two free everburning torches every day isn't exactly useful, but if you save them up for resale, that can be 50 gp per day.

Create Magic Tattoo - Has potential! With the caster level fixed at 3rd, you can only grant the +2 bonus to one save, +1 to attack rolls or +1 AC, but they'll last literally all day and casting it from a wand both lets you ignore the expensive material component and reduces the 10-minute casting time to a single standard action. 

Cure Light/Moderate/Serious Wounds - You'll want it regularly enough that an eternal wand can be more cost-efficient in the long run. Large-scale healing from a regular wand should be lesser vigor. From the bard list.

Dominate Person - It allows a Will save, but you can try twice a day and lasts for five days straight. Much better than lesser geas: you simply make people do whatever you want. From the Thayan Slaver list.

Expeditious Retreat - For most characters, this will double your speed, and it will last the length of most combats. Great for catching a fleeing target, too.

Explosive Runes - Because nothing says "I hate you" like two letterbombs a day. Even if you don't use them, you can just save up for a rainy day.

Fabricate - Utility out the yin-yang, limited only by your imagination and the materials on hand. From the trapsmith list.

Feather Fall - Having it on a wand might be inconvenient unless you've always got it in a wand chamber or you're falling a really far distance, but blowing a spell slot on this every day is pretty inconvenient, too.

Fly - It'll be pricey, but it's a big one: 60 foot flight for 5 minutes, twice a day. Especially nice if your DM is a stickler about your being able to pick up flight with alter self. Don't forget that you can cast it on allies, too, who may have a harder time picking up new movement modes than the spellcaster.

Fog Cloud - Stopping enemy vision for a round or two can give you the opportunity to put some plans into action. Use it to make your escape in style, or to get off some summons before you can be stabbed. As usual, it gets much stronger if you combine it with other battlefield control spells to keep foes in the area of effect.

Gaseous Form - A utility spell that you'll probably never have prepared when you need it. Cheaper from the trapsmith list.

Glibness - Being able to convince almost anyone about almost anything roughly amounts to nonmagical dominate person. From the bard list.

Grease - A level 1 combat spell that can still be relevant 10 or more levels later. Plus, there's some utility to be had with greasing things up (hey, stop giggling.)

Gust of Wind - Clears fogs, blows away small foes, extinguishes torches, and disperses swarms. Plus, it just plain wins any fight with any flier smaller than large.

Heroics - The gift that keeps on giving, you'll remember this little treat is an entire box of potential feats every day. Most importantly it can grant Martial Study, i.e. White Raven Tactics.

Identify - Getting to ignore that expensive material component is nice, and this is the kind of spell you'll be casting regularly. Being able to put aside the whole "I put it on, jump and flap my arms" business is more than worth the price of admission.

Invisibility - The rogue might want to hold out until he or she can get a ring of invisibility, but the bonus to hiding and guaranteed sneak attack twice a day is still a great boon.

Invisibility, Greater - Five rounds of unbroken invisibility. A rogue can do a lot of damage in five rounds. From the Thayan Slaver list, if it's allowed.

Invisibility, Mass - From the Telflammar Shadowlord list. That's from Unapproachable East; we're entering Severe Splatbook territory, but the potential to have a level seven spell in an eternal wand is too tempting not to try.

Knock - Locked doors don't go out of vogue even at the highest levels. Neither does being able to open them instantly, quietly and without any risk to yourself. Cheaper from the trapsmith list.

Lesser Geas - Yes, it offers a save, but the immense versatility of controlling folks with 7 HD or less is awesome. You can get mundanes to do whatever you want. From the bard list.

Levitate - Get yourself somewhere you're not supposed to be, get a friend somewhere they're not supposed to be, or get that solid gold statue where it's supposed to be (back in town to sell!)

Primal Instinct - +5 initiative all day long is great. If you happen to have the Dragonblooded subtype, you even get +5 to a Knowledge skill of your choice as a nice little bonus.

Ray of Enfeeblement - A good-sized penalty on melee brutes, and touch attacks never get any harder to make. Empowered ray of enfeeblement qualifies, too, but it's a lot more expensive.

Ray of Stupidity - You won't fight animals every day, but this is an automatic win against anything with 1 or 2 intelligence (not to mention a 75% chance of auto-win against Int 3, and an even 50-50 against Int 4.) Yes, rocs, purple wurms, hydras and frost wurms can all be dropped by a single ranged touch attack. Also great for making enemy casters more managable. 

Extended Rope Trick - Turn the utility of an eternal wand into the utility of being able to re-prepare your spells on demand, without having to devote a slot to rope trick every time. Never worry about sleeping arrangements again.

See Invisibility - This will let you counter the evil wizard with an eternal wand of invisibility both times every day.

Spider Climb - Allows you to stay out of the thick of ground-based combat and also access anything within arm's reach of a wall. Again, don't forget that you can cast it on allies.

Stone Shape - In a world of dungeon-delving, your surroundings will almost always be stone. Make or remove doorways in dungeons, create (spiked) pit traps, create a bridge; get your Martha Stewart on. From the trapsmith list.

Tiny Hut - Always have shelter on hand. Plus, the 'one-way window' feature could be useful in a fight.

Tongues - Since you never know when a planar portal will spring up, and speaking Common slowly doesn't give you a circumstance bonus to communication. Cheaper from the bard list.

Unseen Servant - If for some reason the Collar of Perpetual Attendance is off the table, you needn't miss out on all the goodness of an unseen servant.

Wall of Stone - Seriously? Seriously. You can thank the trapsmith for this mid-level superstar being able to squeeze onto an eternal wand as a level 3 spell. It might be a little smaller than the dimensions you're used to working with, but being able to cut the battlefield up like this is one of the strongest effects you can get on an eternal wand. Also, since the walls are an instantaneous effect, you can slowly build a stronghold at a rate of two walls per day.

Water Breathing - It's hard to know when you'll end up immersed in water unless your DM shows up to the first session wearing a pegleg and an eyepatch, so being able to traverse that surprise submerged cavern or water trap can be a life-saver.

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