Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Magic Wands

I've never like the old fantasy tabletop RPG idea that fantasy wands are like guns or a specific spell saved up for later usage, also scrolls too- but that's a subject for another time. It seems kind of inconsistent. Ripping a page out of your hand written spellbook and casting it as a one time use scroll is really evocative, but not all games imply that's possible. Plus I'd rather my players hoard scrolls like the little bits of ancient and hidden lore that they are.

I'd like to imagine Wizards carry around wands as a general usage tool, not having just a wand of X on their belt. Call me a Harry Potter kid but I've always liked the personalizing and attachment Wizards might have towards wands. Anyone playing a Wizard with a wand in my game will have to give a description of it, at least a little decoration or the type of wood its made of.

If we go by the fluff that spells and magic are the power of willing made manifest, wands are essentially something similar but on a very small and weak scale. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, can pick up a magic wand and try to work a little magic with it. Children tend to have natural talent with it just from their creativity and imagination, but this talent tends to fall off as they get older.

Small Miracles
Wands can do any number of small, spontaneous things. Their effects do not tend to linger, depending on the power and skill of the person who is using it of course. You point a wand at a bolt of cloth, and wish for it to change color to a strawberry red.

Children or creative types who are untrained might make the whole thing a different color, and their unfocused mind might also create a scent of strawberry in the air. This change would last a few minutes. Regular people would probably only be able to create a few red stain-like splotches along the fabric, or maybe they complete the whole transformation but the moment they lower the wand and stop concentrating it fades back to normal. When a Wizard or a magical prodigy work the changing, it instead is a complete transformation. This change may even last for a few days. For very powerful Wizards, or those with powerful wands, the duration may be permanent.

Essentially, Wands are how you get cantrips in my game. From a gameplay perspective, I think cantrips and really minor spells like that are super cool but hard to balance. Giving people the ability to snap their fingers and make fire unlimited times per day is very fitting of a fire themed Wizard, but also kind of powerful. I don't want player characters to lack human weakness or break the setting over its head. For this reason, wands are how you cast your cantrips or prestidigitation like spells. This allows wands to be tied to a cost of wealth to create or buy a magic wand, plus wands can always break or be stolen.

Wands also get tired, they can't make unlimited magic per day. Making drinks bubbly or lighting candles will basically never tire it out, but any permanent working or changing of a large amount of stuff at once will. Assume 1d6 + user Cha modifier major effects the wand is willing to do per day. Wizards can do more interesting things with them.

Magic Wand Creation
Wands are made by carving wood from trees. It's not that simple though, as then everyone would have a wand, but the base ingredients are simple. Wands must be taken from a living tree, which has to be a 'special' tree. Like if local superstition keeps the tree up in the center of town because it looks like it has a face would be enough to make a tree significant. Obviously trees that talk or trees with magic creatures living in them also qualify, but if the tree is intelligent you have to get its permission.

Wands being created can only be worked by an Athame, or Wizard knife, and must be cut from the tree and carved using the Athame. From here on it is subjected to songs, dances, infusions of rare incenses, it may be soaked in a special brew or alcohol, rubbed with ash from other woods, and so on. Different cultures probably have different methods of creating magic wands, and they all work as long as the practices of one of them are followed correctly. Many wands are heavily decorated.

Due to all these steps and parts of the wand making process, the cost rapidly inflates and even professional wand makers, who by no means have to be Wizards to make them, can only create one or two a year. I'm leaning towards the cost being something like a good warhorse or similar, it's what the Magic User pinches and saves up for in town. Broken wands that aren't burnt or ritually desecrated by anti-magic rites can usually be repaired, and is much cheaper then buying a new one.

Wand Breaking Rules
If you get hit by a blunt weapon that deals 6 or more damage, roll a save vs magic to avoid your wand getting snapped. Only applies if it is not in your hand. If you take fall damage greater then 6 roll a Hazard save to avoid falling on it and snapping it that way.

If this seems overly cruel, just keep the wand in a case.

Wizard Wand Abilities
If you are holding a wand while casting a spell, you can add +1 ⚡ to it for the cost of one daily use. Additionally, you can deal 1 damage to a target for the cost of a daily use. The range is limited, about as far as you could poke them with a 10 foot pole, but could be useful to kill small poisonous animals or finish off low HP targets.

I don't feel these abilities are overly gamebreaking. The spellpower bonus is the bigger of the two and basically lets the Wizard act as though they are a level higher for a few spells a day, and the ability to kill a small poisonous bug or finish off a weakened target at a distance isn't bad either.


  1. So, wands have a variable recharge rate rolled for at the start of each day? I think that's a pretty decent way to balance them and makes them pretty Vancian in usage.

    1. Yes. It's a good general use tool that Wizards should want to buy as they grow in character level.