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The rules on using magic items are not at all clear to me. Especially the Spell Completion and Spell Trigger activations are confusing. What kind of character (class, level) can use a wand (spell trigger)? What kind of character can use a scroll (spell completion)? How does the Use Magic Device skill work in all this?

For example:

Spell Trigger: Spell trigger activation is similar to spell completion, but it's even simpler. No gestures or spell finishing is needed, just a special knowledge of spellcasting that an appropriate character would know, and a single word that must be spoken. Spell trigger items can be used by anyone whose class can cast the corresponding spell. This is the case even for a character who can't actually cast spells, such as a 3rd-level paladin. The user must still determine what spell is stored in the item before she can activate it. Activating a spell trigger item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

My players' characters pried a Wand of Stoneskin (a 4th-level wizard spell) from a dead wizard's hands. The rules of spell trigger say that the item "can be used by anyone whose class can cast the corresponding spell [...]". Does that mean that a 1st-level wizard could use the wand, even though he could only cast the spell at level 7 (being able to cast 4th level spells)?

Spell Completion: This is the activation method for scrolls. A scroll is a spell that is mostly finished. The preparation is done for the caster, so no preparation time is needed beforehand as with normal spellcasting. All that's left to do is perform the finishing parts of the spellcasting (the final gestures, words, and so on). To use a spell completion item safely, a character must be of high enough level in the right class to cast the spell already. If he can't already cast the spell, there's a chance he'll make a mistake. Activating a spell completion item is a standard action (or the spell's casting time, whichever is longer) and provokes attacks of opportunity exactly as casting a spell does.

How about a Scroll of Stoneskin? The Spell Completion description speaks about "a chance he'll make a mistake" (if the character is not of high enough level in the right class). Does this mean that a 1st level wizard, or even a 20th level fighter, could read and use the scroll (accepting the chance of failure)? Does this involve the Use Magic Device skill? What's this mentioned chance of failure, and what can be the mistake?

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

First question: trigger

The character needs only to have at least one level of a class which can cast the spell. In this case a first level wizard will be able to trigger any wizard spell.

Second question: completion

From the SRD: Scrolls

To have any chance of activating a scroll spell, the scroll user must meet the following requirements.

  • The spell must be of the correct type (arcane or divine). Arcane spellcasters (wizards, sorcerers, and bards) can only use scrolls containing arcane spells, and divine spellcasters (clerics, druids, paladins, and rangers) can only use scrolls containing divine spells. (The type of scroll a character creates is also determined by his class.)
  • The user must have the spell on her class list.
  • The user must have the requisite ability score. If the user meets all the requirements noted above, and her caster level is at least equal to the spell's caster level, she can automatically activate the spell without a check.

This means that the character must be a spell caster of the correct type (arcane or divine): so no a fighter will not be able to use a scroll.

If she meets all three requirements but her own caster level is lower than the scroll spell's caster level, then she has to make a caster level check (DC = scroll's caster level + 1) to cast the spell successfully.

In this case: yes a first level wizard will be able to try with any arcane scroll (if he has the required Int) but he will have to perform an appropriate caster level with the following consequences:

If she fails, she must make a DC 5 Wisdom check to avoid a mishap (see Scroll Mishaps). A natural roll of 1 always fails, whatever the modifiers. Activating a scroll is a standard action (or the spell's casting time, whichever is longer) and it provokes attacks of opportunity exactly as casting a spell does.

Use magic device

You can use this skill to read a spell or to activate a magic item. Use Magic Device lets you use a magic item as if you had the spell ability or class features of another class, as if you were a different race, or as if you were of a different alignment.

This allow to override the first condition: even if you are not of the correct class (or have the wrong alignment and so on) and you have the use magic device skill you can do a check and try anyway.

So in this case if your 20th level fighter is trained in use magic device: yes he can use a scroll

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