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The Rod of Lordly Might has 6 different forms, but it also has 3 properties: Drain Life, Paralyze and Terrify. These properties specify "While holding the rod" or "When you hit a creature with a melee attack using the rod", but I'm not sure if they refers to the rod as the magic item (so you could, for example, do the Drain Life using the Flame Tongue form), or it only refers as the rod as the 6th form.

As this is a classic magic item, any info about how this aspects of the rod works in other TSR/WotC versions (AD&D, 3.0, 3.5) or even supplements/PF will be appreciated.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I wish to know how it works in 5e, but it seems very unlike to know only with the 5e description. For that reason, taking in account that this magic object (like many others) is an adaptation from the 3.5e, it will be safe to assume that any info of older versions could help us to decide. \$\endgroup\$
    – Abby
    May 26, 2017 at 12:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ It was in the original game, Greyhawk Supplement (1975 TSR). It is an iconic magical item, originally intended for Fighting Men. \$\endgroup\$ May 26, 2017 at 12:42

1 Answer 1

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Two special functions work when you hit a creature with a melee attack

TL;DR Yes, the functions can work in "non-rod form"

If you never pushed a single button, the Rod functions as a +3 mace. It says that in the first sentence:

The rod has a flanged head and it functions as a magic mace that grants +3 ...

Drain Life and Paralyze are available in any form that allows a melee attack. The first sentence of the text for both

When you hit a creature with a melee attack...

If you push buttons 1, 2 or 3, you can easily make a melee attack, therefore Drain Life and Paralyze work with those forms.

If you can figure out a way to make a melee attack using the 50' long pole or the battering ram -- buttons 4 or 5 -- those functions can be triggered. (If nothing else, they can be used as Improvised Weapons). It might take some work with your DM to establish how those two forms are used to make a melee attack (for example, you benefit from the Enlarge spell, or are polymorphed into the form of a Giant). The condition is: make a melee attack, then make a choice to use the Drain Life or Paralyze ability.

In any form the Terrify function is available. No restrictions are placed on that function other than

While holding the rod.

The various other forms are still the rod, in an augmented form.

All button 6 does is return to the form of +3 magical mace where it started.
(SRD 5.1, p. 240; DMG p. 196-197).

  • "When is a rod not a rod?" or "Is it always a rod?"

    • Granted, your DM can choose via a ruling to limit some of these functions at your table. The DM could rule that "becomes a flame tongue" (or other shape) means that it "isn't the rod.

    • Recommended Ruling: since (a) button 6 still exists and (b) can be pushed to return this magical item to its original form, I'd recommend a ruling that the RoLM always "remains the rod" and never "isn't the rod." (This kind of existential musing often happens when we D&D players overthink things ...)

    • Per your comment: meeting the "wielding" or the "when you hit a creature with a melee attack" requirements, you can use the Drain Life, Paralyze and Terrify properties in any form (and the rod is always considered as a rod, no matters its form).

Since you asked ...

Previous Editions

  • In First Edition AD&D, the rod worked similarly but was somewhat restricted in that some functions used charges (fear, paralyzation, drain hit points) but the rod could not be recharged. This is unlike the recharge each day that 5e's rod uses for the three special functions. (DMG 1e AD&D p. 133).

    The weapons were:
    +2 Mace, +1 Sword of flame, +4 Battle Axe, and +3 Spear (that could be extended to be used as a lance). If the rod ran out of charges, the spear function was no longer usable but all other weapons functions remained usable.

    Functions with no charges needed: climbing pole/ladder, door opener, and "point to magnetic north" + "how deep am I underground" function.

    In 2e AD&D, RoLM was the same except that when it ran out of charges the only weapon function was +2 mace.

    When its charges are exhausted, spell-like functions cease, as do all weapon functions except the mace +2. The rod continues to work in all other ways(DMG p. 340).

  • In the Original D&D (Greyhawk, p. 49) the Rod of Lordly Might was one heck of a magical item for Fighting Men.

    When being carried it is a mere 4' in length, but by merely pressing a catch a 2' blade (glaive-guisarme) springs forth from its end; pushing the catch a second time extends the rod to 15'. When the blade is out the handle can also be shortened to 1' or 2'.

    As described, it could be a staff, glaive guisarme, or short sword.

    The second "catch" created the 50 climbing pole.

    The Rod of Lordly Might weapons: Flaming Sword1, +2 axe, +3 spear.

    The amazing paralyze and fear functions.

    Furthermore, in any of these capacities it will have the following effect upon enemies: all threatened by it must save vs. paralyzation, or be paralyzed; and if they do save they must make a second saving throw vs. fear, or else run away. If both saves are made they need not check again during the encounter.

    No charges. The fear and paralyze features were "always on." (No Life Drain).

    1 Sword, Flaming (Men and Magic, p. 23): Sword, Flaming: +1, +2 vs. Trolls, Pegasi, Hippogriffs, and Rocs; +3 vs. Undead and Treants

    The RoLM was a much sought after/desired magical item in OD&D.

  • 3.5 D&D RoLM (Source is d20SRD for 3.5)

    Spell-like functions (Once Per Day)
    Hold Person on a melee touch attack (Will save 14)
    Fear (Will Save 16)
    Life Drain 2d4 (17 Will save)
    Weapons
    +2 Light Mace, +1 flaming Long Sword, +4 Battle Axe, +3 Short Spear or Long Spear; lance if extended.
    Utility
    Climbing pole/ladder 50'
    Force Open Doors
    Indicate Mag North/Depth Under Ground.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, thanks for the LONG answer (<- +1). Anyway, the petition for older versions was only for the purpose of discerning the question, not asking for the overall funcion of the magic object (that will be overhelming :). \$\endgroup\$
    – Abby
    May 26, 2017 at 13:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @techurbana Sorry I got carried away ... it's an iconic magical item \$\endgroup\$ May 26, 2017 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ The wording of the magic item refers the different forms (flame tongue, etc.) as properties, not like different magic items. Also, it refers the default form as one of this properties. For that reasons, I think it is safe to accept this anwser and accept what it says: meeting the "wielding" or the "when you hit a creature with a melee attack" requirements, you can use the Drain Life, Paralyze and Terrify properties in any form (and the rod is always considered as a rod, no matters its form). \$\endgroup\$
    – Abby
    May 31, 2017 at 12:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @techurbana Glad you found it helpful. \$\endgroup\$ May 31, 2017 at 12:17

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