Why don't wizards use the Craft Wondrous Item feat to craft a command-word activated item that would do the same thing as a wand, but with infinite charges? (e.g. a ring of fireball, instead of a wand of fireball).

A command word magic item costs

spell level x caster level x 1800 gold pieces

or 5 times less for an item usable 5 times a day.

A wand costs

spell level x caster level x 750 gold pieces

In other words, for a 2nd level spell, it would cost 10800 gp for an infinite-use wondrous item, or 2160 gp for a 5/day wondrous item, compared to 4500 gp for a 2nd-level wand with 50 charges.

Is this accurate, or am I missing something? Mainly I didn't see a ton of straight offensive spells for magic rings, amulets, or other items that aren't scrolls or wands. I was wondering if there was some rule against offensive magic items that are not of a certain type? I assume not, since there are some other offensive magic items, but I wanted to be sure.


2 Answers 2


You do not generally use wands or wondrous items for offense. The artificer class from Eberron Campaign Setting can make it work, but for pretty much everyone else it just costs too much no matter how you do it. Wands and wondrous items that use spells are usually used for utility, stuff you can do out of combat.

The reason why is because in combat, the most precious things in the game are actions. The vast majority of combats are decided in the first 2-3 rounds—many in the very first. You only have so many opportunities to do something to change the outcome of the fight. That means that your actions in combat have to be very, very potent. Spells can often do that—but they need to be reliable. That means high saving throw DCs, that means high caster levels, and so on, and magic items do not offer these.

In contrast, out of combat, you can take more time. If something only has caster level 1st and so only lasts one round: no problem, you can take the time to just keep using it. If something has a save DC of 11 because that’s the minimum for a 1st-level spell and magic items use the minimum possible value, that’s fine because it’s not an attack, it’s healing an ally or lighting a hallway or whatever.

So basically, your concern is rather moot: the real answer is that neither of these things is used for the purposes you’re imagining.

This does lead us to the more direct answer to your question: 50 charges is more-than-enough for a whole lot of spells. If you find a wand of magic missile with caster level 1st, you simply don’t care that it’s only got 50 charges: you are going to reach a point where caster level 1st magic missile is just not worth using at all because your actions are too precious. Might as well see the savings up front. After all, command-word items cost more than double what a wand does. That’s a really big deal.

TL;DR: Command word items cost double what the comparable wand does, and for most spells, 50 charges is more than enough as it is. Many spells just aren’t useful when cast from items, and that includes almost all you would attempt to use offensively.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ +1: also, the few builds that use wands for offense generally make use of Double Wand Wielder, which command-word items can't anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 4:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Particularly since you talk about the cost, it might be worth talking about the "5 times a day" version. 5 castings a day does make me wonder why people talk about wands of infernal healing/cure wounds so often as an item that costs half as much and has infinite charges seems a lot more efficient. rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/37330/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Jonathon
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 12:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @JonathonWisnoski A 5/day charged item costs the same as an at-will item; the question has it wrong. The guideline is \$x/\left(5/y\right)\$ where \$x\$ is the original cost and \$y\$ is the charges per day. For \$y=5\$, that’s \$x/\left(5/5\right)=x/1=x\$. But on top of that, 5 charges/day isn’t necessarily enough: because it’s most efficient to use low-level spells and use them repeatedly, and have one item for the whole party, you end up going through quite a few charges in a day if you’re at higher levels. The cost is still ideal though. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 13:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Could you give an example of this for something like boots of teleportation used as the example in the dmg? Excuse my ignorance but I must be confused on pricing a command activated 5 charge item vs a use activated item. And am having a hard time following the above calculation. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Khaldhool Statted items in the Dungeon Master’s Guide do not necessarily match the guidelines. In the case of boots of teleportation, which offer teleport 3/day, the guidelines would say \$5 \times 9 \times 1800\text{ gp} \div \frac{5}{3} = 48\,600\text{ gp}\$, which the DMG has rounded to 49,000 gp. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 17:28

As KRyan's answer mentions, casters shouldn't be relying on wands nor on wondrous items for offense—casters should be casting offensive spells. The saving throw DCs against the caster's offensive spells will typically be higher and the level-dependent effects of the spell more significant than if the same effect is generated by a magic item.

Casters will find magic items more useful for defensive and utility spells that don't worry about saving throws and have largely caster-level-independent effects. Even those poor souls that can't cast spells usually have something better as a level-appropriate go-to offense than what they could do with an equally level-appropriate wand or wondrous item. Offensive wands and other magic items are typically niche items when used at all, useful for emergencies or against unusual foes.

However, there's another thing to consider when trying to figure out why a wizard whips out a wand of maximized wand of magic missile instead of an unlimited-use, custom-made cloak of maximized magic missiles or whatever when she's faced with a gang of ghost minotaurs.1

The DM must approve all original magic items

Magic item creators don't use feats like Craft Wondrous Item (Player's Handbook 92–3) to create limited-use or unlimited-use command-word-activated wondrous items, magic rings, magic rods, and magic armor, shields, and weapons that replace all the other magic items because creating new magic items like these is supposed to be an arduous process.

I know that this seems weird but bear with me. In the core rules, a PC that wants to create, for example, a scroll buys raw materials, plunks down for a day or so in a clean, well-lighted place and Hemingways an arcane scroll of power word pain or whatever. When he's done, he's out one or more prepared spells, some of those mysterious raw materials, and a handful of XP, but he has that magic scroll. (Don't be alarmed if you fluff this differently; I'm simplifying for comparison.) Relatively speaking, creating a scroll is easy, and it's almost as easy—albeit usually much more time consuming and expensive—to create a potion, a wand, and most staffs. (Some magic staffs like of the woodlands and of power, though, are rebels that play by their own rules.) Such magic items are, bluntly, merely spells awaiting use that have been slapped onto parchment, poured into a bottle, or put on a stick and have tables that dictate their largely inflexible prices.

However, those other magic items—the ones that are not just spells awaiting use—are supposed to be much more complicated to create if they're new, original magic items. The Dungeon Master's Guide on Variant: New Magic Items says

In the same way that you can invent new spells and monsters for your campaign, you can invent new magic items. In the same way that a PC spellcaster can research a new spell, a PC may be able to invent a new kind of magic item. And just as you have to be careful about new spells, you need to be careful with new magic items.

Use the magic item descriptions in this chapter as examples on which to base new magic items. A new magic item needs all the information that similar, existing magic items have, possibly including activation type, activation time, and caster level. You should also be ready to determine the market value of a new magic item, even one that the PCs simply find, in case a character wants to sell it or duplicate it. (214)

Whether they're created by the DM or by the PCs, creating new magic items at all is a variant rule. I know, right? Seriously, in the core game—although I've never heard of anyone playing the game quite this strictly—unpublished magic items don't exist. Just about everybody uses this variant, though, but it's worth noting that not everybody must and that it is a variant, so the core rules assume this variant is not used.

Further, the Dungeon Master's Guide on Behind the Curtain: Magic Item Gold Piece Value says

Many factors must be considered when determining the price of magic items you[, the Dungeon Master,] invent. The easiest way to come up with a price is to match the new item to an item priced in this chapter [of the Dungeon Master's Guide] and use its price as a guide. Otherwise, use the guidelines summarized on Table 7–33: Estimating Magic Item Gold Piece Values.…

You’ll notice, however, that not all the items presented here adhere to these formulas directly. The reasons for this are several. First and foremost, these few formulas aren’t enough to truly gauge the exact differences between… two very dissimilar items. Each of the magic items presented here was examined and modified based on its actual worth. The formulas only provide a starting point. [Some] items require at least some DM judgment calls. Use good sense when assigning prices, using the items in this book as examples. (282)

(Link mine.) So if the PC's allowed to—that is, the Variant: New Magic Items rules are being used—, "[i]n the same way that a PC… can research a new spell, a PC [can] invent a new kind of magic item." This means the PC goes through a process like Researching Original Spells (198), spending time (it takes weeks) and treasure (it takes thousands of gp)—typically in a metropolis—researching how to create the magic item and, at the end of the process, the PC makes a Spellcraft skill check, and, if the PC succeeds, the PC knows how to create that one new magic item… except that it's still up to the DM to decide if the magic item is viable, and "[a] viable [magic item] is one that you[, the DM,] allow into the game" (ibid.). So if it turns out the magic item that the PC researched is not viable, all the PC now knows is that she can't invent the magic item. The PC's time, treasure, and awesome Spellcraft check result are otherwise all wasted.

That means it's really the DM—not the PC nor the player—that the game expects to develop new magic items because only the DM knows what's viable for his campaign. PCs are left to guess what's viable, and nobody wants to waste time and treasure on guesswork when there are plenty of published magic items already.

In short, trying to work out the economics of magic item creation based solely on Table 7–33: Estimating Magic Item Gold Piece Values is worse than trying to assemble a puzzle without a picture as a guide. Stripped of details and context provided by the Dungeon Master's Guide, the System Reference Document makes it appear that a magic item creator would be a fool to create some magic items in the form of potions, scrolls, wands, and staffs when the creator could, instead, create a magic ring, magic rod, wondrous item, or magic armor, shield, or weapon of far greater utility. However, in context, making a new, original wondrous item is supposed to be far more difficult than, for example, just slapping a spell on a stick.

I should note that in my experience PCs rarely need to create their own new, original magic items, but that's not because I make them adhere to the painful, the-book-says-I-can-be-a-jerk Original Spell Research rules (which, as you can see, this DM finds a bit of a drag). Instead, it's because I make it clear that if I can't find an equivalent magic item to the one proposed then I'll have to make up the magic item by comparing it to existing magic items. This usually leads to the player doing the research and finding an existing magic item that's at least close enough to the PC's needs.

That's because, honestly, the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5e corpus is so vast that when a player says that she wants a magic item so her PC can do something wacky, it's not only possible but likely that somebody somewhere has already written up a magic item that allows her PC to perform that wacky task so there's no need to create the new, original item out of thin air.

Table 7–33: Estimating Magic Item Gold Piece Values is often used in discussions about the things that can be done using table in a vacuum, sans a DM,—a +1 sword of use-activated true strike, for example, or a button of unlimited cure light wounds—, but such magic items are supposed to be allowed into an actual, run-by-a-human campaign only after—perhaps—such items have been thoroughly researched and after—absolutely—the DM has ruled such items are viable. Prior to that, discussion of such items can only be had in the abstract.

1 A gang of ghost minotaurs is totally a thing; see Manual of the Planes 58.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I am a little concerned that your fun descriptions of item-creation, well-written though they are, may confuse a beginner player (say, of the sort unfamiliar with the fact that item-creation guidelines are just that). Not sure how best to handle that concern, if it’s even worth handling, but thought it was worth mentioning. +1 anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan That's a fair concern, and thank you. I'll let the answer sit for the time being—I'm a little tired of tinkering with it, to be honest—and see if any comments to that effect are voiced. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 20:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ A spoonful of fun helps the walloftext go down... (sung to catchy Disney tune) ^^ \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 4:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ "wand of maximized wand of magic missile" - Now I'm picturing a wand that shoots wands that shoot magic missiles. \$\endgroup\$
    – D M
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 0:29

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