I'm currently a new DM using the Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign from the Starter Set. The party recently received the Staff of Defense magic item (detailed on p. 53 of the adventure). Among other things, its description says:

The staff has 10 charges, which are used to fuel the spells within it. With the staff in hand, you can use your action to cast one of the following spells from the staff if the spell is on your class’s spell list: mage armor (1 charge) or shield (2 charges). No components are required.

The staff's description specifically says "you can use your action" to cast the spell. However, the Shield spell has a casting time of "1 reaction, which you take when you are hit by an attack or targeted by the magic missile spell". And it seems that Shield is much more useful when you can cast it as a reaction.

Is this (1) a "specific beats general" case where the Staff of Defense requires an action to cast Shield even though the Shield spell itself usually doesn't? Or (2) since Shield is really all about being able to use a reaction to try to block an attack, is the staff's "you can use an action" just poorly-phrased shorthand for "using a spell's normal casting time"?

I'm inclined to think it's option (1) from a straightforward reading of the text, but since Shield just seems so much less useful if you need to use your whole action on it, especially as it costs twice the number of charges per use as Mage Armor, I'm assuming I must be missing something.


2 Answers 2


Jeremy Crawford, lead rules developer for D&D 5e, unofficially addressed this question on Twitter:

Staff of Defense let you cast shield as a action but shield is a reaction Typo or deliberate tradeof?

That staff does, indeed, let you cast shield as an action. A DM could also allow casting the spell as a reaction.


Taking from the errata on spell scrolls, it would seem that, as intended, you can use a Reaction to cast Shield from the staff:

Casting the spell by reading the scroll requires the spell’s normal casting time.

This seems to be the case even for the Staff of Defense, being in the Starter Set, which was released before the DMG errata was.

  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ Is there other precedent somewhere for applying scroll rules to the use of staffs? \$\endgroup\$
    – user37158
    Nov 25, 2017 at 1:49

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