So in the rules it states

A command word can be a real word, but when this is the case, the holder of the item runs the risk of activating the item accidentally by speaking the word in normal conversation. More often, the command word is some nonsensical word, or a word or phrase from an ancient language. Activating a command word magic item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

This seems to say that command words can be accidentally activated, but then it states that it is a standard action. It also states that

Command word activation means that a character speaks the word and the item activates. No other special knowledge is needed.

Since speaking is a free action, this seems to contradict itself. Does it mean that directing the effect of a magic item is a standard action? Say, I have a Crown of blasting(which states when command is spoken) on my head, and the command word is set to "light", and i forget this and say "Hey jargon, Can you light that candle", would the helmet go off and be undirected and hit the candle or jargon (depending on which I was looking at) If it happened in battle would I waste the blast and a standard action because I Spoke the word?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you familiar with this question? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2017 at 8:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am. Its fairly similar, but a bit too focused. I was hoping for a item-neutral answer, and how specifically accidental activation works. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Dec 2, 2017 at 8:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I hope that an answer combs the vast amount of Pathfinder material to confirm the rule isn't expanded further elsewhere beyond its initial mention in the Core Rulebook… and learns that, like in 3.5e, it hasn't been expanded. As they're presented, those rules just don't. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2017 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wands are not command word magic items, they are spell trigger items, which can't be activated by mistake. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4, 2017 at 13:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the tidbit. Ill update my question with a different example. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Dec 4, 2017 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


According to this post by Sean K Reynolds when he was a Designer(2013):

  1. Activating an item's command word is a standard action. If your command word is "fire," and you're in initiative, you have to spend your standard action saying the word AT the sword with the proper inflection, you can't activate it for free (without spending an action).

  2. You can give several actions the same command word, but that doesn't get around the standard-action-to-activate-each. It just means you only have to remember one word, not multiple words (which means your allies have an easier time using those items to save your life if you're bleeding to death).

Emphasis added.

From this we can know a couple things about the intent of accidental activation.

  • You can't intentionally accidentally activate an item.
    • This simply fails if you don't use the proper time to say the word correctly
  • Accidental operation isn't reliable.
    • Even in items that have the exact same command word, you won't activate them at the same time because you can only intentionally activate one.
    • This seems to have something to do with the user's intent and focus.
  • Accidental activation is rare.
    • You will almost never accidentally say an activation word the exact same way as intended.

All this being said, the "rule" about accidental activation is extremely vague and has no official management of the results. It borders on fluff text, except that its buried in actual rules.

I believe this was intentional, to give GM's a way to have a funny/interesting moment when you accidentally find out how to set that glowey red sword on fire even though you didn't bring a Spellcrafter to this dungeon. How the actual event happens is entirely up to the GM, because the very second line of Gamemastering:

But if you don’t know, a Game Master (or GM) is the player who arbitrates the rules of the game...

  • \$\begingroup\$ With all of that in mind, how do you think that would apply to something like the gravespawn gland? Where It says if the command word is spoken? I guess that rules out the ability to set it to a common (or specific) word to cause the victim to detonate it themselves on accident if they talked about some sensitive information? (I cant offhandedly think of any other magic item that would really be a good candidate for accidental activation that wouldn't be blatant power inflation.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Dec 14, 2017 at 22:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean, a GM could allow it on a case-by-case, particularly if it was intended to be an premeditated thing that only happens once... but as you've said, that opens a nasty door of possibilities. More likely, it should just be used as intended (another creature says the phrase to intentionally activate the necrograft at an inopportune time). I don't feel like accidental activations were ever intended to be plot points or major events. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Dec 15, 2017 at 6:00

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