This question contains spoilers for Out of the Abyss, hence why this question's title is quite ambiguous as well. If you do not want this adventure spoiled, avoid this question.

So, the Wand of Orcus has this to say about attuning to it (DMG, pg. 227):

Any creature besides Orcus that tries to attune to the wand must make a DC 17 Constitution saving throw. On a successful save, the creature takes 10d6 necrotic damage. On a failed save, the creature dies and rises as a zombie.

And in Out of the Abyss, it says this about the Wand of Orcus (pg. 219):

When Orcus is defeated, he drops the Wand of Orcus (see chapter 7 of the Dungeon Master's Guide), which falls to the ground. A party member can try to grab the wand before Demogorgon seizes it as a trophy, but any such theft draws the attention and ire of the Prince of Demons [Demogorgon]. Angry at its master's defeat, the Wand of Orcus tries to attune itself to the first willing creature other than Demogorgon that touches it. The attunement is instantaneous, allowing the wand's properties to be used during the battle.

My question is this:

Would the quote from the DMG still apply? If the Wand of Orcus wants to be attuned to someone (because it wants to aid whoever is going to fight Demogorgon), would it still try to kill whoever it attempts to attune to?

Or at the very least would the person attuning to it automatically succeed the Constitution saving throw so that they just take some damage rather than being killed outright, since "the Wand of Orcus tries to attune itself", implying it doesn't try to resist, which is presumably what the failed save represents?

I know it doesn't explicitly say this anywhere, but it seem against the intention of the plot that the wand is trying to attune to someone to help them in the fight if it just kills them and thus aids Demogorgon by doing so...

Or is this simply one of those cases where, as the DM, I could choose to just waive the negative effects of attuning to the wand or have the PC succeed the saving throw automatically or whatever else I choose?


1 Answer 1


No, you shouldn't suffer the normal ill effects.

There is a key difference in the wording that easily justifies a difference in the two scenarios. The Wand of Orcus states:

Any creature besides Orcus that tries to attune to the wand

Whereas the module states:

the Wand of Orcus tries to attune itself to the first willing creature

In the former case it is the creature's deliberate effort to try and attune itself to the artifact. In the latter case, it is the artifact itself instantly attuning to a creature which is willing to be attuned to, requiring no effort on their part. Essentially, a creature trying to attune to the wand versus the wand attuning to the creature.

I would argue that, mechanically, since you are not trying to attune to the wand (it is trying to attune to you), you do not trigger the negative consequences normally caused when trying to attune to the artifact. As the wand instead attunes to you, you end up getting the benefits of being attuned to the wand without suffering the normal consequence of trying to attune to it.

This also makes sense narratively; as an intelligent artifact, the wand normally desires to be wielded only by Orcus himself, and subjects anyone else that attempts to attune to it to some horrible necromantic energy. In the circumstances, however, it desires very strongly to be used to enact revenge upon Demogorgon, and so it will instead attune itself to the first willing person it can find. It doesn't make sense for it to try to kill or zombify that person, since that will make them much less useful at fighting Demogorgon.

It remains a horribly evil intelligent artifact, so anyone who willingly allows it to attune to them is certainly in karmic trouble in the long run, and they have to deal with the normal issues that come with wielding intelligent magic items that are in conflict with their own alignment/goals (which potentially includes being mind controlled by the wand). In the moment, however, you shouldn't have a problem - one assumes both character and the wand are united in their immediate goal of fighting Demogorgon.

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