There are different rules related to the action required to activate a wand:

The wand section from magic items states (emphasis mine):

Wands use the spell trigger activation method, so casting a spell from a wand is usually a standard action that doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity. (If the spell being cast, however, has a longer casting time than 1 standard action, it takes that long to cast the spell from a wand.)

Further, from the spell trigger section from the magic item section:

Activating a spell trigger item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

And finally, checking the Rules Compendium, the Spell trigger section states (emphasis mine)

Activating a spell trigger item takes the same amount of time as the casting time of the spell that the item stores, but activating the item doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity.

From these rules together I am having trouble understanding how a wand with a swift action spell would activate. Which action would be required for such a wand?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I made an edit to cleanup the quotes (there's no need to quote so much when only a bit is relevant). Please review it and make sure this is what you intended to ask, feeling free to edit further if needed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Jun 13, 2019 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


Ask the DM

If the DM's campaign accepts as the primary source for magic items the Dungeon Master's Guide, spell trigger magic items (like wands) have an activation time of at least 1 standard action. If the DM's campaign allows the Rules Compendium to change the Dungeon Master's Guide, then the spells in spell trigger magic items have the casting times of the spells. (See here for more on the controversy surrounding the Rules Compendium; see here for another magic item type impacted by its changes.)

Personal Experience

I've run campaigns that have used both rules and, ultimately, I've come to prefer the Dungeon Master's Guide's rules. Using this change wrought by the Rules Compendium left me with option paralysis when designing NPCs for high-level challenges. (High-level NPCs have a lot of gp and limited screen time, and them being able to buy their ways in to swift-action spells made high-level play even more complicated.) However, at low and middle levels, I've found the Rules Compendium change reasonable and functional. If not planning for high-level play—or if you're a more decisive and organized DM than I—, the Rules Compendium's changes should be fine for your campaign. Also note that players tend to prefer the Rules Compendium's change as it expands options, especially those who play rogues and other classes reliant on sneak attack.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't the Rules Compendium override the DMG despite primary source rules, because the RC specifically states that it does? (Regardless of controversy...) \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Jun 14, 2019 at 2:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko If you have a document that's dated last saying you're President but all the other documents dated before it say someone else is President, are you still President? :-) Please, see the linked RC question. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 14, 2019 at 3:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the document is legit, then yes. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Jun 15, 2019 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko However, all the documents are legit. Seriously, here really isn't the place for this. I am totally comfortable accepting the Rules Compendium primacy, I am totally comfortable ignoring the Rules Compendium, and I am totally comfortable with using an amalgam of both core and the Rules Compendium (which is what I tend toward). If you want to write an answer to this question—and others!—that asserts firmly and absolutely the Rules Compendium's authority over the core rules, I support your right to do so, but my research won't allow me to do that in this answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 15, 2019 at 16:10

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