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Ok, so our party is currently on the plane of Axis which has the Impeded magic trait for spells with the chaos descriptor. A member of our group had picked up a wand of align weapon prior to our arrival as we had encountered a few things had regeneration stopped by alignment.

The question is: when using the wand of align weapon to make our weapons anarchic would you need to make a caster level check in order to succeed?

Impeded Magic States

Particular spells and spell-like abilities are more difficult to cast on planes with this trait, often because the nature of the plane interferes with the spell. To cast an impeded spell, the caster must make a concentration check (DC 20 + the level of the spell). If the check fails, the spell does not function but is still lost as a prepared spell or spell slot. If the check succeeds, the spell functions normally.

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Usually, but there's often no penalty to failure

So, using a wand is casting a spell:

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

(emphasis added)

But it is also activating a magic item. The above quote is pretty much the only time activating a wand is called 'casting a spell', and the constancy with which that language is avoided means that some GMs may rule that casting a spell from a wand isn't technically casting a spell. In that case no Concentration check needs to be rolled.

If casting from a wand is handled normally (i.e. it is casting a spell), using a wand is still not, nevertheless, spellcasting in the usual sense (i.e. via the 'spells' feature of a spellcasting class). The impeded magic rules specify you lose the 'prepared spell or spell slot' when you fail the concentration check, but that doesn't matter for a wand; you weren't using either of those resources anyways. This is the same as what would happen if you were using a spell-like ability.

Impeded Magic also doesn't say you lose your action. That's weird and you should probably lose the action if you fail the check, but if not you can just try again without expending any time until you succeed, unless you literally cannot succeed on a 20+spell level CL check (generally this means you can't cast spells with a spell level higher than your level, but actually it doesn't because boosting Caster Level is relatively easy and most every full caster does it at least a little).

However, if we are going with what probably should happen instead of the RAW, the caster level for the wand rather than the user should probably be used, and failure should result in losing a charge-- that most closely follows the parallelism between magic item use and spellcasting-- in which case you have to roll a 19 or a 20 to get the typical 2nd-level spell wand to work, but you can buy higher CL wands for more money and those would work more reliably.

So, to sum up, under a strict reading of the rules the wand's user uses their caster level to make a DC 22 caster level check when using the wand, on which they take 20 without increasing the time taken. Under a slightly more sensible reading of the rules, the user uses their caster level to make a DC 22 caster level check, and loses their standard action on a failure. If the text of the rules is ignored but the general idea followed, the user makes a DC 22 caster level check using the wand's CL, and loses their standard action and a charge of the wand on a failure. If the GM has decided that activating a wand isn't casting a spell, no check at all is needed.

This is a very broad range of possibilities, and the consequences for your wand use range from completely unimpeded to usable outside of combat to practically useless on account of being cost-prohibitive unless the CL is higher than normal. Essentially, you need to talk with your DM about what option they are going with in their game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What gave me pause was whether the user of a wand was actually casting a spell or, instead, really activating a magic item (a struggle I've had before). Could this answer (ahem) spell out explicitly where it falls? (I know it's addressed obliquely, but I'd like to see it in boldface or as a subheading or something.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 31 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Yeah that bothered me too, but I already am addressing so many thingies I had trouble deciding where to start and forgot to come back to address that one. Better? Also, do you think I need to note that whether/when using a non-wand item is casting a spell is super extra not clear? That's why I didn't touch the near-duplicate you linked. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Oct 31 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that satisfies me much more. Thank you and upvoted. I am left a little concerned about the probably should part, though. That is, it seems to me an odd choice if the GM isn't having the character holding the wand make the roll to have instead the off-screen creator make of the wand make the roll. Really, my instinct at that point would be to forgo the roll entirely (who cares about that dude off-screen?) and say, like, "Because you're only triggering it, the magic's already complete in the wand so there's no reason to roll," or something, but that's maybe just me. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 31 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I wasn't suggesting you have the creator roll, just that you use the item's caster level, like you would on e.g. a dispell check or attempt to counterspell etc, as well as for the actual effects. You'll note that staves say they are unique in that "Unlike with other sorts of magic items, the wielder can use his caster level when activating the power of the staff if it’s higher than the caster level of the staff", which makes me think any time you are using your CL with an item and it's not a staff that probably shouldn't be working that way. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Oct 31 at 20:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also "Taking 20" always increases the time (by 20x) unless you have an ability that says otherwise. Even if the GM rules that the wand wielder must make the check, but the failure has no penalty other than time lost, a PC would have to take 2 minutes per use of the wand. This is important if they're trying to use the wand more than once (the spell is minutes per level) and for tracking the duration on other spells. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Nov 1 at 18:40

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