Suppose I have a Rod of Absorption, which has this ability:

While holding this rod, you can use your reaction to absorb a spell that is targeting only you and not with an area of effect. The absorbed spell's effect is canceled, and the spell's energy -- not the spell itself -- is stored in the rod. The energy has the same level as the spell when it was cast. The rod can absorb and store up to 50 levels of energy over the course of its existence. Once the rod absorbs 50 levels of energy, it can't absorb more. If you are targeted by a spell that the rod can't store, the rod has no effect on that spell.

If an enemy is casting a spell at me, when do I decide whether to use my reaction to absorb it, and how much information do I have about the spell being cast at me at the time I make that decision? For example, the enemy who is "casting a spell at me" might be targeting me with the area of effect of a Fireball, or targeting me with Charm Person, or targeting me and 2 other people with a 3rd level Charm Person. Only one of these cases satisfies the conditions for absorbing the enemy spell, so it seems that I need to know what spell is being cast and who it is targeting before I can even decide if it is possible for me to use my reaction to absorb it. However, it doesn't necessarily make sense for me to have this information at the time the spell is cast. An alternative interpretation could be that when a spell is cast, I use my reaction to attempt to absorb it, but if the spell cannot be absorbed then my reaction is wasted with no effect. This seems like an unsatisfying interpretation, especially in a situation where multiple enemies are casting spells and wasting my reaction on a spell that I can't absorb leaves me open to another spell that I could have absorbed. On the other hand, the last sentence of the quoted paragraph seems to lend some support to this interpretation, although it's possible that sentence is only referring to the rod's limited storage capacity.

So, is there an interpretation that best fits with RAW, or is all of this in the territory of DM ruling?

Note: You may assume that we are playing with the optional rule from XGtE for identifying a spell. In practice, this will mean that I cannot use my reaction to identify the incoming spell, because then I won't have a reaction available to use with the rod. Additionally, as the example above shows, even knowing the identity of the spell being cast doesn't guarantee that I will know whether it can be absorbed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question was inspired by an issue that came up in this other question, which is that you don't necessarily know whether or not the spell being cast at you is a cantrip... or do you? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 29, 2021 at 0:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 The counterspell question is definitely relevant, but notably I don't think the reaction timing for the rod is the same as for countering a spell. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 29, 2021 at 1:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 The "Are there any rules for..." question seems to be mislinked, and it was really making me question my sanity on the linked question, going "why is a question about Rod of Absorption timing linked to a question around rerolling hp?" If the edit window hasn't passed, maybe correct that one? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2021 at 2:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gatherer818 Workaround solution: Related: "Are there any rules for identifying what spell an opponent is casting?" and "What do I know, when deciding whether to cast Counterspell?" \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2021 at 2:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 oh right, delete and repost corrected is an option, duh. Well done having three times my common sense <3 thanks \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2021 at 3:15

2 Answers 2


I would say you have very little information about what is being cast at you, much as with deciding whether to cast a Counterspell or not.

Anything you do know is going to be a DM decision. If you have the Rod of Absorption in hand, I would likely let the Rod sense whether it is a spell that it is capable of absorbing, and let the player know that much.

I'm a fairly generous DM, so with this, and with Counterspell, or with just knowing what is coming, an observer who is a spellcaster I will let them know (if they ask) whether it is a divine or arcane spell, and roughly what level it is.

If it is a spell that the caster actually knows, I'll probably just tell them. If it is one that they do not know, but is on their spell list, I'll probably let them make a roll (Arcana for Arcane spells, Religion for Divine spells) to see if they recognize it.

This whole area is very much a matter of DM style of play, and is not defined in the RAW.


You use the reaction before the spell's effects occur but after knowing that it is targeting only you and not with an area of effect

This can be inferred from the fact that you must use the reaction when the spell is targeting you (present tense) and from the fact that the spell's effect is "canceled", not "undone" or something similar that would imply reversion.

Thus, it is certainly before you are hit, or make a saving throw, or take damage, or suffer any other sort of effect from the spell itself; however, it is also after you know that the spell targets only you and not through an area of effect. This is because if the spell targeting anybody else or was an area of effect you simply could not use your reaction at all.

If you can use your reaction to absorb a spell, the spell must be targeting only you and not with an area of effect; however, the spell's effects have not come into being yet. Whatever particular information can be gleaned is this sort of scenario is going to be up to the GM.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What about the last sentence of the quoted paragraph, which seems to imply that you can use your reaction to try and fail to absorb a spell? Is this only relevant when you try to absorb a spell that is too high level, or does it also apply to AOE spells and such? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 29, 2021 at 1:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson I think that is just an extra sentence that technically doesn't do anything. In fact, it even says that simply by being targeted by the spell it has no effect as opposed to something along the lines of "If you use your reaction to attempt to absorb a spell that the rod cannot actually absorb, nothing happens" \$\endgroup\$ Jan 29, 2021 at 1:44

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