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I'm playing a solo game of D&D 5e, as a D&D virgin. I'm using a pre-gen character from the D&D Starter Set (a level 1 wizard). I've only really tried one spell so far, just an attack during combat. The adventure I'm playing is called "To Hell and Back Again".

During the adventure, I found a magic wand called a wand of shield. (I was really lucky to get this, as I had to make a saving throw to find it.) The description of the wand of shield on p. 57 of the adventure states:

The wand has four charges. You can use your reaction, and expend 1 charge, to speak its command word and cast the shield spell.

The wand regains 1d4+1 expended charges daily at dawn. If you expend the wand’s last charge, roll a d20. On a 1, the wand crumbles into ashes and is destroyed.

What's the advantage of the wand, given that I can already cast a shield spell since I'm a level 1 wizard? How is casting it from the wand different from casting it as a wizard?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please don't take this the wrong way, everyone was new to the game at some point, including me; but I have to ask: have you read through all the rules yet? Both this question and your first question pretty much amount to pointing out some of the more basic game rules, and I want to be sure you've read them so that we aren't just reading them to you. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2022 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I read as much as I could from the player's handbook, perhaps I could have used it more. Except it's over three hundred pages. I'm asking here, as it's complex too, and a web search drew a blank. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2022 at 19:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaveDiamond don't worry too much: in all my years I've not found a game that's worse at helping people learn to play it than D&D =D You're all good, and these ^^ questions are just being asked to help ensure we're giving an answer that's actually helpful to you in your circumstance. Welcome to the hobby! \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Jul 21, 2022 at 19:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaveDiamond No worries, I can give you some more direction there. The most important chapters in terms of playing the game are going to be 7, 9, and 10. Chapter 7 explains how to use ability scores and skills, chapter 9 is the basic combat rules, and chapter 10 is the rules for spellcasting. Give those some more focused study, as well as the Wizard class description and your wizard school description, and you'll be in good shape. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2022 at 19:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ You might also consider joining us in Role-playing Games Chat, we usually have someone around, and we don't mind taking questions and discussion there. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2022 at 19:43

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Casting shield yourself expends a spell slot. Casting it with the wand does not.

Since shield is a 1st-level spell, casting it requires expending a 1st-level spell slot (or higher), as described in the rules for spell slots found in chapter 10 of the Player's Handbook and Basic Rules:

When a character casts a spell, he or she expends a slot of that spell’s level or higher, effectively "filling" a slot with the spell. You can think of a spell slot as a groove of a certain size — small for a 1st-level slot, larger for a spell of higher level. A 1st-level spell fits into a slot of any size, but a 9th-level spell fits only in a 9th-level slot. So when Umara casts magic missile, a 1st-level spell, she spends one of her four 1st-level slots and has three remaining.

As a 1st-level wizard, you only have two 1st-level spell slots (as shown in the Wizard table at the beginning of the class description). So you can cast shield yourself at most twice per day if you cast no other 1st-level spells. However, casting shield from the wand does not expend any of your spell slots, allowing you to cast shield more often, potentially saving your spell slots for other spells.

Another advantage is that having the wand means you don’t necessarily have to prepare shield, which leaves room for preparing a different spell at the beginning of the day. The rules for a Wizard’s spell preparation can be found in the Spellcasting feature at the beginning of the Wizard class description:

You prepare the list of wizard spells that are available for you to cast. To do so, choose a number of wizard spells from your spellbook equal to your Intelligence modifier + your wizard level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

For example, if you’re a 3rd-level wizard, you have four 1st-level and two 2nd-level spell slots. With an Intelligence of 16, your list of prepared spells can include six spells of 1st or 2nd level, in any combination, chosen from your spellbook. If you prepare the 1st-level spell magic missile, you can cast it using a 1st-level or a 2nd-level slot. Casting the spell doesn’t remove it from your list of prepared spells.

You can change your list of prepared spells when you finish a long rest. Preparing a new list of wizard spells requires time spent studying your spellbook and memorizing the incantations and gestures you must make to cast the spell: at least 1 minute per spell level for each spell on your list.

And since shield has a casting time of "1 reaction", I'll leave the rules for reactions here for good measure:

Certain special abilities, spells, and situations allow you to take a special action called a reaction. A reaction is an instant response to a trigger of some kind, which can occur on your turn or on someone else's. The opportunity attack, described later in this section, is the most common type of reaction.

When you take a reaction, you can't take another one until the start of your next turn. If the reaction interrupts another creature's turn, that creature can continue its turn right after the reaction.

And the rules for reaction spells:

Some spells can be cast as reactions. These spells take a fraction of a second to bring about and are cast in response to some event. If a spell can be cast as a reaction, the spell description tells you exactly when you can do so.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer, I think I've been casting spells like they were blows from a an axe! Back to the drawing board! Don't worry this won't initiate more easy to answer questions. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2022 at 19:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaveDiamond There is a special class of spells called Cantrips that are level-0 spells, that dont expend spell slots. You can cast them as often as you like, and as a 1st level wizard you should know three of them. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2022 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaveDiamond: Also, as a quick note, since I know it trips a lot of new players up: There's a difference between class level and spell level. The Wizard table will show you when you gain access to higher-level spell slots (and can accordingly prepare higher-level spells). You'll see that when you reach level 2 in the wizard class, you gain another 1st-level spell slot – but you still can't cast spells that are listed as "2nd-level" spells. You gain access to 2nd-level spells only when your character reaches level 3 in the wizard class. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 22, 2022 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaveDiamond: ...And now for your amusement, here's a webcomic poking fun at the confusing overuse/overlap of game terms like "level": Up a Level, Down a Level (Don't worry about trying to understand all the game mechanics referenced there – most of the jokes still work.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 22, 2022 at 21:21
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The wand allows you to cast shield spells in addition to any you can cast yourself

The wand, as a magic item, typically allows you to cast a given spell a certain number of times (as defined by the individual wand), without needing to prepare or know the spell. For spells that require a spell attack roll or saving throw, with wands these would typically be fixed values.

Since you added the description of the wand, it tells you that you can cast shield from it as a Reaction as long as it has charges remaining (so at most 4 times a day, at the risk of losing it if you use the last charge).

How magic item charges work is explained on page 141 of the DMG:

Some magic items have charges that must be expended to activate their properties.

If you instead cast the spell with your spellcasting ability, you both need to prepare it (and you only can prepare a limited number of spells, see page 114 PHB) and it will use up a spell slot, of which you also only can use a limited number per day (for shield usually a first level slot). These spells use your own spell attack modifier and saving throw DC, if applicable (also on page 114).

Spell slots are explained on page 201 of the PHB:

Regardless of how many spells a caster knows or prepares, he or she can cast only a limited number of spells before resting. (…) Thus, each spellcasting class’s description (except that of the warlock) includes a table showing how many spell slots of each spell level a character can use at each character level. For example, the 3rd-level wizard Umara has four 1st-level spell slots and two 2nd-level slots. When a character casts a spell, he or she expends a slot of that spell’s level or higher, effectively “filling” a slot with the spell.

Your cantrips are an exception to this. These are spells that require no spell slots, and can be cast as often as you like in a day. If they are a spell attack, this is the analogue to attacks with weapons by other classes and ensures the spellcaster has something useful to contribute, even after their limited spell slots run out. This is also on page 201 PHB:

A cantrip is a spell that can be cast at will, without using a spell slot and without being prepared in advance. Repeated practice has fixed the spell in the caster’s mind and infused the caster with the magic needed to produce the effect over and over. A cantrip’s spell level is 0.

Note that wand of shield is not one of the standard magic items from the DMG. If it is a homebrew item, it may have some unusual properties compared to the wands from the core rules, and my not be ideal to learn the rules.

For example, normally wands require your action (of which you have one per combat round, to Attack, Cast a Spell or do other things such as activating a magic item like a wand, see Actions in Combat, PHB p. 192). But shield is s spell that is usually cast with a Reaction, in response to being hit, and so this wand is activated as a Reaction, which is unusual.

Reactions are explained in page 190 PHB:

Certain special abilities, spells, and situations allow you to take a special action called a reaction. A reaction is an instant response to a trigger of some kind, which can occur on your turn or on someone else’s. The opportunity attack, described later in this chapter, is the most common type of reaction.

When you take a reaction, you can’t take another one until the start of your next turn. If the reaction interrupts another creature’s turn, that creature can continue its turn right after the reaction.

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The advantage of using a wand is that you don’t expend your own spell slot. Yes, you can cast Shield without using the wand, but then you’re using your own spell slot to do that and these are limited. Using a wand to cast the same spell expends one (usually) of the charges from the wand, leaving your own spell slot that you would have spent available. If the spell has components, casting through a wand usually doesn’t require them.

You mention the Wand of Shield, but you can also find other wands. If you find one with a spell that you don’t have, it allows you to cast it through the wand without learning it, as long as you meet the requirements for using the wand.

There is a paragraph on casting spells through magic items (which includes wands) in the rules on activating magic items. Among other things, it states:

Some magic items allow the user to cast a spell from the item. The spell [...] doesn't expend any of the user's spell slots, and requires no components, unless the item's description says otherwise. [...]

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