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If a secret door has been found or a trap sprung already and then a Wand of Secrets is used nearby either of those, does the Wand of Secrets still point to them? Or does it know they are no longer a secret?

This has happened when a secret door was found and then the PC wanted to know if there were any more secret doors, so they used their Wand of Secrets while still standing near the just opened secret door. If another undiscovered secret door or trap was nearby, but not closer than the one just opened or sprung, which will the wand point to?

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4 Answers 4

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Perspective is the key issue here

There is no in-game term that specifically defines what is a "secret", and for simplicity's sake I'll assume here that "trap" refers to a hidden hazard, and not get into the whole argument of the definition of the word "trap" in the English language.

It's all a matter of perspective: a secret door might be secret to anyone who does not know its location, but to its owner or creator it isn't much of a secret.

There is not even a proper way to decide whether something is or isn't a secret. For some characters, a hidden door could be a secret because it cannot be found easily, while for characters with very high passive perception, it wouldn't even qualify as secret since they notice it without any effort.

Since there is no objective way to designate what is or isn't a "secret", when the wand is used, someone's perspective has to be used. Taking the perspective of the wand's user probably makes the more sense, since otherwise the wand could designate something the user doesn't even think of as a secret, which would make the wand pretty much useless.

With that in mind, any "secret" the user already found out about wouldn't be a "secret" anymore, and wouldn't be indicated by the wand.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 This is the most sane way to use this and not completely nerf it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ While the interpretation is likely right for functioning gameplay, not sure if that reading of "secret" is exactly right. A trap is still a secret for the creator of it. It's a secret that they keep and one can imagine a few uses of the wand if it continued pointing to known secrets. it becomes a pretty nice maintenance tool. but then.. if you are the creator and using the wand to pinpoint what you made, that implies you don't know its exact location so it became a secret again by your reading too \$\endgroup\$
    – OganM
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 23:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ The wand of secrets is already pretty weak, any further limitations would make is completely useless. 5E already uses a lot less traps and hidden doors and AD&D or 3E so the wand of secrets is situational already. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30 at 17:46
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The wand will point to the unrevealed one.

The description of the item says (emphasis mine):

While holding it, you can use an action to expend 1 of its charges, and if a secret door or trap is within 30 feet of you, the wand pulses and points at the one nearest to you.

Once a secret door has been revealed to the wand bearer, it is no longer secret, just as a sprung trap is no more a trap: the wand will point to the next secret door or trap, if present, closest to the wand bearer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ But it's still a secret to everyone else. Otherwise, it would never be a secret, as the person that built the door knows it exists. As well as anyone that has used the door in the past. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 18:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott Not to the Wand bearer, which is the (obvious, imho) reference of the description. Other answers already address this aspect, and I believe that this overthinking just overcomplicates this issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Then might I suggest changing the last line? "Once a secret door has been revealed to the wand bearer, it is no longer secret, just as a sprung trap is no more a trap: the wand will point to the next secret door or trap, if present, closest to the wand bearer." \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 19:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott Yep, sounds reasonable indeed: done, thanks for the suggestion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 21:16
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Entirely up to your DM

Unless there is a Sage Advice piece that I'm missing, there is no clear mechanical description of what constitutes "secret" in RAW. As such, your DM and only your DM can tell you what this means for your particular game. That said, it becomes a question of how to run a game more so than item mechanics.

I would personally rule that a discovered door is no longer secret, and a trap that is sprung (unless it's static like a pit trap) is no longer a hazard. The goal of the game is to have fun, and at most tables wasting several minutes trying to not waste a charge and/or get burned a DM's overly literal monkey's paw interpretation only slows the game down and causes frustration for the players.

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It will still detect the revealed ones

A sprung trap does not stop being a trap, just because it was sprung. It still is a trap, and in some cases can be rearmed. You can even buy a hunting trap in the equipment list of the PHB (p. 190). It is clearly a trap even when not set. It's in the name. A secret door does not stop being a secret door, just because it has been discovered, it still is a secret door that when closed cannot be easily discovered by casual inspection.

If the wand was to detect only undiscovered secret doors, or armed traps, it would need to say so, and it does not.

The case Eddymage makes that a known secret door is no longer secret is problematic: unless the creators are long dead and gone, a secret door is always known by the party that set it up or uses it. It can be known by some, and be secret to others. If you follow that logic, the wand would behave differently, depending on the knowledge of its user, because being undiscovered is not an inherent property of the trap or door.

In my experience, playing it like that — that traps spring and secret doors discovered will register for the wand — does little to lessen the wand's usefulness. We have such a wand, and nearly all of the time use it to search for secret doors in rooms or corridors that apparently have none. In the rare case where we already found one and are looking for more simply positioning yourself away from it to scan neighboring areas often does the trick.

Still, this makes the wand less useful, because you can set up a situation where one secret door or trap blocks it from discovering another. The DM may conclude that this is no fun, and decide to interpret it as only discovering secret doors and traps that are unknown to the user.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't buy the "a sprung trap is still a trap because it can be rearmed" theory. Just because there is potential of being a trap again doesn't mean it's still a trap. Indy triggered the boulder trap by taking the idol. No one is going to say, "Watch out for that boulder trap! As soon as someone rolls the boulder back up into the ceiling and resets the podium, we're in trouble!" \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott I’m not saying its a trap because it can be rearmed. I’m saying its a trap, because it is a trap. If it is active or not is immaterial. For example, you can buy a hunting trap in the equipment list. Do you think its not a trap if its not set up? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 21:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott To be fair, a hunting trap is on the list of standard equipment, and some backgrounds start with it. It would be strange to have a wand detect it when it was armed / set, not after it had been sprung, and detect it again when it was reset. Edit: Lol - ninja'd by Groody \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, an unset trap is not a trap. A hunting trap is just a bunch of metal until it's been opened and set. Any creature can walk over, into, or through it without danger (other than tetanus). \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 22:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KirtnoQA4mewhilemodsstrike, no you're buying a hunting trap because that what the item is called. Are headphone just called phones when they are not on my head? Is that circle in my car just a wheel if I'm not steering it? A TV Dinner does not include a TV. "Hunting trap" is the name and describes it's function. But if I say "Beware of the trap." I don't expect to people to be talking about an unset hunting trap unless it's to avoid stubbing my toes. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 23:49

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