I will start a campaing in a few days and my players are on the "Character Building" mode for this week, and they are asking me a lot of really creative questions regarding possible builds. That's fine and is really good, but one question in special put me wondering on it's viability. The characters should be built for 10th level, so lot's of combinations are avaliable.

One of the players built a vanilla Wizard and picked up Craft Wondrous Item as a feat. That's ok. Then she asked me to have some Pearls of Power, using the craft price (since she would have "crafted" the pearls in her backstory). I normally allow that - if we started the campaign on the first level, she would have the pearls at the craft price anyway. But them, she asked me that all the pearls would have the same command word - she thinks that it is reasonable, since she made all the pearls and thus could choose the command word. By RAW, we have this:

Command Word: If the activation is on command or if no activation method is suggested either in the magic item description or by the nature of the item, assume that a command word is needed to activate it. Command word activation means that a character speaks the word and the item activates. No other special knowledge is needed.

A command word can be a real word, but when this is the case, the holder of the item runs the risk of activating the item accidentally by speaking the word in normal conversation. More often, the command word is some nonsensical word, or a word or phrase from an ancient language. Activating a command word magic item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Emphasis mine. Link here, search for Command Word.

If it is possible to activate the item by accident, it would be possible to activate multiple itens by accident - and so, the rationale says that it should be possible to activate multiple itens on purpose. Also, the SRD states that you just say the world and the item activates.

I understand that her idea can be really overpowered if used right, but I don't want to punish her criativity. So, I need to ask:

Is that legal by the rules? If it not, how would you rule the sittuation? Would you disallow this completly, or go with it? House-rules suggestions are welcome.

Insight on how to deal with that on the table is welcome too.


3 Answers 3


While I applaud the wizard's chutzpah...

The Accidental Activation Rule Is Terrible

I fully agree with KRyan and Ernir that ignoring the accidental activation text is the best way to go. It causes more problems than it solves. I'm of the opinion that it's included only so the DM can have hilarious situations occur at the tavern because the wizard forgot the command word for his wand of fireballs was hubba hubba.

But If You Must Use It...

If you're dead-set against totally house-ruling it away, here's one way to run it.

The command word text reads, in part,

A command word can be a real word, but when this is the case, the holder of the item runs the risk of activating the item accidentally by speaking the word in normal conversation. More often, the command word is some nonsensical word, or a word or phrase from an ancient language. Activating a command word magic item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Emphasis mine. Not possessor, by the way. The holder specifically--as in what one does with a hand.

The description of the pearl of power reads, in part,

This seemingly normal pearl of average size and luster is a potent aid to all spellcasters who prepare spells (clerics, druids, rangers, paladins, and wizards). Once per day on command, a pearl of power enables the possessor to recall any one spell that she had prepared and then cast that day. The spell is then prepared again, just as if it had not been cast. The spell must be of a particular level, depending on the pearl. Different pearls exist for recalling one spell per day of each level from 1st through 9th and for the recall of two spells per day (each of a different level, 6th or lower).

The wizard can create multiple pearls of power all with the same command word. The wizard can activate one pearl of power in the wizard's possession as a standard action using that command word. If the wizard holds in her hands two or more pearls of power when the command word is spoken as a standard action to activate a magic item, one of the pearls of power in wizard's hands activates, determined at random.

(This assumes that the DM determines that a held magic item takes precedence over a merely possessed one with the same command word and that the DM wants to stick to the (actually far more important) rule that activating a command word magic item takes a standard action, and therefore simultaneous magic item activation can't happen accidentally, much less, like here, as some kind of faux accident. I went with random determination as that makes sense if multiple pearls with the same command word are deliberately held and the holder fails to specify which one to activate when the command word is spoken.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. The "Holder" minuntia will save my day on a argument. Good observation! :) \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Apr 15, 2014 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not clear on the conclusion here - How did you get from the holder and possessor to 'Even if the Wizard is holding (and therefore possessing) two Pearls of Power with the same command word, the Wizard activates only one of them, and at random to boot!'? \$\endgroup\$
    – Phill.Zitt
    Apr 16, 2014 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Phill.Zitt Because only one standard action was spent, so only one pearl of power gets activated, because activating a command-word item requires a standard action. The random thing is because it's a way of implementing the ill-defined "accidental" rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 16, 2014 at 20:18

No, the character can't activate more than one magic item per "spoken command word".

The limitation comes from the action requirement. From the text you yourself quoted:

Activating a command word magic item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

NB: Regardless of what kind of an action it is to speak the command word, the act of activating an item is a standard action. And a character only gets one standard action per round.

To explain in-character why this won't work... slightly more difficult. I suggest making something up. Perhaps the crafter doesn't have perfect control over the command word, leading to variations? Perhaps only the pearl that is closest to the caster's heart is activated when the word is spoken?

For what it's worth, "speaking significantly" is very often a significant action. See Bluff and Diplomacy.

Regardless of how you explain it - by the rules, it won't work. If you make a ruling otherwise, you're in a world of trouble, actions are clearly designed to be limited in combat, while mere words aren't. (Just wait until she figures out how many items use command words!)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Question is, how does one accidentally use a standard action? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 15, 2014 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I double KRyan words. The rules states that an item can be used accidentally. If so, why she can't "accidentally" activate all of her Pearls? \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Apr 15, 2014 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThalesSarczuk That said, I agree with Ernir. Whoever wrote that line, that early in the game's development, really wasn't thinking about the ramifications of writing it. It is out of place in the context of the rest of the rules and begs a lot of questions like this one that cannot be satisfactorily answered. I recommend just eliminating the notion of accidental activation, and requiring that activation of an item require a specific intent and action to do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 15, 2014 at 15:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that "accidental activation" was written for non-combat scenarios, where standard actions can be accidentally used all the time. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2014 at 15:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I flipped through the 1E and 2E DMG and, shockingly, neither lists accidental activation as a possibility with command words; the 3.X and Pathfinder rule isn't even Gygaxian. I'm almost certain Monte cooked up that rule and just didn't follow through with it. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2014 at 16:23

Go with it. Let it happen. Have them roll a will save (equal to say 15 + the number of pearls) and for every number under the DC they roll, that spell will cast at a random target. After all, the caster is recalling quite a few spells at once which is not something they can normally do, it should require a check and have consequences for failure.

I'm generally of the opinion that players should be rewarded for crazy ideas. But just how crazy ideas in the real world sometimes have unintended consequences, so should crazy ideas in the game. Knowing the possible results in this case will have the following effects:

  1. The player will think twice before actually attempting it.
  2. The player will be a bit more conservative with the number of pearls they use at one time.
  3. The player will probably select spells that won't destroy the party on a flubbed roll.
  4. The act itself will be given the correct feeling. It is a desperate or crazy act that will have potentially disastrous effects.
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a house rule, I kind of like this. Though the question does ask for a "legal by the rules" analysis, so I think the question wants RAW. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2014 at 20:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh no, by no means is this question RAW only. This kind of suggestion is welcome! And, +1, also. I really liked the ideia! \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Apr 16, 2014 at 0:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I could accept two awnsers, this would be the other one. I can't, so have a +1. Your Ideia is really good. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Apr 16, 2014 at 13:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ I may be missing something - but don't the pearl just allow you to "re-prepare" the spell? I thought you still need to cast it normally afterwards (and may do so much after the activation, if you choose). If that's the case, then multiple activations won't become multiple casting - just multiple "re-preparations" - which have a much less severe effect on balance (the wizard isn't casting multiple fire balls, he is just "reloading a magazine, instead of one-by-one bullets"). \$\endgroup\$
    – G0BLiN
    Jun 27, 2014 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I realize it's been nine years, but @G0BLiN 's interpretation is mine as well. I mean, sure, it does in fact make it a significantly more powerful (set of) items since instead of needing to take <N> actions to restore half her spell slots she only needs one... but she can still only cast one a round, so it mostly just means that she can continue combat a bit longer. D&D -- esp. 3.5e and its derivatives -- is a game of rocket tag; endurance is worth a lot less than burst power. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 24, 2023 at 3:37

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