I am wondering if the arcane spell failure chance on armor affects activated magical items such as wands, rods, and other items. I was not able to find a clarification on this in the book.


1 Answer 1


It Depends

You won't find anything that says activating a magic item doesn't mandate Arcane Spell Failure chances (but see below). The game usually explains what happens not what doesn't happen. It saves negation for really confusing stuff. Here's Arcane Spell Failure Chance:

Armor interferes with the gestures that a spellcaster must make to cast an arcane spell that has a somatic component. Arcane spellcasters face the possibility of arcane spell failure if they're wearing armor. Bards can wear light armor and use shields without incurring any arcane spell failure chance for their bard spells.

The short of it is that the somatic components usually required by a spell aren't required by a magic item, but that goes unsaid because making the magic go with a spell is different from making the magic go with a magic item.

Most Magic Items Are Unaffected by Arcane Spell Failure Chances...

Here's Activating a Magic Item

Many magic items don't need to be activated. Certain magic items, however, do need to be activated, especially potions, scrolls, wands, rods, and staves. Unless otherwise noted, activating a magic item is a standard action.

Spell Completion Items
Activating a spell completion item is the equivalent of casting a spell. It requires concentration and provokes attacks of opportunity. You lose the spell if your concentration is broken, and you can attempt to activate the item while on the defensive, as with casting a spell.

Spell Trigger, Command Word, or Use-Activated Items
Activating any of these kinds of items does not require concentration and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

That's it. No Arcane Spell Failure chance. Seriously, the description of how to activate magic items is really long, but none of those mention Arcane Spell Failure either. If it goes unmentioned, often you needn't worry about it.

...But Scrolls Are an Exception

There's one very easily missed sentence in the actual description of Scrolls that says

Using a scroll is like casting a spell for purposes of arcane spell failure chance.

That means other spell-completion items don't usually look for arcane spell failure chances (unless their descriptions say so, of course), but scrolls do. So while the wizard could perch on his tower in full plate firing lightning bolts from his wand, he'd struggle mightily to do the same with a pile of scrolls.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Now I'm imagining a wizard in platemail with a tower shield and a bunch of homemade/premade scrolls, wands, and rods. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2014 at 22:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ A pretty good answer, with quotes. @MooingDuck Well, scrolls would not be a good idea :3 \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2014 at 7:28

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