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The Nightstick is a magic item from Libris Mortis (p. 78) that gives anyone who owns one 4 extra turn/rebuke attempts per day. A number of builds use this item in conjunction with abilities that enhance the power of turning attempts, most often Divine Metamagic. These builds typically involve the use of more than one Nightstick being used by the same person, to get an extremely large number of turn/rebuke attempts in the same day.

My question is simple. By RAW, is this allowed? Can the effect of a single magic item be stacked on itself? If so, could you provide an example of another item with a non-instantaneous effect that can stack with itself?

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If the DM Lets Them Stack, They'll Stack

The nightstick (LM 78) (7,500 gp; 5 lbs.) appears simple enough:

Anyone who possesses the rod and is able to turn or rebuke undead gains four more uses of the ability per day.

Probably the assumption was that a creature would wield but a single nightstick and, while wielding it, the creature would have 4 extra uses per day of the creature's ability to turn or rebuke undead.

Things didn't work out that way. The nightstick's problems are legion.

  • The nightstick is underpriced. The least of the nightstick's problems, the Arms and Equipment Guide—which, while a Dungeons and Dragons, 3rd Edition text, was never updated to 3.5 therefore remaining valid for 3.5 campaigns—says that an item that grants a feat costs 10,000 gp plus another 5,000 gp to 10,000 gp per prerequisite (AE 128). Thus the nightstick should cost, like, at least twice its listed price (see below), granting as it does an ability like the feat Extra Turning (PH 94).

    But many items are priced higher or lower than the game recommends, so this isn't really that big of a deal. Further, the nightstick only grants the effects of the feat not the feat feat itself, making the item useless for a creature that, for example, wants to meet another feat's prerequisite using the nightstick.

  • The nightstick is slotless. It requires only possession not wielding or body slots. This should double its cost, but this also means one can gain benefits from as many nightsticks as one's gp and carrying capacity allows.
  • The nightstick has unlimited uses. It's limited by the creature who possesses it. Thus infinite creatures all of whom possess the ability to turn or rebuke undead can gain the same nightstick's benefits, albeit not all at the same time.
  • The nightstick's ability is strangely phrased. It avoids the usual language of modifiers, making unclear whether one can gain the benefits of more than one (or even the same!) nightstick, simultaneously (or subsequently).

These are all likely editorial oversights, but in combination it's why the nightstick quickly became the go-to item for expanding the usefulness of the feat Divine Metamagic (CD 80), in particular in conjunction with the metamagic feat Persistent Spell (CAr 81).

The case for combining the effects of multiple nightsticks

This is the easier case to make. If a creature who can turn or rebuke undead possesses 1 nightstick, he gains 4 more uses per day of the ability turn or rebuke undead. If the same creature has 2 nightsticks, he gains 4 more uses per day of the ability turn or rebuke undead then gains 4 more more uses per day. A hundred nightsticks? The creature enjoys 400 more turn or rebuke undead attempts per day.1,2

It's that simple.

The case against combining the effects of multiple nightsticks

The case against combining effects is far harder to make because of the obviousness of the case for combining effects. Ernir's answer cites the Player's Handbook's glossary's stacking entry, but there's a crucial line that needs inclusion: stacking is defined as

Combine for a cumulative effect. In most cases, modifiers to a given check or roll stack if they come from different sources and have different descriptors (or no descriptors at all), but do not stack if they have the same descriptors or come from the same source (such as the same spell cast twice in succession). If the modifiers to a particular roll do not stack, only the best bonus or worst penalty applies. Dodge bonuses and circumstance bonus however, do stack with one another unless otherwise specified. Spell effects that do not stack may overlap, coexist independently, or render one another irrelevant, depending on their exact effects. (PH 313)

It's unfortunate that the Player's Handbook doesn't provide examples of the initial part of that definition and fixates instead almost entirely on numeric modifiers, but using the examples provided later in the definition as guidelines, the more uses from a nightstick would no more combine for an additional effect than would the effects of multiple ioun stones (pearly white spindles) (DMG 260) (20,000 gp; 0 lbs.) or (orange prisms) (DMG 260) (30,000 gp; 0 lbs.), which, while they aren't perfectly analogous (no analogy is), are, I hope, close enough to stave off debate.

That is, for the same reason that a Clr1/Pal4 with Cha 18 can't turn undead 14 times per day, that the feats Font of Inspiration and Psionic Talent provide an increase to their respective points that's linear rather than triangular, and that multiple iterations of resistance to the same energy don't combine to one, giant ability to resist that energy, more than one nightstick in a character's possession can't, according to this argument, grant the character more than 4 turn or rebuke undead attempts per day.3

In fact, because the creature has already benefited from an effect that grants him "4 more uses of the ability" to turn or rebuke undead, the creature can't benefit from any effect that grants him "4 more uses of the ability" to turn or rebuke undead until tomorrow when a new per day begins.

(Even this difficult argument can't address the utility value that comes with a party sharing a lone nightstick, likely an unintended consequence of rapid editing.)

Finally, as jan.supol mentions in this answer, the Main FAQ presents the question-and-answer When a cleric has a temporary bonus to his Charisma score, does it affect his turning check or turning damage? Does it change the number of times he can turn or rebuke per day? (12), with the latter being particularly interesting: The FAQ answers that gaining then losing then gaining again uses per day due to ability score increases aren't considered new uses of the ability when gained the second and successive times.

Thence, if extending this ruling to other areas of the game, the same ruling would apply: gaining extra uses of turn or rebuke undead means gaining the same extra uses of turn or rebuke undead, possibly gaining merely already expended uses. Consider, however, that the FAQ is considered by many an unreliable source.

Bear in mind: I'm presenting an argument here, not making one. It just takes a lot longer to present this one than the other.

"What to do?"

Straight-up banning the nightstick is often better and leads to less animosity than allowing the nightstick yet trying to convince folks of the second argument.

For Further Reading

Wizards of the Coast's site redesign leaves me without a direct link to the Apr. 28, 2008, column of "Ask Wizards" (and that column's absent from the archives), yet that column says that

Q: Can a character benefit from multiple nightsticks (Libris Mortis 78) or multiple orange prism ioun stones (DMG 260)?
A: Neither of these items provides extra bonuses in multiples. The rules for stacking (Rules Compendium 21) do not allow untyped bonuses to stack if they come from the same source. However, this does lead to an interesting question: could a character use a nightstick and then grab a second nightstick to use? The Sage recommends Dungeon Masters limit the nightstick and similar items to one a day.

Also, on discussion forums, this is a hill some folks are willing to die on.


1 That this is reasonable way for a Clr20 to spend his gp shows just how valuable nightsticks actually are to the right creature.
2 As a DM I struggle with this reading because I dislike the nightstick yo-yo: A character capable of making turn or rebuke attempts possesses 1 or more nightsticks. He uses the (4 more × nightsticks possessed) turn or rebuke attempts granted by the nightsticks. He drops the nightsticks, losing possession of them. He picks up the nightsticks, regaining possession of them. He then uses the (4 more × nightsticks possessed) turn or rebuke attempts granted by the same nightsticks again. See, as written, the nightsticks don't even care that its the same character; the nightsticks grant an ability and that ability is lost and regained when the nightsticks are dropped then repossessed. Thus each rod grants unlimited use of (4 more × nightsticks possessed) turn or rebuke attempts for minimal outside-of-combat effort. I cannot believe that was the intent, despite the rules saying that happens.
3 This is the same reason that many prestige classes (e.g. arcane trickster, assassin, blackguard) say at the end of the class feature sneak attack that

If [a class] gets a sneak attack bonus from another source the bonuses on damage stack.

Otherwise, the sneak attack damage would just be the highest sneak attack amount from an individual class. The game considers sneak attack extra damage a bonus even though it technically isn't. (By the way, I've never heard of a DM denying a character his sneak attack damage bonus if a class didn't have such language, but I'm sure such classes and DMs exist.)

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By the rules? Yup.

Let's look at the description of the item:

Nightstick: This black rod carved of darkly stained wood is inset with religious symbols of various deities. Anyone who possesses the rod and is able to turn or rebuke undead gains four more uses of the ability per day.

So the wielder definitely gets "more uses of [turn undead] per day". In other words, the item works.

Now let's take a look at the normal D&D stacking rules:

Stacking

In most cases, modifiers to a given check or roll stack (combine for a cumulative effect) if they come from different sources and have different types (or no type at all), but do not stack if they have the same type or come from the same source (such as the same spell cast twice in succession). If the modifiers to a particular roll do not stack, only the best bonus and worst penalty applies. Dodge bonuses and circumstance bonuses however, do stack with one another unless otherwise specified.

Note that the emphasized part limits the scope of the stacking rules to modifiers to checks and rolls. A character's number of Turn Undead uses is not a check or roll - in fact, this particular increase is not even a formal bonus.

Which means that the usual sanity check of the stacking rules doesn't apply. Which again means that if the item works at all (which we established earlier), it works iteratively.

As for other item-based examples directly comparable, I can't think of any. The nightstick is phrased in a rather uniquely troublesome way, although we could argue an analogue with items such as the Sustaining Spoon (a numerical non-check benefit with uses per day). Have two spoons, get twice the amount of gruel.

Caveat

Following the rules here is a bad idea, it is easy enough to make broken Clerics as it is.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I basically agree. This exploit has an easy fix, though. Just rule that Nightsticks can only be used for actually turning/rebuking undead. The rules neither say that explicitly, nor do they contradict it. Here is a related exploit: suppose there are multiple clerics in the party. Cleric A uses a nightstick to turn 4 more times in a day, then hands it to Cleric B. Even though it's the same day, does Cleric B also get 4 extra turn attempts? Again, unclear. I say no. \$\endgroup\$ – Epiphanis Oct 16 '14 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another potential less dramatic fix, that actually has some support in the rules, is to say that only a single Nightstick adds the bonus at a time no matter the number you have. Still abuse-able, but many uses will still burn some turn attempts. \$\endgroup\$ – ltab Oct 16 '14 at 20:08
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Since Nightsticks are so much abused item, I feel an urge to mention another analogy, which I suppose would help with at least the "use nightstick, drop nightstick, possess it again, use it again" mechanism Hey, I Can Chan presents. This one is from FAQ:

When a cleric has a temporary bonus to his Charisma score, does it affect his turning check or turning damage? Does it change the number of times he can turn or rebuke per day?

Unless otherwise stated, a temporary bonus to an ability score has the same effect as a permanent one. For example, a cleric with a temporary +4 enhancement bonus to Charisma (such as from eagle’s splendor) adds 2 to his turning check and to his turning damage while the spell was in effect, since his Charisma modifier is 2 points higher than it was before.

Things get a little stickier when talking about powers with daily limits, such as turn/rebuke undead or lay on hands. (Hold on, because this gets worse before it gets better.) In this case, a change to the key ability score indeed affects the daily limit— in the example above, the cleric would gain 2 additional turn/rebuke attempts per day—but these aren’t just “free” uses. Here’s why:

Assume the cleric above has a normal Charisma score of 12, granting him 4 turn attempts per day (3 + 1 for Cha bonus). Casting eagle’s splendor increases his Charisma to 16, which would grant 6 attempts per day. At the end of the spell, however, his daily limit would drop back down to 4 attempts. At that point, the player must compare the number of daily uses expended to the daily limit to see if any still remain.

Here’s how that might work in play. Our cleric turns undead twice, then casts eagle’s splendor right before a big fight with a horde of zombies. During the duration of the spell, he makes four more turning checks. When the spell ends, he compares his new daily limit (4) to the number of attempts used (6)—whoops, no turns left. Hope all the undead have been destroyed, because even if the cleric cast eagle’s splendor again, he wouldn’t have any more turning attempts available, since he’s already used all 6 of his allotted attempts. If he could increase his Charisma to 18, he’d “gain” one more turning attempt (since he has now used 6 out of his allotted 7 daily attempts), usable only during the duration of the Charismaboosting effect.

The same is true of the paladin’s lay on hands ability. If the paladin gains a temporary Charisma boost, her total capacity of healing via lay on hands improves accordingly, but she must keep track of the healing “used up” to see if any remains after the boost ends.

Temporary ability reductions (such as penalties or damage) work similarly. When applying a reduction, do the math as if a bonus had just elapsed to see if any daily uses are left, and reverse that when the reduction goes away to see what (if anything) the character regains. If our cleric is hit by touch of idiocy and suffers a –4 penalty to Charisma, his daily limit of turning attempts is reduced from 4 to 2; if he’s already used 2 or more, he has none available as long as the spell’s effect lasts.

This seems more complicated than it actually is. As long as you remember that the important number to track is not uses remaining, but uses expended, everything else should fall into place.

As long as one goes with uses expended, possessing nightstick again would not provide another daily uses of turn or rebuke undead, no matter the stacking rule applies or not.

Unfortunately, this expended uses point of view does not help much with having two nightsticks at a time (without the stacking rule). On the other hand, can it help with having three nightsticks?

DMM(Persist) costs 7 turn or rebuke undead uses (i.e. 2 nightsticks, if they stack, and I do not live in a world where they do). The cleric then expends the uses from 2 nightsticks for his DMM and say one turn undead attempt. Then he wants to do it once again, takes another 2 nightsticks, which provides 8 additional turn or rebuke undead uses...depends on how you look at it, but the cleric already expended 8 additional uses, right?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's interesting, and I've added a bit from it to my answer, and upvoted this one, but I worry that as it stands it may not answer the question completely and will attract downvotes. Taking a more confident stance (i.e. answering Yes or No directly) may be useful. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 18 '15 at 11:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Right, I planned this merely as a comment under your post, but it's rather long for being a comment. Format would not fit either. \$\endgroup\$ – jan.supol Jun 18 '15 at 21:38
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I would compare it to the simplest and oldest example I can remember from days past, the Wand of Magic Missiles. The wand can fire x number of MM per day, regardless of who is holding it. The wording of the Nightstick is unfortunate in the way it says "anyone who possesses", but if I were the DM I would simply treat it as a stick with four "charge slots", each of which takes 24 hours to recharge when expended, and having two of them would give you eight extra turn attempts, etc.

Or just to keep it spiritual/divine/mystical, the charges might all reset at midnight sunset or some other set time of the 24-hour period. In either case, I don't view the ability granted by this item as stackable, and in my world I wouldn't treat it as user-specific.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't a terribly useful answer. In 3.5, wands have a limited number of charges that are permanently expended on use, not spent per day. In addition, I'm specifically asking for answers that are backed up by the RAW. I'm well aware of how a DM should reasonably play this item, but I'm looking for rules citations that support one or the other interpretation. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Oct 16 '14 at 20:46

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