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I've been going through the DMG's magic item list, and I notice some wands & staves require attunement without specifying "by a spellcaster". An example is the Wand of Magic Missiles.

Is it the designers' intent that a non-spellcaster be able to fire magic missiles with that wand? Or should this be treated as errata?

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Is it the designers' intent that a non-spellcaster be able to fire magic missiles with that wand? Or should this be treated as errata?

This absolutely looks like designers' intent.

The Wands have a variety of restrictions on attunement and they seem to be connected to the rarity / power of the wand.

  • Uncommon: Magic Detection, Magic Missiles, Secrets, Web^
  • Rare: Binding^^, Enemy Detection^, Fear^, Fireballs^^, Lightning Bolts^^, Paralysis^^, Wonder^^
  • Very Rare: Polymorph^^

^ attunement

^^ attunement by spellcaster

More powerful spell wands have a more restrictive attunement requirement. This seems intentional. If you look at the various magical Staves many of them have even more specific requirements than the wands. Like the Staff of Healing requiring attunement by a Bard, Cleric or Druid.

From the rules on creating your own magic item, here is the excerpt on Attunement (DMG 285).

Use these rules of thumb to help you decide:

  • If having all the character in a party pass an item around to gain its lasting benefits would be disruptive, the item should require attunement.
  • If the item grants a bonus that other items also grant, it's a good idea to require attunement so that characters don't try to collect too many of those items.

That last point is really important here.

Do I care if the Rogue has 5 Wands of Detect Magic? Probably not. It's not a really powerful spell. Do I care if the Wizard is walking around with 5 Wands of Fireball? Absolutely! What about the Barbaian? Even more so!

The restrictions not only seem intentional, they seem rational and balanced. Especially given how many classes get access to some magic at some point. I think everyone but the Barbarian has some magic using archetype.

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If a magic item requires attunement but doesn't specify that it needs to be by any classes or a spellcaster, it can be attuned to any one creature. E.G. (requires attunement).

If a magic item has specific prerequisites for attunement, such as a spellcaster or classes, it is stated (in parentheses) and can only be attuned to a creature that meets those specific requirements. E.G. (requires attunement by a spellcaster) or (requires attunement by a bard, cleric, or druid).

If a magic item doesn't require attunement at all, it can be used by anyone.

This is how it's intended to work and it works as intended unless official errata comes out and states otherwise.

To back up these claims we have page 136 of the DMG:

Attunement

Some magic items require a creature to form a bond with them before their magical properties can be used. This bond is called attunement, and certain items have a prerequisite for it. If the prerequisite is a class, a creature must be a member of that class to attune to the item. ¹

So if we look at the Wand of Magic Missiles, it doesn't require attunement at all so it can be picked up and used by anyone at any time (so long as it still has charges left).
If we look at the Wand of Enemy Detection, it requires attunement but doesn't specify that it needs to be by a spellcaster so it can be attuned and used by any one creature.
And if we look at the Wand of Fireballs, it requires attunement and it's specified that it needs to be by a spellcaster so it can only be attuned and used by a spellcaster. ²


  1. While it doesn't say anything about the requirement for being a spellcaster, the same rules apply (you need to be a spellcaster to attune to the item).

  2. See this question with regards to what is considered a spellcaster for the purposes of attunement.

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Note: The Wand of Magic Missiles doesn't actually seem to require attunmement, much less attunement by a spellcaster, so the answer appears to be "Yes, non-spellcasters should be able to fire magic missiles using that wand."

The same seems to be true of the Wand of Magic Detection, and Wand of Secrets, while the Wand of Enemy Detection, and the Wand of Fear do require attunement, but have no prerequisite. Out of 13 wands, it appears that 3 don't require attunement at all, and 2 can become attuned to anyone.

On a more general note, the section on attunement (DMG p136) says:

Some magic items require a creature to form a bond with them before their magical properties can be used. This bond is called attunement, and certain items have a prerequisite for it. If the prerequisite is a class, a creature must be a member of that class to attune to the item. (If the class is a spellcasting class, a monster qualifies if that monster has spell slots and uses that class's spell list.

That seems to indicate that unless a prerequisite is specified to be able to attune with the item, then anyone can do so.

Another example of a 'spellcasting' item that anyone can attune to/with is the Ring of Spell Storing (DMG p192).

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protected by Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 1 '15 at 0:37

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