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For context, I'm puzzling over the larger question of "what, really, is the difference between a rod and a wand?" Obviously one is larger and heavier, so encumbrance might be one consideration.

I don't need a taxonomy of the magical items--"wands generally do this while rods generally do that" is something I could chart up on my own. (I once thought charges were the defining charateristic of wands, but that's not it.)

I'm more interested in "Artifact X destroys wands, but not rods," or "spell Y only works when cast from a rod." Are there elements in the game other than the rods and wands that notice whether something is a rod or a wand?

Put another way: if I'm a GM creating a magic item, aside from encumbrance and flavor text, what are the implications of choosing between a rod and a wand?


For reference, the relevant DMG descriptions from pp.139-140:

Rods

A scepter or just a heavy cylinder, a magic rod is typically made of metal, wood, or bone. It's about 2 or 3 feet long, 1 inch thick, and 2 to 5 pounds.

Wands

A magic wand is about 15 inches long and crafted of metal, bone, or wood. It is tipped with metal, crystal, stone, or some other material.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Historically, "rods tend to do this and wands tend to do that" is exactly the difference. If any other minor distinctions have arisen in 5e, they're tacked onto that basic distinction inherited from its ancestors. (If 5e were created from whole cloth today, likely rods would not exist.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 20 '15 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's probably OK as-is. Though if your practical issue is as in the example (wanting to know if there is any reason to choose one over the other when creating new items as DM), it could be retooled to directly ask that. It's ok either way, just slightly awkward now, but awkward is OK. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 20 '15 at 18:30
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You asked specificly not for a taxonomy of behavior difference, but I think one is essential to the answer you are looking for.

Game mechanically, rods may or may not have charges. Wands always have charges. Thematically, rods are more like Wonderous Items which do WeirdStuff(tm), while wands are basically limited to being stored-spell dispensers. Wands cast spells, and that's basically it. Rods can cast spells, but can also do other non-spell-specific things.

As for the GM magic item, if what it does is cast a spell, it should probably be made a wand. If what it does is something other than cast a spell, it should probably be a rod. If it casts lots of different spells, it should be a staff.

I'm less conversant with 5e, so this next bit may not be relevant, but in Pathfinder there were archetypes (e.g. Magus with 'Wand Wielder') which could do things specifically with wands as part of their class feature, which could not be done with rods. That's just an example of a similar rule set making a distinction. I'd look to any character classes in 5e with the word "Wand " in any of their descriptions when looking for game mechanical differences between wands and rods.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As a historical note, in 3.5 all wands were limited-use consumables (they had a finite number of non-replenishing charges), while the majority of rods were permanant items granting either at-will or X-times-per-day abilities. \$\endgroup\$ – Toby Y. Aug 21 '15 at 4:53
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A rod can be used as an improvised weapon (a club or, if really heavy, a mace).

A wand cannot be used as a weapon. It is too light and/or too fragile.

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