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Our party recently acquired a staff of defense. Apart from the AC bonus, it also lets you:

With the staff in hand, you can use your action to cast one of the following spells from the staff if the spell is on your class's spell list: mage armor (1 charge) or shield (2 charges).

Now the only primary spellcaster in our party is a warlock, who doesn't have either spell in their spell list. Beyond that, we have a warrior, rogue, ranger, and druid.

How can we gain the entire benefits of the staff?

I've thought of taking the Magic Initiate Feat, but I'm at a loss for how else we could get its full benefits.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What level are the party members? What class option did the warrior and rogue select? \$\endgroup\$ – Tiwaz Tyrsfist Jul 12 '16 at 22:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ The characters just reached level 3 at the ends of last session. They're leveling up during this break. \$\endgroup\$ – mklauber Jul 12 '16 at 23:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ FYI, Magic Initiate doesn't add any of the spells to your class's spell list. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Dec 7 '17 at 15:16
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The Hexblade patron adds shield to the class list. This is a warlock patron offered in an Unearned Arcana playtest document, so your DM would have to allow playtest material.

If your warlock can somehow change patrons to Hexblade (not normally possible), then shield would be on your warlock's spell list.

Otherwise, if multiclassing is allowed in your campaign, one of the other PCs could take one level of warlock and choose the Hexblade patron to get shield.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for posting. Can you expand your answer to explain what you mean? And provide citations? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 8 '18 at 17:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ I edited this to include what I think are the minimal implications of the original one-line suggestion. I wouldn't say it's now a complete look at the suggestion, but I think it now explicitly covers the most obvious consequences/assumptions built into the basic suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '18 at 19:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ On the note of Multiclassing, leveling into a Sorcerer can provide Shield without inefficiency, as it uses the same ability scores as a Warlock. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Aug 3 '18 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Update that Hexblade is now an official thing? \$\endgroup\$ – Gates VP Nov 14 '18 at 18:31
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Short answer is no.

The staff requires that you have the spells in your spell list in order to use them. This is similar to many magical items, in particular scrolls.

So your warlock will only be able to use the AC bonus. This is RAW.

However there is another option that would be up to the DM's discretion that would allow the Warlock to cast Mage Armor, but not Shield. The Warlock gains access to Eldritch Invocations starting at the second level. One of those invocations is Mage Armor with the restriction that he can only cast it on himself. If the DM were to accept these Eldritch Invocations as an addition to the spell list already specified for Warlocks, then the Warlock would be allowed to cast Mage Armor. Again this is something that the DM would make the final call on.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The DM might rule that the Warlock can only use the Staff's Mage Armor effect on himself, too. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Carney Jul 11 '16 at 21:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, However of note: Armor of Shadows doesn't say it adds Mage Armor to the Warlock spell list, only that he can cast it on himself so long as he has that Invocation. It's a subtle difference, but an important distinction. An argument can be made that the spell the Warlock is casting is actually called Armor of Shadows and simply functions very similarly to mage armor. For example, Agonizing Blast or Eldritch Spear requires you have Eldritch Blast as a Cantrip already, they do not grant you it. Last point of proof, Invocations don't count against spells known for Warlocks. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Jul 12 '16 at 16:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ To piggyback on @LinoFrankCiaralli's good point, I think that even if you say it's straight-up mage armor that the warlock is casting, I'd argue that it's not being added to the warlock list. It's just a spell the warlock has access to via invocation, not via spell list. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 13 '16 at 0:06
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If the Warlock meets the prerequisites to dual class as a Wizard or Sorcerer, per page 285 of the PHB, Mage Armor and Shield would appear on spell lists.

Editorial: being able to access the spells on the staff isn't worth multi-classing. The short term cost of stunting growth as a warlock isn't out weighed by access to the two spells and a level of wizard/sorcerer. Mixing pact magic and pure spell casting is suboptimal.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate both the suggestion and the insight, thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – mklauber Jul 11 '16 at 20:00
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How can we gain the entire benefits of the staff?

So, there isn't really a way for the Warlock to use the staff to it's full potential without dipping into another class, however since your group is just hitting level 3, if the Fighter chose the Eldritch Knight Archetype, or the Rogue chose the Arcane Trickster Archetype, they would be casters, who would use the Wizard Spell list, and therefore qualify to activate the Mage Armor and Shield abilities of the staff.

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RAW, the option is simply not available for a Warlock without multi-classing.

That stated, the staff is actually quite powerful. Please remember that it:

  • Grants you a +1 bonus to AC.
  • Counts as a magical weapon, so it's useful against things like Gargoyles and Werewolves and Elementals.

Almost everyone is proficient with the quarterstaff and it doesn't seem to require attunement so everyone can use it without using a "slot". While it's not "optimal" for you party, please don't discount the value, it's at least as good as an Uncommon item even without the charges.

Keep it around for its current utility and look to leverage it later. If you find a Wizard from whom you need a major favour, this staff is likely a good bargaining chip.

Now, if you really want to use it with a character, I would talk to the DM about some type of trade-off.

  • The Rogue/Thief archetype has a "Use Magic Device" ability that gets around this limitation. This ability is probably worth a Feat. Such a Feat does not exist, but is well within game balance.
  • You could dip for a level of Sorcerer. This is sub-optimal, but not really a complete waste as you can cast your Sorcerer spells using your Warlock spell slots.
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