Could a party consisting of level 1 players use a wand of cure light wounds to make up for not having a cleric/healer?

The Use Magic Device skill has DC 20 for using wands, level 1 characters probably have very low skill in UMD. (The skill is not present in the beginner-box, but I suppose one could pretend the skill is available and not trained only)

Using it in combat would obviously be quite the long shot. Can you take 20 when using the wand out of combat? the rules say you can't take 10, but it seems rolling a natural 1 would prevent you to try using the wand for 24 hours which means you can't take 20 since there is a chance of negative effect?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you using the beginner box characters? or are players making their own characters? \$\endgroup\$
    – Colin D
    Jul 20, 2016 at 15:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Making own characters, but using beginner box ruleset \$\endgroup\$
    – klogd
    Jul 20, 2016 at 19:57

7 Answers 7


UMD is actually a trained only skill, and a class skill to rogues. So no, you can not assume it is 'present and available'.

However, if one of the group has the skill, and you let the players have or find a wand of healing or similar item, they can use it.

Like you said about taking 20, I would not allow it: taking 20 means "I take so long time that it will not matter how often I try and I can't possibly fail horribly."* This in turn means, it would not be suitable to rescue someone with less than 0 HP, as they can't survive the time needed for this - a horrible outcome - and a natural 1 shuts down the wand - which can be horrible too.

Official wording for taking 20 (emphasis mine):

Taking 20: When you have plenty of time, you are faced with no threats or distractions, and the skill being attempted carries no penalties for failure, you can take 20. In other words, if you roll a d20 enough times, eventually you will get a 20. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the skill check, just calculate your result as if you had rolled a 20.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "I can't possibly fail horribly." I think If you take 20, you can (and game assumes you will) fail horribly, as the game considers you can roll a 1 before getting the 20... I may be wrong though \$\endgroup\$
    – Saryk
    Jul 20, 2016 at 15:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Added the official wording: I meant 'fealing horribly as in 'it won't screw up the whole process if I fail one or two or 19 times.' \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jul 20, 2016 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ what I meant by assuming it was present and available, was in the case you were playing with the Pathfinder beginner box (where the skill is not mentioned). However it looks like a cleric-less party would be better off with potions of cure light wounds instead \$\endgroup\$
    – klogd
    Jul 20, 2016 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Saryk you don't "fail horribly" if you get a 1 in a skill check, and you don't succeed if you get a 20 on a skill check. You just fail with a 1, or succeed with a number higher than the DC. Taking 20 and 10 seems to be the only reasons for natural 1 or 20 not count as criticals on skills. \$\endgroup\$
    – Punkgeon
    Jul 21, 2016 at 7:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Punkgeon Actually no, that wasn't sarcastic... We actually did play with 1's being automatic failures and 20's being automatic successes on skill checks. I found this pretty stupid when my 14th level rogue with 26 DEX, greater shadow armor, 17 ranks (or 14 +3) in stealth and some other bonuses had 5% chance of randomly being spotted by some random dude walking by... But well now I know it's not the case per RAW. \$\endgroup\$
    – Saryk
    Jul 21, 2016 at 10:04

A wand of cure light wounds can substitute for a healer, but it's risky to adventure without someone who can also heal

A wand of cure light wounds costs 750 gp, making it beyond the means of a party of newly created level 1 characters. Nonetheless, this answer assumes the party gets such a wand anyway from, like, a friendly squirrel or whatever. This answer also assumes the party doesn't immediately sell the wand, split the 375 gp 4 ways, each spend 1 gp per day for 3 months living large, then start adventuring for real without the wand. (I can imagine some players deciding not to use such a crutch.) In short, let's say the party both gets and keeps the wand.

If in-combat healing isn't a concern—and, most of the time, it shouldn't be: PCs overcome challenges by breaking foes not by repairing each other—a wand of cure light wounds that can be activated consistently is a fine substitute for a dedicated PC or NPC healer. That is, assuming a party of 4 level 1 PCs has a collective hp total of about 45 and an encounter exhausts 25% of that, a single wand of cure light wounds used after the encounter depletes only 3 or 4 of charges. It's possible a lone wand of cure light wounds could last such a party the entirety of its first level and three or four encounters of its second.

(Keep in mind that such a party—unless it includes wizards or other weak, imperceptive, ugly characters—needn't worry about resting. Their healing dependent upon total charges rather than a creature with limits due to class and level, that party may continue adventuring long after most other parties would've been forced to stop and rest. This might be a concern for the GM as the party may overadventure, exhausting the GM's material. Such a party should then expect to fight an aasimar then an aballonian then an aboleth…)

However, consistency is key. A party of 4 level 1 rogues with one wand of cure light wounds between them and all trained in the skill Use Magic Device—however unlikely—can all fail Use Magic Device skill checks by rolling natural 1s and be unable to heal for the day. (By the way, when one of those rogues makes a Use Magic Device skill check, rolls a 1, and fails the check, he can hand off the wand to another rogue to try it; the 1-and-a-failure doesn't wreck the wand for the day but wrecks that rogue's ability to use the wand for the day: "[I]f you ever roll a natural 1 while attempting to activate an item and you fail, then you can't try to activate that item again for 24 hours." Emphasis mine.)

This possibility of horrible failure makes it almost a necessity that at least one PC have the spell cure light wounds on his spell list so that activating the wand isn't an issue. That such classes include bard, druid, hunter, inquisitor, paladin, and ranger (and many more) means it's likely at least one PC—maybe even accidentally—has a spell list that includes on it cure light wounds. That makes that PC the default after-action healer.

But I wouldn't put my character's life exclusively in the hands of a level 1 rogue with a wand of cure light wounds acting as the party healer unless he somehow managed to get his Use Magic Device skill check modifier with wands to +19. Seriously, a potion of cure light wounds is only 50 gp (thrice and a third more than a charge from the wand), and resting is free.

By the way, the Use Magic Device skill says, "You cannot take 10 with this skill," but that's debatable. However, taking 20—unless success is already assured—is right out: "Since taking 20 assumes that your character will fail many times before succeeding, your character would automatically incur any penalties for failure before he or she could complete the task" like rolling a 1, failing, and not being able to try to use the device anymore that day.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The inability to take-10 with Use Magic Device is only controversial in the presence of something else that says you can; I’m not aware of any way to achieve that at 1st level anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 20, 2016 at 19:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I'm also unaware of such an ability, but it's Pathfinder, so that option hasn't been published yet. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2016 at 19:31

Even with full charges, and some way to use it reliably (house rule on UMD, or a class with Cure Light on its spell list), a Wand of Cure Light Wounds will probably not last very long. It will, however, last plenty long enough to keep the players going until they can replace it, and/or find better alternatives.

This guide to healing is designed for D&D 3.5, but there should be enough overlap to make it useful in a Pathfinder game. The summary is that there are plenty of ways to not require a heal-bot in your party, but you do need to plan it out to make sure you have something available.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for mentioning that rangers can use wands of cure light wounds even if a party lacks Use Magic Device. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jul 21, 2016 at 0:40

Yes, definitely, once they get access to the Wand

As others have already pointed out, beating the DC 20 UMD check is too unreliable for a lvl 1 party, but they should not be trying to beat that check even without a Cleric. Why?

Because of the huge amount of classes who have the Cure Light Wounds spell on their class spell list:

  • Alchemist
  • Bard
  • Cleric (you don't have this guy)
  • Oracle (and neither that guy, most likely)
  • Druid
  • Inquisitor
  • Paladin
  • Ranger
  • Shaman
  • Witch

... and this quote:

Normally, to use a wand, you must have the wand’s spell on your class spell list.

Note that even if they cannot cast this spell at the moment (level 4 Ranger) or even cannot cast any spells at all (level 1 Paladin), the spell is still on their class spell list even if they are level 1.

This means that if your party includes anyone from that list, this guy shouldn't bother with either preparing any healing spells or learning UMD for the purposes of using this Wand, and your party shouldn't bother with any other means of out-of-combat healing besides getting access to the Wand of CLW as soon as possible, as it is the most money-effective way of out-of-combat healing.

What goes to the price -- well, you would not be able to start your game with the Wand, but if your party combines its gold after 2 encounters, the Wand becomes definitely affordable.

This may be a not so bad option, provided that preventing damage by disabling your opponents is generally more effective than healing it during combat, and given very low HP of level 1 characters, you may probably really leave healing for the time when your combat ends.

If you don't have those guys in your party, you may ask for some help from level 1 NPC Adept, as that NPC would have CLW on their list and able to cast it on you from your Wand.


As Trish said, Use Magic Device is a trained-only skill available to Rogues mainly. From Pathfinder SRD :

Since taking 20 assumes that your character will fail many times before succeeding, your character would automatically incur any penalties for failure before he or she could complete the task (hence why it is generally not allowed with skills that carry such penalties).

In this very case this means the character trying to take 20 on the UMD check wont be able to activate the wand for the rest of day before even actually activating the healing spell. So even out of combat you'd better roll the dice and hope for the best.

Regarding the use of it for 1st level characters, a 1st level Rogue should have 1 rank in UMD which grants a +4 to the roll. He could have anywhere between 8-14 Charisma for a fighter Rogue, more like 14-16 for a diplomatic/bluffing rogue ; which gives between +3 and +7 to the roll against a DC 20.

This should definitely NOT be the only source of healing for the party. Potions are a better solution.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited my answer for calrity :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Saryk
    Jul 21, 2016 at 14:58

The question only asks about "healing" wands yet the details of the question cover Cure Light Wounds in particular. Though as long as you have a Wizard, Sorcerer, Magus, Summoner or Witch you don't need a wand of Cure Light Wounds, you only need a Wand of Infernal Healing. As it's a spell on their spell list they can cast it with no check needed.

Fast healing 1 over 10 rounds heals 10hp over 1 minute. This is very good for how it is not only reliably almost double what Cure Light Wounds gets on average, it's better than CLW at it's best roll. The most vital aspect is the reliability, you can simply say "zap zap zap, minus three charges, you each add +10 to your hit points".

this is important for saving time around the table instead of rolling 1d8 so many times not to mention the 1d20's to succeed on a UMD check with a wand of Cure Light Wounds.

This can be economical not only at low levels but every level.

Note on alignment issues:

The target detects as an evil creature for the duration of the spell and can sense the evil of the magic, though this has no long-term effect on the target’s alignment.

This is not inherently antithetical for a good character, it is only a matter of detecting as evil, not necessarily being evil. It's up to GM and Player discretion if a Paladin would use such healing.

There are other means of healing such as Troll Styptic. Works similarly to Infernal healing though is much more expensive, the way I used this as GM is when the party barely scrapes through a fight with a sliver of HP left and more fights to go then if they search the bodies/bags of their antagonists they find they had a few doses of Troll Styptic they were going to save for themselves.

As the players would use the Troll Styptic immediately it doesn't factor into their expected wealth gains.

Potions of Cure Light Wounds are great for mid-battle emergencies on the rare occasion you really NEED to heal in the battle rather than continue fighting.

Though a good investment might be a Shawl of Life Keeping this is a far better way of getting emergency healing in combat. It's basically a high CL potion of cure light wounds ready to be administered the moment you actually need it at no cost of anyone's action economy.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Wow, those are all some pretty gritty treatment methods. Even the shawl, if someone else gets ahold of it. But they do get the job done. \$\endgroup\$
    – tzxAzrael
    Jul 21, 2016 at 0:51

I would say no, unless someone has CLW on their spell list and does not need to use UMD to activate the wand. There are a number of options to resolve your healing problem, though:

Instead of a wand, create a worn magic item (or set of items) that contain healing charges that are either limited or have a number of charges per day. You can choose to give them to everyone or one player that can activate them on anyone. I think it would be balanced to be able to activate a charge as an action or move to heal yourself. Because they utilize low level healing (e.g. CLW) they quickly become less useful (or burn out if you do limited charges).

Add in a rule to incorporate 4e like healing surges or 5e like hit dice healing. This turns healing into a secondary concern, with potions being used in battle and any real healing happening during a rest. I like the way 5e hit dice healing works (but be sure to control how often a "long rest" can occur, otherwise they will take one after every 2 encounters).

Waive the UMD rule for the party for healing items, or give them a special CLW wand that can be used by anyone (give it a cool name like the Benevolent Light of Pelor). Be sure to make it clear that the UMD rules are still in effect for everything else, as they are important for balance.


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