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In the header of the metamagic rod description is a section CL, e.g for the Quicken Rod

Aura strong (no school); CL 17th; Weight 5 lbs.

What is the CL information for? First of I thought it is a requirement for crafting a rod, but then it would be under Construction Requirements. The spells CL is depending on the Caster who casts the spells. So I am not sure what the CL information is for.

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2 Answers 2

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Magic Item Descriptions on Caster Level says

The next item in a notational entry gives the caster level of the item, indicating its relative power. The caster level determines the item's saving throw bonus, as well as range or other level-dependent aspects of the powers of the item (if variable). It also determines the level that must be contended with should the item come under the effect of a dispel magic spell or similar situation.

For potions, scrolls, and wands, the creator can set the caster level of an item at any number high enough to cast the stored spell but not higher than her own caster level. For other magic items, the caster level is determined by the item itself.

So usually the caster level of a magic item is the caster level the magic item uses when the magic item's bearer activates the magic item to generate the magic item's effect. That caster level is usually either at least the minimum caster level needed to cast the spells necessary for the item's creation or set by the game's designers arbitrarily.

In the case of the metamagic rod (quicken), the caster level appears arbitrary as no spells are involved in the rod's creation. Thus the main function of the rod's caster level is resisting attempts to temporarily negate the rod's magic using an effect like the spell dispel magic:

If the object that you target is a magic item, you make a dispel check against the item's caster level (DC = 11 + the item's caster level). If you succeed, all the item's magical properties are suppressed for 1d4 rounds, after which the item recovers its magical properties. A suppressed item becomes nonmagical for the duration of the effect.

The rod's (really high and seemingly arbitrary) caster level therefore lessens the chance of the bearer being put in the embarrassing situation of having spent, like, 20,000 gp on a magic item only to have some level 5 wizard come along and cast dispel magic on it so the metamagic rod (quicken) is just a stick when it's needed most!

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I'm pretty sure the caster level of 17 on a metamagic rod refers to the greater version. Greater rods function on spells up to 9th level, which would explain the CL 17 (9th level spells are CL 17). Since regular rods work for spells up to 6th level and lesser rods for 3rd, that would make regular rods CL 11 and lesser rods CL 5. CL on items is also used to set the difficulty of crafting. It seems ridiculous for a lesser rod to be as difficult to create as a greater rod.

This is how I would house rule it anyway.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 5:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you back up that this is the case based on game rules? Please see our citation expectations for objective answers. In particular the querent is looking to better understand how the game works. Personal rulings are already a given, and don't tend to be helpful in and of themselves. While your interpretation seems like it may be plausible, can you cite text in the rulebook to back it up as correct? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 17, 2019 at 9:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Those rules were reprinted in Ultimate Equipment (pg187-188), and there is no such thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 11:32

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