Does Feeblemind prevent characters from activating magic items when not using use magic device skill? Specifically I am thinking of wands.


The affected creature is unable to use Intelligence- or Charisma-based skills, cast spells, understand language, or communicate coherently.


Wands use the spell trigger activation method, so casting a spell from a wand is usually a standard action that doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity.

Spell Trigger Activation

Spell trigger activation is similar to spell completion, but it's even simpler. No gestures or spell finishing is needed, just a special knowledge of spellcasting that an appropriate character would know, and a single word that must be spoken. Spell trigger items can be used by anyone whose class can cast the corresponding spell. This is the case even for a character who can't actually cast spells, such as a 3rd-level paladin. The user must still determine what spell is stored in the item before she can activate it. Activating a spell trigger item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

So Feeblemind prevents you from casting your own spells, as well as prevents you from being able to use use magic devices. But if the wand contains a spell on your spell list, you don't use UMD. It gets weird with magic items because while you cast the spell (for purposes of held touch spells, casting from a wand does discharge any held touch spell you have) you both do and don't. "You" cast the spell but generally don't use any statistics of your own for the results of the spell cast.


2 Answers 2



Your excellently researched question seems to contain all the information needed to answer the question, just interpreted differently.

First, the Feeblemind description prohibits you from casting spells, not casting spells from your class list. Since the Wand description specifies that you cast the spell from the wand, I think it's reasonable to say it's you casting the spell, not the wand. As such, I don't think a Feebleminded character can cast with a wand.

Second, Feeblemind prohibits you from understanding language or communicating clearly. Spell Trigger Activation requires you to speak a word. An alternative interpretation I see is I can learn a phrase in a foreign language phonetically without speaking that language. Perhaps that would be enough. I don't consider these compatible, but your DM might.

Third, the Spell Trigger Activation rule refers to characters whose class eventually allows spellcasting (the Paladin). In this case, the Pally isn't facing an explicit prohibition from casting spells; their class progression simply hasn't gotten them there yet. The very specific case of Feeblemind contradicts the more general case of your Class and the Activation rule. As such, I'd say this also prevents you from using wands to cast spells while Feebleminded.

While I don't see a clear smoking gun here, I think there's enough evidence to say that a Feeblemind victim can't use wands.


Strictly, a feebleminded creature can't activate a wand

Wands on Activation says, in part, that

Wands use the spell trigger activation method, so casting a spell from a wand is usually a standard action that doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity.… To activate a wand, a character must hold it in hand… and point it in the general direction of the target or area.

(Emphasis mine.) So, while exceptional rules surround it, casting a spell from a wand nonetheless remains, technically, casting a spell, and a creature affected by the spell feeblemind "is unable… to cast spells." However, such a ruling does complicate the rules a bit, reverberating throughout the system and raising additional question, so it's possible the GM may, instead, consider the following:

Can the feebleminded creature wave a stick and speak a word?

To review, to activate a wand, in addition to the creature having the spell on its spell list, the creature must hold the wand in an appendage, point the wand in the general direction where the wand's effect will occur, and—as a wand is a spell trigger activated magic item—speak the single word that activates the wand.

With this in mind, a creature that possesses a spell list and that's still anatomically capable of A) holding a stick, B) waving a stick, and C) forming words—even if the creature doesn't know what those words mean—possibly can be trained to activate a wand even if the creature's affected by the spell feeblemind.

That is, while the spell's effect prevents the creature from casting spells and causes the "creature's Intelligence and Charisma ability score each [to] drop to 1" and renders the creature "unable to understand language… or communicate coherently," the affected creature is not rendered wholly mute nor does the spell render the creature anatomically incapable of speech. (At least, this GM assumes the spell doesn't change the creature's anatomy, the spell not saying it does. By the way, anatomy is, for example, what prevents an at-least-Intelligence 3 animal from speaking—yet not learning or understanding—a language via, for example, the skill Linguistics; more on that here.)

The Handle Animal skill says, "You can use this skill on a creature with an Intelligence score of 1 or 2 that is not an animal, but the DC of any such check increases by 5," so this GM suggests that an ally that wants such a creature to activate a wand make a Handle Animal skill check to push the creature to perform a trick it doesn't know (DC 30), the trick Activate Wand. (Such a trick is obviously so uncommon as to go unmentioned by the Handle Animal skill's list of Common Tricks.) This GM also suggests that if the ally wants to actually train the creature to perform the trick Activate Wand upon being successfully handled that such training takes 1 week and requires the ally succeed on a Handle Animal skill check (DC maybe 25 but in this non-animal case 30? Ask the GM). This player urges using for training purposes, for example, a wand of virtue instead of, like, a wand of fireball. (It's the GM's call as to whether each wand is a different trick, but keep in mind that, as per the skill Handle Animal, an Intelligence 1 creature has "the same limit on tricks known as animals do.")

The GM may dodge even this workaround by ruling that the creature affected by the spell feeblemind can't even "understand speech" as a concept (limiting the already burdensome creature to instinctual barks, growls, and whines in response to real or imagined stimuli), therefore the creature can't "communicate coherently" with the wand. While such a ruling seems strained to this GM, this player wouldn't abandon a campaign over it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So, it turns out our barbarian isnt a barbarian, but some poor farmer whos been under the effects of feeblemind for many years.... \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Dec 26, 2016 at 22:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Fering A barbarian in a D&D 3.5e campaign I DMed was, in fact, affected by the spell feeblemind and, after reading the description a couple of times, the table agreed--including the barbarian's player--that, honestly, that wasn't really a significant change. Nonetheless, just to be sure, the party got him repaired shortly thereafter. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 26, 2016 at 23:15

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