Is there any benefit to a Use Magic Device modifier over 27 for a Warlock? It seems like the maximum check you would ever need is to cast a level 9 spell from a scroll, which is 20+17. Am I missing anything, or is that the hard cap to the skill (since I don't care about deciphering someone's spellbook)? For example, let's say there is some scroll that you must be evil to cast, and I'm chaotic neutral, and it's a level 9 spell -- the alignment check seems to become unimportant because the check to cast the level 9 spell is higher (30 vs 37). Since I can just take 10, then if I have a 27 modifier, that's pretty much endgame for UMD. Am I missing anything?

It seems like it would be more fair if the difficulties somehow combined, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Because of that, I just wanted to make absolutely sure I wasn't missing something.

(warlocks can take 10 on use magic device after level 4)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ How come you can take 10? Is there a class feature I'm missing? Looking around I don't see anything allowing a warlock to take 10 on UMD checks. \$\endgroup\$
    – DRF
    Mar 27, 2017 at 7:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Level 4 warlock ability. May be worth mentioning this in the question since it kees coming up. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Mar 27, 2017 at 12:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Hmm the SRD doesn't list it. That's the broken bit IMO gaining a +10 on such a check is a big deal though I suppose going by raw you only can't try again for 24 hours on a 1. We house ruled loss of charge/scroll on >5 off. \$\endgroup\$
    – DRF
    Mar 27, 2017 at 13:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DRF Rogues can maybe take 10 on UMD checks too. rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/79123/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Mar 28, 2017 at 4:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, but rogues can't use a UMD check to craft any magic item in the game :-) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2017 at 4:51

4 Answers 4


There may be several reasons to pump your Use Magic Device higher:

  • Your UMD (or, indeed, any) skill may be decreased by conditions such as Shaken, Sickened, Energy Drained or Charisma Damage. Which would make you roll on the check which you previously could succeed effortlessly. So if you rely on being able to always make that 37 UMD check, you might want a small buffer to accommodate penalties.

  • Spell scrolls do not have to be the minimum caster level for that spell (the randomly generated ones are, however). If you are commissioning a scroll from a wizard or cleric, they can make it as high as their CL. And there are very good reasons to commission (and cast) a scroll of, for example, CL20 Magic Vestment or CL30 Holy Word, if you can find a caster that powerful.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So for a non-epic campaign, assuming I want to live dangerously, I would need a 30 instead of 27 to account for scrolls prepared by a level 20 caster? That makes sense. That's still very doable by level 12, though. Seems a bit strong. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2017 at 6:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It depends on your campaign. Even if the PCs are level 15, there might be an NPC cleric 25 somewhere (in the outer planes), who might sell you a scroll if he likes you. There are also ways to pump your CL above your level, such as the Orange Ioun Stone, Ring of Arcane Might (MIC), and cheese involving (Greater) Consumptive Field (SC) and Persistent Spell (CAr), which may or may not provide access to higher CL scrolls. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gedas
    Mar 27, 2017 at 6:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gedas Cheese? You mean stuff like using Ultimate Magus to buff the same class twice? Or just about anything done with Master Spellthief? \$\endgroup\$
    – Weckar E.
    Mar 27, 2017 at 8:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. Or the Theurgic Creationist feat with Ultimate Magus or Mystic Theurge. I have no hope of listing all the possible options. I meant cheese in the sense of it being very powerful as written, but not fun to actually play with. I can no longer edit that comment to make it clearer, unfortunately. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gedas
    Mar 27, 2017 at 8:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "buffer", when you're already crippled is NOT the time you want your regular "get out of jail" card to fail on you. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2017 at 14:12

A Use Magic Device skill modifier of +27 (therefore, for a warlock, assuring a result of 37) is likely high enough for most purposes. It's only if a warlock must emulate a very high-level class feature that an even higher result becomes desirable. That is, the Use Magic Device skill use Emulate a Class Feature says

Sometimes you need to use a class feature to activate a magic item. In this case, your effective level in the emulated class equals your Use Magic Device check result minus 20. For example, Lidda finds a magic chalice that turns regular water into holy water when a cleric or an experienced paladin channels positive energy into it as if turning undead. She attempts to activate the item by emulating the cleric’s undead turning ability. Her effective cleric level is her check result minus 20. Since a cleric can turn undead at 1st level, she needs a Use Magic Device check result of 21 or higher to succeed. (Player's Handbook 86)

With a guaranteed result of 37, this means emulating level 17 class features automatically, but to emulate even high-level class features will require a roll. Although I am unaware of, for example, a magic item that only work for a monk that possesses the class feature perfect self, were one to exist, a warlock with only a Use Magic Device modifier of +27 must roll to make that magic item work.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, so basically UMD checks if you can take 10 are a "roll vs highest difficulty" and not a "roll vs combined difficulty" then . . . I think I'll plan my warlock for a +27, then. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2017 at 4:45

Realistically, a +10 bonus is the highest one you’re really likely to want. That allows you to take-10 to hit the DC 20 check for using a magic wand. Scrolls are far, far less efficient than wands, which means a warlock heavily focusing in magic items (which is a good idea) should be focusing in wands.

That said, supposing you want to use scrolls you come across in your travels, then no, +27 is not necessarily sufficient. In fact, there is no number that is necessarily guaranteed to work. The caster level of a scroll need not be the minimum for the scroll level, and even in a non-epic campaign, caster level 20th is not a limit. Even in core, just off the top of my head we could have a scroll made while under the effects of an orange ioun stone and prayer bead of karma for caster level 25th. With supplements, that number can get arbitrarily high—that is, no matter how high your UMD check is, it will always be possible for someone to have a higher caster level than you can hit.

So after +10, you start to get much less utility from UMD bonuses, and after +27, you are really looking at a very limited subset of magical items that you cannot use, but there still can be some that you can’t.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A CL21 item is an epic item, and thus requires an epic crafting feat. (cite.) Otoh, that limit isn't specified in core, so it works if by "non-epic campaign" you mean "ignoring all of the rules introduced by the Epic Level Handbook." \$\endgroup\$
    – Topquark
    Mar 27, 2017 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @topquark Ignoring all rules introduced by the Epic Level Handbook is usually what “non-epic” means (and is furthermore almost-always for the best). \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 27, 2017 at 17:57

I found a Q&A by Rich Baker (archived here) in which he states you cannot use the warlock ability Deceive Item when crafting. As such, if you want to craft an item that requires a level 9 divine spell, you need to roll a DC 25 + spell level check. So you need at least a 33 UMD in order to be able to always hit a DC 34 target.

So, Warlock max UMD is therefore +33 unless you do not want to craft items, in which case it is +30 for use of caster level 20 items on a take 10 deceive item roll.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It is worth noting that 1. Rich Baker’s ruling here is completely at odds with the rules for taking-10 as well as the rules for the deceive item ability, which means an errata would be required to have this ruling be “official,” and 2. despite being the author of the warlock class, Rich Baker was not authorized by WotC to unilaterally errata Complete Arcane, and certainly wasn’t dispensing official errata via forum thread. Complete Arcane had an errata file, and this change was not included in it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 17, 2017 at 19:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you read Deceive Item, though, the language is clear that deceive item can only be applied to UMD checks to use a device. Imbue Item is not a UMD check to use a device, it is a UMD check to build a device. Since you cannot take 10 on UMD checks, and Deceive Item only allows you to take 10 on UMD checks when using a device, I believe his comment here is accurate without the need for any errata. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2017 at 20:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is not clear at all. “When making a Use Magic Device check, a warlock can take 10 even if distracted or threatened” is the sum total of rules text found in the ability, and it makes absolutely no statement about what the UMD check is being used for. Moreover, even the fluff at the start doesn’t mention activation at all—“more easily commandeer magic items made for the use of other characters” is the line used. The items a warlock makes are still not items for a warlock, they are still for other characters. The warlock still has to commandeer the item that he himself is making. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 17, 2017 at 20:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ "At 4th level and higher, a warlock has the ability to more easily commandeer magic items made for the use of other characters." I believe this line makes clear the intention of the rule. The implication would be to apply the following sentence in situations allowed by this line, but if you ignore this line, then you are correct. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2017 at 21:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ You believe wrongly. That line could mean that—and Rich’s post suggests maybe he thinks it should—but it does not clearly mean that. And in any case, intro descriptions like that should—I would argue—be ignored in general. In practice, they usually are. So I think your answer would be improved by a more nuanced discussion of the situation. Finally, on a separate note, Rich’s proposed ruling would be a horrible nerf to an already-weak class. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 17, 2017 at 21:54

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