I'm converting to a adventure and one magic item found in the adventure is a wand of paralyzation that "projects a cone-shaped ray… 60' long and 30' wide at its end. A creature struck by the ray must" make a saving throw. Failure means the creature is paralyzed for 1 hour.

I'm struggling with this because A) I don't know of any equivalent 3.5e spell or magic item that creates an effect like the wand's effect, and B) I worry that any equivalent 3.5e magic item that creates an effect like the wand's effect risks being too valuable to hang on to!

See, whatever effect the converted wand of paralyzation employs must function both on creatures that are immune to mind-affecting effects like oozes and vermin and on creatures that need not make saving throws against effects mandating a Fortitude saving throw unless the effect also affects objects like constructs and undead (which are, of course, also immune to mind-affecting effects).

Keep in mind that constructs, dragons, eladrins (?!), oozes, and undead are all immune to actual paralysis, so despite the item's name, the 3.5e effect is unlikely to cause the condition paralyzed. Also, the adventure is for level 1 PCs, so, while the item generating the effect can be powerful— because in the original adventure it has but 7 of its original 50 charges remaining—the item can't be so powerful that the players feel (or, worse, actually are) stupid for keeping the item rather than selling it.

Below are details from The Keep on the Borderlands (1981) describing my understanding of the item's importance to the adventure:

The PCs can find the wand of paralyzation in area 30, the hobgoblin chieftain's quarters. Adjacent to the hobgoblin lair but through the gnoll lair is—I'm not making this up—the Temple of Evil Chaos, wherein at least one encounter sees all but the most careful and lucky PCs confront a horde of—and I swear that I'm not making this up, either—twenty skeletons and twenty zombies. At once. The wand of paralyzation seems to be the only thing in the adventure that would allow the PCs to survive such an onslaught. That there are another clutch of 8 skeletons and another band of a dozen zombies elsewhere in the temple really makes me wonder how this place smells. Also—but of secondary concern—, elsewhere in the adventure three gray oozes (?!) can dissolve a group of PCs that is not equipped with the wand.

I welcome a frame challenge that upsets my understanding of the item's necessity, since a successful challenge means I can substitute a much more (ahem) basic item like a custom staff of mass hold monster [ench] (PH 241) (9th-level spell at caster level 17) (300 gp plus 2,295 gp/charge; 4 lbs.) with, like, 2 charges or something. A straight conversion of the wand of paralyzation is also acceptable, but such a conversion should be done in accordance with 3.5e's item creation guidelines.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That wand may have 'broken the rules' for the game it was made for too; hold monster, according to the D&D Rules Cylopedia (1991) also failed to affect undead; only living targets were affected. So actually just making the wand appears to be the right thing to do; pricing it looks to be tough. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 8:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ The 1 HOUR duration of the paralysis also seems way beyond any common paralysis spells. Hold Monster only lasts 1 ROUND per caster level. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 8:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding replicating the essential effect, how close are you looking for? Would making the targets immobile work, or are you looking for helpless? \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 8:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus The item should permit the PCs to weather the onslaught described in the spoiler in a fashion close enough to the effects of the wand of paralyzation. So, yeah, I dunno? I mean, to give you an idea, I almost didn't pose the question because I thought close enough would be the spell sticky floor (RDr 117-8) modified by the feat Widen Spell… until I realized the feat Widen Spell couldn't modify the sticky floor spell! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 8:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ That wand dates from OD&D, and was deadly. A character of mine got one in 1980, and it was a very valuable item for a 6-8th level AD&D1e party. Nothing else thinned out masses of attackers so effectively, but I doubt any DM in those days would have let it affect undead. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 18:52

3 Answers 3


The expensive way:

Chained [Metamagic] (Complete Arcane p76) languor (Spell Compendium, p130) a 4th level Druid spell, is a Close-range Transmutation spell that causes a target struck by the ray a penalty to strength of 1d6+1 per 2 Caster Levels (Maximum 1d6+10), and slows the target on a failed Will save. Chaining it alters it to 7th, and the secondary targets get a +4 bonus to the will save, versus the slow effect only. A wand is 'impossible', so a Staff costs:

\$300gp+(7.5×7(Spell Level)×13(Caster Level)=682.5(Per Charge))\$

The spell cast from the staff would affect up to 13 secondary targets within 30' of the initial target, and the penalty to Str would be 1d6+6 for 13 rounds. Increasing the caster level to 20th would increase the cost per charge to 1050gp, but the penalty would be at maximum (1d6-10) and the duration would be 20 rounds.

The medium way

Chained bands of steel (Spell Compendium, pp24) starts as a 3rd level spell, adjusts to a 6th, and makes the targets immobilized on a failed Reflex Save, and entangled on a success, for 11 rounds. The per-charge cost would be 495gp.

The cheap way:

Your idea noted in the comments was cheaper and apparently satisfactory, but you were frustrated by Widen Spell, so here's the functioning ability:

The Sculpt Spell [Metamagic] feat (Cityscape p63) can affect sticky floor (Races of the Dragon pp117-8), as it's an area spell ("Area: 10-ft.-by-10-ft. square"), and only adjusts the level by 1, to 2nd level. That's perfect for a wand, and costs 4,500gp fully charged or 90gp per charge. Set the Scuplted area to a 40' cone and the wand of [sculpted sticky floor] is complete.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've not decided between the wand of sculpted sticky floor and the wand of sculpted shadow binding (SpC 182) and I disagree that the metamagic feat Chain Spell can be applied to spells with effects rather than targets like the spell languor, but this answer gave me enough food for thought that I should have something ready by gaming today, which was the goal. I'm sorry if that comes off as a really backhanded thank you; it's not: sincerely, thank you for your help. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 2, 2017 at 18:34

I never played Keep on the Borderlands, but I can speak to the assumptions of the time. It was expected that every party would have at least one cleric, and there was a touching faith on the part of scenario writers in clerics' ability to keep on turning undead.

Since undead were generally immune to paralysis, just as they are nowadays, I think the module is assuming that the clerics can at least keep the party from being greatly outnumbered by the undead.

The usual way to fight a load of skeletons and zombies at the time was to retreat to a narrow doorway or passage, where the fighters with the best Armour Class can hold the undead, fighting them 1:1 and only taking damage slowly, while the rest of the party uses some selection from turning, spears, polearms, missile weapons, spells, oil flasks and bad language past them.

If your expected party has a cleric, replace the wand with something that gives a boost to turning. If they don't have a cleric, something that gives turning ability could work.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The Dungeons & Dragon Fantasy Adventure Game Basic Rulebook (1981) doesn't mention undead creatures being immune to paralysis. Was this a common house rule or is the actual rule mentioned elsewhere? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ It was certainly commonly played. I don't know if it was written anywhere; that didn't tend to matter much in those days. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 20:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ So if such is the assumption, would a Nightstick suffice as an alternative treasure? \$\endgroup\$
    – Weckar E.
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 10:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ It would help, but B/X D&D gives clerics unlimited turning attempts. Even with a Nightstick, cutting down the number of undead seems like a good idea. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 1, 2017 at 14:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for reminding me of the Basic D&D cleric's unlimited turning attempts! That does make the one encounter seem slightly (but only slightly!) more reasonable. Nonetheless, throughout the module, I sense Gygax's wargaming roots—like assuming brand new 12-year-old players who bought the basic set at Toys-R-Us will have extreme tactical know-how—, but, y'know, good on him for high expectations, I guess. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 2, 2017 at 10:35
The wand of paralyzation seems to be the only thing in the adventure that would allow the PCs to survive such an onslaught.

The expectation was that you would talk to the monsters in half the caves and get them to help you clear out the other half of the caves.

A straight conversion of the wand of paralyzation is also acceptable, but such a conversion should be done in accordance with 3.5e's item creation guidelines.

"Guidelines" is a very telling word. The implication is you don't have to follow them when you have good reason not to.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. Thank you for the response, but is there a place in the adventure where Gygax says that the expectation is that PCs negotiate aid from some monsters monsters against the other monsters and, specifically, against the inhabitants of the Temple of Evil Chaos? And while I did use the word guidelines, those guidelines are fairly robust. Anyway, thank you for participating and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 5:55

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