Crafting Graded Staves

In my last post I looked at crafting graded wands. At its base, a staff is now a larger-capacity wand. It works the same, but is a bigger item (and usable as a weapon, a quarterstaff — I’ll look at graded weapons soon) and can have a Caster Level of 20. This gives it a maximum Total Grade of 20.

Staff of Necromancy
Staff Crystal Horns Blade and Skull, by WIlliam McAusland

The PRD staff of necromancy allows the wielder to cast circle of death (sixth-level, 3 charges), waves of fatigue (fifth-level, 2 charges), enervation (fourth-level, 2 charges), halt undead (third-level, 1 charge), ghoul touch (second-level, 1 charge), and cause fear (first-level, 1 charge), is CL 13, and has a market price of 82,000 gp. Strictly speaking, this staff cannot be exactly modeled under these rules because it has a total grade of 21 (1+2+3+4+5+6), exceeding the normal limits. I’ll implement it as written, though. Grade 21 is the lowest grade that allows all these spells (if there were duplicates at any level it would not work as nicely), giving a market price of 220,500 gp. To bring the staff in line with the rules written above,

  • drop circle of death, the sixth-level spell, and reduce it to Grade 15 (market price 112,500 gp — that circle of death is expensive);
  • drop halt undead, the fifth-level spell, and reduce it to Grade 16 (market price 128,000 gp);
  • drop enervation, the fourth-level spell, and reduce it to Grade 17 (market price 144,500 gp);
  • drop halt undead, the third-level spell, and reduce it to Grade 18 (market price 162,000 gp);
  • drop ghoul touch, the second-level spell, and reduce it to Grade 19 (market price 180,500 gp);
  • you cannot drop cause fear alone; if you do then you’ll have to try to add a grade 2 spell (ghoul touch) when there are only two grades unassigned, violating the minimum grade rule.

Staff of Frost

The PRD staff of frost allows the wielder to cast cone of cold (fifth-level, 3 charges), wall of ice (fourth-level, 2 charges), and ice storm (fourth-level, 1 charge), is CL 10, and has a market price of 41,400 gp. This cannot be exactly, directly modeled under this scheme. Working backward, the lowest CL that allows these spells together is CL 16 (CL 7 to allow a fourth-level spell, then there are nine levels of spells above that). This leaves three spell levels unaccounted for, but I’m not required to assign all the grades. I’ll leave the three last slots empty to keep my costs down a bit. The staff has a market value of 104,000 gp (16*13*500 gp). If I add two more spells — fog cloud (second-level) and obscuring mist (first-level), say — the market price goes up to 128,000 gp (16*16*500 gp). For 24,000 gp I think I’ll leave them off… but that does mean I can end up unable to use all the charges in a day: I can cast wall of ice and ice storm in any combination four times per day, but three uses of wall of ice leaves one charge unused, and any other combination of the spells will mean more unused charges.

Staff of Illumination

The PRD staff of illumination allows the wielder to cast sunburst (eighth-level, 3 charges), daylight (third-level, 2 charges), flare (0-level, 1 charge), and dancing lights (0-level, 1 charge), is CL 15, and has a market price of 51,500 gp. Again it cannot be exactly, directly modeled, but this one is much closer. A CL 15 staff can have an eighth-level spell, daylight uses 3 of the remaining 7 levels of spells, and the two 0-level spells together use a single spell level, leaving three levels of spells. If I stop here, the staff has a market price of 90,000 gp (15*12*500 gp). However, I think glitterdust (second-level) is thematically appropriate, and let’s add color spray (first-level, a blaze of color) to finish off, bringing the market price up to 112,500 gp.

Right now I make no allowance for spells costing additional charges to cast. This brings the PRD market price down because it reduces the utility of the staff. I’ll explore multiple charge casting in another post.

Closing Comments

A-Z 2016 "C"A (core rules) staff is a big battery that can hold high-level spells but get discharged pretty fast — ten charges don’t last long, especially if you have multi-charge spells in it, as most do in order to keep the cost down. A graded staff might have more spells, unless the exact mix fits, and will likely have a higher caster level.

  • The graded staff of necromancy is almost three times as expensive as it’s PRD equivalent, and in fact only almost complies with the draft rules. This can be mitigated by reducing the spell load (which I’m okay with, just as I’m okay with increasing other items) or probably by adjusting casting costs (which I’ll explore in another post).
  • The graded staff of frost is markedly higher level (CL 16 instead of 10) and will have greater effect than it’s core rules counterpart, and ranges from two and a half times as expensive (for the same spell load) or slightly more than three times as expensive if a couple more spells are added.
  • The graded staff of illumination is a little less than twice as expensive for the same spell load (90,000 gp vs. 51,500 gp), but I think glitterdust is very thematically appropriate, and color spray often useful, that I’d be inclined to add them and bring the market price up to 112,500 gp, a little more than twice as expensive as the core rules staff.

Graded staves appear to be more constrained in their use, often a small number of big spells or a larger number of lower-level spells available each day. I think it will be possible to integrate graded weapons and graded spell trigger items. Another day.


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