Determining Market Price of Graded Staves and Wands

A-Z 2016 "D"In Crafting Graded Wands and Crafted Graded Staves, I needed to determine how to price such items. I had a sense that the market price was going to end up being something like “Caster Level times Spell Level times a constant”, but I didn’t know what that constant was going to be. I decided to look at existing items (not including wands) to compare, and found something I didn’t expect.

Comparing to PRD/RSRD Magic Items

I was surprised to find the greater wand of military fire is somewhat better than the PRD staff of fire (mostly because I was building a wand, and staves are expected to be better than wands). The staff of fire has fewer spells (doesn’t include flaming sphere), lower caster level (CL 8 rather than CL 10), and only 10 charges at once (and recharges very slowly, one charge per day if the user invests an appropriate spell slot to do so), rather than 10 charges per day (and only costs one charge less for fireball and wall of fire). If I add flaming sphere and increase the caster level to 10 the market price by PRD rules would be about 31,700 gp.

To compare, the RSRD staff of fire (same spells, still CL 8, but costs only one charge to cast fireball and two charges to cast wall of fire, rather than two and three charges respectively) is 28,500 gp market cost, and has 50 charges. Adding flaming sphere as a single-charge spell and increasing the caster level to CL 10 increases the market cost to 43,125 gp. I’m willing to accept that this wand is 16% better than that (fewer charges immediately available and spells mostly cost more charges, but the charges renew daily). This leads to an initial estimate of 50,000 gp for this wand.

Uses/Day Formula

If I treat this as a use-activated item usable a limited number of days based on charges, it can cast:

  • A fourth-level spell twice per day (CL * SL * 2000 gp * 2/5 = 10*4*800 gp = 32,000 gp) plus a second-level spell once per day (8,000 gp) = 40,000 gp;
  • A third-level spell three times per day (10 * 3 * 2000 gp * 3/5 = 10*3*1200 gp = 36,000 gp) plus a first-level spell once per day (4,000 gp) = 40,000 gp;
  • A second-level spell five times per day (10 * 2 * 2000 gp * 5/5 = 10*2*2000 gp = 40,000 gp) = 40,000 gp;
  • A first-level spell ten times per day (10* 1 * 2000 gp * 10/5 = 10*1*4000 gp = 40,000 gp) = 40,000 gp;
  • Some combination of the above.

(I took liberties with calculating the first-level value. I’m reasonably certain that technically the multiplier should be capped at 2,000 gp for unlimited use-activated, but I normally treat ‘unlimited’ as 5/day.)

Normally a command word item — as spell trigger items usually are — gets a 10% discount. If I take that into account, any of the four permutations above would be 36,000 gp instead of 40,000 gp. There are permutations of the above available; while each of the options is nominally worth 40,000 gp, the ability to switch between them must be worth something as well. A 25% surcharge would bring it to 50,000 gp (a 40% surcharge after the 10% reduction would be 50,400 gp; I’m happy to call it 50,000 gp).

Single-Spell Items

While reviewing Crafting Graded Wands before publishing on Sunday I found a math artifact I don’t like. If the item has only a single effect the cost becomes CL*SL*500 gp… which would be okay, except that because the cost is fixed and the effect increases linearly, and the number of uses per day increases linearly, we can expect to see linear cost for quadratic effect.

Not good.

The costs scale well with effect when the total grades assigned is (or is close to) the total grades allowed. I might want to set a requirement that while it’s not necessary to assign all grades of the item, most should be — perhaps a small deviation when not all grades are assigned, perhaps 20% (up to 4 on a grade 20 item, or up to 2 on a grade 10 item).

If I do this, then the Grade 6 wand of fireball and the Grade 9 wand of fireball I mention in Crafting Graded Wands have quadratic cost and quadratic effect (6d6 2/day vs 9d6 3/day, effect increases to 150% of base on both measures but cost increases to 225% of base). The higher-grade wand does have more effects available — three more spell levels available, or even a fourth-level spell, plus fireball, plus two first-level spells — but that actually bothers me less.

Okay. Every five grades, for spell trigger items, allows one grade to not be assigned. As long as 80% of the item’s effects are defined I’ll accept it.

Closing Comments

Both models resulted, with jiggering to fit, in an estimate of 50,000 gp for the major wand of military fire. This might need to change with testing, but as it stands the formula produces numbers that feel about right. The items under the new model are better than the core rules versions.

Also, there is a third point that makes me think this is right:

A full-power, CL 20 staff with 20 levels of spells is worth 20*20*500 gp = 200,000 gp… the same as a +10 (equivalent) weapon.

Allowing an item to have many unassigned grades can lead to a quadratic effect for linear cost problem.

Market price of spell trigger items is CL * sum(SL) * 500 gp. 80% of all grades must be assigned.


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