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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Magic Item Charges and Reaction Rolls

This is an update to an idea in Wands Without Charges, eliminating the need to track charges in wands or other magic items. I’ve prettied things up in this nice little reaction table, which you roll the first time an item is used and on future uses.

2d6 Roll Charge When to Check Again
2 Drained Last use. No further rolls.
3-5 Weak Roll again before each use.
6-8 Normal Roll again another day.
9-11 Strong Roll again next week.
12 Full Roll again next month.
13+ Endless Never check normally.


A weak or drained magic item glows feebly, sputters, or otherwise indicates it’s about fail. If drained, the item will work that one time, but won’t work again. If weak, it can be used at least once more, but from now on, a roll must be made every time the item is used, ignoring Normal or higher results.

A normal, strong, or full charge does not have a feeble glow, sputtering, or other low charge indication. Because there are plenty of charges left, there’s no need for a new roll if the item is used again on the same day, week, or month, as indicated by the result. Ignore results higher than previous rolls; items never increase in charge, only decrease.

Players can tell the difference between low-charge (weak or drained) and high-charge (normal, strong or full) by observation or by casting something like Detect Magic, which will reveal either a weak or strong magic aura. They can’t distinguish anything more detailed without using Contact Other Plane or similar spell.

After rolling for the item once, make a note of the item name with a d, w, or m in parentheses after the first roll to indicate whether to check daily, weekly, or monthly.

Curses and Blessings

If a cursed character uses a magic item, or any character uses it in a cursed area, a Drained result becomes a magical backfire. Beneficial effects (Wand of Healing) are reversed. Harmful effects affect random targets, possibly even the caster. The item is also drained as normal, unless it is a blessed (Endless) item.

If a magic item is used in a blessed area, the charge level doesn’t decrease as quickly. The first time a lower charge result is rolled, ignore it. If the item is used again in the area and a lower charge result is rolled on that attempt, the item depletes as normal.

The same applies to a blessed character except when an item is used for the very first time. In that case, add +1 to the 2d6 roll. This prevents a blessed character from draining an item on the first try and also allows the possible Endless result. A magic item with endless charges is basically an artifact and will never be drained under normal circumstances. Curses can force a reroll, and artifact items might have mysterious demands that must be met to continue uninterrupted use.


Magic wands typically have more charges than other charged items. When a wand is first used, a Normal result is treated as a Strong result (check again in a week.)

Optionally, if a spell-caster has a spell prepared that duplicates the wand’s effects, the Drained result is treated as Weak instead. Once that spell is used, however, the wand loses that benefit.

Cantrip Wands

Cantrip Wands cast very low level magical effects, but have weaker magic. Shift all results one category worse: Fully-Charged cantrip wands check every week, Strong cantrip wands check every day, Normal cantrip wands check each time they are used, and any Weak result means the wand is drained.

Magic Staff

A magic staff is more powerful than a wand. The first time a staff is used, shift the results one category better: Drained is treated as Weak, Weak is treated as Normal, and so on. A Fully-Charged result is still treated as “Roll again next month”, however, unless the player is blessed as noted above.

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