Wands: A Pathfinder 1E Analysis

This was a rejected pitch due to alleged lack of potential traffic. Not being one to care overly much about profit or clicks, I wrote it anyway and I’m putting it here for anyone who needs the help.


Wands In Pathfinder

The wand is an oft-overlooked magical oddity that can make or break an adventurer’s career. It’s free spellcasting in a handy, dandy little stick, and is part of the quintessential spellcaster image. Wands in Pathfinder at full capacity begin with 50 charges, and can store any spell whose total does not exceed 4th level.

Wand Analysis

The cost of a wand follows a specific formula: ((750 * Spell Level * Caster Level) + (50 * Material Component)). 0-level spells count for half (375 at CL1) and wands “in the wild” are assumed to have a minimum caster level to cast the spell. It also assumes a Wizard, Cleric, or Druid made it, followed by a Sorcerer, Bard, then Paladin and Ranger if it appears on none of the earlier lists. We can interpret similar classes to have similar prices, with Witch correlating to Wizard, Oracle to Sorcerer, and so on. This isn’t strictly written in the rules, but it’s a logical extension of what’s already there.

LevelCost (0-9 Prep Caster)Cast (0-9 Spont Caster)Cost (0-6 Caster)Cost (1-4 Caster)
0375375375N/A
1750750750750
24500600060006000
311250135001575015750
421000240003000030000

Point-for-point, wands are the most economical form of spellcasting short of using your own slots. Each cast of a CL1 1st-level wand costs a measly 15 gp, easily affordable after a couple of adventures. The up-front cost is its big limiter, forcing you to use scrolls or potions instead.

You may also notice that it becomes more expensive as you gain caster levels and spell levels. Since wands are so economical, this is a necessity to balance them against scrolls (no spell level limit) and potions (0-3rd level spells, usable by anyone, with restrictions). Wands don’t care whether your spellcasting is arcane, divine, or psychic, just that the spell is on your list (or you can pass a DC 20 Use Magic Device check).

To break it down:

  • The spell must be at most 4th Level.
  • It must appear on at least one of your spell lists.
  • You may apply metamagic if it doesn’t cause the spell to exceed 4th Level.
  • Spells in the wild are at minimum CL (1, 1, 3, 5, 7 for each of the five levels) unless otherwise specified.

This makes wands great for buffing, less great at offensive spells if they offer saves or require caster level checks.

Essential Wands

Cure Light Wounds

  • Cost: 750 gp

Cure Light Wounds is a perennial favorite. It saves lots of spell slots over time. If you don’t have someone who can channel or vomit healing out all day long, a wand of Cure Light Wounds is the next best thing. It provides 50d8+50 healing, averaging out to 275 HP healed per wand. At later levels, you’ll replace it with a Cure Moderate Wounds wand, but at 750 gp this is a steal. Split the cost among your party early on and everyone will appreciate it.

Lesser Restoration

  • Cost: 4500 gp

Lesser Restoration is a spell that you either need to apply several times or not use at all in an adventuring day. For a cleric, this also eats up spell slots that could be best served elsewhere. The 4500 gp price tag can seem a little stiff, but split four ways it’s a measly 1125 each. Ability damage becomes very common at mid-to-high levels, and this is worth every copper piece when it comes up.

Protection From Evil

  • Cost: 750 gp

Protection From Evil is a spell that offers great benefits from level 1 to level 20. While the deflection bonus to AC and the resistance bonus to saving throws fall off, the shield from mental control is great. Most things that try to control you are, in fact, super evil. Dominate spells are some of the worst things to fail, and this cheap little number can help salvage a bad situation.

Mirror Image

  • Cost: 4500 gp

Mirror Image scales with caster level, and can be quite costly, but it’s one of the best early-game defenses available to a Wizard. This is particularly valuable to a Witch or Rogue, but anyone with AC troubles can benefit from a casting. Tremorsense, Truesight, and other abilities can bypass the images, so be wary.

Shield (Extended)

  • Cost: 750 OR 4500 gp

Shield offers a +4 shield bonus to your AC for minutes per level. It’s a short-lived buff that helps the survivability of anyone unable to use a shield. It also stops Magic Missile cold. At only 10 rounds of coverage at CL1, this is something to activate right before storming a boss room.

Magic Missile

  • Cost: 750 gp

Magic Missile scales well with caster level, so you might want to invest in a higher CL wand to get more missiles. Very little can resist Force damage, except someone protected by a Shield spell. You don’t need to aim, and it can’t miss. Magic Missile can help deal with troublesome incorporeal creatures, too. The low base spell level lets you add things like Empower Spell to it without adding too much to the cost. It’s easy, reliable chip damage, but the wand won’t hold up against Spell Resistance.

False Life

  • Cost: 4500 gp

Not all necromancy spells are evil. False Life is proof of that. It’s a low-level buff that lasts for hours and adds 1d10+cl (max +10) temporary HP. That means three hours of 4-13 extra HP. It’s not much, but when your life is measured in cubes that can be the buffer you need to survive an attack.

Ill Omen

  • Cost: 750 gp

With a little coordination, you can utterly ruin an enemy’s day. If they absolutely, positively, must fail a save, your wand of Ill Omen can set up a clutch play. This Witch spell truly shines when it’s Quickened, but with teamwork it can work in tandem with a DC-focused caster. It won’t last long, has SR, and is mind-affecting, but it duplicates the Witch’s Misfortune hex nicely. You can also use it to prevent some enemies from full-attacking if they don’t want to risk the Misfortune effect.

Infernal Healing

  • Cost: 750 gp, Good Alignment

Infernal Healing is, point-for-point, more efficient healing than a wand of Cure Light Wounds. It’s guaranteed to heal 10 HP every cast over the course of a minute, making it great out of combat. The [Evil] tag will turn some parties away, but that’s power at a price for you. It heals a total of 500 HP over its career, if you’re willing to dip south of Neutral. The Cure X Wounds wands are faster, though.

Heightened Awareness

  • Cost: 750 gp

A nice, modest 10-minute buff to your Knowledges and Perception skills. Heightened Awareness appears on several different spell lists, and if you need to act quickly in combat you can dismiss it to gain a +4 untyped bonus on your Initiative check. It’s 15 gold a use to get the equivalent of Improved Initiative.

Longstrider

  • Cost: 750 gp

A flat +10 to your base land speed for an hour. If you’re a slow-moving race or just wearing medium armor this can be a godsend to help you keep up with your party. Things like Haste and Fly will eventually supplant it, but this lasts far longer.

Keep Watch

  • Cost: 750 gp

Rounding out this list is Keep Watch. It lets you stay up all night without penalty, so long as you keep to light activity. This means putting someone on watch, brewing potions, and other simple tasks. You also don’t need to worry about penalties from sleeping in armor if you just don’t sleep. Must be how wizards make it through wizard college. Increasing the caster level just affects how many people you can target. Fantastic camping spell and all sorts of interesting utility.

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