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Magic Item Compendium, Preview 2
By Eytan Bernstein

March's Magic Item Compendium contains a number of new magic item types. The first entry in this series dealt with the augment crystal, a gem that affixes to a weapon, suit of armor or other magical protective item, granting additional enhancements. This article covers the runestaff, a new type of magic staff that increases the versatility of an arcane spellcaster who wields it.

The Runestaff

Here's how they work: runestaffs usually contain two to five spells of varying levels. When an arcane spellcaster prepares or readies spells, she can choose to attune herself to a runestaff; if, at a later date, she attunes herself to a different runestaff, her bond to the first one is severed.

When an arcane spellcaster is attuned to a runestaff, she can substitute any of the spells stored in the runestaff for a prepared spell or spell slot of equal or greater level. She must have the spell on her spell list and be of sufficient level to cast it, though she need not know it or have it in her spellbook. If she has some of the spells on her spell list, but not others, she can only substitute spells that are on her spell list. Most spells stored in runestaffs can be used up to three times per day, unless otherwise noted in the item's description. Spells cast from a runestaff act in all ways as if the wielder had cast them normally, including casting time, attacks of opportunity, saving throw DCs, caster level, and other effects.

The wielder of a runestaff can use metamagic feats when casting runestaff spells, though she must sacrifice a spell whose level equals or exceeds the adjusted spell slot. If the spell has a material or XP component, the wielder of the runestaff must supply this component each time she casts a spell from the item. If the spell has a verbal component, she must supply it each time she casts the spell. If the spell has a somatic component, she need not have a free hand (as manipulating the staff fulfills the somatic requirement, though she still suffers from arcane spell failure as normal).

Runestaffs benefit all arcane spellcasters, but are of greatest use to spontaneous casters with unfixed lists, such as bards and sorcerers. A wizard might find it useful to be able to default to evocation spells, allowing her to memorize more esoteric spells. A sorcerer or bard, however, derives even more benefit because the staff significantly increases her spells known. Even though the spells on a runestaff cannot be used more than three times per day (or less, in some cases), the items still significantly increase the versatility of spontaneous casters. When a runestaff doesn't fit a particular adventure, a character can choose to attune herself to a different staff, relinquishing her connection to the first item (or replacing it entirely).

Example: Threll Gaigor possesses a runestaff of vision. When he readies his sorcerer spells in the morning, he chooses to attune himself to this runestaff. He can sacrifice a prepared spell to cast darkvision, see invisibility, or true seeing. He must expend a spell of equal or greater level than the spell from the runestaff. Each spell can be used in this way three times per day.

After several encounters in which his evocations proved sufficient, Threll meets a challenge against which his "blaster" sorcerer spells are inadequate. His party is ambushed by a group of duergar who make full use of their invisibility spell-like abilities. He sacrifices a 2nd-level spell slot to cast see invisibility from the runestaff, allowing him to make out their positions.When the duergar begin to also use illusions, it becomes clear to Threll that he will need his runestaff again. Predicting that the battle will be a long and protracted affair, Threll expends a 7th-level spell slot, allowing him to cast an extended version of the runestaff's true seeing spell. As he expends the material component for the spell, Threll is thankful that he sprung for several of the costly 250 gp ointments. With the illusion problem solved, Threll is able to easily dispatch the snarling duergar with a well-placed cone of cold. Had he felt that the battle would be swifter, he could have foregone extending the true seeing spell, only needing to expend a 6th-level spell slot.

Later that week, Threll's adventuring companion, an elven duskblade (PHB2) known as Orelleus Darvindusk, asks to borrow the runestaff of vision. Orelleus is scouting out a series of caves in the underdark and wants to be prepared for the darkness and possible invisible ambushes he might face. Threll grudgingly agrees to lend the staff to his trusted companion. When Orelleus enters the underdark, he makes good use of the runestaff's darkvision and see invisibility spells. Both of these spells are found on the duskblade spell list. Orelleus is unable to make use of the true seeing component of the runestaff, however, because that spell is not found on the spell list. Fortunately, Orelleus does not encounter any more illusion-wielding opponents.

Runestaff of the Assassin

Price (Item Level): 10,000 gp (12th)
Body Slot: -- (held)
Caster Level: 12th
Aura: Strong; (DC 21) illusion
Activation: As spell used
Weight: 3 lb.

This simple, slim staff is only 4 feet long. It is fastened to a leather strap to make it easy to sling over your shoulder. It bears a small rune of a dagger on one end.

A runestaff of the assassin allows you to cast any of the following spells (each two times per day) by expending a prepared arcane spell or arcane spell slot of the same level or higher.

  • greater invisibility
  • obscuring mist
  • pass without trace
  • poison

Prerequisites: Craft Staff, greater invisibility, obscuring mist, pass without trace, poison.

Cost to Create: 5,000 gp, 400 XP, 10 days.

Not all runestaffs are for sorcerers, wizards, and bards. Runestaffs with the appropriate spells can benefit assassins, hexblades, duskblades, spellthieves and other classes. The runestaff of the assassin is just such an item. It allows the assassin--a prestige class with a small list of spells known--to significantly expand its spellcasting versatility.

Runestaff of Enchantment

Price (Item Level): 32,000 gp (16th)
Body Slot: -- (held)
Caster Level: 13th
Aura: Strong; (DC 21) enchantment
Activation: As spell used
Weight: 3 lb.

This applewood staff is capped with a clear zircon crystal. It has a small rune depicting clasped hands.

A runestaff of enchantment allows you to cast any of the following spells (each three times per day) by expending a prepared arcane spell or arcane spell slot of the same level or higher.

  • crushing despair
  • mass suggestion
  • mind fog
  • sleep
  • suggestion
  • Tasha's hideous laughter

Prerequisites: Craft Staff, crushing despair, mass suggestion, mind fog, sleep, suggestion, Tasha's hideous laughter.

Cost to Create: 16,000 gp, 1,280 XP, 32 days.

A runestaff of enchantment is an example of a runestaff that is most useful to sorcerers and bards. While some bards choose to specialize in enchantment spells, most sorcerers do not. These spells can prove extremely useful under the right circumstances, but to most sorcerers they are not utilitarian enough to devote precious spells known.

Runestaff of Transportation

Price (Item Level): 19,000 gp (15th)
Body Slot: -- (held)
Caster Level: 12th
Aura: Strong; (DC 21) transmutation
Activation: As spell used
Weight: 4 lb.

A hollow coil of wire fashioned in the shape of a staff, it has a mottled brown gemstone at both ends.

A runestaff of transportation allows you to cast any of the following spells (each three times per day) by expending a prepared arcane spell or arcane spell slot of the same level or higher.

  • blink
  • dimension door
  • teleport

Prerequisites: Craft Staff, blink, dimension door, teleport.

Cost to Create: 9,500 gp, 760 XP, 19 days.

The runestaff of transportation is an example of a runestaff likely to see more use by a wizard than a sorcerer. Sorcerers tend to know utility spells, so teleport is an extremely likely choice. Wizards, however, often prefer to prepare more esoteric spells. This runestaff allows a wizard to prepare a greater variety of spells, but still be able to default to the always useful blink, dimension door, and teleport.

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