[FAQ] Use Magic Device and Staves


Rules Questions


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Hello everyone.

In another thread, I have seen someone using Use Magic Device to get caster level in order to activate a staff.

My problem is that he also believe that he can use the emulated caster level for the power of the staff (his character is a rogue).

Here is my question :

Can an emulated Caster level gained through Use Magic Device be used to enhance the power of a staff ? Same question for Ability scores emulated through UMD ?

Examples :
A rogue use the skill Use Magic Device to emulate a caster level of 15. You use a staff that have a caster level of 8. Which caster level do you use ?

A rogue use the skill Use Magic Device to emulate an intelligence of 20. Her actual intelligence is 14 and she use a staff casting a level 6 spell. Which DC will it have ? 19 (as the minimum for a level 6 spell) or 21 (using the emulated intelligence) ?


UMD does not grant you a caster level or an ability score, it only allows you to use (activate an item) as if you had the required ability to do so.

Quote:

Emulate an Ability Score: To cast a spell from a scroll, you need a high score in the appropriate ability (Intelligence for wizard spells, Wisdom for divine spells, or Charisma for sorcerer or bard spells). Your effective ability score (appropriate to the class you're emulating when you try to cast the spell from the scroll) is your Use Magic Device check result minus 15. If you already have a high enough score in the appropriate ability, you don't need to make this check.

Emulate an Alignment: Some magic items have positive or negative effects based on the user's alignment. Use Magic Device lets you use these items as if you were of an alignment of your choice. You can emulate only one alignment at a time.

Emulate a Class Feature: Sometimes you need to use a class feature to activate a magic item. In this case, your effective level in the emulated class equals your Use Magic Device check result minus 20. This skill does not let you actually use the class feature of another class. It just lets you activate items as if you had that class feature. If the class whose feature you are emulating has an alignment requirement, you must meet it, either honestly or by emulating an appropriate alignment with a separate Use Magic Device check (see above).

Emulate a Race: Some magic items work only for members of certain races, or work better for members of those races. You can use such an item as if you were a member of a race of your choice. You can emulate only one race at a time.


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To further explain, the Rogue can use the staff, but the spells will be cast at based on what the lowest required caster level and lowest ability stat is for the highest level spell in the staff.

For example, a 6th level wizard/sorcerer spell requires a int/cha of 16 (+3 modifier) and 11th caster level (based on wizard which gets priority over sorcerer based on an FAQ).

The emulated abilities only count for activation, not for what the item can do.


Claxon wrote:

To further explain, the Rogue can use the staff, but the spells will be cast at based on what the lowest required caster level and lowest ability stat is for the highest level spell in the staff.

For example, a 6th level wizard/sorcerer spell requires a int/cha of 16 (+3 modifier) and 11th caster level (based on wizard which gets priority over sorcerer based on an FAQ).

The emulated abilities only count for activation, not for what the item can do.

I think the same way, but another poster seemed to be convinced that it allowed you to use the staff with your emulated scores.

I just wanted to make sure once and for all, and thus made a FAQ demand.


Apparently it's obvious for everyone that UMD can't do it.

Thanks.


I'm not sure that it's obvious to everyone, but I'm glad this has resolved your issue.


At least it's obvious for 100% of this topic posters.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16

"It just lets you activate items as if you had that class feature"

Why can't this be interpreted as allowing you to use the emulated level for casting?


Claxon wrote:
To further explain, the Rogue can use the staff, but the spells will be cast at based on what the lowest required caster level and lowest ability stat is for the highest level spell in the staff.

[citation needed]

Staves have explicit language that says that you use your own caster level or the staff's, whichever is higher.

They have no such language for casting stats. The language all simply assumes that you have a casting stat, and you use your casting stat modifier when casting spells from a staff.

I don't have any idea what the intended behavior in this case is; my guess is no one ever even thought about it.

Answers I have seen:

1. Your UMD check to use the staff is also treated as "emulate an ability score". So if you got a 20 UMD check, your effective ability score is 5, and spells have a DC of (10 + spell level - 3).
2. You use charisma because charisma is the default for a lot of things like spell-like abilities.
3. You use the minimum necessary to cast that spell.

I don't think #3 is right, because that's just plain not how staves work. Imagine a 2nd level wizard with int 14, using a staff that casts clenched fist. That's an 8th level spell, so it requires an int of 18 to cast. However, the save DC will be (10 + 8 + 2), because the staff uses the wielder's casting stat, full stop. It doesn't use the wielder's casting stat only if that stat is better.

Consider the actual written description:

PRD wrote:
Using Staves: Staves use the wielder's ability score and relevant feats to set the DC for saves against their spells. Unlike with other sorts of magic items, the wielder can use his caster level when activating the power of a staff if it's higher than the caster level of the staff.

We are explicitly told that you can use your caster level if it's higher than the caster level of the staff. By contrast, "staves use the wielder's ability score and relevant feats to set the DC for saves against their spells." There is nothing in here to suggest that they do so conditionally.

And it's not obvious at all to me that the "emulated level" does not count for purposes of using a staff. Nothing is said either way:

PRD wrote:
Emulate a Class Feature: Sometimes you need to use a class feature to activate a magic item. In this case, your effective level in the emulated class equals your Use Magic Device check result minus 20. This skill does not let you actually use the class feature of another class. It just lets you activate items as if you had that class feature. If the class whose feature you are emulating has an alignment requirement, you must meet it, either honestly or by emulating an appropriate alignment with a separate Use Magic Device check (see above).

3.5 (hardcover, not SRD) gives a concrete example in which a rogue finds an item which does something when you channel positive energy into it, and needs a 21 UMD check to get an effective cleric level of 1 so she can use it. That example, however, implies that you're going a little further than merely pretending to have the ability; you're able to trigger things which happen only if the ability is actually used.


You get to use the caster level you emulate. Depending on which class's feature you emulate you can use your own score or roll and additional umd to emulate that ability score as well.

Ie, if you are trying to use a staff with wizard spells on it then you could emulate the "spells" class ability of a sorcerer. Because you chose sorcerer you could use your own charisma score or roll umd to emulate a higher one.


Huh, that's a fascinating idea.

You pick a class which has that spell on its list, and then use that class's casting stat. So for CLW, you can do charisma (oracle or bard) or wisdom (cleric), say.

I like that ruling and I think I'll use that.


Although I believe that using the UMD to activate the staff at its own class level makes sense, I'm not so sure of RAW per say...
Look at it:

PRD wrote:

Emulate a Class Feature: Sometimes you need to use a class feature to activate a magic item. In this case, your effective level in the emulated class equals your Use Magic Device check result minus 20. This skill does not let you actually use the class feature of another class. It just lets you activate items as if you had that class feature. If the class whose feature you are emulating has an alignment requirement, you must meet it, either honestly or by emulating an appropriate alignment with a separate Use Magic Device check (see above).

The part that I highlighted in bold refers to the effective level... So it would appear that if you are successful, not only you activate the item, but you have an effective level of the roll -20. If it wasn't intended as such, they could have wrote, "you have successfully activated the item using its CL"

Now, if this is indeed RAW as intended, it is far from being OP....all staff have a minimum CL of 8th. To have the same result, a character with 20 CHA (+5) and class skill (+3) would need to be level 20th to have a CL of 8th (same as staff)...So to be really useful at the lower level, it would require not only high charisma for class that don't really need it, but also focus with other feats (skill focus) etc.


I think the biggest problem here is with the Casting Attribute. Staves use Spell Completion and Spell Completion, as it stands, is nor depending on the Casting Attribute bur on the Ability to have the Spell on the Spell List. So, using UMD you´re checking to see if you get the Spell Completion thing off, then if the Caster Level ist higher than the basic caster level of the staff itself and that´s it.
I don´t see where it is necessary to emulate a certain attribute nor where you could do this.


Taube wrote:
I think the biggest problem here is with the Casting Attribute. Staves use Spell Completion

No, they're spell trigger.

And part of this is, you're not emulating a class feature, usually, when you use a spell trigger item; you're using a separate UMD feature:

PRD wrote:
Use a Wand, Staff, or Other Spell Trigger Item: Normally, to use a wand, you must have the wand's spell on your class spell list. This use of the skill allows you to use a wand as if you had a particular spell on your class spell list. Failing the roll does not expend a charge.

So if you make a DC20 check (flat DC), you can use the item as though the spell were on your class spell list.

For a wand, that means you use the wand's caster level and minimum caster stat for that spell.

For a staff, that means you use your own casting stat, and you use your caster level if it's higher than the staff's caster level.

... Only it's not at all clear what happens if you don't have a casting stat.

I like the idea of declaring that you pick a class to emulate, so you effectively pick the casting stat that way. It just has to be a class that has the spell on their class list.


I admit it's not clearly laid out, but I think it should default to the caster level/attribute stat that would be required for the highest level spell, much the same way a scroll or wand does. Mind you this is for staves only when you are not a caster.

What is clear, is that emulating a class ability does not grant you the class ability. So while you can emulate a caster level 20, you don't actually have any caster level at all, and it doesn't make sense for the item to use your emulated level or stat. I might allow, if you have a relevant stat that would be used for casting for a certain class that you could emulate that class to activate the staff and use your actual ability score if it would be higher than the minimum to determine the DC of the spell cast out of the wand. But, you would not be able to use UMD to emulate an ability score and use that emulated ability score to determine the spell DC.

Othersie, sorcerer just got a big boost in power as they will start emulating caster levels and ability score much higher than their own and use staves to cast spells more powerfully than they could normally cast. Which definitely wasn't the intention. Staves were meant to be a battery, to give you the ability to cast extra spells in a day at your DC and caster level (instead of the generally poorer DC and caster level of scrolls, wands, etc). And then in between adventures you refill its power with your own.


Typo, I meant spell trigger, not completion.

But still: It just says that you must emulate having the spell on your spells list and nothing else. The given example for that ist a 3rd level Paladin who could use a Paladin Spell Trigger Item this way w/o actually being able to cast a spell (yet).

So, the FAQ tells us to use the Spell in the Version it comes first, meaning wizard before sorcerer, cleric before oracle and to disregard this only if it´s a sorc/oracle-only spell.

Also, no mention of a Caster Attribute means: Use your own. Spells do funktion even with lower Casting Attributes, they just suck at it ;)


Taube wrote:

Typo, I meant spell trigger, not completion.

But still: It just says that you must emulate having the spell on your spells list and nothing else. The given example for that ist a 3rd level Paladin who could use a Paladin Spell Trigger Item this way w/o actually being able to cast a spell (yet).

So, the FAQ tells us to use the Spell in the Version it comes first, meaning wizard before sorcerer, cleric before oracle and to disregard this only if it´s a sorc/oracle-only spell.

That's the rule for spell-like abilities. It's not the rule for staves.

For spell-trigger items, all that matters is that it's on "your" class list... Or you're emulating one. A staff doesn't care whether it's a staff of cleric or bard cure light wounds.

Quote:
Also, no mention of a Caster Attribute means: Use your own. Spells do funktion even with lower Casting Attributes, they just suck at it ;)

But if you're not a caster, you don't have a casting attribute.

Consider also what happens if you have more than one casting attribute.


Claxon wrote:
What is clear, is that emulating a class ability does not grant you the class ability.

It doesn't, but it makes the item function as though you did.

There's an interesting example in the 3.5 books:

3.5 wrote:
For example, Lidda finds a magic chalice that turns regular water into holy water when a cleric or an experienced paladin channels positive energy into it as if turning undead. She attempts to activate the item by emulating the cleric's undead turning ability. Her effective cleric level is her check result minus 20. Since a cleric can turn undead at 1st level, she needs a Use Magic Device check result of 21 or higher to succeed.

Note that the item is described as converting water into holy water when you actually channel into it, and yet, apparently you can do this with UMD.

Which... Actually contradicts what I previously thought the rules are intended to say. But re-reading them, consider the phrase "Sometimes you need to use a class feature to activate a magic item." It doesn't say you need to have the feature. UMD is not merely letting you bypass some kind of protection on the device that's trying to check your authority to use it; it's actually causing the device to function as though you actually used the ability.


Zahir ibn Mahmoud ibn Jothan wrote:

"It just lets you activate items as if you had that class feature"

Why can't this be interpreted as allowing you to use the emulated level for casting?

Because UMD is like a bluff to Magic items (make an item believe you have some class features/race/alignment), and not a real source of power ? That UMD does not grant clas features and CL is a class features ?

Staves use real power, either their own or the wielder's. UMD doesn't grant power on its own, it makes the staff believe you have one. As you still don't have power, it must use its own.

Quote:

Although I believe that using the UMD to activate the staff at its own class level makes sense, I'm not so sure of RAW per say...

Look at it:

PRD wrote:

Emulate a Class Feature: Sometimes you need to use a class feature to activate a magic item. In this case, your effective level in the emulated class equals your Use Magic Device check result minus 20. This skill does not let you actually use the class feature of another class. It just lets you activate items as if you had that class feature. If the class whose feature you are emulating has an alignment requirement, you must meet it, either honestly or by emulating an appropriate alignment with a separate Use Magic Device check (see above).

The part that I highlighted in bold refers to the effective level... So it would appear that if you are successful, not only you activate the item, but you have an effective level of the roll -20. If it wasn't intended as such, they could have wrote, "you have successfully activated the item using its CL"

Second emphasis is mine, showing the important part.

You don't get class features (including CL), but emulate them. You are bluffing the item making it believe you have CL while you don't.

Imagine another example.
I am a fighter with high UMD, and find a Druid's Vestment.

The fighter does a UMD check to make the item believe she actually has Wild shape from a 12th level druid. What does happen ?

Does this allow the fighter to :
1 - wildshape once per day (the once per day being the one from the shirt) ?
2 - wildshape six times per day (as a 12th level druid with that shirt) ?
3 - have a beautiful shirt that have a nice aura and a once per day ability to do nothing ?

I think the answer 3 is the right one. It doesn't give you class features.

Dark Archive

In the Core Rule Book FAQ I cannot find anything on Use Magic Device.

So, RAW says, "Emulate a Class Feature: Sometimes you need to use a class feature to activate a magic item. In this case, your effective level in the emulated class equals your Use Magic Device check result minus 20. This skill does not let you actually use the class feature of another class. It just lets you activate items as if you had that class feature. If the class whose feature you are emulating has an alignment requirement, you must meet it, either honestly or by emulating an appropriate alignment with a separate Use Magic Device check (see above)."

UMD would not allow you to use Wild shape by itself. However, it would allow you to activate a magic item that produces a Wild Shape effect. If a fighter has use magic device and wears a Druid's Vestment then she could activate it to emulate the Druid's Wild Shape ability and activate the vestment's magic 1 time each day (if she can make a UMD check of 24 or higher). The UMD would allow her to emulate a class ability to then activate the magic device.

Assuming she has an INT or CHA of 13 or more, if she picks up a staff of fire and makes a UMD check of 32 then she could cast a fireball at caster level 12 (it still only does 10D6 damage but she would roll as caster level 12 to overcome spell resistance).

If she picks up a page of spell knowledge (level 1) then she could roll a DC 21 UMD to know the spell. However, she still cannot cast the spell since she doesn't actually have any spell casting ability. She could likewise roll UMD to use a ring of wizardry I. However, she would not gain any extra spells since it "doubles" the character's 1st level spells (zero doubled is still zero). But, if some magic item allowed a sorcerer to cast magic missile 1 extra time per day as long as she knew the spell then, the fighter could use a UMD to activate a page of spell knowledge (magic missile) and then another UMD to activate the hypothetical magic item to cast magic missile (at caster level UMD check -20).

The rules are relatively straight forward. I'm not sure what the confusion is.


Sorry for the slight necro but I wanted to chime in.
since UMD says that

UMD wrote:
Emulate a Race: Some magic items work only for members of certain races, or work better for members of those races. You can use such an item as if you were a member of a race of your choice. You can emulate only one race at a time.[

it is clear that you can emulate something at the sole scope of improving the effect of the item. This to me set a strong enaugh precedent to allow someone to emulate a higher CL to improve the effect of a stave.

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