Command word items, talking as a free action, and accidental activation


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Paraphrased from another thread for FAQing:

Can you create two +1 flaming longswords that have the same command word and use your Standard Action to activate one of them, but "accidentally" activate the other one to have both ignite in one round?

Alternatively, could you do this with a +1 flaming frost shock longsword, where all of the weapon properties have the same command word?

You are 1) spending a Standard Action, 2) activating an item with a command word 3) accidentally activating another item. So RAW this should work (unless you specify that #1 and #2 should have some additional text like "Only one item can be activated per round" which it does not). It is "assumed" that this is self explained in that you only get 1 Standard Action per round but unless #3 is fluff, #3 breaks that rule.

In short, how does the accidental activation rule supposed to interact with the limited actions per round rules?

RELEVANT RULES:

Excerpt from the Core Rulebook's Magic Items chapter
Command Word: If no activation method is suggested either in the magic item description or by the nature of the item, assume that a command word is needed to activate it. Command word activation means that a character speaks the word and the item activates. No other special knowledge is needed.

A command word can be a real word, but when this is the case, the holder of the item runs the risk of activating the item accidentally by speaking the word in normal conversation. More often, the command word is some seemingly nonsensical word, or a word or phrase from an ancient language no longer in common use. Activating a command word magic item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Sometimes the command word to activate an item is written right on the item. Occasionally, it might be hidden within a pattern or design engraved on, carved into, or built into the item, or the item might bear a clue to the command word.

The Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (history) skills might be useful in helping to identify command words or deciphering clues regarding them. A successful check against DC 30 is needed to come up with the word itself. If that check is failed, succeeding on a second check (DC 25) might provide some insight into a clue. The spells detect magic, identify, and analyze dweomer all reveal command words if the properties of the item are successfully identified.


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

Thanks for creating this FAQ thread. I've clicked.


Faq'd


noice. I'm a build a hwacha full of wands of scorching ray all with the same command word.

Or something.


There is an answer to this already out there some-where. But my search skills fail me at the moment. In short though, activating something with a command word requires an act of will behind it - it is activating it. If it were just speaking a word youd struggle to justify it as a standard action (as talking is a free action :))
So you cannot accidentally activate something. You also cannot activate multiple effects with a single command word.


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dragonhunterq wrote:
There is an answer to this already out there some-where. But my search skills fail me at the moment. In short though, activating something with a command word requires an act of will behind it. You cannot accidentally activate something. You also cannot activate multiple effects with a single command word.

The actual rules say differently

PRD wrote:
A command word can be a real word, but when this is the case, the holder of the item runs the risk of activating the item accidentally by speaking the word in normal conversation.

That is why we want it FAQed


Exactly. There is a contradiction in the rules that is currently being resolved on a table-by-table basis. It could use clearing up.


Please let it involve removing the utterly stupid accidental activation rule. ><

Grand Lodge

Zhayne wrote:
Please let it involve removing the utterly stupid accidental activation rule. ><

Yes please. Or at least something like "the holder of the item runs the risk of activating the item accidentally by speaking the word if that word is not already known by the speaker." Then it clears up the "accidentally on purpose" activation but still leaves room for GMs to have some fun (or PCs to play pranks on each other).


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

"normal conversation" is not your free action limited speech during combat initiative. It is conversation or speech that takes place outside of initiative. You cannot cheat the action economy with it.


SlimGauge wrote:
"normal conversation" is not your free action limited speech during combat initiative. It is conversation or speech that takes place outside of initiative. You cannot cheat the action economy with it.

I agree with this take on things.


How does the item tell whether or not you're in initiative?


' the holder of the item runs the risk of activating the item accidentally by speaking the word in normal conversation'

Read that again. It doesn't say that the item will activate if someone speaks the command word in a normal conversation, it says there is a risk that it will happen. So it might, or it might not. The rules don't give a hard and fast number for this risk, so GMs will have to adjudicate that separately, but it is fair to assume that relying on an accidental activation is probably not a very good idea. In addition, one can assume that any targeted of aspects of a magic item occur in a random, uncontrolled fashion.

Speaking a command word so that the item will activate properly requires a standard action. This is clear in the rules.


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Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
Orfamay Quest wrote:
How does the item tell whether or not you're in initiative?

WARNING: smart-alec answer "Magic"

More serious answer: If you used a standard action to activate the item, the item knows you're in initiative. This is the only RELIABLE way to activate a command word item. Any other method (including free action speech inside initiative or conversational outside of initiative speech) runs the risk of unintentional activation (false positive) or non-activation (false negative).

The "utterly stupid" accidental activation rule is there to note that it is POSSIBLE (but not probable) to activate the item without intending to.


According to a post by SKR (from when he was still the answer guy), having multiple items with the same command word was possible, but it still required a standard action to activate each one individually. So, no unintentional activation unless you have multiple standard actions to burn.

Dark Archive

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I consider the accidental activation part just fluff, because no actual rules are given for how it works.


Scythia wrote:
According to a post by SKR (from when he was still the answer guy), having multiple items with the same command word was possible, but it still required a standard action to activate each one individually. So, no unintentional activation unless you have multiple standard actions to burn.

That's the one I was thinking of! :)

Especially useful to note is his further comment about 4 posts down about why and when to use 'accidental activation' clause.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Please note that wands are not command word activated items, they are spell trigger activated items. As such, the accidental activation rules do not apply to them.

(Unless that verbiage is repeated twice in both sections and I missed it.)


Ravingdork wrote:

Paraphrased from another thread for FAQing:

Can you create two +1 flaming longswords that have the same command word and use your Standard Action to activate one of them, but "accidentally" activate the other one to have both ignite in one round?

Alternatively, could you do this with a +1 flaming frost shock longsword, where all of the weapon properties have the same command word?

You are 1) spending a Standard Action, 2) activating an item with a command word 3) accidentally activating another item. So RAW this should work (unless you specify that #1 and #2 should have some additional text like "Only one item can be activated per round" which it does not). It is "assumed" that this is self explained in that you only get 1 Standard Action per round but unless #3 is fluff, #3 breaks that rule.

In short, how does the accidental activation rule supposed to interact with the limited actions per round rules?

I FAQed this thread, but from my point of view there's a simple way to handle it:

Quote:

Command Word: If no activation method is suggested either in the magic item description or by the nature of the item, assume that a command word is needed to activate it. Command word activation means that a character speaks the word and the item activates. No other special knowledge is needed.

A command word can be a real word, but when this is the case, the holder of the item runs the risk of activating the item accidentally by [u]speaking the word in normal conversation[/u].

The point, IMVHO, is the underlined text: you cannot do a "normal conversation" while in combat. I mean, when you start the combat you don't speak about the time, or what you take for dinner, or the tavern's maid you see two days ago. You don't have a "normal conversation". I really think this frame is here to let the DM insert some funny or story-bounded object that has an activation word that rather common, and could (and hopefully for everyone's fun will :)) be speaked during the out of combat scenes. I always ruled that way. There's another thing that let me tend toward this reading: the rules on the command word, and in general on the activation of magic items let's a really open field on what the method require you to do. If you download the Kencyclopedia, at the and there are some magic items created by kenders as experiments, like a music box of invisibility that must be played to take effect, or a sppon that produces one fresh egg per day, or similar funny things. It could be done, and it has be done, thanks to the extreme vagueness of what kind of thing you need to do. Maybe a ring of fly require you to flap your arms as standard action to activate. You can insert a lot of fluff in this area. So, I really think this indication is for introducing something funny and/or heavily story bounded.


'Normal conversation only' is a weird solution. It's a weapon that's easier to activate when you're not in combat? That's like a gun where the safety catch disables itself whenever there are no enemies around.


I don't see anything removing the standard action requirement of command word activation though, so it looks like if you accidentally say the command word it takes your standard action for that round.

So does this mean if you use your standard action then speak the word it doesn't activate? It does say "runs the risk of", not "always activates".


Wait, I'm saying that this is a text for story driven or funny items. I'd never give such activation to a sword or something like that. I'd give this chance only to special items...


Ravingdork wrote:

Please note that wands are not command word activated items, they are spell trigger activated items. As such, the accidental activation rules do not apply to them.

(Unless that verbiage is repeated twice in both sections and I missed it.)

Oops. I don't suppose there's a command word item out there that basically mimics a huge bomb, by any chance?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Zhayne wrote:
Please let it involve removing the utterly stupid accidental activation rule. ><

Why? the only way that could happen is if the caster was stupid enough to make the activation word a word that was that common in use a one that he would say. You have to be holding or wearing the item to activate so only words used by the wielder would count.


In one of my first D&D 3.0/3.5 campaigns, the DM allowed me to play an "Arcane Engineer". Basically, I was a wizard that could graft magical items into my body. It was all fun and games until I grafted a Rod of Wonder into my arm with a command word activation of "Go". Normally, I'd activate it as "Rod of Wonder, Go!" but my DM decided to use "go" as the literal command word. So, whenever I said the word "go" in normal conversation, I would hear dice ominously rolling and giggling from behind the screen. I swear he had the Rod of Wonder page bookmarked.

Later on, I would be turned permanently blue (the rod's fault), die horribly (not the rod's fault), and be reincarnated as a troglodyte (still blue, still the rod's fault).

I miss that game...

I would say, so long as the item is in your possession and you say the command word, it should activate. However, that doesn't always mean you have control over it. Trying to stack that much magical energy to activate all at once is bound to have unforeseen consequences.

Guy 1: "Nice bundle of wands... hey, what happened to your other hand?"

Guy 2: "The first bundle of wands."


Bob Bob Bob wrote:

I don't see anything removing the standard action requirement of command word activation though, so it looks like if you accidentally say the command word it takes your standard action for that round.

So does this mean if you use your standard action then speak the word it doesn't activate? It does say "runs the risk of", not "always activates".

I read the "run the risk of" as "You might say the word accidentally and activate the item" not as "The item has a chance of activating when you accidentally say the word."


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Most people don't bother making up command words so this really does not matter, but RD did find another obscure rules contradiction so I will press the FAQ button, even though I am sure you are still limited to a standard action.

I wonder if he sits home all day and looks for these. :)


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Nay, I sit at work all day and look for these. ;P

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I'm not entirely convinced this is what the FAQ button is intended for. Is this a Question you Frequently Ask yourself or your GM while actually playing the game?

Anyway, I think it was originally included for the GM to use to create hilarious situations when the owner accidentally speaks the word... But if you rule that normal conversation can happen in combat, it's still a standard action to activate the item. Nothing there suggests that it affects your action economy. Not to mention, speaking the command word on purpose is not accidental.

Grand Lodge

Serpent wrote:

I'm not entirely convinced this is what the FAQ button is intended for. Is this a Question you Frequently Ask yourself or your GM while actually playing the game?

Anyway, I think it was originally included for the GM to use to create hilarious situations when the owner accidentally speaks the word... But if you rule that normal conversation can happen in combat, it's still a standard action to activate the item. Nothing there suggests that it affects your action economy. Not to mention, speaking the command word on purpose is not accidental.

It doubles as the errata request/this doesn't work button, unless you know of another place these should go?


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Serpent wrote:
Is this a Question you Frequently Ask yourself or your GM while actually playing the game?

Actually, I pretty much never ask myself this or of my GM. I'm pretty dead set on the "continuous function" interpretation.

However, this has come up several times on these boards over the last few years so I feel it is something that should probably be addressed.

Also, I have a handful of characters who's build relies on these items being continuous. It would be nice to know if I need to revise these builds. I'm sure there are plenty of other players out there whose spies and similar character concepts wearing hats of disguise and rings of invisibility who are wondering if they can make it through a dinner party without being caught.

Scarab Sages

Bob Bob Bob wrote:
I don't see anything removing the standard action requirement of command word activation though, so it looks like if you accidentally say the command word it takes your standard action for that round.

Speaking is a free action that takes places outside the normal turn sequence. What happens if the command word is said after a character has taken his standard action or during an opponents turn?

Serpent wrote:
But if you rule that normal conversation can happen in combat, it's still a standard action to activate the item. Nothing there suggests that it affects your action economy. Not to mention, speaking the command word on purpose is not accidental.

As stated above: unless you are changing RAW, speaking is defined as a free action that can be taken at any time. I talk after swinging my sword or casting my spell. My standard action has already been used. Which part of RAW are you going to violate, action economy or accidental item activation?


I'm fine with the accidental activations rules sticking around. I think it just needs to clarify you can't "accidentally" activate multiple things on purpose with only one standard action. I don't know how exactly it should be written, but it basically needs to be something that it inconvenient or happens unexpectedly. Not something that can be used to gain an advantage.


Artanthos wrote:
Bob Bob Bob wrote:
I don't see anything removing the standard action requirement of command word activation though, so it looks like if you accidentally say the command word it takes your standard action for that round.
Speaking is a free action that takes places outside the normal turn sequence. What happens if the command word is said after a character has taken his standard action or during an opponents turn?

You could make it use up the characters next standard action and the magic effect not actually be triggered until that time. That way you get no extra actions.

(Only problem with that is if you can trick an enemy into saying the word.)


Matthew Downie wrote:
Artanthos wrote:
Bob Bob Bob wrote:
I don't see anything removing the standard action requirement of command word activation though, so it looks like if you accidentally say the command word it takes your standard action for that round.
Speaking is a free action that takes places outside the normal turn sequence. What happens if the command word is said after a character has taken his standard action or during an opponents turn?

You could make it use up the characters next standard action and the magic effect not actually be triggered until that time. That way you get no extra actions.

(Only problem with that is if you can trick an enemy into saying the word.)

I don't know if the rules specifically say only the one wielding or possessing it can activate it but I think that is understood to be the case. Otherwise each party member could speak the word on their turn.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Artanthos wrote:
As stated above: unless you are changing RAW, speaking is defined as a free action that can be taken at any time. I talk after swinging my sword or casting my spell. My standard action has already been used. Which part of RAW are you going to violate, action economy or accidental item activation?

Does it even matter? If you say the command word on purpose, it doesn't count as accidental item activation. If you have a player who insists that his character randomly blurts out command words, perfectly "accidentally" yet always just at the right time, then the problem is with the player, not the rules.

Grand Lodge

The problem I see with it is why, if it ONLY requires speech, does it take a standard action to activate a Command Word item?

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Drake Brimstone wrote:
The problem I see with it is why, if it ONLY requires speech, does it take a standard action to activate a Command Word item?

I think game balance is the primary reason. If you can activate something as a swift action, it's effectively a quickened version of the spell/effect, and the cost should increase accordingly. If it's a free action, the item should cost even more.


Drake Brimstone wrote:
The problem I see with it is why, if it ONLY requires speech, does it take a standard action to activate a Command Word item?

So there is a cost to using magic items. It's an action economy and balance issue thing. Clever creators then can get the benefit of umpteen different magic items a round, because talking is a free action and one that can be done outside of one's turn.

EDIT: Snake ninjas are the worst ninjas.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ravingdork wrote:


Also, I have a handful of characters who's build relies on these items being continuous. It would be nice to know if I need to revise these builds. I'm sure there are plenty of other players out there whose spies and similar character concepts wearing hats of disguise and rings of invisibility who are wondering if they can make it through a dinner party without being caught.

Have you checked the level based duration of Disguise Self? At 10 mins per caster level, It may take a bit of subterfuge and an occasional trip to the powder room, but one should be able to manage. As for the ring of invisibility, if you're relying that than you should be trying to be stealthy as well, so again it should be doable. Magic is meant to help with a challenge of an adventuring career, not eliminate those challenges altogether.

Scarab Sages

Serpent wrote:
Artanthos wrote:
As stated above: unless you are changing RAW, speaking is defined as a free action that can be taken at any time. I talk after swinging my sword or casting my spell. My standard action has already been used. Which part of RAW are you going to violate, action economy or accidental item activation?
Does it even matter? If you say the command word on purpose, it doesn't count as accidental item activation. If you have a player who insists that his character randomly blurts out command words, perfectly "accidentally" yet always just at the right time, then the problem is with the player, not the rules.

The problem is, the rules allow this if simply speaking the command word activates the item regardless of intent.

A standard action implies time and effort are required, that won't happen accidentally.


Serpent wrote:
If you say the command word on purpose, it doesn't count as accidental item activation. If you have a player who insists that his character randomly blurts out command words, perfectly "accidentally" yet always just at the right time, then the problem is with the player, not the rules.

My command word is 'a'. Accidents happen quite a lot.


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
Drake Brimstone wrote:
The problem I see with it is why, if it ONLY requires speech, does it take a standard action to activate a Command Word item?

It's like a voice recognition system. If you take your time and do it properly, it's very reliable. If you rush and don't enunciate or don't pause at the right places, it probably won't do what you want.

When my group is playing, we often have one participant skyping in to our game session. Occasionally, the X-Box system thinks someone in the room has commanded it to do something, so we have to waste some time while the owner demands "Xbox, STOP LISTENING" ! or hunting up the controller to stop it the old-fashioned reliable way (with the controller buttons).

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Matthew Downie wrote:
Serpent wrote:
then the problem is with the player, not the rules.
My command word is 'a'. Accidents happen quite a lot.

No doubt.

Scarab Sages

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Maybe each item in the universe has to have a unique word. All the short ones are taken already, so only ones that take 3 seconds to say are left, therefore they are all a standard action.

Either that or it's the clear pronunciation thing Slimgauge says. or maybe both!

Scarab Sages

Berti Blackfoot wrote:

Maybe each item in the universe has to have a unique word. All the short ones are taken already, so only ones that take 3 seconds to say are left, therefore they are all a standard action.

Either that or it's the clear pronunciation thing Slimgauge says. or maybe both!

Either would make accidents far less likely.


Serpent wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
Serpent wrote:
then the problem is with the player, not the rules.
My command word is 'a'. Accidents happen quite a lot.
No doubt.

Excellent idea for a cursed/flawed item. Too bad those never happen unless the player finds one or picks one up at Melvin's Misprint Magic Item Emporium.


Blackstorm wrote:


Quote:


A command word can be a real word, but when this is the case, the holder of the item runs the risk of activating the item accidentally by [u]speaking the word in normal conversation[/u].
The point, IMVHO, is the underlined text: you cannot do a "normal conversation" while in combat. I mean, when you start the combat you don't speak about the time, or what you take for dinner, or the tavern's maid you see two days ago. You don't have a "normal conversation".

For a psychopathic murder hobo? Normal conversation might very well be his calling out to his allies and taunting his enemies in the midst of combat.

None of those examples are things I speak about in normal conversation, because quite frankly they are boring topics to converse about. I sometimes give someone the time, I sometimes talk to my wife about specific dinner plans, but I don't sit and go on and on about them.

I don't think this is a particularly compelling argument as to why it wouldn't work in combat as well as it does out of it. Init and turns is an abstraction. In theory you could play the entire game in turns, including 4 days of cross country travel, so the idea that being 'in combat' makes things not normal is really a stretch. Being 'in combat' is a game mechanics construct only.


bbangerter wrote:


For a psychopathic murder hobo? Normal conversation might very well be his calling out to his allies and taunting his enemies in the midst of combat.

None of those examples are things I speak about in normal conversation, because quite frankly they are boring topics to converse about. I sometimes give someone the time, I sometimes talk to my wife about specific dinner plans, but I don't sit and go on and on about them.

I don't think this is a particularly compelling argument as to why it wouldn't work in combat as well as it does out of it. Init and turns is an abstraction. In theory you could play the entire game in turns, including 4 days of cross country travel, so the idea that being 'in combat' makes things not normal is really a stretch. Being 'in combat' is a game mechanics construct only.

Being in initiative or out of it makes no difference other than when you aren't counting you don't notice the types of actions. Standard actions still take a standard action out of combat but we just don't notice it because we aren't measuring the passage of rounds. Activating a command word item, which is done by speaking the command word, takes a standard action; in combat or out of combat, on your turn or not on your turn, on purpose or accidentally, in a hastily shouted warning to your companions or during your dinner conversation with the King.


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"Accidental activation" is in there for GM shenanigans, with an extreme (but classic) example being the guy who accidentally uses his ring of three wishes or luckblade for something terrible or silly.

But if someone deliberately gives 20 different items all the same command word, that isn't a case of an accidental activation. And the universe - a.k.a. the GM - knows it and probably isn't amused =P

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