Alternate Staff Charging Methods


Homebrew and House Rules


Here are the rules for staves as presented on the Pathfinder SRD:

Staves hold a maximum of 10 charges. Each spell cast from a staff consumes one or more charges. When a staff runs out of charges, it cannot be used until it is recharged. Each morning, when a spellcaster prepares spells or regains spell slots, he can also imbue one staff with a portion of his power so long as one or more of the spells cast by the staff is on his spell list and he is capable of casting at least one of the spells. Imbuing a staff with this power restores one charge to the staff, but the caster must forgo one prepared spell or spell slot of a level equal to the highest-level spell cast by the staff. For example, a 9th-level wizard with a staff of fire could imbue the staff with one charge per day by using up one of his 4th-level spells. A staff cannot gain more than one charge per day and a caster cannot imbue more than one staff per day.

My problem with the rules for staves is in bold. You can only recharge a staff once per day and only to one staff. On top of that limitation, you must use a spell slot of equal or greater value to that of the highest level spell on the staff. I have two alternate rules proposed.

1. Non Detrimental Staff Charging

Instead of having to spend a spell slot to charge a staff, the caster is able to charge a staff once for free each morning when they prepares spells or regain spell slots. This would remove the spell slot cost for charging staves while still leaving the caster only able to charge one staff once per day. The caster still needs one or more of the spells cast by the staff on their spell list and is capable of casting at least one of the spells.

2. Freedom of Staff Charging

The caster may charge as many staves with as many charges as they want as long as they have one or more of the spells cast by the staff on their spell list and is capable of casting at least one of the spells. This means as long as they are willing to spend all the spell slots necessary, the caster could bring a staff with no charges back up to 10 charges in one morning. It also means that they could charge more than one staff per day as long as they had enough spell slots to do so.


Unneeded boosts for spellcasters. The idea with staves is that you recharge them between adventures.

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Drahliana is right.

Buffing staves is really tricky because they basically give spellcasters up to 10 free spells for an adventure.


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Bronsonfu, I've been looking at the math of staves till I'm cross-eyed, and have come to a conclusion that truly startled me: staves are fairly priced even with the recharge rules.

If almost all spells put into staves only required 1 charge, the highest-level spell in a given staff cost at most 2, and only spells with expensive material components were exceptions that cost more than 2, then recharge time would actually be payback for the faster crafting time to begin with. (Essentially, the crafter would be making more staves because the customers would be "finishing" the process by recharging them. But in the end, it wouldn't actually take more time than for other means of spell storing.)

I contend that the real problem is that staves found in the book are badly designed.

The average charge is usually 2 or more, not barely above 1. Let's say that you (as player) like the medium-level spell in a staff, which costs 2 charges. So now every time you cast that spell through the staff, you're committing a higher-level slot two days in a row to "put the magic back" for one casting. It's madness. You're likely to decide to sell the staff instead. But say the GM redesigned that staff, and sent a fairy around to swap the old one for the new, and you woke up to find that all the spells in it now cost 1 charge apiece. When you next need a spell in the staff, you might well think, "If I cast through the staff right now, it will cost me one day to put the magic back" -- and decide it's worth it, even if it's consuming a higher-level slot than the spell took.

Depending, of course, on whether you can actually recharge the staff at all. Book staves are also badly designed, you see, in that there are so few middle-range staves. Naturally, you can find wands up to 4th level. And once you reach 13th or 14th level, you can find staves you can manage to recharge -- although it's likely going to take you another 2 levels or so before you no longer miss the spell slot you spend. So from 9th to as high as 15th level, there's very little you can use, unless the GM starts designing staves at your level.

Finally, a player isn't going to want to use a staff for casting a spell -- even if they really can recharge the staff for it in one day -- if the spell doesn't benefit materially from CL. And book staves usually include many spells that do not. Recharge fixes aren't going to address this problem. Every spell that the player doesn't think they'll use simply adds dead weight that helps tip the balance toward "sell this dog and get something I need for the money."

And Drahliana, if wands kept going after 4th level (also a possible fix, btw), I might be more tempted to agree with you. As it is, the accurate wording is:

It's an unneeded boost for high-level spellcasters.

Mid-level spellcasters have serious problems with staves. Unfortunately, fixing the recharging rules isn't going to address the worst of them.


Yes, the existing rule for recharging seems arbitrary, but it also helps avoid abuse. A staff essentially has an unlimited number of charges. You just can't use them all at once. Maybe it is supposed to be recharged between adventures, but depending on the pace of the adventure you could partially charge it during an adventure. Its a pretty powerful ability considering how staffs used to work. They worked like wands with less charges and most people were afraid to use/waste charges so they wouldn't get used.


Thank you all for the input. I'm planing to use these rules for my spellcaster only campaign that I have been planing out for my friends. I figured these alternate rule sets would be unbalanced in any regular setting. Just thought I would share my ideas with the forums for any other GMs who enjoyed the rules I put forward.

Here is the parent post I made explaining a MANA pool system that spellcasters could use rather than spell slots. You will find it is even more unbalanced than my staff rulings.

Cyrad has seen it already.


This idea did prompt one of my own. Let casters recharge a staff by using one of their class abilities instead. A use of the school power gained at 8th level (specialist wizard), wildshape (druid) domain power from 8th level (cleric), and so on could let casters recharge staves while retaining spell slots. You would have to decide what level the ability equates to for this (domain/school powers would be 4th for those gained at 8th level, for example). It might allow casters to make some interesting choices regarding recharging staves: "Do I use a spell slot, or one of my daily uses of ward against undeath? Hmmm...."

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I understand and agree that making staves more accessible to low level characters would be desired as they're very cool items in a game where spellcasters don't have many fun items to buy aside boring items like metamagic rods and pearls of power.

I considered the idea of creating a "lesser stave" type of item, especially since I removed wands from my campaign. Maybe one with a single charge or allows you to instantly sacrifice a spell slot or prepared spell to spontaneously cast the spell stored in the item. I'd need more thought into how to balance it.


IIRC, self-recharging staff was an option for intelligent staves presented on Paizo blog a few years ago and was worth quite a bit.

EDIT: Recharging quality, 18,000 gp.


Cyrad wrote:
I considered the idea of creating a "lesser stave" type of item, especially since I removed wands from my campaign. Maybe one with a single charge or allows you to instantly sacrifice a spell slot or prepared spell to spontaneously cast the spell stored in the item. I'd need more thought into how to balance it.

Wands definitely loose cool factor when people whip them out to fully heal up after a fight. It's not special, its more like a cantrip you have to spend money on. If your plan is to tranform wands into junior staves, then I'm a proponent of that. Maybe limit it to 5 charges, it regains 1 per day for free, and you can also recharge. Maybe you can use the minimum caster level, or half or your caster level. Just spitballing.

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Yeah, I was thinking either:

A) Wands work like staves, except they only hold 5 charges and can cast only one spell.

B) Wands are items that allow you to sacrifice a prepared spell or spell slot to cast the spell keyed to the wand. It has a limited number of uses per day and some other restrictions.

C) Wands have enhancement bonuses similar to a weapon, have 3 charges, and are keyed to a spell. You can spend a charge to cast the wand's spell. When casting the spell keyed to the wand, you can spend a charge to add the enhancement bonus to the spell's DC and to attack rolls for ray attacks and touch attacks made to deliver the spell effects.


The enhancement bonus thing is a nice touch, even though touch attacks are not so difficult. The trade off for fewer charges is nice too. I wouldn't be opposed to full caster level if wands were once per day items or 1 charge items. The enhancement bonus could be to all spell attacks at that point. It's 4e style, but not bad I think.

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I always felt like spellcasters should have something like implements in 4th Edition. It's a great design space to explore and gives casters a fun item to invest in. The problem with implementing it in Pathfinder is that this is a pretty substantial buff to spellcasters. Though, it might work if they became limited to a single spell or a small subset of spells.


If it was just attacks and not the DC it wouldn't be so bad.


Drejk wrote:

IIRC, self-recharging staff was an option for intelligent staves presented on Paizo blog a few years ago and was worth quite a bit.

EDIT: Recharging quality, 18,000 gp.

It probably is a fair price, if it doesn't cost 50% extra for being applied to a magic staff w/ spells. One certainly could use 18,000 gp as the price for a special Ioun Stone. However, I still think that the real problem lies in how staves are configured, not in how they're recharged.

Why do wands cut off at 4th level?


bitter lily wrote:
Drejk wrote:

IIRC, self-recharging staff was an option for intelligent staves presented on Paizo blog a few years ago and was worth quite a bit.

EDIT: Recharging quality, 18,000 gp.

It probably is a fair price, if it doesn't cost 50% extra for being applied to a magic staff w/ spells. One certainly could use 18,000 gp as the price for a special Ioun Stone. However, I still think that the real problem lies in how staves are configured, not in how they're recharged.

Why do wands cut off at 4th level?

To let staves have a reason for existing. Also given the minimum caster levels of 5th and higher level spells, wands get ridiculously expensive.


Has anyone experimented with potions and wands that have higher spell levels? They are ridiculously expensive, yes, but something like that could be a unique gift handed out by a GM. Wand don't need to always have 50 charges either.


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Has anyone experimented with potions and wands that have higher spell levels? They are ridiculously expensive, yes, but something like that could be a unique gift handed out by a GM. Wand don't need to always have 50 charges either.

Higher CL wands or wands with less than 50 charges come up fairly often in Pathfinder Society adventures, and my characters buy them a lot. Sometimes you really need that 12 charge wand of lesser restoration after a battle with shadows.


In general, I agree with most here, regarding staff recharging and possible abuse. However, I think your first proposed rule, allowing the single charge when preparing spells (or meditating for spontaneous casters) "for free", is spot on. It would allow one charge gain when on adventure, which seem more than reasonable. If someone had difficulty reconciling it mechanically, I would think of it in the same way the Arcane Strike feat uses "a fraction of your power".


The Houserule I have on staffs to make them viable is price them at 65% RAW buying and crafting. All other rules including recharging applies.

Instead of selling them every chance they get, suddenly the Staff (and crafting them) is held onto and actually used.


I could argue the 65%, but if they are used and appreciated, then the percentage and its effect are sound.


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Sacrifice a virgin [male or female, though females can be 'verified' more easily] as the sun sets to restore one charge to the staff. Multiple virgins can be sacrificed simultaneously, each bound to a separate staff.


I had the idea that a lower-level spell slot could be used to charge a higher-level staff:

For each spell level the slot is "insufficient" the time and energy is doubled

Ex. A 5th level caster must take two days and expend two 3rd-level slots to restore a single charge to a staff whose highest slot is 4th-level spells. That same caster could charge a 5th-level spell staff but would have to take four days and expend four 3rd-level slots, and so on.


I fail to understand why you can only recharge one charge regardless of the method. It should logically be "one charge per spell level", such using a 3rd-level spell to recharge 3 charges. Even better, how about recharging one charge per 2 caster levels at a physical price, such as ability damage to reflect exhaustion?

I see the Recharging ability, but 1) why only to intelligent items and 2) why not 10,000 GP per charge per day? Give a 100,000 GP enhancement that can recharge a staff completely.


Make it a feat tax instead.
Item slot purge. At the end of the day, the caster spends all unused spell slots to recharge a rechargeable magic item. Thus if they have a total of 10 or more spell levels left uncast, they can recharge their staff of life.

Requirements. Must have the item creation feat and meet all other requirements except charges per day.

Note also a homebrewed item can have an alternate charging method. I designed a staff of reincarnation that recharges by disintegrating corpses. The dead biomass of one medium creature recharges one charge. This was to mess with some PC's ghoulish obsession of decorating their home with demon heads. I call it Card Rules. In most collectable card games, if the card says you can do it, you can.

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