Focus Only Classes and Spellcasting Items


Rules Discussion

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I was under the impression that Champions, Ki Monks and Rangers with warden spells could use scrolls, wands and staves as long as the item's spells were in the same tradition they were trained in to cast their focus spells. Then I found this:

If you get focus spells from a class or other source that doesn’t grant spellcasting ability (for example, if you’re a monk with the Ki Strike feat), the ability that gives you focus spells also provides your proficiency rank for spell attack rolls and spell DCs, as well as the magical tradition of your focus spells. You gain the ability to Cast a Spell and use any spellcasting actions necessary to cast your focus spells (see below). However, you don’t qualify for feats and other rules that require you to be a spellcaster."

Can anybody clarify if this means these classes can't use these spellcasting items without taking on an actual spellcasting multiclass or not?


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Actual spellcasters have the class feature <Tradition> Spellcaster which grants access to a spell list for that tradition. Focus spells don't appear on a spell list, and don't grant access to one, but are aligned to a tradition for purposes of spell attacks and DCs, and checks to identify their focus spell use.

Staves require a caster with slots to be able to charge, and the spell to appear on the right spell list to be able to cast from, and can only be used by the one that charges them.

Wands and scrolls require access to a spell list with their spell on it to be able to cast. Scrolls can also be cast by someone who can cast the spell on the scroll by other means (they have that spell as an innate spell from an ancestry feat, for instance).

In general, focus only classes cannot use these items, and are mostly only usable by someone with the right Spellcaster class feature in a tradition that has the spell(s) on the spell list. The Trick Magic Item feat can offer a way to use some items with varying degrees of success.


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John R. wrote:

I was under the impression that Champions, Ki Monks and Rangers with warden spells could use scrolls, wands and staves as long as the item's spells were in the same tradition they were trained in to cast their focus spells. Then I found this:

If you get focus spells from a class or other source that doesn’t grant spellcasting ability (for example, if you’re a monk with the Ki Strike feat), the ability that gives you focus spells also provides your proficiency rank for spell attack rolls and spell DCs, as well as the magical tradition of your focus spells. You gain the ability to Cast a Spell and use any spellcasting actions necessary to cast your focus spells (see below). However, you don’t qualify for feats and other rules that require you to be a spellcaster."

Can anybody clarify if this means these classes can't use these spellcasting items without taking on an actual spellcasting multiclass or not?

The restrictions on use of spellcasting magic items is not 100% clear because the other half of the description is on the magic items themselves. For example, the Wand rules say, "To cast a spell from a wand, it must be on your spell list. Because you’re the one casting the spell, use your spell attack roll and spell DC. The spell is of your tradition." Thus, if a cleric picks up a wand of Heal, then he can use it because Heal is on the divine and primal spell lists and clerics use the divine list. If the cleric picks up a wand of Invisibility, then he cannot use it, because Invisibility is on the arcane and occult spell lists and the cleric does not use either of those lists. Scrolls have the same spell-list requirement.

Some class features expand the character's spell list. For example, a sorcerer of the Wyrmblessed bloodline uses the divine list yet also gains Haste as a granted 3rd-level spell. Haste is on the arcane, occult, and primal spell lists, but not the divine list. Nevertheless, a Wyrmblessed sorcerer could use a wand of Haste.

By the way, a character who does not have the spell in their spellbook or spell repertoire can still use the wand. The spell list matters, not whether the character can cast the spell on their own.

The Trick Magic Item skill feat offers a way around these spell-list restrictions.

I don't recall any feats that require a particular spell list or qualifying as a spellcaster, but I have seen some that say, "When you cast a spell from your spell slots, ..." Focus spells and cantrips don't use spell slots, so casting a focus spell won't trigger such a feat. The feat would be useless to a character who has only focus spells.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Thank you. Reading over the various rules on all of this in all the different locations has definitely made this all more complex.

Alright, so to sum up:

Something like a Champion would need to take Trick Magic Item to use ANY spellcasting item, even for divine spells.

A non-spellcasting class that takes something like the Wizard dedication could begin using arcane spellcasting items as soon as they take the first dedication feat.

Do I have that right?

Now, I also have a player who is taking the Eldritch Researcher dedication and taking on an occult cantrip from it. How would they treat occult spellcasting items? I'm guessing they would still need to take Trick Magic Item even for occult spells as well, correct?


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Yes, you have it right in your examples.

Eldritch Researcher doesn't give Spellcasting, just a single cantrip, so they wouldn't be able to use anything that checks against the Occult spell list, and would need TMI to use them.


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John R. wrote:
Something like a Champion would need to take Trick Magic Item to use ANY spellcasting item, even for divine spells.

Yes. Because focus spells can't be placed on spellcasting items like scrolls.

John R. wrote:

A non-spellcasting class that takes something like the Wizard dedication could begin using arcane spellcasting items as soon as they take the first dedication feat.

Do I have that right?

The wording in the Spellcasting Archetypes is a bit debatable, but I think you also need the Basic Spellcasting feat also. The sentence in question is

Spellcasting Archetypes wrote:
A spellcasting archetype allows you to use scrolls, staves, and wands in the same way that a member of a spellcasting class can, and the basic spellcasting feat counts as having a spellcasting class feature.

The first part makes it sound like the dedication feat is enough, but the second says that the basic spellcasting feat is needed. Considering that a Staff is not usable without a spell slot to power it, it makes sense that the spellcasting feat is needed.

Also, the first part of the rule actually says that the archetype as a whole will allow you to use the spellcasting items, not just the dedication.

John R. wrote:
Now, I also have a player who is taking the Eldritch Researcher dedication and taking on an occult cantrip from it. How would they treat occult spellcasting items? I'm guessing they would still need to take Trick Magic Item even for occult spells as well, correct?

That is how I would run it. The Eldritch Researcher archetype doesn't have the ability to cast any spells from spell slots - just cantrips and focus spells. So they wouldn't get access to the full spell list or have the spellcasting class feature needed for the spellcasting items.


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Reading through the Spellcasting Archetypes section again, I agree with breithauptclan's read on how they work and needing Basic Spellcasting to be able to use spell list checked items as they don't gain the Spellcasting feature until they take that archetype feat.

Grand Archive

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Agreed.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Thanks to each of you.

Yeah, the rules are kind of hidden all over the place but things are much more limited than I thought now.

I also found further clarification under the rules for "Activate an Item":

CAST A SPELL
If an item lists “Cast a Spell” after “Activate,” the activation requires you to use the Cast a Spell activity to Activate the Item. This happens when the item replicates a spell. You must have a spellcasting class feature to Activate an Item with this activation component. If the item can be used for a specific spell, the action icon for that spell is provided. If it's an item like a staff, which can be used for many spells, the icon is omitted, and you must refer to each spell to determine which actions you must spend to Activate the Item to cast it.


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Nice find. I'll have to remember that one. With that and the Spellcasting Archetype rule, that makes things unquestionable.

And yeah, it is a bit limiting. Starfinder has a game theme of equipment being able to replicate spellcasting. Pathfinder wants to keep it separated. You only get to cast spells if you are a spellcaster. Equipment generally won't let you cast spells unless you cheat with Trick Magic Item.


breithauptclan wrote:
John R. wrote:

A non-spellcasting class that takes something like the Wizard dedication could begin using arcane spellcasting items as soon as they take the first dedication feat.

Do I have that right?

The wording in the Spellcasting Archetypes is a bit debatable, but I think you also need the Basic Spellcasting feat also. The sentence in question is

Spellcasting Archetypes wrote:
A spellcasting archetype allows you to use scrolls, staves, and wands in the same way that a member of a spellcasting class can, and the basic spellcasting feat counts as having a spellcasting class feature.

The first part makes it sound like the dedication feat is enough, but the second says that the basic spellcasting feat is needed. Considering that a Staff is not usable without a spell slot to power it, it makes sense that the spellcasting feat is needed.

Also, the first part of the rule actually says that the archetype as a whole will allow you to use the spellcasting items, not just the dedication.

I disagree about wands and scrolls, but since the rules are in multiple chapters and have to be pieced together, I am not sure. I have a scoundrel-racket rogue with Sorcerer Multiclass Dedication for draconic bloodline in my campaign and I have been letting him use wands and scrolls of arcane spells ever since the dedication feat.

The rules have no such distinction as "archetype as a whole." Most archetypes have many feats and few characters will take all those feats.

The Sorcerer Dedication is indirect since the tradition depends on the bloodline, so let me quote the Wizard Dedication:

Core Rulebook, page 231 wrote:

Wizard Dedication Feat 2

Archetype, Dedication, Multiclass
Archetype Wizard
Prerequisites Intelligence 14
You cast spells like a wizard, gaining a spellbook with four common arcane cantrips of your choice. You gain the Cast a Spell activity. You can prepare two cantrips each day from your spellbook. You're trained in arcane spell attack rolls and spell DCs. Your key spellcasting ability for wizard archetype spells is Int, and they are arcane wizard spells. You become trained in Arcana; if you were already trained in Arcana, you instead become trained in a skill of your choice.

Special You can’t select another dedication feat until you have gained two other feats from the wizard archetype.

The dedication grants cantrips from the arcane spell list. It trains in Cast a Spell for arcane wizard spells with arcane spell attack rolls and spell DCs based on Intelligence.

Does a focus-spell-only class have a spell list? The Champion class has devotion spells:

Core Rulebook, Champion, page 108 wrote:

Devotion Spells

Your deity's power grants you special divine spells called devotion spells, which are a type of focus spell. It costs 1 Focus Point to cast a focus spell, and you start with a focus pool of 1 Focus Point. You refill your focus pool during your daily preparations, and you regain 1 Focus Point by spending 10 minutes using the Refocus activity to pray to your deity or do service toward their causes.

Focus spells are automatically heightened to half your level rounded up. Certain feats can give you more focus spells and increase the size of your focus pool, though your focus pool can never hold more than 3 Focus Points. The full rules are found here. You gain a devotion spell depending on your cause, and you are trained in divine spell attack rolls and spell DCs. Your spellcasting ability is Charisma.

It has no mention of a spell list, though it does put the devotion spells under the divine spell tradition.

In contrast, the spellcasters mention a spell list. Here is the Cleric spellcasting ability:

Core rulebook, Cleric, page 118 wrote:

Divine Spellcasting

Your deity bestows on you the power to cast divine spells. You can cast divine spells using the Cast a Spell activity, and you can supply material, somatic, and verbal components when casting spells (see Casting Spells). Because you're a cleric, you can usually hold a divine focus (such as a religious symbol) for spells requiring material components instead of needing to use a material component pouch. At 1st level, you can prepare two 1st-level spells and five cantrips each morning from the common spells on the divine spell list in this book or from other divine spells to which you gain access. Prepared spells remain available to you until you cast them or until you prepare your spells again. The number of spells you can prepare is called your spell slots.

The Core Rulebook index points to "spell lists 307–315."

Core Rulebook, Spells, page 307 wrote:

Spell Lists

These lists include the spells for each tradition, including cantrips. (Focus spells appear on pages 386–407.) A superscript “H” indicates a spell has extra effects when heightened, and a spell whose rarity is greater than common has a superscript with the first letter of that rarity. An abbreviation in parentheses indicates a spell’s school.

The focus spells are not on the spell lists.

How does a character gain a spell list? The rules on Tradition and School: say that each spell list represents a magical tradition.

Core Ruleboook, page 297 wrote:

Magical Tradition

Spellcasters cast spells from one of four different spell lists, each representing a different magical tradition: arcane, divine, occult, and primal.

Your class determines which tradition of magic your spells use. In some cases, such as when a cleric gains spells from their deity or when a sorcerer gets spells from their bloodline, you might be able to cast spells from a different spell list. In these cases, the spell uses your magic tradition, not the list the spell normally comes from. When you cast a spell, add your tradition’s trait to the spell.

Some types of magic, such as that of most magic items, don’t belong to any single tradition. These have the magical trait instead of a tradition trait.

That explanation does not help. Unless anyone in with a magical tradition automatically gains the spell list associated with a tradition, the only guide I have to a character's spell list is whether they have an ability that grants them spells from from their tradition's spell list. Clerics have the divine tradition and prepare spells from the divine spell list; therefore, their spell list is the divine spell list. A Champion gains devotion spells of the divine tradition, but those spells don't come from the divine spell list, so they don't have a spell list.

The spellcasting dediciations grant a spellcasting tradition and two cantrips from that tradition's spell list, so as far as I can tell, the spellcasting dedication grants a spell list.

The wands and scrolls do not care about spellcasting features. They just mention spell lists. I quoted wands before, so let me quote scrolls now.

Core Rulebook, Crafting & Treasure, page 564 wrote:

Casting a Spell from a Scroll

Casting a Spell from a scroll requires holding the scroll in one hand and activating it with a Cast a Spell activity using the normal number of actions for that spell.

To Cast a Spell from a scroll, the spell must appear on your spell list. Because you’re the one Casting the Spell, use your spell attack roll and spell DC. The spell also gains the appropriate trait for your tradition (arcane, divine, occult, or primal).

Staves require more, "You can Cast a Spell from a staff only if you have that spell on your spell list, are able to cast spells of the appropriate level, and expend a number of charges from the staff equal to the spell’s level." Preparing charges on a staff requires spell slots.

Back to the rogue with Sorcerer Dedication. The player was mostly interested in the bloodline abilities, such as Dragon Claws, and playing as a Magical Trickster. The character's class feats were:
2nd-level class feat: Sorcerer Dedication archetype feat (grants arcane tradition and 2 arcane cantrips)
4th-level class feat: Magical Trickster rogue feat
6th-level class feat: Basic Bloodline Spell (grants Dragon Claws focus spell)
8th-level class feat: Blind Fight rogue feat
10th-level class feat: Tactical Debilitations rogue feat
12th-level class feat: Basic Sorcerer Spellcasting archetype feat (grants 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level spell slots)

The rogue went for Basic Sorcerer Spellcasting mostly as a prerequisite for Expert Sorcerer Spellcasting for expert proficiency in arcane spell attacks. The player has fun adding sneak attack damage to the rogue's two cantrips and the spell attacks from wands.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

A further argument for the rules I quoted applying to scrolls:

Page 565 of the book lists 2 stat block examples of scrolls. They each have a 2-action activate [cast a spell] cost to use.

Grand Lodge

The archetypes for Cleric, Bard, Wizard and Sorcerer call out gaining the "Cast a Spell" activity.

This reads to me like they can use scrolls and wands with the single archetype feat rather than waiting for the basic spell casting feat as well.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Jared Walter 356 wrote:

The archetypes for Cleric, Bard, Wizard and Sorcerer call out gaining the "Cast a Spell" activity.

This reads to me like they can use scrolls and wands with the single archetype feat rather than waiting for the basic spell casting feat as well.

But you also have to have the spellcasting class feature to activate such items. You specifically gain this feature from the basic spellcasting feat of a spellcasting dedication as per page 219:

"A spellcasting archetype allows you to use scrolls, staves, and wands in the same way that a member of a spellcasting class can, and the basic spellcasting feat counts as having a spellcasting class feature."

I don't think they would have specified that last part if it wasn't significant.

Grand Lodge

I'd look a bit more closely before saying they are different. Wizard gets access to the "Cast a spell" activity, but is never called out as gaining the "spellcasting class feature". Same with Sorcerer

The "spell casting class feature" is the same as "gaining access to the "Cast a Spell Activity".

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Jared Walter 356 wrote:

I'd look a bit more closely before saying they are different. Wizard gets access to the "Cast a spell" activity, but is never called out as gaining the "spellcasting class feature". Same with Sorcerer

The "spell casting class feature" is the same as "gaining access to the "Cast a Spell Activity".

Why would they state the part I put in bold when the initial lvl 2 feat (the part that gives the cast a spell activity) is a prerequisite for the basic spellcasting feat?

Grand Lodge

Unclear. I read it as a typo.

Because nowhere in the scrolls or wands does it say you need access to the "spellcasting class feature." They always call out "Cast a Spell" activity.

Cantrips are also on spelllists and you can have cantrip wands or scrolls.

As the panther stated earlier, this is a bit ambiguous in the rules. Being as each individual dedication lists "Cast a Spell" as do the items, I still read it as the single dedication feat is enough for scrolls and wands.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Jared Walter 356 wrote:
Because nowhere in the scrolls or wands does it say you need access to the "spellcasting class feature." They always call out "Cast a Spell" activity.

But they do say so on page 532 which I quoted earlier:

John R. wrote:

I also found further clarification under the rules for "Activate an Item":

CAST A SPELL
If an item lists “Cast a Spell” after “Activate,” the activation requires you to use the Cast a Spell activity to Activate the Item. This happens when the item replicates a spell. You must have a spellcasting class feature to Activate an Item with this activation component. If the item can be used for a specific spell, the action icon for that spell is provided. If it's an item like a staff, which can be used for many spells, the icon is omitted, and you must refer to each spell to determine which actions you must spend to Activate the Item to cast it.

Grand Lodge

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Ok, you've convinced me that these are delayed until basic spellcasting feat.


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Also, 'Your spell list' is notorious for being undefined.

A tradition's spell list is defined. But a lot of characters don't get all of the spells from a tradition list onto 'your spell list'. What does and does not get added to your spell list has been the cause of several problematic threads on here already.


John R. wrote:
Jared Walter 356 wrote:
Because nowhere in the scrolls or wands does it say you need access to the "spellcasting class feature." They always call out "Cast a Spell" activity.

But they do say so on page 532 which I quoted earlier:

John R. wrote:

I also found further clarification under the rules for "Activate an Item":

CAST A SPELL
If an item lists “Cast a Spell” after “Activate,” the activation requires you to use the Cast a Spell activity to Activate the Item. This happens when the item replicates a spell. You must have a spellcasting class feature to Activate an Item with this activation component. If the item can be used for a specific spell, the action icon for that spell is provided. If it's an item like a staff, which can be used for many spells, the icon is omitted, and you must refer to each spell to determine which actions you must spend to Activate the Item to cast it.

Jared Walter 356 wrote:
Ok, you've convinced me that these are delayed until basic spellcasting feat.

I am convinced, too. That is a definitive statement that John R. highlighted.

However, I am extremely annoyed at the person wrote that rule. In order to find out the requirements to use wands, I looked at the Casting Spells from a Wand rules. It described how the wielder must hold the wand in one hand. It said activation was a Cast a Spell activity using the normal number of actions for the spell. It added that the spell in the wand must be on the wielder's spell list. The description sounded complete.

We had some doubts about the spell list, so I looked under the classes, the multiclass archetypes, and the rules about magical traditions. What gives a spell list is undefined, but we had some good guesses from context.

But it turns out that a key piece was in another section that essentially said that when an item says activation is Cast a Spell, it does not mean Cast a Spell by anyone who learned the Cast a Spell activity. It really means Cast a Spell by a character with an official spellcasting class. The writers hid the rule.

I wondered what other rules about spellcasting were hidden, so I searched my PDF of the Core Rulebook for the word spellcasting. As a side benefit, I found feats, actions, and items in the Core Rulebook that require a spellcasting class feature.

The Human ancestry feat 1 Adapted Cantrip requires a spellcasting class feature. It gives a cantrip from outside the character's magical tradition, which means that the character has to have a definite magical tradition.

The skill activity Learn a Spell lets a spellbook caster add a spell to a spellbook and a spontaneous spellcaster learn a particular spell (such as an uncommon or rare spell) the next time they level up or retrain. The spell must be in the character's magical tradition, which means that the character has to have a definite magical tradition.

Spell Attack Rolls depend on the source of the spell, and one source is a spellcasting class feature. This is not quite a prerequisite, but it does call out the spellcasting class feature.

Core Rulebook, Playing the Game chapter, Spell Attack Rolls, page 447 wrote:
The ability modifier for a spell attack roll depends on how you gained access to your spells. If your class grants you spellcasting, use your key ability modifier. Innate spells use your Charisma modifier unless the ability that granted them states otherwise. Focus spells and other sources of spells specify which ability modifier you use for spell attack rolls in the ability that granted them. If you have spells from multiple sources or traditions, you might use different ability modifiers for spell attack rolls for these different sources of spells.

Activating an Item with Cast a Spell adds that, "This happens when the item replicates a spell. You must have a spellcasting class feature to Activate an Item with this activation component." The more detailed instructions for scrolls, staves, and wands say that the replicated spell must be on the wielder's spell list and characters with a spellcasting class feature are guaranteed to have a spell list.

Holy Prayer Beads have the crafting requirement, "You have a spellcasting class feature with the divine tradition." The beads beads become attuned to your deity, changing their form and iconography to prominently incorporate your deity’s religious symbol and iconography but don’t transform or function for an evil spellcaster. I think the crafting requirement is flavor to make them seem more religious; nevertheless, a sorcerer could have a divine tradition without a deity, so the flavor failed.

Ring of Wizardry requires that the wielder have a spellcasting class feature with the arcane tradition. One feature on the ring grants two additional 1st-level arcane spell slots each day, so it makes sense that the wielder already have 1st-level arcane spell slots. The Ring of Wizardry also has the crafting requirement of a spellcasting class feature with the arcane tradition.

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