Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Superstar surprise: Staves

I'm pleased to see that almost all of my favorite items have survived the dreaded Cull — when Paizo winnows out some of the least supported items from the first weeks of voting — though disappointed that one favorite hasn't yet appeared on the community-compiledlist of entries. I can't say I'm totally surprised as it uses some more niche rules, but I'm hoping it just hasn't put in an appearance yet.

What surprises me most though is that staves are the No. 3 most popular entry. It's no surprise that weapons are No. 1 — Almost everyone in Pathfinder carries a weapon; even a primary spellcaster often has one as a backup, just in case of emergency (at least mine do) — or even that armor is No. 2, but I hadn't expected staves to be the third most popular category. (They were fourth pre-cull, but a lot of rings didn't make the cut.)

Part of my surprise is that staves were dubbed "hard mode" early on. Because they are by definition spells in a can, staff designers were going to have to make sure whatever other abilities their item had really knocked the voters' (and judges') socks off. I think people took that as a challenge, and many of them met that challenge.

The other part, though, is that to my recollection I've never had a single character, dating back some 30 years of gaming, actually use a staff. 

Granted, I usually don't play spellcasters: I have a tendency to hoard my expendable resources like a dragon with a pot of gold, a style that means I've generally been more suited to fighters and especially rogues over the years. Staves are also expensive — the cheapest staff in the core rulebook is 17,600 gp, which means you're not going to get them until you reach higher levels.
But after several weeks of voting, I have to admit I'm intrigued. I've seen a lot of staves I like (they make up a quarter of my personal keep list) and I'm thinking my next character is definitely going to be wielding one. I don't know what it will be yet — a staff-wielding magus, perhaps? a Little John knockoff? a spellcasting Mat Cauthon? — but I'm excited to see what develops. I may also try throwing some staves in as treasure in some of the games I run. I'm curious to see if other players will keep them or if they'd rather convert them to gold and eventually some other sort of item.

Since we can't talk about our favorite staves in the contest yet, I thought it might be fun to look at some of Paizo's options. Just as with Superstar, I'm eyeing ones that are more than just a collection of themed spells, and likely will want something that can let me use it as a weapon in times of need.

  • Staff of aspects: This is a nice early choice, with a more reasonable price (37,600) and spells that complement a character's efforts to stay in melee.
  • Staff of the dragon: This one just oozes flavor and while it's not a weapon itself, it gives a primary bite attack. It could be fun in the hands of a sorcerer with a draconic bloodline.
  • Staff of curses: Another fun one, this feels particularly thematic for a witch.
  • Staff of eidolons: Obviously intended for a summoner, this feels like it could be particularly valuable as the class has limited spells and I'd have the eidolon available to act while I'm busy hoarding the summoner's spells and abilities. I'd like it more if it had some sort of other benefit that interacted well with the class, though. It's another one that's fairly inexpensive; at 14,400 gp, it'd likely be available by the time I got to 7th level.
  • Staff of power: Just for old time's sake...
  • Staff of the avenger: A staff-wielding paladin? That seems like it could be a fun idea.

 What about you? Do staves play a big role in your games? Which are your favorites?


  1. I'm with you in that I've never used a staff or seen one used in one of my games. Many games simply don't reach a high enough level for staves to be relevant; and even when they do, I generally feel the plain spell-in-a-can staves aren't worth the cost next to other options. The ones with additional abilities certainly have some potential, I just haven't had a chance to see any of them in play to really have an opinion.

  2. They are indeed a rare sight when I play or gm. I haven't generally used them myself, although part of that is explained by the fact that I haven't played at high levels very often.

    However, I happen to be playing a LVL 5 arcanist in the Mummy's Mask AP currently, and I definitely see a staff in his future. I hope to craft it, possibly custom, or the staff of the master, or travel or electricity. I also like the staff of many rays (though I would have included one more spell—can you guess?), and the staff of traps.

    In the lead up to RPGSS, I became interested in staves, and worked on a couple, almost entering one. Now, I really like staves, and plan to dig deeper, both for designs, and for use at the table. I submitted the two I worked on for RPGSS to Wayfinder #13, so you may get to see them.


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