High Cost of High Level Living

Is it, at least in rare cases, possible to guess a command word for certain COMMON magic items? Perhaps a semi-mass-produced fireball wand from one ancient empire had a pool of often reused command words to ensure that the mage-soldiers could use the wands despite any filing errors that might separate command word from item.

“After the humiliating defeat of the battle at Zanderqwell, where a clerical error (or deliberately sabotaged) documentation mixed up all the command words of a vital shipment of wands to a Zaharan mage unit, it was mandated that all such wands made in the kingdom would be assigned a standardized command word: ‘DIE IN A FIRE’ spoken in Zaharan. Other common items had their command words similarly standardized to a greater or lesser extent, some items having a handful of competing standards. This rule continued for the better part of a century, losing favor around the start of the 3rd Great Thrassian Rebellion when rebel spell-casters started to intercept shipments of magic items.”

This would probably be rare, but I could see certain incantations and command words gaining popularity in certain eras and regions. Someone who has done a great deal of study in this area (enough to get one or two proficiency levels), might know a couple good guesses.

For my own campaign I’m thinking of making most command-word items either having their command word(s) written invisibly on them, or them being something obvious in the vein of your Die in a Fire example. A Wand of Charm Person should definitely be triggered by the Elvish word for Friend.

One thing I enjoy doing with command word items, when they’re held by someone who is actually using them against the PCs, is to have the command word be part of their villanous mockery in combat.

“And now, young Skywalker, you…will…die.” (The command word to Emperor Palpatine’s wand of lightning is “young”.)

Even better when the PCs think the whole thing is the command word and start yelling it at their enemies.

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This is exactly my interpretation of it as well, for what it’s worth. Live below what is expected of your status and people start treating you accordingly.