Should Recharging Staffs Be Possible?

I believe it's well established on these forums that I come from a bit of a new school background.  I never really started playing in a big way until 3.5, and my biggest campaigns I've run/played in before ACKs were 4e and pathfinder.

So it was always a bit shocking to me that magic Staves in this game are either glorified wands, with limited charges that will eventually run out permanently, or infinite usage items.  To me, staves were always something that would have a smaller number of charges than a wand, but which would require the caster to be high enough level to cast spells into the staff to recharge it.

As it stands, staves (at least new ones players might want to create) seem to have little to differentiate them from wands.  Now, as an older, wiser gamer, I now understand that the 3 or 4 days a mage might have to dedicate to recharging a staff are meaningless in the grand scheme of things, so i'm trying to think up a way where recharging a staff can be possible, preferable to just making a new one, and yet represent a true tradeoff of costs in some form.

So my thought is this: 
* Adding a charge is a magic research project.
* You must choose a spell on the staff and be able to cast it.
* The difficulty is increased by one half the spell level of the highest level on the staff, regardless of how many charges it uses.
* The cost is equal to half the base cost of the spell you chose.  No special components are required.
* You must have a laboratory with sufficient value to create potions or scrolls of the spell you're using (so 4000gp for level 1, etc.)
* For every 10,000gp above the value of the highest spell on the staff, +1 to your research roll, not exceeding the total value of the staff when it was created.
* Recharging takes 1 day per spell level of the spell being used to recharge.
* If you succeed, you add charges equal to the number of charges required to cast that spell.
* For every 5 points more you beat your target roll by, add 1 additional charge, regardless of how many charges the spell itself added.

So I like this because it still represents a cost, there is some risk of failure involved, especially for low level mages who were fortunate enough to find a staff.  Yet higher level mages can more easily recharge, but even a high level mage may find themselves spending a week or more of downtime to recharge a fully spent staff.  1 day per spell level might be too generous, but ideally it should be some number less than 1 week so that recharging a staff is preferable to making a new scroll (since scrolls can be created earlier, are easier to give out, and can be of any spell rather than just the spells on the staff).

I personally default to the 2E rule on recharging staffs/wands, which is that you have to pay full price and time for the charges but automatically succeed in doing so. (Also, it requires only the base gold cost, not any special components, and you cannot charge an item unless you meet the requirements to do so. This being ACKS, and you’re recharging an existing item, I would certainly also give the formula/sample benefit.)

The real difference between staffs/wands, in theory, is that staffs have a higher caster level and more spells available in them (which matters in terms of initiative). A wand of cold or wand of lightning, for example, deal 6d6 damage, while the staff of power deals 8d6 with its fireballs and lightning bolts.

(This does lead me to one problem I have with the ACKS magic item design system, which is that there is no way to tell how much damage an item deals when a PC creates it, as there is no distinction made between staffs and wands or distinction of caster level in general made for magic item costs. So if a PC makes a charged item that can cast fireball, there are hints and guesses the Judge can use, but in the end the amount of damage it does is something the Judge has to decide without firm guidance.)

hmmmm, the 2e way sounds a bit simpler. no chances of failure, no series of rolls, no need to calculate difficulty. between that and no special components it would still be preferable to scrolls.

You are correct, the distinction in damge of wands vs. staves is not spelled out explicitly for new staves the players might create, and therefore was lost on me, the newschool noobie :-P  I probably would have defaulted to the 3e "lowest level required to cast the spell" which has the chance to make staves better since you would probably use the lowest level for the highest spell.

Staves are a bit weird in older versions, Some like the staff of healing/serpent are essentially unlimited charges (though have limitations on use). Others use charges like the staff of power.  All in all though the disctintion between a rod, staff or wand is minimal, all are sticks casting magic and often pooled togeather.

The level distinction seems weird, if you look at wands a cone of cold is a 5th level spell (in companion), but the wand still does only 6d6, despite a minimum caster level of 9th level thus 9d6 minimum, though a wand of Magic Missile is one missile per charge (2 maximum, which you just cant cast).  I'd go with wands are 6th level, while staves are 8th level for the base of level dependant things (rods being 10th level, I recall rules mentioneing that in some D&D but cant for the life of me recall which edition).  Both of which are caster levels below those of the creator (haivng a 9th level minimum on creating them).

Personally for these style of games I like including a mix of types, to keep magic that bit varied and unpredictable.  Ones that naturally recharge but hold few charges, ones with moderate charges that have some special task to recharge them (like leaving a wand of fireballs in a strong fire for a certain time) or lots of charges but expendable, with no recharge.


Alex recommends here that if you're going to do it, "treat recharging as creation of a charged magical item with a sample at hand."

I like many of the solutions provided here. The others are probably better, but here's another take on making it a Magic Research roll. The recharging process takes 2days x spell level x charges and costs 250gp per charge. I made the 250 up... it's half the base cost of the initial item creation.

However, on a failed roll, the full time and gold are still spent, but the recharge is unsuccessful. On an unmodified throw of 1-3, the magic item is destroyed.

All of the normal rules that apply to Magic Research can be brought to bear, such as gaining a bonus by performing the recharge in a workshop. Or, if the researcher wishes to apply a new, experimental method of recharging, they can use the  experimentation rules from the Player's Companion, which have an attached chance for a mishap to occur in exchange for a bonus to the throw.