I am very fond of Moldvay B/X, as well as its latecomer descendant ACKS. What I don’t like so much is the old-school way D&D handled wands and staves. The ones with “charges.” The main problem with charged effects is that no one ever wants to use them up. The current situation is somehow never dire enough to use one of an unknown number of lightning bolts remaining in that wand.
Plus, charged items don’t feel right. I don’t know why. I have participated in the writing of a space opera B/X hack that replaces magic-user with super-scientist. Charged items feel just right in that setting. In fact, making and using charged items is one of the class features. For fantasy, though, not so much. The wand (or staff) should be personal and constantly useful, not something you pull out of your pack in a pinch.
So here are some ideas for making wands and staves more fun. I think it would work to randomly roll several of these to describe the characteristics of any given wand or staff. Maybe I’ll make a table later.
- Sensitivity — The wand grants a +1 bonus to one saving throw. For example, a Wand of Dueling grants a bonus to saves against wands.
- Speed — The wand lets you cast at +1 initiative. (Actually I think this should be a universal property of wands. It only works with your wand though. It has to be attuned to you.)
- Elementalism — For one spell that allows a saving throw to resist its effects, that save suffers a -1 penalty when the spell-caster uses this wand.
- Hit dice — For one spell that effects a randomly rolled number of hit dice, roll an extra die.
- Echoes — For one spell that you can normally cast, you can cast it one additional time per day. (The spell that the wand echoes never changes.)
- Transference — Choose one spell to place in the staff. From now on, you can cast that spell once per day from the staff, but you can no longer memorize it normally. (I think transference should probably be a universal property of all staves.)
- Spell debt — You can hastily cast a spell that you know but haven’t prepared, but in exchange you can’t prepare any spells for the next 1d4 days. You don’t lose the spells you’ve already memorized though.
- Counterspelling — You can cast out of turn in order to counterspell an enemy wizard. This only works if you know the counterspell. Very handy in conjunction with spell debt.