Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be talking about metamagic rods.
One of the most common things that people sometimes complain about spellcasters is that they, “Don’t have things to spend money on.” While its true that the number of critical items for spellcasters is much lower then that for martials, there are certainly still plenty of awesome magic items that casters can purchase. One such item that new players tend to neglect are metamagic rods. As any veteran will tell you, metamagic rods are some of the most useful magic items that you can get your paws on, regardless of your spellcasting class.
Today, we’re going to be taking a brief look at metamagic rods—how they work, how they’re priced, and which metamagic rods are worth picking up.
Metamagic Rod Basics
Metamagic rods are scepter-like objects that you have to hold to use; in many ways, rods are more like Harry Potter-style wands then actual Pathfinder wands are in the sense that a metamagic rod focuses and alters the effects of the spell(s) that you cast through it. All metamagic rods have several traits in common:
- All metamagic rods are use-activated. This means that you don’t need to “guess” how to use the item; you just cast a spell and “use it” and the rod does the rest. Metamagic rods fall into “common sense categories” that mean they are either a standard action to use or not an action to use—since metamagic feats modify spells as they are cast, they don’t require an action to use. Likewise, they don’t provoke attacks of opportunity when used (though casting a spell still provokes as normal—the rod doesn’t change that.) Its also worth noting that spontaneous spellcasters increase their casting time when using a metamagic rod as if they were applying a metamagic feat that they knew to their spell. This means that metamagic rods are slightly more powerful for prepared spellcasters than spontaneous ones. (Note that a quickened rod follows the normal rules for the Quicken Spell feat, meaning that the modified spell is still a swift action.)
- Metamagic rods do not change the level of the spell they alter. This one’s literally stated clearly in the rules.
- Metamagic rods cannot modify spell-like abilities. No breaking the rules, rule breaker. This one is also literally in the rules.
- One Rod per Spell. You may only apply the effects of one metamagic rod to each spell that you cast. You can still apply other metamagic feats that you actually possess to your spell, however.
- Three Uses Per Day. All metamagic rods can be used to suffuse a spell with their associated metamagic feat three times per day. There’s some uber powerful artifact level “rods” that can do this more, but three is the default number.
- Metamagic Rods come in three power levels. All metamagic rods come in three power levels—lesser, greater, and normal. Lesser rods can be used with 3rd level or lower spells. Normal rods can be used with 6th level or lower spells. Greater rods can be used with 9th level or lower spells.
- All metamagic rods have similar statistics. All metamagic rods have a strong aura associated with no school, a caster level of 17th level, and weigh 5 pounds. A metamagic feat’s cost is determined by its power level (lesser, normal, greater) and the spell level increase of the metamagic feat whose essence it contains (+0, +1, +2, +3, or +4). Ultimate Equipment actually has a complete list of this, so I won’t repeat it here.
- So with that out of the way, we’ve covered the basics on how metamagic feats are priced and how they work. Armed with this knowledge, let’s talk about which metamagic rods are really good, and what sort of characters might want to pick up a metamagic rod.
Metamagic Rods R Us
So, you like the sound of metamagic rods and want to pick up a few for your characters? That’s not a bad idea, but where do you start?
Well, you’re almost definitely going to be able to afford metamagic rods for lower-level spells (the lesser rods) before the higher ones, and while that might seem like a waste of money, remember that if you’re applying a metamagic feat via a rod to a spell, you’re basically making that lower-level spell slot into a higher level spell slot for free. This makes even the lesser rods REALLY good, especially if you’re playing a 6th-level spell caster like a bard or a mesmerist, since a lesser rod is going to cover over half your spells anyway.
It can be tempting to buy up every metamagic rod that you see, but remember that they only work while you’re holding them, and its often a full-round action to cast with a metamagic rods (assuming you’re a spontaneous spellcaster, anyway). So chances are switching around between rods isn’t something you’re going to want to do all that much. With that in mind, it can be helpful to know what different rods are good at to know if they’re worth your time picking up.
- Bouncing Spell: This rod is basically a contingency—your spell fails vs. its first target? Well, now its trying against someone new. As a result, this rod is only really worth using when you are fighting two or more enemies, and all of those enemies are equally dangerous to you (as in, I wouldn’t mind hitting either of these two with this spell). Its not a great rod as a result, but its not awful.
- Burning Spell: This rod causes acid or fire damage to linger for an extra round. As a result, if you’re a character who specializes in acid or fire damage (like a sorcerer), this is a very good rod. Otherwise, its probably not worth your time, and even if you’re an acid/fire fiend, empower or intensify might still be worth more to you.
- Coaxing Spell / Threnodic Spell: Both of these feats allow you to affect certain creatures normally immune to mind-affecting spells (oozes and vermin or undead, respectively) with mind-affecting spells. If you’re an enchanter or a mesmerist, both of these rods are must-haves.
- Dazing Spell: Creatures hit by your spell have to save or become dazed. This is SUPER powerful. Super expensive too, but if you’re a damage-focused spellcaster this is never a bad choice.
- Disruptive Spell: This feat is a decent way of foiling enemy spellcasters, but good ranged martial tactics are more effective. (The DC for concentrating while taking damage is WAY higher than this, especially for an optimized martial.) I would pass on this personally.
- Echoing Spell: This rod is basically a super-powered pearl of power. Unlike the feat, you can literally keep echoing the same spell over and over again if I’m reading the rules correctly, making this an interesting choice. Its very expensive, but the ability to bounce back any spell (especially high level ones) is likely worth it.
- Ectoplasmic Spell: This rod is terrible until you need it, at which point it becomes a godsend. Consider this rod as a blaster character, especially when playing in a setting that includes a lot of incorporeal ghoulies.
- Elemental Spell: This rod doesn’t seem worth it to me. It allows you to change half of your spell’s damage to another type. That might be situationally useful if you are a sorcerer of a specific element with a bonus on damage and are worried about resistances or immunities. Ultimately, there are cooler rods than this one.
- Empower Spell: This is one of the best rods in the game. Adding 50% to all numeric effects means that your spell does 50% more damage, heals 50% more damage, summons 50% more creatures, and more. Very good, and totally worth the investment.
- Enlarge Spell: This isn’t an expensive rod, but I don’t see a situation where I would need my spell to have double range. I’d pass on this in favor of a Reach rod, personally.
- Extend Spell: This is the favorite of bards, rangers, paladins, clerics, and anyone else who wants to buff themselves a lot. Using a rod of Extend Spell to double the duration of your most potent buffs with no downsides is awesome. Totally do that. This is the best metamagic rod for characters that rely on buffs or use a lot of buffs, and has awesome applications for anyone who uses duration-based spells (hint: there are tons of them).
- Fearsome Spell: The condition (causing anything you affect to become shaken) isn’t great unless you’re fighting psychic spellcasters. I think you can do better than this rod, personally.
- Focused Spell: This rod is a little too specific—when affecting multiple targets, choose one and the spell’s DC goes up for that target. I don’t like specific when I’m doing with my rods personally. I’d pass on this.
- Furious Spell / Logical Spell: I’m sure there are practical applications of using this rod to cast a spell while raging, but I’m not even sure if it would work. You couldn’t even START the action of casting a spell while raging, and metamagic rods are use-activated. So could you use one before you started casting? Maybe? I think this would need a PDT FAQ. Logical Spell has the same conundrum attached, but for psychic spellcasters only.
- Intensified Spell: This rod is AWESOME. Taking a low-level spell and adding 5 levels of progression to it without modifying the spell slot is AWESOME. Psychics should really want this, as it takes mind thrust, an already powerful spell for its level, and makes it EVEN STRONGER. (10d6 damage for a 1st level spell slot? Yes please!) This is likely worth it for any character who focuses on damage-dealing spells, as it will often take low-level damage spells and make them stronger by virtue of better scaling. This rod isn’t really worth taking as a greater rod, however, as the high-level spells don’t benefit from the scaling.
- Logical / Still / Silent Spell: All three of these remove components from your spells (emotion, somatic, and verbal, respectively). This makes them situational—normally they don’t do much, but when you are completely unable to provide the component in question they rock. Note that the only advance of a Still Spell rod is when you’re forced to take an arcane spell failure chance for some reason, such as wearing a suit of armor. Otherwise, you need a hand to hold the rod, so you’re not really all that sneaky about your casting.
- Maximize: Super expensive, and personally I like Empower better than Maximize. I think adding +50% is better than making all die results maximum in most situations, but it’s a matter of taste. (Plus I have decent luck when casting spells.)
- Merciful Spell: This rod is worth talking about because DAMN it is cheap. Literally half the cost of the +1 spells, a lesser rod will only run you up 1,500 gp. If you deal any amount of damage, invest in this rod and know that you are set whenever you decide to bring someone back alive.
- Persistent Spell: This is MUCH better than bouncing if you rely on saving throw spells. Make all targets save twice against your spells? Awesome. So amazingly awesome. Its also super expensive though.
- Piercing Spell: This is a GREAT way to help your spells pierce spell resistance, and it really isn’t too expensive. (3,000 gp for 3rd spells or lower is fair.) I would recommend having one of these on-hand for all dedicated spellcasters, if you can get one.
- Quicken Spell: Ah, the king of rods. There is literally no spell in the game that doesn’t benefit from being a swift action. None. This is honestly one of the best rods you can pick up, and its price reflects that.
- Reach Spell: This is SO much better than Enlarge Spell that it isn’t funny. Reach metamagic rods will bump up the range of your spells by one step—close to medium, medium to long, and so on. This ALWAYS results in a better range increase than Enlarge Spell, and a Reach rod costs a mere 3,000 gp. Totally worth getting.
- Rime Spell: See Burning Spell; this is an extra add-on for cold effects, and is identical in whether or not it should be used. That being said, Rime’s entangling effect is better than Burning’s damage-over-rounds effect, so this one is a little bit more useful.
- Selective Spell: For the blaster spellcaster, this rod is as good as quicken, if not better. Not only is the cost minimal, but you take out one of the biggest headaches (and flaws) of area attacking spells—worrying about your allies. Never worry again by simply excluding them whenever you want.
- Sickening Spell: This is about as good as the fearsome metamagic rod, although I will admit that the sickened condition penalizes more than shaken, making this a touch more helpful.
- Thanatopic Spell: SUPER situational. This lets you affect undead with energy drain and death effects. I don’t consider this feat worthwhile, personally, let alone the rod.
- Thundering Spell: This lets you deafen foes when you hit them with sonic spells and effects. This might be worthwhile for bards, but I’m not convinced. Deafened is far from the most powerful condition that you can hit people with, and there are plenty of better rods if you’re going to be dealing damage. Against a spellcaster, this might be worth it though.
- Toppling Spell: This one can be fun. You get to try to trip anyone hit by your spell. Its cheap, it provides a great buff for melee characters, and for those reasons it is a decent choice. Its no Quicken, Empower, or Reach, but its definitely got its charm and uses.
And with that, I think we’ve got a good foundation for metamagic rods. What do you think? What metamagic rods do you favor for your character? What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with a metamagic rod? Was there an application of a rod that I missed, or did I skip your favorite rod from a Player Companion source? Tell me about it in the comments section below, or on the forums. Until then, I’m signing off until next time! Take care.
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.