Of all the arcane devices, all the rods, wands, orbs, and staves, coveted by practitioners of the magical arts, a Staff of Power is among the most powerful.
Capable of more than doubling a powerful wizard’s pool of spell slots, more than tripling the length of a warlock’s spell list, and even transforming the most fragile sorcerer into a formidable opponent in melee, there are few items out there that do as much to buff and round out the abilities of spellcasting character in Dungeons & Dragons 5e.
What Is a Staff of Power in DnD 5e?
A Staff of Power is a very rare magical item that requires attunement by a Sorcerer, Warlock, or Wizard. Once attuned, this staff grants the wielder a +2 bonus to both spell and weapon attack rolls, damage, saving throws, and Armor Class (AC).
A Staff of Power also has 20 charges, regaining 2d8 + 4 charges daily at dawn. These charges can be used to deal extra damage with a melee attack and cast a variety of powerful spells, including levitate, fireball, and wall of force.
Also, if the wielder chooses to break the staff over their knee, all of its remaining magical energy is expelled in a devastating blast that could potentially annihilate an Aboleth, Lich, or a Mammoth in a single wave of magical force.
There’s also a 50% chance the wielder of the staff is either subjected to the full force of the explosion or catapulted to “safely,” meaning they end up in a random plane of existence somewhere throughout the multiverse.
Either way, it’s probably the end of that particular wizard’s time with the party – whether they’re the sole survivor of the resultant TPK or not.
Staff of Power
Staff, very rare (requires attunement by a Sorcerer, Warlock, or Wizard)
This staff can be wielded as a magic quarterstaff that grants a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with it. While holding it, you gain a +2 bonus to Armor Class, saving throws, and spell attack rolls.
The staff has 20 charges. If the staff’s charges are ever completely expended, roll a d20. On a 1, the staff retains its +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls but loses all other properties. On a 20, the staff regains 1d8 + 2 charges.
Power Strike. When you hit with a melee attack using the staff, you can expend 1 charge to deal an extra 1d6 force damage to the target.
Spells. While holding this staff, you can use an action to expend 1 or more of its charges to cast one of the following spells from it, using your spell save DC and spell attack bonus:
- Cone of cold (5 charges)
- Fireball (5th-level version, 5 charges)
- Globe of invulnerability (6 charges)
- Hold monster (5 charges)
- Levitate (2 charges)
- Lightning bolt (5th-level version, 5 charges)
- Magic missile (1 charge)
- Ray of enfeeblement (1 charge)
- Wall of force (5 charges)
Retributive Strike. You can use an action to break the staff over your knee or against a solid surface. Doing this destroys the staff, releasing its remaining magic in an explosion that expands to fill a 30-foot-radius sphere.
You have a 50 percent chance to instantly travel to a random plane of existence, avoiding the explosion. If you fail to avoid the effect, you take force damage equal to 16 × the number of charges in the staff.
Every other creature in the area must make a DC 17 Dexterity saving throw.
On a failed save, a creature takes an amount of damage based on how far away it is from the point of origin, as shown in the following table. On a successful save, a creature takes half as much damage.
Setting aside the incredibly dangerous consequences of breaking a Staff of Power, this is actually a relatively straightforward item.
No matter what level spellcaster you are, the staff gives you the ability to dish out a ton of extra damage or access a whole toolkit of invaluable utility spells.
It effectively gives you powers that are roughly equivalent to those of a 9th-level wizard on top of all your regular abilities.
You can fire off up to four level five fireballs a day for a total of 40d6 damage, or just use it to fire off magic missile like it’s a cantrip for up to 60d4 + 20 of guaranteed force damage every single day.
The Staff of Power isn’t just a way to bump up your damage output, however.
Spells like hold monster, levitate, ray of enfeeblement, and wall of force all have tons of useful applications for controlling, disrupting, and generally outmaneuvering your enemies.
Basically, if you want to feel like an archmage before 20th level, this is the magic item for you.
Spells You Can Cast Using a Staff of Power
Spend 5 charges to emit a 60-foot cone of freezing air that forces all creatures caught in it to make a Constitution saving throw or take 8d8 cold damage (for an average damage value of 36) on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one.
The perfect spell for taking out a large group of charging enemies. A 60-foot cone can cover more than 350 square feet of ground (71 5×5-foot squares if you use a grid), which is more damage over a larger area than a fireball upcast to 5th level.
Spend 5 charges to conjure a ball of raging magical fire that forces all creatures within a 20-foot radius sphere to make a Dexterity saving throw or take 8d6 fire damage (the Staff of Power casts this spell at 5th level, meaning the damage is raised to 10d6 for an average damage of 35) on a failed save or half as much on a successful save.
A classic weapon to sow death and destruction against boss monsters and hordes of minions alike.
Whether you use Fireball or Cone of Cold when wielding the staff depends on enemy resistances and their positioning. All else being equal, Cone of Cold deals (one) more damage on average and covers a larger area.
Spend 6 charges to create a shimmering barrier in a 10-foot radius around you. The barrier prevents any spell of 5th level or lower cast from outside the barrier from affecting creatures or objects within it.
A fantastic spell that not enough spellcasters pick up. This is absolutely a top-tier spell if you end up fighting any monsters or humanoids with spellcasting abilities.
Spend 5 charges to force a creature (that isn’t undead) to make a Wisdom saving throw or be paralyzed for up to 1 minute, although the target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns.
The ultimate boss fight ruiner. Hold Monster is one of the best battlefield control spells in the game, whether you want to set up an ally for the perfect crit, halt a fleeing enemy, or stop an evil ritual.
Spend 2 charges to levitate yourself, another creature, or a loose object weighing up to 500 pounds.
One of my favorite spells for creative applications, from leaving enemies floating helplessly in the air to bypassing dangerous traps.
Spend 5 charges to shoot a 100-foot long, 5-foot wide line of lightning, dealing 8d6 damage (the Staff of Power casts this spell at 5th level, meaning the damage is increased to 10d6, same as Fireball) to enemies that fail a Dexterity saving throw.
Harder to hit multiple targets than Fireball and, unless you’re fighting something with fire and cold resistance, there’s very little reason to use this spell.
Spend 1 charge to shoot three glowing darts of magical force, each of which hits a creature of your choice that you can see within range, dealing 1d4 + 1 force damage.
There are so few abilities and effects that inflict guaranteed damage, and being able to go from casting three or four 1st-level spells a day to more than 20 is a huge power boost.
Solely using your staff’s charges to cast Magic Missile actually results in some serious damage output.
Spend 1 charge to halve the damage a creature deals on Strength-based melee attacks.
Probably worth burning at the start of a fight if you find yourself up against something big and beefy – especially if it has multiattack.
Spend 5 charges to create an invisible, impenetrable wall of force.
A great defensive or utility spell that can trap enemies, protect you from falling debris, or block a dragon’s breath.
Taken together, the spells granted to you by the Staff of Power are a fantastic toolkit in their own right, especially if your class suffers from limited spell slots.
The only thing that annoys me about this spell list is that it includes no spells that require you to make a spell attack, meaning you never benefit from the +2 to your spell attack bonus granted by the staff when actually… using the staff to cast a spell.
Which Class Makes the Best Use of a Staff of Power?
The three “full caster” classes can attune to and use a Staff of Power, and each one benefits from this item in a different way.
Admittedly, by the time a wizard gets their hands on a Staff of Power, they’re probably well on their way to being able to prepare, know, and cast enough spells that their issue is more likely going to be that fights end before they can cast all their spells rather than running out of spell slots.
Nevertheless, a Staff of Power essentially presents the “greatest hits” of the wizard spell list, meaning one of two things:
Either it gives you more uses of spells you already cast, which is nice, or it provides a foundation from which you can branch out and pick some really weird stuff, like Chaos Bolt or Leomund’s Tiny Hut, safe in the knowledge that you have a magic stick full of all the game’s most objectively useful spells.
Aside from their Mystic Arcanum feature, Warlocks basically make the long, sad trek from 1st to 20th level never getting more spell slots in total than a wizard has level-1 spell slots by 3rd level.
This is usually alright because the warlock compensates using a mixture of souped up cantrips and interesting pact features.
However, give a warlock a Staff of Power, and you’ve basically taken away the class’ only inbuilt limitation. You’ve given a warlock, like, 20 extra spell slots every day.
I shudder to imagine what they’d do with all that versatility, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be pretty.
In terms of spell pools, sorcerers fall somewhere between wizards and warlocks.
They have just as large a pool of spell slots as wizards do, but their list of known spells is significantly closer to the warlock’s in size.
This is because sorcerers are supposed to be able to accomplish more with less by tweaking the way their spells work using metamagic.
Now, my gut instinct would have been to say that sorcerers can only use metamagic to affect spells that they cast and therefore couldn’t meddle with magic coming out of something like a Staff of Power.
However, Jeremy Crawford actually weighed in on this issue and says that “If a magic item’s description says you cast a spell from it, you can use Metamagic on the spell.”
This means you can cast quickened spell fireballs from your Staff of Power and make melee attacks, or do any other totally wild magical meddling you desire.
Using a Staff of Power in Melee
There are so few ways for wizards, sorcerers, and warlocks to be useful in close combat.
Aside from the fantastic exceptions that are the Hexblade Warlock and the Bladesinger Wizard, you’re pretty much always going to be hiding behind the fighter-firing cantrips and hoping that the other side doesn’t have any archers.
A Staff of Power really helps with that. This item uses the same base stats as a +2 magical quarterstaff.
This means that you’ll be churning out some decent damage each round, especially since the fact you can use a Staff of Power as a spellcasting focus means you don’t need to keep an extra hand free for mystic finger wiggling. Hello 1d8 + 2 damage.
But, while the magical attacks, damage and attack bonuses are all nice, it’s the +2 AC bump that’s especially great.
Caster classes tend to suffer from chronically low AC, and this extra bump means you can feel safe enough to actually get into melee range and crack some skulls… maybe not very big skulls but, like, a small to medium sized skull.
You’re no longer a complete liability, is what I’m saying.
Lastly, if there’s ever an enemy you really, really want to hit with some serious damage, the staff’s Power Strike ability is a pretty good way to put a little bit of extra stink on a hit.
However, the average damage output of 1d6 (3.5), even if you add 1d8 + 2 from the staff’s base damage (3.5 + 4.5 + 2 = 10), is slightly lower than the average damage from hitting a single target with magic missile.
Also, magic missile’s damage is guaranteed, and you can inflict it from, like, waaaay over there.
Lastly, we should talk about what happens when you break the staff.
Personally, I would only ever do this as a last resort, as the 50/50 chance of either taking up to 16 x 20 (320) force damage from a fully charged staff (enough to turn an Ancient Brass Dragon, a Pit Fiend, or even Acererak into a fine pink mist) or getting thrown into a completely random plane of the multiverse is basically curtains for all but the most powerful characters.
Still, it’s a pretty commendable way to take the BBEG out of the campaign for good. If they’re standing next to you, a fully charged Staff of Power packs enough punch to pop an Aboleth or an Adult Deep Dragon.
Personally, I would try anything possible (maybe the command spell, a gaes, of some cunning illusion trickery and sleight of hand) to get the BBEG to break the staff themselves while I stood exactly 31 feet away and tried to think of something cool to say.
Homebrewing Staffs of Power
Before we go, I’d like to remind all you dungeon masters out there that the Staff of Power is not a unique item.
It’s a staff of power, meaning that the spells it contains were probably placed there by whichever insanely powerful archmage made it.
That means that, if you want to inject a little more flavor into a Staff of Power, you can fill it with just about any roster of spells you like.
I would still make sure that the total levels of spells you could cast with the staff (the existing staff’s spell levels add up to 36) are the same and you keep the maximum spell level under, say, 6th.
Other than that, go nuts.
The Staff of Power made by a powerful illusionist probably contains very different spells to the one made by an arch necromancer.
Try tailoring your own Staff of Power to a specific school of magic or just to whatever you think the wizard (or warlock or sorcerer) who made it thought would come in handy.
That’s everything I’ve got for the Staff of Power, an insanely versatile item that turns your spellcasting up to 11.
Until next time, stay safe, and happy adventuring.