When running a game of Shattered Empire (or any High Fantasy RPG for that matter) there seems to always be some confusion over just how magical implements and such work. What’s the difference between a spellbook and a spellscroll? How is a magic wand different from a magic staff? What the hell is a rod? (And do I want to know?)
So for clarity’s sake–and because I don’t think this information is spelled out in detail all in one collection in any of the game documents–I shall now give a full explanation of what each item is and how it differs from others of the same category.
Spellbooks: These are books that hold the “recipe” for casting a certain spell, invoking a Deity, etc. They do not have intrinsic magical properties themselves (unless the owner has cast Arcane Lock or something like that on it to keep snooping eyes out.) Meaning, an untrained warrior can’t pick up a spellbook and use it to cast a spell. Someone trained in the proper spell school can study it to learn new spells, and therefore they are sought after by competing wizards and such, but otherwise they are just an interesting–if not valuable–curiosity.
Scrolls: Scrolls are single-use magical parchments that hold a specific spell. They can either be used to cast the spell they hold, or they can be studied to learn the spell they hold. Either way, the scroll is consumed after once use. Scrolls are unique in the fact that ANYONE can use them, since most of the magic is already imbued within the parchment in a potential state, waiting for activation by the user. This usually means just reading off an activation phrase, giving anyone with literacy an opportunity to cast a magic spell.
Wands: Wands are objects of power that, like scrolls, house one spell. The major difference is that wands usually have multiple uses, and can be “recharged” in order to continue using it to cast the spell. To use a wand you do not need to know the specific spell it holds, but you do have to be trained in the general school of magic to effectively use them. Untrained users may accidentally succeed, but often times there will be devastating results in trying to manipulate a type of magic that you don’t fully understand. A spell cannot be learned from a wand.
Staffs: Staffs function very much in the same manner as wands, however staves never “run out” of magic. They need never be recharged. Additionally, staffs (or staves) can sometimes be re-enchanted with a different spell or prayer. This is something that would normally destroy a wand. A spell cannot be learned from a staff.
Orbs: Orbs do not contain magic spells, though they are charged with pure magic themselves. Orbs are used as a focus for Arcane spellcasters, giving them all kinds of potential boons and boosts to their spellcasting. Orbs are Arcane Implements.
Rods: Rods function in the same way as orbs, only for Nature-benders, such as Druids. These are Nature Implements. They boost Commune with Nature and Commune with Spirits power schools.
Holy Symbols: Holy Symbols are Divine Implements. They are focuses for all manner of Divine prayer schools.
Psionic Focus: Psionic powers can be amplified by a Psionic Focus. These are Psionic Implements. They augment the powers of Telekinesis and Telepathy.
Bard Instruments: In the hands of a normal person these are no more than average musical instruments. In the hands of a Bard they become Bardic Implements, augmenting or changing the power of their Bard Songs.
Of course there are many other items that can have spell-effects associated with them. Potions, rings, amulets–these all can hold magical properties that anyone can make use of. Shrines and Temples may grant blessings. A circle of trees deep in the forest may grant a boon to those that stand inside. Exploring the world of Gildeon is the only way to discover them all.