Staffs and Wands
Staffs and wands in my game are tools used to help a magic-user cast spells, and are thus much more akin to magic weapons than they are the magical pistols and rifles of normal D&D. And they can also be used as physical weapons – a staff is considered a d6 weapons (which means that a magic-user without a Strength bonus needs two hands to wield it effectively), and a wand can bw a d4 weapon (although most non-combat mages will prefer a lighter wand that does less damage because they don't intend to hit anyone with it). [Note that there is an automatic -1 damage modifier for non-mages attempting to use a wand or staff in physical combat, or a mage attempting to use an unattuned wand or staff.]
Warmages (the military mage which is the standard template equivalent to the D&D magic-user) traditionally use staffs rather than wands (in fact the possession of a staff is an almost certain sign you are dealing with a warmage). For one thing, it is a heaver weapon, and thus more suited to the rigors of physical combat and can bear up better to the strain of being used as a focus for military magics. Lastly, but not least, it puts some distance between the magic-user and an opponent in melee. Warmages may still use wands though, and they are often used as sidearms, for when the presence of a fully-powered battlestaff might not be socially acceptable.
The primary use of a wand or staff is as a spell focus. This allows the mage to apply the magic bonus as a penalty to the saving throw of the opponent against ranged magic. So a +3 magic staff gives opponents a -3 saving throw against spells targeting them. It also increases the combat range of a mage's spells from short range to long range.
Note that wands and staffs are not at all like guns; they are not point and shoot devices. The action is more akin gathering the energies in the staff and then physically hurling them at the target – the more flamboyantly the better (as with all magic). Wands in particular are wielded more like one would wield the handle of a whip. The upshot of this is that a mage needs freedom of movement to properly use a wand or staff.
Spells may be permanently embedded in a wand or staff when it is constructed. This requires the presence of a mage who knows the spell when the item is researched. This can reduce the effect Spell Point cost for casting the embedded spell by the magical bonus of the wand or staff. For example, if the spell magic missile is embedded into the a +1 magic wand (a rather common choice for a relatively low level wand), then the magic wan can be used to cast the spell magic missile as if it were a cantrip (at a cost of 1 SP). Note that the cost of casting the embedded spell cannot normally be reduced below that of a cantrip by this modifier.
The problem with using the full bonus of the wand or staff on a single spell is that means the wand is entirely dedicated to that spell. In the above example you have created a wand of magic missiles. If you apply a lesser bonus to each spell embedded in the wand or staff, then you can fit more spells within it. Note that if a wand is dedicated to an elemental energy (generally +3 or greater magic weapons) then this may reduce the cost of casting the embedded spells further.
Non-adventuring mages may often use a variety of low-powered special purpose wands for dedicated magical purposes, but the adventuring maze generally prefers to avoid the possible confusion and encumbrance of multiple wands. However, these special purpose wands can come in handy for non-mages that can use sorcerous devices (such as the Tomb Robber). For example, consider the possibilities of a wand of knock...
Note that wands and staves are considered to be magic weapons and thus follow the same general progression of abiitities as other magic weapons:
+0 Magic Wand or Staff
This is an "ordinary" magic wand. It allows the mage to cast battle magic at long range and to be used as a weapon. but that is about it.
Note that the best magic wands are purpose-built for a specific customer (although no specific recipe is required for this). Otherwise it is a case of the mage adjusting themselves to the wand, rather than the wand being suited for the mage. The degree of adjustment required for a chance-found wand can be used by making a reaction roll on 2d6 (with a penalty equal to the bonus of the wand). The wand must be "persuaded" using spellcraft until it becomes an "ally" in order to unlock its full powers, making one adjustment roll each month of use. [Although in actual fact the wand is not being persuaded but rather the mage is adjusting themselves to the idiosyncrasies of their new toy.]
- An "enemy" wand cannot be used at all. However this level of result is generally only possible if the mage killed the proper owner of the wand (directly or indirectly) and took it as a prize. In this case the reaction roll should have a negative modifier equal to the original owner's Charisma score (representing force of personality).
- A "hostile" wand applies it's full magic bonus as a penalty to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells and special abilities cannot be used.
- An "unfriendly" wand gives no bonus to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells may be used, but with no reduction in the cost of the spell. Special abilities generally can't be used.
- A "neutral" wand gives no bonus to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells can be used at reduce costs. Special abilities are generally not accessible.
- A "friendly" wand provides it's full magic bonus as a spell focus. Embedded spells can be used at reduce costs. Special abilities are generally not accessible.
- A "sympathetic" wand is fully unlocked, but attunement will regress if the wand is not used.
- An "allied" wand is permanently attuned to the mage.
Needless to say beginning characters generally have to put up with a cheap second-hand wand that may need further adjustment.
+1 Magic Wand or Staff
This is a masterwork wand or staff (and as a result is likely also to be considered an artwork in and of itself as a result, increasing the cost of the wand by the workmanship and decoration).
It is common to find specialised wand of this level that carry a single embedded spell as special purpose wands. For example, a dowsing rod is just such a wand with the appropriate detection magic on it (these are one category of wand where the Spell Point cost can actually be reduced to zero (0).
+2 Magic Wand or Staff
Like other magic weapons, a +2 magic wand is something greater than itself, and can develop special abilities not unlike those of magic weapons. One such special ability that is frequently built into the staves used by battlemages is that of Battle, which allows the magic bonus of the staff to be applied to physical combat as well as magical combat (and raises the damage die of the staff to that of the Magic Die of the user (uch a staff radiates destructive magical energies when wielded).
Spell-storing is another popular ability, giving the user of the staff the ability to precast spells into the staff and invoke them at will (costing only a single SP to cast). Not only does this count as a cantrip for casting speed, but the mage will presumably have recovered from the strain of casting the spell by the time it is activated.
Any of the other special and basic abilities available to magic weapons generally are also possible.
+3 Magic Wand or Staff
Like other magic weapons this is where a magic wand or staff acquires discrete mechanical abilities. For example a wand might be attuned to specific elemental energies (eg, a wand of fire) which makes using the wand to cast these magics easier (lowers the SP cost). This also affects the spells embedded in the wand (which must be associated with the elemental nature of the wand).
Another common ability at this level is Spell-turning which allows the wand or staff to effectively parry, deflect, reflect, and/or absorb the energies of the incoming spell (or even the actual spell itself).
+4 Magic Wand or Staff
Being associated with the Superhero Tier these are legendary items (albeit less powerful ones). The Staff of Power (note the singular "the") from D&D is probably the canonical example of the abilities possessed by a typical +4 Magic Wand or Staff. However all are really unique items at this level of power, and much of their nature will be determined by the intent involved in their crafting. They are also quite likely to be entangled artifacts.
+5 Magic Wand or Staff
These are the legendary items that can shake the world (or at least a Kingdom). The Staff of Wizardry from D&D is probably the canonical example of a +5 magic staff, although they are not simply repositories of spells that may be cast. For example the one-way anti-magic shell provided the Staff of Wizardry is a known unique ability of this magical weapon.
[Sometime this century I will manage to concisely describe the Title Nobility. I hope. Draft number 16 just hit the bit bucket. The problem is all the interesting historical variance (both temporal and cultural) that I keep wanting to add side notes. And really, it should just be a simple generic description – except generic is so bland. <sigh>]