All casters have the option of using a focus item. This focus item is appropriate to the character class and includes (but is not limited to):
- Channelers: staves or orbs
- Wizards: staves or wands
- Paladins: shield, weapon, holy symbol
Typically, a first level character that can cast spells at first level begins the game with an undamaged focus item of their choice. This item may be a parting gift from a master, or the final task of his apprenticeship. A paladin would not start with a focus item since they cannot cast spells at first level.
Nature of a Focus Item
A focus item is a magic item. It may have no other magic effects except to act as a focus item for a caster but it is still treated as a magic item for purposes of magic item durability and detect magic spells.
A focus item can be an enchanted item such as a magic staff with other powers. In this case, it is used both as a focus item and as the enchanted item. Turning a magic item into your focus item is a good way to protect that item as it is less likely to suffer damage, assuming you can afford the cost and time.
Effects of a Focus Item
A focus item that is not broken allows normal casting of spells.
It is possible to cast without a focus item but at greatly reduced effect. Without a focus item or with a completely broken item, all spell effects including duration are halved (round down). The DC for the spell for any saving throws has a -5 penalty and the spell penetration check (if any) has a -5 penalty. The referee may rule for certain spells that there are additional penalties. For instance, an invisibility spell might provide imperfect invisibility or an illusion might flicker.
Focus Item Durability
Focus items receive extra attention and care from the caster both during creation and in use. Therefore, treat them as having double the normal durability for a magic item. Furthermore, the character can ignore a single tarot card as it applies to their focus item. This is a single card for the life of the item. Once a card has been ignored on behalf of the focus item, no further cards may ever be ignored, no matter how much time passes.
Replacing a Focus Item
Focus items can be replaced, usually to replace a broken one but sometimes to replace it with a more powerful item (as for instance, a 10th level caster replacing his old focus item staff with that shiney new staff of power.)
If a new item is to be created, treat it as a magic item costing half the price/materials and time of a level 1 wondrous item and requiring no special spells or feats to create.
Making an existing item a focus item is treated as adding an additional +1 enhancement to the item. The caster must pay the incremental cost to add the +1 and must have the necessary item creation feat or work with a caster who does have the necessary item creation feat. This can be a substantial sum of money but casters may be able to find someone who will do the work for a quest or other service in lieu of simple gold.