Welcome to the first in a new category of posts on this blog. I've decided to call it "Curious Objects." In these posts, I will take a look at some of the more obscure and/or interesting items in "Classic" (e.g. Basic/Expert) D&D.
For our first installment, I chose the Staff of Command. I came across this magical item in Cook Expert and was immediately struck at how powerful this thing could be a game.
Brief aside: In Moldvay's Basic, staves held 1d10 charges and were cleric-only (wands were for wizardly types). That was changed in Cook to vary by staff type. Some are clerical, some are "arcane" (MU/Elf), and some are usable by all three spell casting classes. Their charges were boosted to 3d10 as well.
The Staff of Command is usable by any spell caster type and it can emulate the powers of three very powerful rings: Human, Plant, and Animal Control. Of course, a staff has limited charges (rings don't), but even so, this opens up all sorts of possibilities for zaniness.
Human Control is basically a charm person spell. The target can save (albeit at -2), and there are limits to how many people can be controlled as well as what they can or can't do (no spellcasting from the thralls).
Animal Control is limited by the fact that you have to concentrate on the control or it ends. The beasts also have a negative reaction modifier toward the caster.
Plant Control is the one that looks the most fun. The staff allows you to "animate and control all plants and plant-like creatures" in a 10'x 10' area up to 60' away. It too has a concentration requirement, but let's just look at two things:
1) No save. I know, they're plants. BUT -
2) Plant. Like. Creatures.
That means you can take control of a treant, it gets no save, and you it will fight for you as long as you maintain concentration.
(Oddly, if you want to get technical, the Treant is the only plant-like creature in the BX monsters sections. As fungus is not a plant, etc.)
I don't see the staff as a game-breaking item. If nothing else, its limited charges keep it from being too OP. But there is SO much fun to be had with something like this, either in an NPC or PC's hands. Horses throwing riders, merchants becoming charmed, thorn bushes grabbing sentries, and so on. Any wizard would find it well worth his treasure share to get hold of one.