A sub-trope of Weapon of Choice.
The Simple Staff is quite the versatile melee weapon and coincidentally happens to resemble a really big Magic Wand, so it's no surprise that Wizards and Witches who want to add that extra kick to their spells, or who decide they're tired of being a Squishy Wizard and want to increase their melee deadliness and upgrade to Kung-Fu Wizard, often pick up a Magic Staff.
A Magic Staff is a Magic Wand which is large and substantial enough to be a viable melee weapon. In that sense, it is a Magic Wand first and a melee-weapon second. The magical Simple Staff version is probably the most common and most deadly in physical combat, but canes, clubs and mace-like rods are also viable versions of a Magic Staff, should their shapes be taken advantage of. Sometimes the staff itself is magic, though other times it's just a Magic Focus Object with little inherent ability of its own. Often a Magic Staff acts as a weapon to be used when a character's Black Magic is exhausted or otherwise not working. For a Magic Staff which is often used in melee combat or Full-Contact Magic, the staff is usually much more modestly-sized and decorated than the staff of a mage that isn't taking advantage of the Magic Staff's melee-abilities.
While almost no carrier of this weapon will hesitate to wield their Magic Staff as best they can in physical combat should the need arise, for some the point isn't a Magic Staff's melee attributes but that a Magic Staff is a Magic Wand but better. They are generally considered more powerful than their Fun Size version, the traditional Magic Wand, and can be elaborate to the point of Awesome, but Impractical. It's not uncommon to see staves with huge gems, floating rings and just plain unlikely hugeness, and since Bigger Is Better, and Cooler Is Also Better a large, decorative staff is usually the sign of a powerful mage.
Wizards of all kinds are known for carrying Magic Staves, which often go hand in hand with Robe and Wizard Hat. In fact, sometimes the Magic Staff functions almost purely as Stock Costume Traits for magic-users. The Magic Staff is also the signature weapon of the White Magician Girl.
Note that as a Magic Staff was used by Moses in The Bible, this trope is Older Than Feudalism.
A subtrope of both Magic Wand and Simple Staff. Related to the Boom Stick. Often paired with Robe and Wizard Hat as part of the gear for a Wizard Classic.
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Sailor Pluto from Sailor Moon wields the stylish Garnet Rod which looks much like a key fitting her role as the Guardian of the Door of Space-Time. The staff is in turn topped by the Garnet Orb, a magical object in itself and one of 3 Magical Talismans that create the holy grail or Awaken Sailor Saturn depending on the Media.
Nami's Clima Tact from One Piece is Magic from Technology, but functions within the story like a Magic Staff. Sort of interesting in that it started out life as a regular Bo staff, and Usopp built her what would become her weapon specifically to do parlor tricks and "attacks".
Rezo, the Affably Evil priest from Slayers, often used to note his arrival courtesy of jingling noises.
Mage characters in .hack//SIGN use magic staves, including Tsukasa, Helba, and BT.
Negi Springfield in Mahou Sensei Negima! carries a staff most of the time when doing magic. It serves as a focus for his spells and he also uses it to fly in a manner resembling a Flying Broomstick. Also, as the story progresses and his skills in magic increase, he tends to use the staff less and less: The magic ring Eva gave him is less cumbersome, and he grows to rely less on that as well.
In Runaways Nico Minoru wields Staff of One, which is said to "make Dread Dormammu tremble". It hides in her body and she needs to shred her own blood to summon it. It allows her to cast any spell she wants, but only once - if she tries to use the same spell again, the results will be completely random (it happened rarerly, once summoning flock of flamingos and once teleporting her into the middle of the desert). On several occasions, as Nico endured through a lot of horrible pain, the staff have transformed to more powerfull form.
Gandalf, Saruman and other wizards wield these in Lord of the Rings. Notably, Gandalf sometimes dual wielded it with a glowing elven longsword, Glamdring, because he's that much of a Bad Ass. Gandalf also gets away with taking it indoors when the rest of his party have been ordered to leave their weapons at the entrance, because he can pass it off as an old man's walking stick. (And because the guard knew that the Evil Vizier was, well, an Evil Vizier, and thought Gandalf could do something about it. That latter interpretation is only in the books; in the movies it really does look like Gandalf put one over on them.)
The main character wields both a staff and a blasting rod, as foci for his magic. Harry's blasting rod and his staff have different functions. The staff allows him to use magic more subtly, enabling him to have a much finer control over wind or telekinesis magic. The blasting rod, on the other hand, does Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Harry uses it to control his power and unleash extremely powerful evocations in tightly focused beams - although in a few cases, he ends up using such magic without needing the rod.
Staves appear elsewhere in the books as well; Luccio and Ramirez favor much shorter staves, usually under five feet in length, while the Merlin himself goes for a tall, polished white staff. Also, Eldest Gruff uses a staff, though more for walking. It's not universal however, as Elaine Mallory uses an enchanted chain, as it can be hidden more effectively. She also makes fun of the old-fashionedness and phallicness of staffs/wands. She has a thorn wand, lariat, and enchanted chain. Ebenezar McCoy uses a staff very similar to Harry's normally, but when he needs to really kick ass, he breaks out the Blackstaff, which is described as a wooden staff covered in pure darkness, and is capable of killing hundreds of men instantly by simply extinguishing their vital functions.
Harry likes his staff not just for the versatility, but because it has several enchanted functions (it's very hard) that allow him to bend prison bars, among other things. It's also handy for thwacking people. A security guard requires him to check it once for that reason. It's also handy when you want to motorcycle-joust against a limo. Yes, that happened. Yes, it was awesome.
Something of note is that most of a focus's power relies on the belief of the wizard using them, although some of them are spelled. Elaine's chain is an interesting example because it also plugs into wall sockets to build up charge. It's one of the few, if not the only, functional mixes of mortal magic and technology in the entire series.
Justified to some extent in the Her Majesty's Wizard series by Christopher Stasheff. Wands in that series (and staves, to some extent) serve as magical "antennas", focusing a mage's spells and making them directional. Spells will still work without using a wand, or stave, but the effect is both weaker and far more easily able to be picked up by other wizards/sorcerers. Kinda the difference between using a regular radio versus one with a dish antenna. As spells in this universe are cast through poetry, this can make for some interesting duels. "He's going for the extra point!/Throw his kneecap out of joint!", etc...
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, Prospero made all his children magical staffs.
In the Circle of Magic universe, every Trader carries a six foot staff capped at both ends with engraved brass caps. Daja uses hers as a weapon, a walking stick and a magic wand, as needed.
However, once she becomes an outcast Trader, she's not allowed to have engraved caps or carvings along the staff showing her life story (until she gets re-adopted by the caravan in Daja's Book). And in Cold Fire, when she gets mage-students of her own, there's an amusing exchange when they ask when they get to have cool staffs and if they can bling them out with jewels and ribbons, whereupon Daja points out that outside of plays they've probably never seen another mage who carries a staff, as they have no magical properties; she just uses hers for magic because she carries it anyway.
Moses' staff transforming into a snake and back is one of the signs God gives Moses of his calling from God, and foreshadows the miracles God will perform through Moses and the staff.
God tells Moses to raise his staff (or tells Moses to tell his brother Aaron to raise his staff) to cause the ten plagues on Egypt. Then, when the Israelites are fleeing Pharaoh's army, God tells Moses to raise his staff to divide the sea so they can cross safely on dry land.
God also tells Moses to strike a rock with his staff to cause water to come out of the rock.
Soon after, in a battle with the Amalekites, the Israelites would trounce their foes as long as Moses held his staff high. They start losing when his arm gets weak and droopy, so some folks get a rock for him to sit on, while his brother and another fellow help him hold the staff up the rest of the day.
In the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, all wizards carry staves which automatically absorb magic from the environment, in order to power their spells. The effect causes an allergic reaction in magical creatures such as dragons, and is harmful to extremely magical areas such as the Enchanted Forest. Wizards store their spells in their staves, so although they are nigh-indestructible, hiding one will seriously inconvenience its wizard, though he will always find it eventually. The fact that their powers rely on magical theft is one of the things that make wizards Always Chaotic Evil in the books.
Ubiquitous in Ra. Making one of these Summon to Hand, however, is an item on the main character's list of "impossible things".
All of the Lords and some Hirebrands (wood-wizards) in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant wield magical staves; the High Lord's Staff of Law, created by legendary hero Berek Halfhand, is a particularly powerful and plot-centric artifact throughout the series both the original and its replacement. On a more sinister note, the ur-vile loremasters also tend to channel their powers through rods, spears, or the like.
In Scott Meyer's Off to Be the Wizard, most "wizards" in Medieval England use staffs in their spells. In fact, a 5-foot staff is necessary for the shell program to recognize the wizard as a user. Alternatively, a wizard can use a 1.5-foot Magic Wand (a number of wizards carry collapsible backup wands in case they get separated from their staffs). A wand is typically topped with an object. Martin chooses a bust of El Santo. Jimmy has a small plasma globe. Phillip uses a bottle of Tabasco sauce (which he occasionally puts in his food and calls dragon's blood). Many Frickin' Laser Beams-type spells are coded to appear as if coming out of either a pointing hand or a staff/wand. Phillip suggests holding the staff like a rifle for a better aim. And God help you if you make the obvious joke about the staffs or wands.
In the sequel, a pair of "magicians" in Victorian England use their white canes for the same purpose. They do make the obvious joke, which greatly annoys Martin.
A Mage's Power: This the Weapon of Choice for Dragon's Lair mages because they can double as a Simple Staff. They're mercenaries after all, not academic researchers. One way of killing monsters is just as good as another.
Merlin, from Merlin has two staffs, a Sidhe staff he's used on a couple occasions, and a staff from the Crystal Cave in the series finale. Both are capable of channeling lightning (or at least something that looks like it) and utilizing it as a weapon. There's also Alator, a sorcerer who uses a staff, and the Disir, three female soothsayers armed with staffs.
In Noob, Sparadrap gets one early in the story. The generalized post-level 100 upgrade the main cast gets later in the story includes Gaea getting a Magic Staff too.
Staff of Power and Staff of the Magi. Famous not for their potent magical abilities, but for the Retributive Strike power: when deliberately broken, the staff exploded like a bomb, almost certainly killing all nearby opponents. The wielder had a 50% chance of traveling to another plane and a 50% chance of being annihilated.
Staff of the Serpent. Changes into a snake to attack your enemies. Comes in python (constriction) and adder (poisonous bite) versions.
Staff of Striking. When you want to administer a personal beat down.
Staff of Withering. Can cause the victim to age ten years and suffer a withered limb (arm/leg).
Catstaff. Gives a variety of powers that help thieves, such as climbing walls, moving silently and hiding in shadows.
Demon Staff. Allows the wielder to summon a minor demon or change themselves into one.
Staff of the Elements. Its powers depend on which type of elemental is trapped inside of it. For example, a fire elemental would allow fire-related powers.
In 4th edition, magic staves can be used both as weapons and as a means of empowering magic attacks, if you happen to belong to one of the few classes that allows it. Also, some wizards can get defense bonuses for using one, possibly by spinning it if you choose to think of it that way.
GURPS features an enchantment spell called Staff, which can be used to turn a staff into a magic device which lets a wizard cast spells through it (so, for instance, touching them with the staff counts as touching the target directly). Since GURPS magic has very limited range, this is rather useful.
Dungeon Defenders has these in multitudes of varieties, with stat modifiers applying to many aspects of the wizard and his deployable towers. If you upgrade one all the way, you can name it whatever you'd like.
Staves are the standard magical weapons in RuneScape, increasing magical attack power and providing ammunition for elemental spells. A few spells can only be cast while wielding the appropriate staff.
While Fire Emblem does have staves (which are mostly used for healing), magic books serve as the game's version of Magic Wand.
More often than not, the various Mage classes in the Final Fantasy games can equip rods and staves. It's the traditional weaponry of magic-using jobs in the Final Fantasy games. The games that have weaponry dependent on the character will generally also give this to characters with high magic stats. For example:
In both Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (which are much more closely related than most of the Ivalice Alliance games), we get not only poles, but also staves and rods, which are even more suited for magic-wielding characters since they boost magical power.
In Final Fantasy XII, at least, staves' attack damage are calculated from a character's magic power as well as their strength while giving a substantial bonus to magic power and usually a damage bonus to one element. Rods give smaller magic bonuses and are based entirely on strength, but also boost MP and some can cause beneficial status effects.
Final Fantasy XI have the famous Elemental Staves, which can be used by all jobs and provide bonuses and augments that even non mage jobs want.
In the Rune Factory series, the player can purchase staffs and wands that significantly amplify magic power (particularly offensive spells like Fireball).
Phantasy Star Online has Rods, Canes(staves), and Wands available to Forces. Rods are basic, canes have longer reach, and Wands give a bonus to your Magic stats.
In Heroes of Might and Magic II and III the liches use staves. In II and III the Magi also use staves, which kind of fits, as liches are undead wizards.
The RPG games had Staff as a weapon skill from VI onward. In VI, it was simply one of the few weapon skills available to the Sorceror. In VII and VIII, it was also the weapon skill the Sorceror (VII)/Necromancer (VIII) could get best at.
Quest for Glory lets Wizard characters obtain a magic staff in games 3 through 5. In 3 and 4 it's only somewhat useful (no mana consumption while active, but moving at all de-summons it), but it received a major overhaul in 5 (where it has its own regenerating mana supply and can be used until it runs out and needs a recharge, greatly extending the player's mana) and became useful.
Despite having a huge cast of magic-users, pretty much the only Touhou character that uses a staff is Mima, and she disappeared after the Continuity Reboot. Although that... thingFlandre has may also count.
In Dungeons & Dragons Online, one-handed scepters generally fulfill this role, commonly being enchanted with spell enhancements. It's quite normal to see wizards and sorcerers (and perhaps the occasional cleric or favored soul) dual-wield scepters, dooming their physical damage potential to minuscule levels, but providing substantial bonuses for magic.
Diablo loves these. The first game had elaborate staves with some of them even having blades on either end. Almost all of them had some powerful spells, and high melee damage. The second game, had simpler staves that provided bonuses to sorceress' skills. They also had high melee damage, but are not likely to be used in an actual fight.
Staves in World of Warcraft tend to be caster weapons, and are generally not used to melee but merely as stat boosters. Melee-oriented staves tend to be druid weapons, and again druids don't fight with their weapons, but their claws. However, there are a few rare staves designed for warriors and other melee classes (for monks recently).
Dragon Age II turns combat with a Mage's Staff into an veritable art-form of destruction, as in addition to the spells they rapidly fling across the battlefield from both ends of the staff, the Mages seem to now favour Wushu-esque moves that rapidly spin and twirl the staff around their whole bodies. A common finishing move is to slam the Staff on the ground that sends the spell across the ground towards their enemy. It should also be noted that in close-quarter melee, the Mage also now has huge blades attached to the base of their Staff to slam into their opponents.
In all versions of The World, the centerpiece of .hack//, staves are standard equipment for Wavemasters and Harvest Clerics.
Subverted in NetHack; a wizard starts the game with a quarterstaff, but it is used solely to physically assault monsters; spellcasting either comes entirely from within, or uses a different wand for each spell.
The Staves of Eden in the Assassin's Creed series are an artifact left over from the Precursor civilization that have shown up several times in history as Moses' Staff, the Papal Staff and Russian Imperial Sceptre, among others, the Staves allow the users to exercise Mind Control. Eventually Nikola Tesla and the Assassins decided to destroy the facility where the Templars were keeping it and take it for themselves, but the resulting explosion destroyed the staff itself and was so large that it came to be known as the Tunguska Event.
In The Elder Scrolls series from Oblivion on, staves are just oversized magic wands, with no bludgeoning functionality. Morrowind, on the other hand, had them as weapons in their own right.
In Arcanum, staffs can store Mana that can be used instead of a mage's own Fatiguenote Magick in this game is cast with mental power, and casting too many spells can result in unconsciousness or even contain spells of their own.
In Fly FF, Mages can wield staves, with their second class the Elementor specialising in them. Similarly, the Assist, and its second classes the Ringmaster and Billposter, use a stick for buffs and heals. Both are a bit slow in melee, but they rarely if ever actually use them for fighting directly.
In Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney, this is one of the limitations that common witches are bound under: they may only perform witchcraft if they have a staff embedded with magic gems on hand. The staff itself isn't worth dirt without any gems, and a witch has to actually touch the staff to use magic.