The Item Guide
One of the hardest parts of building a character is choosing items, simply because you have so many options to choose from. While you might have only 4 or 5 good powers and 20 or 30 good feats to choose from, there could be dozens of viable items available for every single item slot. Wading through all the choices can be a daunting task. This guide is designed to make these decisions a bit easier.
So why not just use a class guide when picking items? They might serve as a good starting point, but they have a few deficiencies:
- The equipment section tends to be an afterthought. Many guides only mention the most obvious items, and some guides do not have an equipment section at all.
- Class guides tend to focus on only certain types of items, like those that increase damage per round. Items with more unusual effects, such as noncombat abilities, tend to get overlooked.
- Items and classes are not very strongly linked. Individual items tend to be geared towards certain types of characters (those that attack in melee, those specialized in cold, or those with a certain skill, for example), but these character types do not often lie along traditional class boundaries.
- Some classes do not have a complete, up-to-date, well-written class guide, and hybrid characters are so diverse that a guide for them can’t possibly cover all the good options.
- If the writers of other guides don’t have time to make an equipment section, they can just link to this guide!
Primary and Secondary Items
Items fall into two categories: primary and secondary.
Primary items include weapons, implements, armor and neck items. They all improve important statistics such as your attack bonus, damage, and defenses. These items should all be around the highest level you can afford. If you neglect any of them, your character will be underpowered. The exception is weapons or implements held in an off-hand that are rarely for attacking, but that provide other nice bonuses. Primary items are not currently the focus of this guide.
Secondary items are quite a bit different. They offer nice bonuses, but do not generally affect any of your most important numbers. As a result, it’s not even necessary to fill all these slots at low levels. You should focus on having a good set of primary items first, and then buy secondary items with whatever money you have left.
However, unlike primary items, these items do not be kept at a high level. Even a level 2 secondary item can be useful up until level 30. Since items rise exponentially in price, you will be able to afford lower-level items very easily. A paragon character should have every item slot filled with at least a heroic-tier item. At epic levels, it is possible to fill every item slot with a paragon item. Unless you have an unusual amount of cash, you will only be able to afford the most important epic-tier secondary items.
Secondary items have a huge effect on a character’s effectiveness, but are frequently overlooked. This guide provides a basis for deciding which secondary items to buy.
Since the release of D&D Essentials, magic items are now given rarities. By default, common items are available for purchase, but uncommon and rare items are only available if the DM gives them as treasure. This can make your item choices subject to the whims of the DM.
My personal recommendation to DMs is to ignore rarities and let players buy whatever items they want. The change creates more headaches than it solves.
Unless an item is listed otherwise, assume it is uncommon.
As a side effect of this change, magic item daily uses are no longer limited. This makes certain wondrous items and consumables much more appealing.
The Ratings System
Throughout this guide, I will use the standard Char Op ratings system. All ratings assume that the item is being used by an appropriate build. Iron Armbands of Power, for example, are rated based on the assumption that they are being used by a melee character. Gloves of Ice are rated under the assumption that the character uses mostly cold attacks. Different builds should adjust their expectations accordingly.
Some items with multiple versions are better at some levels than others. This is represented by a gradient rating. The color on the left represents the item’s rating at its lowest level, and the color on the right represents the item’s rating at its highest level.
Set items are rated individually, without consideration to the value of the set as a whole.
Gold: This is a must-have item for the appropriate build. You need to have a good excuse not to buy it.
Sky Blue: This is a fantastic item. It is one of the best purchases you could possibly make.
Blue: A good choice. It is better than the average item, but not exceptional.
Black: An average item. You can certainly do better, but you won’t be ruining your character by choosing this.
Purple: A poor choice. It isn’t completely worthless, but you should really get something better instead.
Red: Worthless, or completely overshadowed by another item.
Without further ado, here are my ratings for all secondary items. For every slot, I’ve listed scaling items first, by the levels that they are first available. Unless mentioned otherwise, scaling items have a new version every 10 levels. After that, I’ll list non-scaling items by their level.
Other Useful References
Holy Symbols for the Non Divine: If you have the ability to use holy symbols, but you prefer to use a weapon or another implement, you can still gain the benefits of a magic holy symbol without it taking up a hand or an item slot. This is a good guide for holy symbols used in this manner.
I Can Kill You With My Brain: The psion handbook. Contains a good equipment section for psions.
The Power of the Dark Side: The warlock handbook. Contains a good equipment section for warlocks.
Ginzu Items: A guide to items that count as multiple types of implements or weapons.
Saddle Up: A guide to mounted combat.