Should magic weapons cost gp?

The big issue I keep seeing being mentioned concerning magic items in this game is the way low level magic items become effectively disposable at high levels. Something a starting character would consider treasure is effectively free for epic level characters.

The problem is the wealth curve. A beginning character is expected to be pretty poor, with their basic equipment being the bulk of their property. But higher level characters are expect to have amassed wealth, to the extent of eventually being able to buy ships, castles, and other very expensive things. If you can afford a castle, you can certainly afford a bag full of healing herbs.

This leads to the 'magic Batman' effect which is genre breaking and kind of annoying. The recent solution 4e has implemented has been the rarity system, which is basically the DM saying 'no you can't have that'. If you're like me, you probably hate that. The idea that the GM can decide what your character has is a violation of a player's rights. If I want to play Roy Greenhilt, I want a magic two-hander, dammit.

The issue is this: treasure is both a combat and non-combat resource. It allows you to be more effective in combat (better weapons) and more effective in non-combat role-playing (in all the ways money is useful in the real world). When 4e was made, powers were separated into attack and utility, because the makers knew that if you allowed players to choose, they would almost always go for a combat power. By making combat and utility powers separate resources, players can now choose utility powers without worrying they are 'unoptimized'. Even now, though, there are utility powers that are rarely taken, because they are non-combat utility powers. A good example would be Mordenkainen's Mansion, which is an awesome power flavour-wise, but who's going to take it over Time Stop?

So what I'm proposing is this: magic items that improve combat ability need to have a cost beyond their gp value. Items already have a cost in 'slot' which prevents too many bonuses of the same type, but 'slot' cost is not proportional to the abilities of the item. GP value acts as a 'minimum character level' while slots act to enforce diversity; what we need is an overall maximum value of combat magic items that a character can have, where the value of the items is more proportional  to their actual usefulness in combat. Epic level items would only be worth 5 or 6 times as much as heroic level items, instead of thousands of times as much as they are now using gp value. Magic items without a combat purpose would not have a cost beyond gp value.

The result of such a system would be characters who have few magic items no matter what level they were, and are more likely to have a few low-level tool items kicking around to fill specific functions. This strikes me as being more true to the genre. Thoughts?



If magic items aren't mandatory for math scaling, the cost of items doesn't have to scale exponentially either. It also makes investing in magic items optional, and leaves money for buying boats/castles/minions whatever.


That said, my group never seems to care bout buying magic items anyway. My world has stores, they are well aware of it, but just don't care.  
Early editions pretty much went by the credo suggested by the title of this thread: magic items were found, not bought; at best they were bartered for with only the rarest of wizards. They were decidedly low-magic.

Then we've got a setting like, say, Eberron in 4e, where buying anything up to a +a lot weapon seems reasonable for cash.

Personally I fall somewhere in the middle, but leaning towards "no they shouldn't". Something like "they CAN be bought for money, but the situations where they can occur are rare and more like 'hey, here's this big sack of money we found on a dead dragon, that enough?' instead of a carefully counted specific number of coins".   
There are no magical item shops in my 4e games and in general you can't buy them.    Magical items in my game are rare and valuable.     What I do is use inherent bonuses to correct the math.    



What I'm proposing here is a solution that doesn't rely on DM fiat. You can solve any problem with DM fiat. But I personally like a game world in which players have some control over their inventory. Everytime someone says 'magic items are supposed to be rare' I want to say 'says who?'
I've considered for a few specific settings doing something like the following:
residuum is a non-physical asset. It can't be traded because you can't physically pass it over. It's spiritual in nature, and it's acquired from slaying supernatural foes, or for the sufficiently evil it can be harvested from mortals as well. Basically, it's inner power.
You need to use up residuum in order to cast rituals, including creating magical items. Others present can contribute it form their supply, not just the actual caster. 
Magic items are only magical in the hands of the one they were created for, except for consumables. A piece of metal sitting on a shelf or lying in a dungeon isn't inherently magical. The magic is essentially in a link between you and the object.
Finding an item that holds magic for another but not for you can make it easier to create that magical pattern. It doesn't take less residuum, it just makes it easier to know how to do it. For example, anyone can make a generic magic sword with enough power, but to make one that burns its foes (flaming) takes specific knowledge and the easiest way is to either use someone else's flaming sword as a template or else just make the enchantment your own by re-enchanting it to be your flaming sword.


THe purpose of this is it means that adventuring currency (residuum) can be exactly as easy to come by as needed to get the items up to the desired level while allowing cash monies to be as common or rare as fits the story. You can actually end up with epic level characters who have all their mechanical needs met but are dirt poor because they haven't been doing anything that earns actual cash. Of course, at their power level they shouldn't have a hard time getting a job as mercenaries, or something a bit more prestigious.        
Thoughts?

If I had my way, there would be no numeric-impact magic items in the game. Everything would be wondrous -- no +X bonuses.


  • A magic sword would be magical because it can turn the damage into flame damage, but it does not cause extra damage.

  • Magic armor might let the wearer negate the first hit in an encounter, but it would not grant additional static protection.


In my utopian D&D world, a hero could go all 30 levels without every acquiring a magic item and still be as effective as the teammate with magic out the wazoo.

And you would NOT find anything but the most basic of trinkets as sale items -- usually those that are more alchemical than magical.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
What I'm proposing here is a solution that doesn't rely on DM fiat.




Why is DM fiat insufficient?  It's only a problem in specific kinds of campaigns, so a solution that's built into the system would be inelegant.  
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
Thoughts?

If I had my way, there would be no numeric-impact magic items in the game. Everything would be wondrous -- no +X bonuses.


  • A magic sword would be magical because it can turn the damage into flame damage, but it does not cause extra damage.

  • Magic armor might let the wearer negate the first hit in an encounter, but it would not grant additional static protection.


In my utopian D&D world, a hero could go all 30 levels without every acquiring a magic item and still be as effective as the teammate with magic out the wazoo.

And you would NOT find anything but the most basic of trinkets as sale items -- usually those that are more alchemical than magical.




I think this is generally the best idea.  Although depending on the setting what you could buy would of course change.
What I'm proposing here is a solution that doesn't rely on DM fiat.




Why is DM fiat insufficient?  It's only a problem in specific kinds of campaigns, so a solution that's built into the system would be inelegant.  



DM fiat is inelegant, because it's the sledgehammer that solves everything. By your logic, D&D should have no rules at all, and the DM should just decide everything. Throw those dice away, let the DM decide!

Some of us don't like DM fiat. Some of us want a system that does things for us, and for players to not simply be the means by which the DM tells their story. I know some gamers are of the mind 'the DM is god and they can fix anything' (Monte Cooke seem to be like that), but a lot of us aren't. If you've had a few DM's who made arbitrary and odd rulings because of what they perceive as being realistic, then you'll understand the issue.

The solution I'm proposing is designed to solve the 'Christmas tree' problem. A lot of people don't like the idea of characters have an arsenal of magical equipment, but when you get to high levels low level equipment becomes cheap, and even if you can't buy it, you still have your old equipment. Why throw away your old magic item when you get a new one? Have the DM come in and simply take your equipment way is not a good solution.
I've considered for a few specific settings doing something like the following:
residuum is a non-physical asset. It can't be traded because you can't physically pass it over. It's spiritual in nature, and it's acquired from slaying supernatural foes, or for the sufficiently evil it can be harvested from mortals as well. Basically, it's inner power.
You need to use up residuum in order to cast rituals, including creating magical items. Others present can contribute it form their supply, not just the actual caster. 
Magic items are only magical in the hands of the one they were created for, except for consumables. A piece of metal sitting on a shelf or lying in a dungeon isn't inherently magical. The magic is essentially in a link between you and the object.
Finding an item that holds magic for another but not for you can make it easier to create that magical pattern. It doesn't take less residuum, it just makes it easier to know how to do it. For example, anyone can make a generic magic sword with enough power, but to make one that burns its foes (flaming) takes specific knowledge and the easiest way is to either use someone else's flaming sword as a template or else just make the enchantment your own by re-enchanting it to be your flaming sword.


THe purpose of this is it means that adventuring currency (residuum) can be exactly as easy to come by as needed to get the items up to the desired level while allowing cash monies to be as common or rare as fits the story. You can actually end up with epic level characters who have all their mechanical needs met but are dirt poor because they haven't been doing anything that earns actual cash. Of course, at their power level they shouldn't have a hard time getting a job as mercenaries, or something a bit more prestigious.        



This is a really awesome concept Istaran.  The next time I run a 4e campaign I'll suggest this to the players and see how it works out in game.
I am also in the "you can't buy magic items" camp, although I can picture, role-playing wise, for an adventuring company to sell off obtained magic items in a small shop to augment their income. I always pictured magic items to be extremely rare, so I don't want them to be available in Ye Olde Walmart.
What I'm proposing here is a solution that doesn't rely on DM fiat. You can solve any problem with DM fiat. But I personally like a game world in which players have some control over their inventory. Everytime someone says 'magic items are supposed to be rare' I want to say 'says who?'



After reading your second post I wonder if your group doesn't have some DM issues to deal with.

Anyway, what you propose is fine, for some people. And not fine for others. Which is why DM fiat exists. However DM fiat should take into account the players likes and dislikes and ignoring that causes issues that it seems you might be facing at the gaming table?

Personally as a player, I straddle the line. I'm a total loot wh*re in most video games and I loves me some magic stuff in my DnD but I'm also really enjoying our Dark Sun campaign in which my character has one magic sword that he has named and has been passed down generation to generation in his family so it has deep significance to him.
By your logic, D&D should have no rules at all, and the DM should just decide everything. Throw those dice away, let the DM decide!

Once a rebuttal uses this kind of argument, it pretty much throws the rest of the post out the window.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
By your logic, D&D should have no rules at all, and the DM should just decide everything. Throw those dice away, let the DM decide!

Once a rebuttal uses this kind of argument, it pretty much throws the rest of the post out the window.

Yeah, there's a slight difference between "it should be okay to change specific rules that don't fit a specific group or campaign" and "you don't need rules".

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose

THe purpose of this is it means that adventuring currency (residuum) can be exactly as easy to come by as needed to get the items up to the desired level while allowing cash monies to be as common or rare as fits the story. You can actually end up with epic level characters who have all their mechanical needs met but are dirt poor because they haven't been doing anything that earns actual cash. Of course, at their power level they shouldn't have a hard time getting a job as mercenaries, or something a bit more prestigious.        



This is very close to what I was originally saying: that the value of magic items should be in a form different than gp value, so that a character's wealth and a character's equipment level can be separate. You can be the poor traveller with the artifact weapon, or the wealthy merchant with no magic at all.    

THe purpose of this is it means that adventuring currency (residuum) can be exactly as easy to come by as needed to get the items up to the desired level while allowing cash monies to be as common or rare as fits the story. You can actually end up with epic level characters who have all their mechanical needs met but are dirt poor because they haven't been doing anything that earns actual cash. Of course, at their power level they shouldn't have a hard time getting a job as mercenaries, or something a bit more prestigious.        



This is very close to what I was originally saying: that the value of magic items should be in a form different than gp value, so that a character's wealth and a character's equipment level can be separate. You can be the poor traveller with the artifact weapon, or the wealthy merchant with no magic at all.    



Yep.
The two settings I was running it for were:
1) A D&D campaign set in Arkham, Massachussets. Liberally stealling ideas from Cthulu based games. The idea was the PCs had followed some wierd cultists from their world through a portal into Massachussets. The PCs were not entirely there.. sane NPCs couldn't percieve them except those with martial power source, who appeared as perfectly normal humans regardless of race, and seemed dressed unremarkably. Only those at least somewhat insane could percieve the truth about them (and the party eventually took to intentionally driving people crazy to get noticed. :P). In that setting 'dollars' were the cash currency, and magic items had normal properties but were basically non-existant on the market because they were so rare most people didn't know such things could exist.
2) A campaign I'm supposed to be running now if my players would show up, which uses the full ideas I expressed. Magic items are common among adventurer types and many military types and such, but since they are powered by the soul of the wielder they are pretty much non-transferrable. Demonic invasion is a major theme of the campaign, so gaining residuum from such enemies gives plenty of opportunity to seed it into the campaign. Meanwhile, cash money is something they will need to make an effort to acquire. THe campaign is just starting, and it makes sense for them to seek mercenary type work early on (actually they'll be starting the campaign heavily in debt due to student loans essentially. :P) Over time it will be up to them to either emphasize material wealth or not.   

After reading your second post I wonder if your group doesn't have some DM issues to deal with.

Anyway, what you propose is fine, for some people. And not fine for others. Which is why DM fiat exists. However DM fiat should take into account the players likes and dislikes and ignoring that causes issues that it seems you might be facing at the gaming table?

Personally as a player, I straddle the line. I'm a total loot wh*re in most video games and I loves me some magic stuff in my DnD but I'm also really enjoying our Dark Sun campaign in which my character has one magic sword that he has named and has been passed down generation to generation in his family so it has deep significance to him.



I've had lots of bad DM experiences over the years. But the problem I'm discussing isn't new: if you goggle "christmas tree effect d&d" you get 425000 results. It's a real thing people complain about: high level characters end up with too many magic items, because low level items become trivial to buy or make (or you just have them lieing around from earlier adventures).

The original post proposed a solution (separate the magic item and non-magic item wealth curves). There is nothing wrong with playing a rules-lite game which relies on GM-fiat, but that's a different thread.

And yeah, I like my characters to have a signature weapon as well, but D&D makes this sub-optimal with the +X curve.




(actually they'll be starting the campaign heavily in debt due to student loans essentially. :P)



EVIL

After reading your second post I wonder if your group doesn't have some DM issues to deal with.

Anyway, what you propose is fine, for some people. And not fine for others. Which is why DM fiat exists. However DM fiat should take into account the players likes and dislikes and ignoring that causes issues that it seems you might be facing at the gaming table?

Personally as a player, I straddle the line. I'm a total loot wh*re in most video games and I loves me some magic stuff in my DnD but I'm also really enjoying our Dark Sun campaign in which my character has one magic sword that he has named and has been passed down generation to generation in his family so it has deep significance to him.



I've had lots of bad DM experiences over the years. But the problem I'm discussing isn't new: if you goggle "christmas tree effect d&d" you get 425000 results. It's a real thing people complain about: high level characters end up with too many magic items, because low level items become trivial to buy or make (or you just have them lieing around from earlier adventures).

The original post proposed a solution (separate the magic item and non-magic item wealth curves). There is nothing wrong with playing a rules-lite game which relies on GM-fiat, but that's a different thread.

And yeah, I like my characters to have a signature weapon as well, but D&D makes this sub-optimal with the +X curve.







What about the Inherent Bonus system? Something offered within the rules of the game to support magic-lite.


What about the Inherent Bonus system? Something offered within the rules of the game to support magic-lite.




Yeah, I like the inherent bonus system, it's definitely an improvement.
The problem is the wealth curve. A beginning character is expected to be pretty poor, with their basic equipment being the bulk of their property. But higher level characters are expect to have amassed wealth, to the extent of eventually being able to buy ships, castles, and other very expensive things. If you can afford a castle, you can certainly afford a bag full of healing herbs.



The insanely inflationary economics of D&D is the feature I most want to see fixed.

As a DM, I eventually lose my belief in a campaign's "reality" as I try to reconcile the absurd wealth PCs accumulate to the effect that wealth would have in anyone else's hands.

It just doesn't make sense.

If I were starting my current campaign over, I'd use Inherent Bonuses and be really stingy with magic items.
And yeah, I like my characters to have a signature weapon as well, but D&D makes this sub-optimal with the +X curve.



That's a problem with a narrative solution.  When you've got a player who wants to play a "sword of my ancestors" type character, and that character is due a weapon upgrade from a treasure parcel, the character's weapon improves accordingly and the party gets some residuum.  How the DM narrates that is up to the DM, and has the potential to fit the story better than finding out that the villain the party just defeated happened to be carrying the exotic weapon your character wields, complete with an appropriate, class-specific item enchantment.

We do it all the time at our table.  This guy has a staff that's a living tree, and it grows in power as he does.  That other guy just slew a rapidly mutating creature of chaotic magic, and its "last gasp" attack bathed his armor in raw magical energy that changed it forever.  This one's sword was a gift from her father, and as she wields it in battle she learns how to command its mysterious powers.  So on, and so forth.
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
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