I blame Skyrim: Magic Item Creation

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My players are quite keen on the idea of creating their own magic items.  I must admit I like the idea too.  We have a Warpriest and a Mage, both with Ritual Casting, so the possibility is there.  So I was wondering if anyone had advice on how to make the process fun and interesting without unbalancing things or making everything bland?  How do you manage creating effects beyond a simple +1?  If you give the players the ability to create a given effect (say for example "Luck", a once per day re-roll), how to you stop everyone in the party all having the same thing?

I guess tier may have an effect.  We are still in Heroic, so maybe by Paragon or Epic it is okay for the players to be building the ultimate items? 
As long as the enhancement bonuses stay within range of where they should be, there isn't too much to worry about. Take a look at the PHB and AV to get an idea of what's available in Heroic and then let your players craft items with those enchantments. The only way you'll break something is if you let 1st level characters have +6 weapons or something (which I did my first time DMing).
The only way you'll break something is if you let 1st level characters have +6 weapons or something (which I did my first time DMing).


That shouldn't be a problem.  I shall stick to the "Enchant Item" rule that means you can only create items up to your level.  Perhaps thats the rule that will prevent it becoming too samey?

When you say 'samey' do you mean that everyone has the same enhancement on their items?
I've gotten similar requests--a 3rd level cleric who wanted the carcass of a Bulette turned into armor, a 4th level cleric who wanted his signature weapon (scythe) combined with his favorite magic staff, and a fighter with blacksmith proficiency who wanted to make everyone's weapons +1. 

I would start first by limiting what they're able to accomplish. Higher level characters could create more powerful stuff, but a third level character could, at best, create a +1 bonus.

Then I would require the player to make it interesting. Universal +1 bonuses are hard to accomplish, how about +1 vs undead? Have them write up a unique name, visual description, and purpose (why did the character make it and for what specific purpose?)

Then the cost. This could involve expensive ingredients (time to spend some loot), cooperation (where's the closest city that owes the party a favor?), a quest (you need the Crucible of Creation in the Lich's lair), and in the end, skill checks. A failed skill check shouldn't nullify the entire process, but could lessen the cost (to start the ritual you will need three 5,000gp gems, if you make your first check you only burn up the first one, if it takes two checks you burn up two, if you fail all three you use up all three gems but still succeed in crafting the item).

If you wind up with overpowered items, you could increase the cost after the fact by having a rival faction learn of this awesome magic item and start harassing the party to steal it, or an evil wizard wants to capture the creator as an enslaved apprentice, or the act of creation has opened a dimensional rift and attracted a specific extraplanar baddie.

Like all player encounters, item creation is an act of balance. What is the DM giving the, how much are you going to expect them to pay, and how can you make it fun?
 What is the DM giving the, how much are you going to expect them to pay, and how can you make it fun?


Indeed, this is very important.  Ultimately I want to make Magic Loot rarer but not reduce player item ownership.  So what I am really doing a kind of like for like replacement.  I want to maintain the "normal" amount, level and variety of items for a Heroic campaign. Just adjust the way the party acquires them.
Using a Skyrim mechanic, perhaps a magic item can only be created if another one is destroyed?
The RAW work quite well for magic items, I think.  If a player has the ritual and enough components, he can create any Common item of his level or lower.  There are plenty of interesting Common items - they're not just +X Magic Stuff.


If you want to make magic loot rarer but not reduce item ownership, allow players to take their normal magic item parcel as residuum instead, so they can create whatever they want.  If you're really nice you could even allow them perhaps once per tier to recycle all their old magic items for 100% value in residuum so they can create whatever they want that way too.  That will result in somewhat more magic items than normal though.  

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

When you say 'samey' do you mean that everyone has the same enhancement on their items?


Yes.  Don't really want everyone using the same thing
When you say 'samey' do you mean that everyone has the same enhancement on their items?


Yes.  Don't really want everyone using the same thing

What if they all want to use the same thing because they find that fun?

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

Using a Skyrim mechanic, perhaps a magic item can only be created if another one is destroyed?


The RAW work quite well for magic items, I think.  If a player has the ritual and enough components, he can create any Common item of his level or lower.  There are plenty of interesting Common items - they're not just +X Magic Stuff. 


There is a Ritual to transfer enchantments from one item to another, which my players have already used via an NPC to move an enchantment from a wand to a rod.  However if Create Enchanted Item allows you to create any common item, it doesn't make much sense.

Maybe if I allow the players to learn an enchantment by destroying an item, and leave them with a certain amount of Residuum?
Maybe if I allow the players to learn an enchantment by destroying an item, and leave them with a certain amount of Residuum?


I might be misunderstanding the request, but there are 2 rituals which could solve all your problems If you need to not be a ritual - perhaps reflavour it as a blacksmithing skill the fighter learned, or as an alchemical skill the other guy learned.

Disenchant Magic Item
The item ignites in a brief flash of brilliant light, then crumbles to golden dust in your hands.


Component Cost: 25 gp
Market Price: 360 gp
Key Skill: Arcana (no check)
Level: 6
Category: Creation
Time: 1 hour
Duration: Instantaneous


The ritual destroys a magic item of your level or lower, and the item can be common, uncommon, or rare. The ritual returns an amount of residuum based on the item’s rarity: 20 percent of a common item’s gold piece value, 50 percent of an uncommon item’s gold piece value, and 100 percent of a rare item’s gold piece value.



Enchant Magic Item

Magic drawn from the warp and weft of the universe infuses the item you hold in your hands.


Component Cost: Special
Market Price: 175 gp
Key Skill: Arcana (no check)
Level: 4
Category: Creation
Time: 1 hour
Duration: Permanent


You touch a normal item and turn it into a magic item of your level or lower. The ritual’s component cost is equal to the price of the magic item you create. Alternatively, you can use the ritual to upgrade a common, uncommon, or rare item to a more powerful version of the item that is 5 levels higher. The new version must be your level or lower, and the component cost equals the difference in gold piece value between the old version and the new.
    You can also use this ritual to resize magic armor (for example, shrink a fire giant’s magic armor to fit a halfling). There is no component cost for this use.


When you say 'samey' do you mean that everyone has the same enhancement on their items?


Yes.  Don't really want everyone using the same thing



Unfortunately, only a couple of items in each category tend to stand out from the rest.
Most of these items help a lot in optimizing a particular option and will be more frequently used.

When you say 'samey' do you mean that everyone has the same enhancement on their items?


Yes.  Don't really want everyone using the same thing

What if they all want to use the same thing because they find that fun?


Seconded. If a rogue and a ranger both use a frost weapon, that doesn't mean they do the same thing. The classes are very different, and so the players will also do very different things. Enchantments are merely a tool.

Yes.  Don't really want everyone using the same thing

What if they all want to use the same thing because they find that fun?


I will look them in the eyes and demand to know what they've done with The Real Player!

Joking aside, my players generally favour uniqueness and variety in most things.  If they all started using the same thing that would more likely be an indication that I've made an error and some item is "too useful" and is overriding their sense of characterisation.


I might be misunderstanding the request, but there are 2 rituals which could solve all your problems



I shall definitely be using rituals.  I think I am just a little uncomfortable/unsatisfied with the idea that Enchant Item gives them access to an extremely large list of enchantments.  I'd rather they "learn" or "discover" them somehow.  But nothing too onerous.


I might be misunderstanding the request, but there are 2 rituals which could solve all your problems



I shall definitely be using rituals.  I think I am just a little uncomfortable/unsatisfied with the idea that Enchant Item gives them access to an extremely large list of enchantments.  I'd rather they "learn" or "discover" them somehow.  But nothing too onerous.


Don't worry about it.  Your players like variety, right?  So what's wrong with a large list of enchantments for them to choose from?  And if you stick to the RAW where they can only create Common items, there's literally NOTHING that they can exploit.  If you introduce mechanics to limit their choices you'll just be reducing the potential uniqueness and variety of their magic items.

But go ahead and ask the players to create a story-related justification for creating the magic items they want.  Nothing wrong with that at all.  I just don't believe you should be "that DM" who restricts things because ... because.

IOW, no need to create house rules to restrict something.  Just request that they use good RP - that's not too onerous. 

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”


IOW, no need to create house rules to restrict something.  Just request that they use good RP - that's not too onerous. 




Yes, very sensible approach.

Cheers everyone.  This thread has given me plenty to think about ;)


   Honestly, if you just start requiring characters to assemble the rare components needed to craft an item, and then work some of those components into your storylines, it's pretty easy to come up with justifications for why/how that particular character acquires an item that does X... (In any event, if you have a fairly balanced party, with no more than one or two characters in each role, it's highly unlikely that the entire party is all going to want the same item - a lot of the best items for a character of one role or even one class are simply useless for characters of a different role or class.)

  If the party is into video games, do what they do in the games - let the party occasionally find a "recipe" for how to craft a certain item. And sometimes they find things that a successful knowledge/arcana/religion/nature/whatever check will reveal can be used as part of the ritual to craft X.
If they want to make something specific, require them to find out who would know how to make it or where they might find that knowledge, where that person or item is located, etc., and then come up with a short list of hoops to jump through.
 For example, the classic case of "I killed it, now I want to wear it"  - dragon-scale armor. They have the basic material (dragonhide), now they have to find an armorer with the skills and knowledge to work it or learn how to do it themselves, and they'll also need to find some "special" things to get the Enchant ritual to work. And not just physical things like Eye of Newt or Bats' Wings. Mythology and fiction is filled with instances of heroes needing a good thought from an evil man, the strength of weakness, hen's teeth and other things that aren't necessarily physical. It's up to you and the players to decide what exactly meets that metaphysical requirement and if there's some physical representation of it involved.

 Basically, if everyone in your 5-man party has a +1 sword, there's no reason that any one of those weapons has to be created the same way as any other one unless there's some kind of thematic connection between them (i.e., forged at the same time and place, connected to some particular event, etc.) - your swordmage may have to seek out some great hero of his magical order and prove himself worthy to wield the magic weapon before the hero forges it from a sliver of the swordmage's own soul, but the wizard may simply find a musty old tome and, after two months of light reading, say to the party, "Hey guys, I just realized I'm only one item short of having the stuff to make a magic sword - anybody know where we can find an evil unicorn?"... Hell, maybe there's even some mystical magical Rule that says no two magic items can be created exactly the same way.

Show

I am the Magic Man.

(Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.)

 

I am the Lawnmower Man.

(I AM GOD HERE!)

 

I am the Skull God.

(Koo Koo Ka Choo)

 

There are reasons they call me Mad...


I might be misunderstanding the request, but there are 2 rituals which could solve all your problems



I shall definitely be using rituals.  I think I am just a little uncomfortable/unsatisfied with the idea that Enchant Item gives them access to an extremely large list of enchantments.  I'd rather they "learn" or "discover" them somehow.  But nothing too onerous.




A large list?
Are you serious?
There are like 1-2 items that are common in each bracket, and usually they are just standard +x magic items. Pretty boring, and not at all gamebreaking.

FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
If I may suggest, as a solution to the problem of 'same +1 sword for each character', take a look at DnD Next approach to magic items. In addition to major properties of the item, it can have some minor positive or minor negative property. Examples:
Positive properties:
-Delver - grants dwarf-like attunement to Underdark, wielder always knows his depth and direction to exit
-Sentinel - item glows when a centain type of creature is nearby (think LotR glowing orc detectors) 
-Illusion - item's appearance can be altered at will
Negative properties:
-Hungry - enchantment works only if item tasted humanoid blood within the past X hours
-Metamorphic - item sometimes changes its form by itself 
-Loud - item makes a loud noise each time it's used/wielded

Each list can be easily expanded, draw inspiration from any source you like. Let players decide the major property of the item they are trying to create, then secretly roll their 'Arcane Smithing' or whatever ability to determine minor property. If they pass certain DC - add benificial property, if they fail DC by 10+ add negative property. Of course, not all properties should be easily recognized, some may manifest itself in the most/least suitable situation...
If I may suggest, as a solution to the problem of 'same +1 sword for each character', take a look at DnD Next approach to magic items. In addition to major properties of the item, it can have some minor positive or minor negative property. Examples:
Positive properties:
-Delver - grants dwarf-like attunement to Underdark, wielder always knows his depth and direction to exit
-Sentinel - item glows when a centain type of creature is nearby (think LotR glowing orc detectors) 
-Illusion - item's appearance can be altered at will
Negative properties:
-Hungry - enchantment works only if item tasted humanoid blood within the past X hours
-Metamorphic - item sometimes changes its form by itself 
-Loud - item makes a loud noise each time it's used/wielded

Each list can be easily expanded, draw inspiration from any source you like. Let players decide the major property of the item they are trying to create, then secretly roll their 'Arcane Smithing' or whatever ability to determine minor property. If they pass certain DC - add benificial property, if they fail DC by 10+ add negative property. Of course, not all properties should be easily recognized, some may manifest itself in the most/least suitable situation...


I look forward to D&D Next now o: Fun idea!

For actually cool stuff like using a bulette's crest to make a shield, assign the crest an amount of value in terms of magical reagents.  If your party regularly does this sort of thing, hold back a couple of teasure parcels worth of cash, and instead assign that cash to these cool salvage items.  Should keep things pretty balanced and provide a mechanical link to adjudicate the effects of this stuff.
While having the characters engage in arduous research and resource-gathering works in a novel (or equivalent), where the plot generally revolves around the process and usually ends shortly afterward, it doesn't work so well in an environment where magical items are more like tools than legendary items of power and magic item creation is essentially a sideline rather than the focus of the story. PCs make items with sufficient frequency that putting research/collection requirements on the process will turn the game into "Magic Item: The Gathering", and any other plot you might have had in mind will end up being pushed to the side.

In addition, the GP cost already abstractly represents the weird components going into the item. If the players figure that something they've collected would be relevant to some item they'd like to make (which also means it's THEIR idea, rather than a roadblock) then it simply gives a discount on the GP cost.
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