This is a reprint of an article I wrote for Redgar's Repository on December 13, 2006, exactly five years ago. It deals with using the Craft rules from 3.5 to explain the magic item economy in the default game. Because Redgar's is likely to be moved to deep storage soon, I thought to preserve the article here in my blog.
There have been many discussions about what magic items might be available to a party for purchase when they enter a community (whether it be a hamlet or a metropolis). The presence of magic items depends on many things. Unless there is a large population of adventurers constantly buying and selling each other’s loot, it must be assumed that these items are being manufactured. But by whom? Most PC classes are designed for adventurers and most adventurers are not spending their days putting their XP into magic items. Moreover, most NPCs of adventuring class don't spend years studying to be a wizard simply to open a magic item business and thus won’t spend feats on item creation (except, of course, that Wizards get Scribe Scroll as a 1st level bonus feat). Even if a spellcasting NPC of a PC class is available in a city, there is no guarantee that the individual has taken the needed item creation feats, has the prerequisite spells available, and is even inclined to make magic items for cash. These factors make it very difficult for a DM to determine what magic items might be available.
I submit that there is a class uniquely designed for magic item creation: Adepts. Adepts are an NPC class. They are not designed for adventuring and yet are very common. Most communities have at least one adept, and many have more. It makes perfect sense for adepts to make magic items during their spare time, in a world in which adventurers are not uncommon. There is little else productive to dedicate Feat slots to. An adept is essentially a village priest or, in a larger city, a lesser clergyman. His responsibilities are almost all skill related, requiring Knowledge (Religion), Heal, Craft, Profession, and perhaps Handle Animal. Most NPC adepts I’ve seen in game are assigned skill-boosting Feats like Negotiator or Skill Focus (Knowledge (Religion)). I think these adepts would be better suited to take Item Creation Feat and spend his off-time making items to sell to adventurers in order to increase the income of the church that he serves. This greatly reduces the effort a DM has to make to determine what magic items might be available. All one need do is look at the highest level adept in a given town and compare this to the lists below.
Of course, an adept cannot manufacture every magic item by himself, as an adept has a limited spell list. In fact, an adept cannot make any staves, constructs or arcane scrolls. (Such items would have to be commissioned through wizards and sorcerers -- to make them as available as the divine scrolls Adepts can scribe, I would generally make at least one sorcerer or wizard in any community with multiple arcane casters an NPC who trades and scribes scrolls.) Moreover, an adept cannot take every item creation feat available, until 18th level. Accordingly, I have ranked the item creation feats for the order in which I believe adepts would be encouraged to learn, so as to maximize their potential income-producing ability. For instance, an adept can only make a handful of rings and rods, so those feats would be taken last. However, in a community with many adepts, they might specialize. Some might eschew Brew Potion and take Craft Wondrous Item at 3rd level. One adept might take metamagic feats and then Craft Rod at 9th level, simply to sell metamagic rods. Note that some items, particularly arms and armor, can be made without a feat:
Adept Crafter's Feat Ladder
1st: Scribe Scroll
3rd: Brew Potion
6th: Craft Magic Arms & Armor
9th: Craft Wand
12th: Craft Wondrous Item
15th: Forge Ring
18th: Craft Rod
This list does not change if the adept is human. A human adept cannot take any magic item creation feat as a bonus feat. Based on this Feat Ladder, adventurers in a given community should expect to be able to obtain the following items within a few days, based on the highest level adept in the community. Note that this also presumes that the adept does not have any bonus spells for high Wisdom. That might make some these items available at lower level. I also did not include items that require skills that are not class skills for Adepts. It is unlikely that an Adept would be able to make a ring of jumping. However, you might include an unusual Adept who has taken jump as a cross-class skill.
FIRST LEVEL ADEPT
Armor and Shields: Adamantine breastplate, Darkwood buckler, Darkwood shield, Dragonhide plate, Dwarven plate, Elven chain, Mithral heavy shield, Mithral shirt
Arms: Adamantine battleaxe, Adamantine dagger, Cold iron longsword, masterwork, Dwarven thrower, Masterwork silver dagger
Scrolls: Bless, Burning Hands, Cause Fear, Command, Comprehend Languages, Create Water, Cure Light Wounds, Cure Minor Wounds, Detect [Alignment], Detect Magic, Endure Elements, Ghost Sound, Guidance, Light, Mending, Obscuring Mist, Protection From [Alignment], Purify Food And Drink, Read Magic, Sleep, Touch Of Fatigue
THIRD LEVEL ADEPT
Potions: Cure light wounds, Endure elements, Protection from [Alignment]
FIFTH LEVEL ADEPT
Potions: Aid, Bear’s endurance, Bull’s strength, Cat’s grace, Cure moderate wounds, Darkness, Delay poison, Invisibility, Resist energy (any)
Scrolls: aid, animal trance, bear’s endurance, bull’s strength, cat’s grace, cure moderate wounds, darkness, delay poison, invisibility, mirror image, resist energy, scorching ray, see invisibility, web
SIXTH LEVEL ADEPT
Armor and Shields: Acid resistance (any), Banded mail of luck, Bashing (+1), Caster’s shield, Cold resistance (any), Electricity resistance (any), Enhancement Bonus (+1 or +2), Fire resistance (any), Rhino hide, Shadow (any), Sonic resistance (any)
Arms: Enhancement Bonus (+1 or +2), Merciful (+1), Oathbow, Sleep arrow
NINTH LEVEL ADEPT
Armor and Shields: Bashing (+2), Demon armor, Enhancement bonus (+3)
Arms: Enhancement bonus (+3), Javelin of lightning, Merciful (+2), Shock (+1 or +2), Shocking burst (+1), Sun blade
Miscellany: Armor of Arrow Attraction, Armor of Rage, Cursed Backbiter Spear, Everburning torch, Mace of Blood
Potions: Cure serious wounds, Daylight, Neutralize poison, Remove curse, Remove disease, Tongues
Scrolls: animate dead, bestow curse, contagion, continual flame, cure serious wounds, daylight, deeper darkness, lightning bolt, neutralize poison, remove curse, remove disease, tongues
Wands: Bear’s endurance, Bull’s strength, Burning hands, Cat’s grace, Contagion, Cure light wounds, Cure moderate wounds, Cure serious wounds, Darkness, Daylight, Delay poison, Detect magic, Invisibility, Light, Lightning bolt (5th through 9th), Mirror image, Neutralize poison, Web
TENTH LEVEL ADEPT
Wands: Lightning bolt (10th)
TWELFTH LEVEL ADEPT
Armor and Shields: Bashing (+3), Enchancement Bonus (+4)
Arms: Enhancement Bonus (+4), Merciful (+3), Shock (+3), Shocking burst (+2), Spell storing (+1 to +3)
Miscellany Amulet of Inescapable Location, Flask of Curses, Gauntlets of Fumbling, Helm of Opposite Alignment, Incense of Obsession, Periapt of Foul Rotting
Wondrous Items: Amulet of health (any), Belt of dwarvenkind, Belt of giant Strength (any), Boots of elvenkind, Bracers of archery (any), Cloak of elvenkind, Elixir of fire breath, Elixir of hiding, Gauntlets of ogre power, Gem of brightness, Gloves of Dexterity (any), Golembane Scarab, Hand of glory, Helm of comprehend languages and read magic, Horn of fog, Incense of meditation, Ioun stones (any), Pearl of power (1st through 3rd), Periapt of health, Periapt of proof against poison, Phylactery of faithfulness, Pipes of sounding, Silversheen, Restorative ointment, Robe of bones, Unguent of timelessness
THIRTEENTH LEVEL ADEPT
Armor and Shields: Wild
Scrolls: cure critical wounds, minor creation, polymorph, restoration, stoneskin, wall of fire
Wands: Cure critical wounds, Polymorph, Restoration, Stoneskin, Wall of fire
Wondrous Items: Mantle of faith, Pearl of power (4th), Druid’s Vestment
FIFTEENTH LEVEL ADEPT
Armor and Shields: Bashing (+4), Enchancement bonus (+5)
Arms: Enhancement Bonus (+5), Merciful (+4), Shock (+4), Shocking burst (+3), Spell storing (+4)
Miscellany: Intelligent Items
Rings: Energy resistance (any), Invisibility
SEVENTEENTH LEVEL ADEPT
Arms: Disruption (+1 to +3), Seeking (+1 to +4), Shifter’s sorrow
Rings: X-ray vision
Scrolls: baleful polymorph, break enchantment, commune, heal, major creation, raise dead, true seeing, wall of stone
Wondrous Items: Feather token (any), Gem of seeing, Goggles of minute seeing, Lens of detection, Marvelous pigments, Pearl of power (5th), Periapt of wound closure
EIGHTEENTH LEVEL ADEPT
Armor and Shields: Bashing (+5)
Arms: Disruption (+4), Merciful (+5), Seeking (+5), Shock (+5), Shocking burst (+4), Spell storing (+5)
Rods: Enemy detection, Flailing, Withering, Python
Looking at the list, some things become apparent. First, healing potions are available fairly readily in any community with one third-level Adept. Basic magic weapons, shields and armor are available in pretty much any large town. A wand of healing is available in almost any city. These are the staple magic items for most adventurers, so it is a good sign that these are not going to be scarce. Exotic items probably have to be commissioned from wizards and clerics (or NPC brokers who specialize in finding rare magic items) if they cannot be located as salvage in an adventure.
A Note on Magic Item Shops
I am not a fan of the concept of magic item shops. Most items listed above would have to be commissioned from the adept in question. If, however, you are really hankering for a magic item shop, make the highest level adept in town a magic item proprietor and assume that the adept has the following inventory:
- d3-2 of each item that could be made at the adept's level
- d4-2 of each item that could be made at half the adept's level, rounded down
- d6-2 of each item that could be made at one-quarter the adept's level, rounded down
- d10-3 of each item that could be made at one-eighth the adept's level, rounded down
- d12-3 of each item that could be made at one-sixteenth the adept's level, rounded down.
If the die roll is less than 1, none of that item is available. Be sure to have the adept hire guards and install traps in the shop that make the EL for overcoming the shop's defenses commensurate with the treasure level of the value of the shop's inventory. Otherwise, it makes no sense for the shop not to have been cleaned out by thieves long before the PCs even roll into town.
New Skill: Craft (Component)
This skill allows a character to create magic item components, spell component bags, as well as the expensive ink and paper used in spell books. Given time, Adepts could increase their profits by building all their materials from scratch.
If human adepts use the racial bonus feat for Skill Focus (Craft (component)), work at a magic item abbey (see below) that gives them a +2 competency bonus, have a set of craftsman’s tools that give them an additional +2 competency bonus, maximize their Craft (component) ranks, and have a median Intelligence of 12, first-level human Crafting Adepts would have a +12 on Craft (component) rolls, increasing by +1 each level, with an additional bonus at eighth and sixteenth levels, assuming they use their Ability boosts in Intelligence.
If we treat item components as “typical”, the Craft DC is 10. At this bonus, given the law of averages, an Adept Crafter can expect to create the following gp worth of magic items in a week’s time (not including the actual item crafting time):
1st-7th level: 84 gp + 4 gp/level
8th-15th level: 88 gp + 4 gp/level
16th-20th level: 92 gp + 4 gp/level
Now, this might seem slow, but, remember, these Adepts have plenty of time on their hands.
The Craft Cloister
In the Middle Ages and early Renaissance (the time period most heroic fantasy uses as a model), there were monasteries where the monks spent their time scribing ancient manuscripts or making fine wine (Dom Perignon, anyone?), with the proceeds benefitting the church. In a world where Adepts are uniquely qualified to craft magic items, many Adepts -- particularly those dedicated to a god of magic -- might be sequestered in an abbey to manufacture magic items.
How much can an average first-level Adept make in a year? Assuming 50 workweeks a year, that’s 4,400 gp in items with only about 733.33 gp in investment. I would assume that the first-level Adepts spend all their time making components, while the higher-level Adepts actually convert these components into magical items. This higher-level Adept -- let’s call him an “Abbot” -- would only work about 44 days/year per first-level Adept, and spend the rest of his time supervising the other employees. An Abbot could work with up to 8 first-level Adepts. Assuming eight first-level Adepts and an Abbot, fully employed working year-round (save for two weeks’ worth of holy days), the abbey is going to clear about 3,666.67 gp/year!
I’d assume most abbeys are not employed full-time. Also, some of that profit will be taken by their middleman, who takes orders, carts the goods between the abbey and the city, etc. I’d say the abbey sells the item to the merchant for half market price, and the merchant gets the 50% markup. This reduces the abbey’s maximum profit to about 733.33 gp/year, which is a decent amount of profit for eight guys with minimal expenses. Most of this would go to paying for food, tithing up the hierarchy and charitable works.
Now, given the time requirements, how do really expensive items get made? The answer is that there should be a network of these abbeys. And when a wealthy patron (like the PCs) asks for a metamagic rod, the merchants and adepts make the components piecemeal. In my estimation, a commissioned item should actually require double the time listed in the DMG. 1 day/1,000 gp to make the item, but also 1 day/1,000 gp pieces to make the item components.
The crafting adept is an adept who spends his time in between prayers with the creation of items, mundane or arcane that can earn extra money for their church. Crafting adepts do not adventure, but they are a valuable resource to adventurers as they can often supply adventurers with important information and materials that they would need.
The crafting adept uses all the rules for the adept NPC class, except as follows:
Hit Dice: d4
Skills: 6 + Int
Skill Points at First Level: (6 + Int) × 4
Universal Crafter: A crafting adept can make an item, even if it requires spells that are not on the adept spell list, if the adept is in possession of a scroll for such spells. The scroll is expended in the creation of the item, and the XP used in creating the scroll is contributed to satisfying the XP cost of the item being crafted.
This yellow gemstone, when pressed against the forehead of a willing or helpless recipient for one uninterrupted minute, transfers some of his own spiritual strength into the gemstone in the form of experience points. The gemstone can then be transported to another who can use the life energy within to craft magic items without expending the crafter’s own experience. The donor need not be willing, although the forcible theft of lifeforce is considered a crime akin to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in most civilized jurisdictions.
Table: Crafting Gems
|Type||Craft (alchemy) DC||XP Stored||Price (gp)|
|Canary diamond||40||2500 XP||25,000 gp|
A donor cannot donate experience points that would result in the donor having less experience than necessary to maintain their current character level. A donor cannot have fewer than one experience point in any event. If the donor is unable to fill the gemstone due to any of these requirements, the item will not function.
The amount of experience that a gemstone can absorb, as well as its price, depends on the type of gem used in the stone’s creation.
Once the experience stored in the stone has been used to create an item, the stone turns to dust, even if all the experience in a stone has not been used.
Unlike other alchemical items, a crafting gem is created like a magic item. Half of the price must be expended in materials (although there is no XP component to the gemstone). The gem is created in one day per 1,000 gp of price, with a one-day minimum crafting time. At the end of the crafting period (assuming no interruptions), the crafter makes a DC of the Craft (alchemy) check. Upon a failure, the material investment is lost, even though no stone is created.
New Magic Items
Many of the following are items that can be crafted by an Adept using the spells on their spell list, and which would be useful to a community at large, rather than adventurers. Adept Crafters probably spend more time on items like these than on adventuring items, which would probably be done on commission. Note that inclusion of these items will make magic much more commonplace than assumed in a default setting.
The wellsprings in particular are designed to explain how the adepts gather the XP needed to continue to craft items, even though they are not adventuring, and thus shouldn't be earning any XP.
Archway of Salvation
This expensive stone arch is placed in the doorway of largest churches and cathedrals. When activated with a command, it will read the aura of each person who passes beneath it for ten minutes. If you stand beneath it for one minute, the archway measures your precise alignment and then calculates to which realm your soul is destined to travel upon death. The purpose of the arch is to keep parishioners on the straight and narrow.
The arch can be activated once per day. In most societies that employ the arch, it is customary to be measured on the anniversary of major life events (birthday, wedding anniversary, etc.)
The archway glows a color that corresponds with each of the outer planes:
Grey Waste: Grey
Faint divination; CL 1st; Craft Wondrous Item, detect good, detect evil, detect law, detect chaos; Price 720 gp;Weight --
Price calculation: spells (4) x spell level (1) x caster level (1) x 1/day (.2) x fixed architecture (.5) x command (1800) = 720
Artisans' Tools, Enhanced
These magical masterworked artisans’ tools provide a competency bonus to any individual with five or more ranks of the appropriate Craft. For those with fewer than five ranks, the item serves only as masterwork artisan’s tools. The magical enhancement will stack with the mundane competence bonus granted by the masterworked quality of the tools.
Faint transmutation; CL 1st; Craft Wondrous Item, guidance, creator must have five ranks in appropriate Craft skill; Price 90 gp (+1), 350 gp (+2), 810 gp (+3), 1,440 (+4), 2,250 (+5), 3,240 (+6), 4,410 (+7); Weight 5 lb.
Price calculation: bonus squared x 100 x .9.
This well is constructed so as to be immovable. However, its two-gallon bucket fills with water upon speaking the command word (usually the community's name) as a standard action. It has unlimited use. Communities will often pool their resources to purchase a bountiful well, which can easily support a village of more than 1,000 people and their livestock.
Faint conjuration (creation, water); CL 1st; Craft Wondrous Item, control water; Price 450 gp; Weight --.
Price calculation: Spell level (.5) x caster level (1) x fixed architecture (.5) x command word (1800) = 450.
Brooch of Authority
This jewel-encrusted brooch is specially crafted with the family crest of the aristocrat for whom it is intended (and which thus helps to prevent theft). The wearer of the brooch is entirely immune from all enchantment effects, as if protected by a continuous protection from chaos effect. If the wearer is not a lawfully-aligned individual with levels in the aristocrat class, the brooch will not function.
Faint abjuration and law; CL 1st; Craft Wondrous Item, protection from chaos; Price 2,500 gp;Weight --
Price calculation: spell level (1) x caster level (1) x 1 min/level (2) x continuous (2000) x class restriction (.7) x alignment restriction (.7) = 1,960 gp +540 for the brooch itself = 2,500 gp.
These masterwork wrought iron manacles are enchanted such that when placed on a caster and the command spoken, they completely inhibit spellcasting and psionics, even if the spell has no somatic component or the caster possesses the Still Spell or similar Feat. The Escape and Open Lock DC is 40 and the Break DC is 30. They have a hardness of 10 and hit points of 15. The manacles can only be placed on one person a day, but the effect lasts as long as it is worn. Finally, the manacles effectively occupy the bracers, bracelet, glove, gauntlet and ring body slots such that when worn any other items worn in those slot locations are rendered inoperative.
Faint abjuration; CL 5th; Craft Wondrous Item, bestow curse; Price 2,900 gp; Weight 4 lbs.
Price calculation: masterwork manacles (50) + amazing lock (150) + (SL (3) x CL (5) x command (1800) x 1/day (.2) x long duration (.5) = 2,900
This chamber has two stone chairs built into them. The chairs are identical, although one is lined in yellow amber and the other in purple amethyst. When the chairs are occupied, the occupants within may converse with one another as if they spoke one another's modern tongue. moreover, if only one seat is occupied, the occupant can understand any written material presented to him, as if under the effects of a comprehend languages spell. The chairs are affixed to the floor of the room. Moving them destroys the magic.
Faint divination; CL 1st; Craft Wondrous Item, comprehend languages; Price 3,000 gp;Weight --
Price calculation: spells (2) x spell level (1) x caster level (1) x 10 min/level (1.5) x continuous (2000) x fixed architecture (.5) = 3,000
This granary is specially enchanted so that the food stored within never spoils. The granary does not protect against infestations from rodents and vermin, however. Up to 43,200 cubic feet of grain can be stored within, which is enough to sustain a small community for one year.
The entire granary is purified every three days. If heat or excessive rain would cause spoliation faster than that, if may be necessary to store less grain within. In dry, cool weather, even more grain can be stored in the granary without fear of spoliation.
Faint transmutation; CL 1st; Craft Wondrous Item; purify food and drink; Price 500 gp + cost of the granary; Weight --
Price calculation: spell level (.5) x caster level (1) x continuous (2,000) x fixed architecture (.5) = 500 gp (not including the cost of the granary itself)
This soft wooden cone applifies the voice of whomever uses it to eight times its normal volume. Quite expensive, it is purchased only by the nobility or those who often need to address crowds. Cities with arenas and amphitheatres will often give these to their announcers.
Faint illusion; CL 1st; Craft Wondrous Item, ghost sound; Price 9,000 gp;Weight 1 lb.
Price calculation: Spell level (.5) x caster level (1) x use-activated (2000) x no space limitation (2) x 1 min dur. (2) = 4,000
This standard chest has a special enchantment. When a broken item is placed within, and the command word spoken, the item is immediately repaired. The chest can only be used once per day, and only repairs an item weighing less than 10 lbs. This is a luxury item owned either by the very wealthy, or given as gifts by adventurers to their peasant families.
Faint transmutation; CL 1st; Craft Wondrous Item, mending; Price 180 gp;Weight 10 lb.
Price calculation: Spell level (.5) x caster level (1) x command word (1800) x 1/day (.2) = 180 gp.
This reflecting pool is found only in the central plaza of the central church of the god of magic (each god of magic in a campaign should have its own greater wellspring). As a fixture of the cloister, it cannot be moved or else it will lose all of its magical properties.
Anybody who is anointed in waters from the pool, and who consents to the ritual, becomes dedicated to that pool. When they die, their soul travels to the pool and merges with the waters therein, granting their strength to the pool. Once dedicated, the individual is not subject to spells affecting the soul, including clone, raise dead, reincarnation, resurrection, and true resurrection (even if the character would wish to have these spells affect him). Once dedicated, a person cannot unmake the bond, without a wish or miracle. There is no limit to how many individuals may be dedicated to the pool.
The water from the pool retains the imprint of these souls. Any person who is dedicated to that pool and who manufactures a magic item may dip the item in the pool to use the energy within to replace the experience expenditure required for the item’s manufacture.
Water removed from the greater wellspring is treated as plain water (although it will radiate a faint aura of transmutation magic), and is unusable, unless it is returned to the greater wellspring or placed in a lesser wellspring (see below), at which time, it contributes the experience therein to the pool. One waterskin of water from a wellspring contributes 100 XP to the pool (assuming the donor wellspring has that much experience in its pool). Dispel magic or curse water (or similar effect) will render the water inert, losing the XP stored within forever. Although wellspring water is worthless to anybody who is not dedicated to the greater wellspring, if a calculation is needed, assume that one waterskin of wellspring water has a value of 2,500 gp and a CL of 1st.
The total experience in the pool available for magic item creation is equal to the sum of experience points of the souls dedicated to the wellspring who have died (less any amounts removed from the wellspring for the manufacture of magic items).
It is believed that entry into the wellspring does not prevent the dedicated souls from passage into the afterlife, but merely unburdens them of the cares of the material world.
Strong necromancy; CL 18th; Craft Wondrous Item, soul bind; Price: 113,400 gp (+50,000 gp in materials for the wellspring).
Price calculation: spell level (9) x caster level (18) x fixed architecture (.5) x religious restriction (.7) x continuous (2000) = 113,400 gp (not including the cost of the reflecting pool)
When water from a greater wellspring is poured into this reflecting pool, it allows those dedicated to the greater wellspring from whence the water came to utilize the experience stored within. The maximum amount of XP stored in the pool is determined by the size of the pool. One waterskin of wellspring water will hold 100 XP. Most craft cloisters will have a carefully warded lesser wellspring at its center. The church controlling the greater wellspring will usually send regular shipments of wellspring water to the lesser wellsprings with which it is affiliated to ensure the craft cloisters continue to tithe proceeds of their sales of magic items to the central church.
The lesser wellspring must be affixed in place. Any attempt to move the lesser wellspring will result in the loss of all magical properties in the item and the wellspring water within is rendered inert until placed within a functioning wellspring.
Moderate transmutation; CL 6th; Craft Wondrous Item, purify food and drink; Price: 500 gp (+250 gp in materials for the wellspring).
Price calculation: spell level (.5) x caster level (1) x fixed architecture (.5) x continuous (2000) = 500 gp (not including cost of the reflecting pool)
It should be noted that this article only uses the corebooks. Spells and magic items from supplements are not included. However, such items would probably not have altered the analysis much because Adepts rarely gain access to non-core spells and most magic items in the supplements require spells from that supplement in item creation. This idea is also totally useless in Eberron, which has its own NPC classes dedicated to magic item creation.