Magic has always been a major part of Dungeons & Dragons and I'm sure that will carry over into D&D Next. Magic item creation has existed in many of the previous editions and has been handled many different ways. I'm not sure if any of those has methods has really done much for me. After several conversations with my regular gaming group I can say I'm not sure any of them have really been satisfied either. Is there one way to satisfy all the different ideas that players have about magical item creation?
In previous editions magic item creation has cost Constitution permanently, experience points, feats, gold, and in 4th Edition the time it took to write down a wish list and hand it in to your Dungeon Master. None of these have ever really made me happy. To be fair that shortcoming was fixed a whole lot by the inherent bonus rule in 4E. I prefer a game that doesn’t require any magic to keep the balance and so far the play test material seems to be following that pattern. I hope that they stick with it. There are several reasons for that and I want to talk about how it has been handled previously, and what I hope to see going forward with the 5th edition of D&D, as some call it.
First off if you have magic items cost something severe like losing a point of constitution by casting a permanency spell it will more than likely never get used. That seemed to be my experience from playing the early editions, which I did a lot. So if the cost is that severe why bother with creating rules that will never come up. The creative energy of the designers can be put to better use in other areas. There is nothing that says that PCs need to be able to create magic, but we will talk more about that later.
Having the crafter of the magic items pay experience points to craft magic items didn’t seem very popular in 3E/3.5 and I don’t think that will change much. When I was a caster I pretty much didn’t take advantage of the ability to craft magic items because I didn’t want to lag behind the rest of the party in my overall power level. I definitely wasn’t going to be crafting anything for anybody in my party to use. I did play an artificer in an Eberron game and the craft pool allowed me to make items without dipping into my personal pool of experience, so I was much more satisfied with the results. Feat taxes were also a part of this edition and we’ll talk about that now.
Having a feat that the caster has to take to create a magic item is a good mechanic in my opinion. Is it perfect? No, but it does allow for the caster to choose to follow that path and doesn’t assume it is just part of the base class abilities. Feats that reduced the experience cost, gold piece cost, and time were part of the options for magic item creation and made the creator character a lot more playable. Still I didn’t see many items being created. If there was a feat tax as well as an experience point cost, gold, and a considerable amount of time it really just took too much to craft an item. If it was a system that just cost a feat tax and gold then I have seen it get used, such as in Pathfinder.
Magic items could just cost gold to create but I don’t think that is enough of a deterrent to not have casters just creating magic items all the time and flooding your game with them. Assuming that they cost less than the resell value you could just have your game turn into a game of magical merchants continuously fiddling with enchanting items and this is an adventure game and the players that have characters that are not interested in this will probably be bored.
One solution is to not have magic item creation in the game at all. This forces the players to have to go out and adventure to gain magic items. If you pair this with a game where magic items are not necessary it allows the DM to have some fun and put some real magic into the game. This would be closer to what I would want to see in D&D going forward but I understand that you need to explain away how all these wondrous magical items came into existence. It seems to follow along with lots of fantasy literature and film. Rarely does it seem that a character in a book finds a dagger +1. Instead Elric has Stormbringer, Tasselhoff has Rabbitslayer, and Drizzt has Icingdeath and Twinkle. These were items worth adventuring for, and can often be the focus of an adventure.
My favorite idea would be a feat that was necessary to craft magic items or a prestige class/paragon path that a character would have to take to allow them to craft magic, excluding potions and scrolls. In order to craft items material components that were unusual would be necessary. This would make characters have to adventure to gather the components or to gather the amount of gold that would be necessary to purchase them. Although I'd make it very expensive to purchase the items so the character is much better off to go adventuring. If you want a Ring of True Seeing then you’d need something like the central eye of a beholder to use in the creation of the item.
This approach to magic item creation would also allow a lot of options as D&D Next expands and the monster descriptions would really become a lot more interesting. Not only do you gain experience for monsters, but in some respects the carcass becomes another piece of the treasure. How the monster fits in the world would be more relevant to the game and those “Ecology Of” articles would really return to being great additions of fluff and crunch to enhance your game.
Potions and scrolls would fall into a whole different level but could still use these ideas to enhance their magic possibly. Magic item creation isn't the most important part of D&D but it has become a part that gamers expect. Perhaps we will see casters able to make potions and scrolls and the rest of it to come at a later time. How important is magic item creation to you and the rest of the gamers you play with? I know it has sparked a lot of debate among my friends. If you were the designer of 5th Edition what would you do? The comment section is there for you to voice your opinion, so feel free to use it. Until next time, Roll Hard!
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