January 27th, 2010


Magic Item Creation Blues

My fellow gamers and I believe the D&D 3.5 edition Magic Item creation chart was simply unusable. I personally find XP (an out of play mechanic) to be a faulty premise on which to base the in play system of magic item creation upon, yet even disregarding this, the system as given in Pathfinder’s Table 15-29: Estimating Magic Item Gold Piece Values is highly questionable. I was seriously disappointed with Paizo for cut and pasting this horribly broken system into their rules. Why? Let’s look at a single example:


A very standard magic item in both folklore and fantasy fiction: the witch’s flying broom…


As priced in the Pathfinder Magic item section, it costs 17,000 gp. The formula is overland flight, and permanency at caster level 9th. I don’t know if the permanency is factored in or not. Doubtful, at this price.


A command word is mentioned to make the broom fly on its own, but one would assume that simply sitting on it and flying would be priced as a “use-activated” power.


According to this highly broken Table 15-29, you would price a broom of flying as Spell level x caster level x 2000 gp. That math looks like this:


5 x 9 = 45 x 2000 = 90,000 gold pieces. NOT 17,000!!!! (This doesn’t factor in the permanency spell.) If you price it as “command word” instead of use-activated, at 1800 gp, the final price is still outrageous. 5 x 9 = 45 x 1800 = 81,000 gold.


Not even mentioning the fact that 90,000 gold pieces (at a third of ounce each) weighs 1800 pounds, and can hardly be carried by ox-drawn wagons, most medieval kings rarely possessed so much wealth, so we can be certain no typical witch ever had anything like this amount of gold. (The mining of it alone would be an enormous task!) Even the “mere” 17,000 gold is far too much for a campaign of reasonable economies.


I could cite more examples from the Core rulebook of mispriced items, ie. where the sample item ignores the chart’s formula for pricing, and gives a drastically lower price. Every gamer I regularly game with has noted the same problem, from 3.5 and now Pathfinder- that the items listed in the book are not priced by the chart, and that the Table is ungodly expensive… so expensive as to be completely unrealistic for a standard campaign world with a medieval or bronze age level of technology.


I have long used a completely different system for magic item creation, one based on life points and Constitution checks rather than XP. This solves the original problem of having an in play wizard creating a magic item from an out of play game mechanic. (How does a serious gamer justify that scene? Wizard thinks: I just got enough XP from my DM to level up and create that scroll I’ve been wanting for the last three adventures!) I can justify characters realizing in a general sense that they are improving in skill and power, but knowing exactly how much extra XP they have to use for creating magic items is simply ridiculous! Instead, make the system based on something “real” that the characters can define and understand: life energy.

What are your thoughts on alternatives to the standard magic item creation system?

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