I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Monday, March 23, 2020

Magic item CREATION in D&D 5e

As far as I can tell, D&D 5e has no clear guidelines on how to create magic items "numbers"; +2 damage, additional 1d10 against undead, save DC 17, etc.

Not that you need many magic items - the DMG already has plenty of them and good "flavor" tables to generate more (appearance, purpose, etc.). 

In fact, I think the opposite is true: you could have fewer items and more tables to generate them. But some people prefer to have items ready for use... I discussed this issue here.

Anyway, I added item creation rules for two of my books: 100 Magic Weapons (Dark Fantasy) and Dark Fantasy Magic Items. The latter is better for creating items (it is also more recent), while the former has 100 weapons that are more or less ready to use.

Here is what Dark Fantasy Magic Items has to say on the matter of magic item mechanics (with some updating):

It is up to you to decide the statistics of each item. However, if you need to come up with something on the fly, you can roll 1d100 and use the table below. These statistics work for both contemporary games and Dark Fantasy Basic. You can roll once in each column if you want more variety (except rarity; you should choose that on your own [...see one example below].

Bonus. This bonus applies to attack rolls, damage, armor class, etc.

Damage. The damage a “destruction” item causes.

Maximum spell level. If an item replicates a spell, this is the maximum spell level allowed.

Saving throws. If some kind of damage allows a saving throw, augment the damage from d6s to d10s (or d8s if the saving throw only halves damage). The difficulty for all saving throws is suggested in the table below.

Score/checks. If an item allows a saving throw, this is the saving throw difficulty check. If an item changes one ability score to a fixed number, use this number. If a cursed item tries to control you mind, the saving throw also uses this number, etc.

Limitations. Items with powerful effects often have built-in limitations. Some are specific, functioning only in certain circumstances (for example, only against green dragons, not all dragons). Some require a person with certain alignment or class to use, or even certain deeds (“before the sword trusts you, you must slay an evil undead”).

Some items can be used only once or a few times a day (with the exception of protection, destruction, and movement). Others can be used once every hundred years (for example, an item that permanently changes your traits), or are destroyed after a single use. Some have expendable “charges” that are replenished at dawn, dusk… or when the item is bathed in human blood, slays a monster, etc.

The details are up to the GM.

Other details. Fill the rest of the details as appropriate for you game. All weapons should require attunement, except the ones that are consumable or very simple (for example, a sword that does nothing except a +1 to +3 bonus to attack and damage).

Max spell level
Very Rare

* I DO know that a +4 bonus is not usual in 5e; the way I see it, a +4 weapon would be legendary without needing any other features. A "lazy" weapon (you can certainly think of something cooler!), but not absurd.

Now let's combine this with something from 100 Magic Weapons:

Godslayer Axe. This black, long axe with a sinuous blade emits a faint dark aura, making lights around it a bit weaker. It deals force damage to celestials and fiends, and massive damage to archdaemons, archangels, deities, etc. Some legends say the axe itself will become a deity after slaying a certain number of powerful foes.

Let's roll 1d100, and we get... 57. So, this is a rare item that deals additional 2d6 damage against celestials, etc., and 4d6 against archangels, etc. Unimpressive? Roll 1d100 again to give it a bonus... 98! This makes it an extraordinary (very rare, or maybe "upgrade" it to legendary) +3 weapon.

Notice that "items with powerful effects often have built-in limitations". There is a built-in limitation already (it might become a deity), but if you want to limit it further, give it an alignment: maybe it only works against chaotic creatures and must be used by lawful PCs, or vice-versa. the DMG already has decent tables for that.

The result will look like this:


Godslayer Axe
Weapon (battleaxe or greataxe), very rare (requires attunement by a lawful character)

You gain a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

This black, long axe with a sinuous blade emits a faint dark aura, making lights around it a bit weaker. It deals additional 2d6 force damage to celestials and fiends, or 4d6 damage to archdaemons, archangels, deities, etc. Some legends say the axe itself will become a deity after slaying a certain number of powerful foes.

Now I wonder... what if I combine these tables with the ones in the SRD? I could probably generate endless magic items with a few rolls. 

We will see... 


As I've said above, this is adapted from my books Dark Fantasy Magic Items and 100 Magic Weapons (Dark Fantasy). You can find it by clicking on the link above.

If you like this, you'll find more stuff like this on my Dark Fantasy line.

It is also a great way to support this blog!

Hope you enjoy it! Thanks!

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