It seems to me that with the advent of 3.0 D&D, magic items became less wondrous and more of a commodity. They went from things to adventure for to things you could pop down the shops to get. That never really worked for me and—luckily for me—Gary Gygax himself agreed with me!
So what did Gary say?
“A properly run campaign will be relatively stringent with respect to the number of available magic items, so your players will sooner or later express a desire to manufacture their own.”
1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide (page 166), Gary Gygax
I was recently asked by a reader how to make crafting magic items more wondrous. She was worried that in her campaign the entire process had been reduced to mundane bookkeeping.
Well, I think the answer is pretty simple: make making magic items harder. Here’s a very brief summary of how you make magic items in 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder:
- You need a feat—some available at very low levels (Scribe Scroll and Brew Potion being the two most easily gained).
- It’s relatively quick to do; it takes one day per 1,000 gp value of the item.
- You can do it literally anywhere, any time–even around the campfire after a hard day’s adventuring
- It’s not particularly expensive—particularly for low-power, single use magic items.
1st Edition Crafting
Now, lets look at how you crafted magic items in 1st Edition AD&D.
- Potions may be made by any magic-user of 7th-level or higher.
- A magic-user requires a proper laboratory worth between 200 gp and 1,000 gp to work on potions.
- The laboratory requires a 10% monthly outlay to cover the cost of breakages, the cost of supplies, firewood and so on.
- The number of days it takes to make a potion is a function of its value; it takes one day per 100 gp-worth of value; i.e. a potion worth 250 gp takes three days to brew.
- Scrolls may be made by spellcsters of 7th-level or higher.
- The materials used affect the chance of success; there is always a chance of failure. Base chance of failure is 20%.
- Scrolls require special inks; the scriber must discover the recipe for different kinds of spells
- It takes one day per level of the spell to be scribed to write a scroll. During this time, the spell caster must be essentially uninterrupted. If he does something else, his efforts are wasted.
Making Magic Items
- All other magic items require the enchant an item spell. (A 6th-level wizard spell so a 12th-level+ caster). Casting this spell can take up to ten days and the magic-user must be uninterrupted and use no other magic during this time. Clerics don’t require enchant an item, but must meditate and fast for three weeks before starting to create a magic item!
- Once an item is enchanted by a magic-user with the desired spells a permanency spell is also required.
- Once an item is completed, the creator is exhausted and must rest one day for every 100 gp of the item’s experience point value. This could easily amount to a week, a month or even longer.
Contrast and Compare
Clearly in 1st Edition AD&D, the whole process of making magic items was much harder than in 3.0 and later editions. That’s either a good thing or a bad things (depending on your perspective). The salient points seem to be that in 1st edition:
- Fewer people could make magic items because you had to be higher level to make even temporary magic items like potions and scrolls.
- It took longer to do and you couldn’t be interrupted while doing it. You also had to rest afterwards.
- You needed a quiet, well-stocked base.
- It was more expensive and required research.
These factors have the knock-on effect of reducing the number of magic items available in the campaign; after all there are fewer higher level spell casters than lower level.
Dare I say it, but this makes magic items more wondrous. For me, this is a positive thing and I think it’s a positive thing for my campaign. I want magic items to be seen as wondrous treasures, not something you can order via a magical medieval version of Amazon.
Sadly, to make magic items—particularly potions, scrolls and wands—more wondrous in a Pathfinder game will require some rules tinkering. This is not for the fainthearted, and should only be done after chatting with the rest of the group. While I firmly believe that a GM is in charge of his game and campaign world, such a major change requires discussion with the players. Magic items are, after all, one of the foundational aspects of the game.
The Easy, Quick Fix
The easy way to make this work in a campaign is just to increase the caster level pre-requisites for the various Item Crafting feats. Here’s my suggested list:
- Brew Potion and Scribe Scroll: Caster level 7th
- All Other Item Creation Feats: Caster level 11th
Of all the classes, this affects wizards the most as they get Scribe Scroll at 1st-level and get bonus feats at 5th and 10th which can be used to get additional item crafting feats. To offset the loss of the various Item Creation feats, I’d simply add Spell Focus, Greater Spell Focus, Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration to the list of feats a wizard can pick with his bonus feats.
You might also consider changing the time it takes to craft an item.
- Potion or Scroll: 1 day per spell level of the potion or scroll
- Other Magic Items: 1 week per 1,000 gp value (or part thereof)
What Do You Think?
Do you want to make magic items rarer in your campaign? Alternatively, am I mad–would this destroy the game for you? Let me know, in the comments below.