Magic Item Creation

I have two players and myself (using NPCs) creating magic items for my campaign.  Recently, I noticed that one of my players was spending most of her spare experience and gold to make a few moderate items while another player spent little to get greater items.  I questioned this and began to study the system used by both players.  The Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide both go into detail on the cost of item creation but still I had three different systems being used.  Here I try to explain the system and I hope that these problems won't keep happening.
Table 8-40: Calculating Magic Item Gold Piece Values
DMG p. 242
EffectBase PriceExamples
Ability enhancement bonusBonus squared x 1,000 gpGloves of Dexterity +2
Armor enhancement bonusBonus squared x 1,000 gp+1 chainmail
Bonus SpellSpell level squared x 1,000 gpPearl of Power
Deflection bonusBonus squared x 2,000 gpRing of protection +3
Luck BonusBonus squared x 2,500 gpStaff of Power
Natural armor bonusBonus squared x 2,000 gpAmulet of natural armor +1
Resistance BonusBonus squared x 1,000 gpCloak of resistance +5
Save bonus (limited)Bonus squared x 250 gpPeriapt of proof against poison +4
Skill bonusBonus squared x 20 gpRing of climbing
Spell resistance10,000 gp per point over SR 12; SR 13 minimumMantle of Spell resistance
Weapon enhancement bonusBonus squared x 2,000 gp+1 longsword
Spell EffectBase PriceExample
Single use, spell completionSpell level x caster level x 25 gpScroll of haste
Single use, use-activatedSpell level x caster level x 50 gpPotion of cure light wounds
50 charges, spell triggerSpell level x caster level x 750 gpWand of fireball
Command wordSpell level x caster level x 1,800 gpCape of the mountebank
Use-activatedSpell level x caster level x 2,000 gpLantern of revealing
SpecialBase Price AdjustmentExample
Charges per dayDivide by (5 ÷ charges per day)Helm of teleportation
No Space Limitation *Multiply entire cost by 2Ioun stone
Charged (50 charges)1/2 unlimited use base priceRing of the ram
ComponentExtra CostExample
Armor, shield, or weaponAdd cost of masterwork item+1 composite longbow
Spell has material component costAdd directly into price of item per charge **Wand of stoneskin
Spell has XP costAdd 5 gp per 1 XP per charge **Ring of three wishes
Spell Level:  A 0-level spell is half the value of a 1st-level spell for determining price.
* See Limit on Magic Items Worn, page 176 DMG.  Basically, an item that does not take up one of these limited spaces costs double.
** If item is continuous or unlimited, not charged, determine cost as if it had 100 charges.  If it has some daily limit, determine cost as if it had 50 charges.

The various Item Creation Feats have specifics about the experience costs associated with creating certain items.  The Dungeon Master's Guide, chapter 8, has examples of magic items and their prerequisites.  The above table should cover any item created that isn't covered in the example section of the DMG.  The following information is mainly meant for Wonderous Items.  Wands, Weapons, Staves, Scrolls, and Potions should not use the table above or any of the following information.

When players create new magic items, they look at table 8-40 and fix the base price according to what the item does.  This may cause problems as players have the tendency to count all spells cast into the item as spell effects.  Using this as a basis, players will create wildly powerful items that cost mearly a fraction of what they should cost.

Take the 1st level spell Mage Armor, it is a spell that adds an armor enhancement bonus.  The creator of the item should use line two under the Effect column to adjucate price.  This would mean that the +4 AC enhancement gained by the Mage Armor spell would cost the character 8,000 gp and 640 XP, not the 1,000 gp and 80 XP they would get using the spell effect column.

When a spell grants an ability or function that is covered under the Effect column, the player must use that entry instead of any Spell Effect that is appropriate.  The base price for the effect is still to be adjucated by Special effects and special Components.  If a player makes a cloak that has the 4th level spell Dimension Door activated when the cloak is drawn together up to 3 times per day, the cost to the player for this effect is 16,800 gp and 1,344 XP.

Some spells, like shield, do not specify how their effects resolve.  When this happens, the DM must make the decision as to which column and entry to use.  With the shield example, the DM looks at what this spell does and decides that the +7 AC bonus and +3 Ref save bonus gained falls more under the deflection bonus entry than an armor enhancement bonus.  The Shield spell creates an invisible plane of force that "intercepts" attacks.  The spell really doesn't enhance a character's armor but it adds to the overall armor class just like a Ring of Protection and other protections.

Many spells grant items a numerical enhancement (like Mage Armor and others).  A character's spellcaster level must be 3 times that of the bonus that is placed into the item.  This means that a 9th level wizard who creates a cloak with Mage Armor only gains a +3 enhancement bonus instead of the +4 normally associated with this spell.  Some may say that this is unfair but realize, a 20th level wizard doing the same thing would get a +6 enhancement instead of the +4.  I think this is not only fair, it helps control game balance.  A DM may rule that certain spells (like Shield) grant their full bonus and extra effects because they are not always active.  Attempting to create an item with the Shield spell always active would get the level restriction.

Also, item creators must remember that the XP cost associated with creating items is 1/25 of the BASE price.  I had a player who was cutting the base price in half to get his material cost, then using that price to get his 1/25th XP cost.  This is an easy error to make when you are doing it either in your head or with a calculator.  Everyone is encouraged to write out every step of creation to keep from making these errors.

The rules for creating items that give enhancements to skills follow these same rules but there is little in the rules to talk about limits.  One of my players wanted to make an item that gave him +20 to all of his alchemy checks.  This seemed a little far fetched to me and when I refused saying that was too powerful, the player agreed said he was just trying to exploit the system.  Situations like this show me the problems in the system so I can find a fix to keep them from happening agian when I am less vigilent.


Special Notes:  Items that take up a limited slot that have more than one ability thrown into them have a 10% increase in price due to their additional powers.  That is each ability beyond the first (use the highest cost price as the first) have a 10% increase assigned to it due to its increased power and usefulness.
     For items that do not take up a limited slot, each "similar" ability that is thrown into the item only cost 75% for each item after the first.  Spell effects can be similar but effects that fall under the Effect column never get this discount.
     Items that are restricted to certain classes, alignments, or abilities may have their price cut by 10% to 30% depending on their restriction. 
     The Base price for an item may not be the price that the item is sold for.  Great demand or availibility may effect the price of a completed item.  A good guidline is to alter the price for the item by 5% to 25% depending on campaign factors.  This increase in price does not impact the cost to create the price as this extra increase is added after the item is completed.
     Adding additional abilities to a limited item already magical is at double the cost.  (i.e. Adding Invisibility to a cloak that already has Mage Armor costs double what it would normally cost.)  Adding abilities to a magic item that is does not take limited space is at normal cost.  Increasing a magical item's enhancement bonus costs the same as creating the item from scratch, therefore increasing a +1 sword to +3 costs the same as creating a +3 sword from scratch.

Limit of Magic items worn at one time
(page 176 DMG)
  • 1 headband, hat, or helmet
  • 1 pair of eye lenses or goggles
  • 1 cloak, cape, or mantle
  • 1 amulet, brooch, medallion, necklace, periapt, or scarab
  • 1 suit of armor
  • 1 robe
  • 1 vest, vestment, or shirt
  • 1 pair of bracers or bracelets
  • 1 pair of gloves or gauntlets
  • 2 rings
  • 1 belt
  • 1 pair of boots