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Step-By-Step Process for Creating Magical Items

Written by Krystal - Published on October 20, 2010

Step-By-Step Process for Creating Magic Items

Magical Item Creation

Adding a bit of mysticism to a game is never a bad idea, but often times we forget to bring the terrifying, mind boggling, and intriguing aspects into our games. Magical items, I feel, are often times taken for granted and used too little, too much, or they are not treated as magical items and rather just another thing to throw into your pack, but how can we prevent this?

Magical items are great for plot twists, key items, character advancements, or something similar. They can also be minor, non important parts of the game, but what fun is that? Scouring continents to find magical items or hidden keys that aren’t actually keys at all but something much greater is almost always a great plot hook. The creation of customized magical items is probably one of the greatest things you can learn in the world of magical items, and how to appraise them will be an even greater still. When giving away magical items, you don’t want to be considered a Monty, and you don’t want a holy greatsword of +1 dragon slaying sold for only 1000 gold! You need to decide how valuable something is before you can decide what level it is. Let’s make a magical item now!

Pick an item, any will do! Weapon, armor, holy symbol, a pebble even. Whatever your heart desires! I will be choosing a medallion for cliche-sakes, a vibrant jade medallion with a royal seal on it attached to a woven platinum chain. Sounds expensive, so let’s say without magical properties it’s worth about 1000 gold pieces given it’s nature and all (including the fact its from royalty!). Now, to decide what it does. I’m going to pick up my players handbook and investigate the spells section if I’m in third edition, otherwise I’m going to peruse some of the powers (or make up my own!).

Considering the fact my party has a base level of 3, I want to keep it fairly simple but well enough that it is worth while to keep. For third edition I think I might use it as an extra spell slot, so my spell casters can cast an extra spell per day, or perhaps even memorize one extra spell – and as for fourth edition, I will allow my casters to learn one extra encounter power, but it can only be used twice daily (giving them another daily power seems a bit too much right now.)

With that I have created a basic magical item.  Feel free to create a history or backstory for your magical item!

In this case, I’ve decided my medallion was created for a young, royal sorceress who was killed mercilessly by her own father, thus encasing her magical aura within the magical item. (Uh oh, do I hear a plot twist?) This magical item now has the ability to become an NPC (in the form of a manifested ghost!), to became a bane, a plot twist, or even the campaign (seek revenge upon the evil father, and find out he killed her as a sacrifice to some great demon, maybe?). One silly magic item can be a catalyst if you let it, or it can be a simple magic item you sell on the streets for 1500 gold and a new dagger. For convenience, I have created a few samples below to give you some inspiration or ideas of things I use.

Imitation Orcus wand: this wand is an imitation of the original “Wand of Orcus”, a deadly item that is said to kill most any mortal that touches it! The imitation was created in it’s image with a few changes so as not to horribly anger Orcus. It’s imbued with a green glow to scare off any seeking eyes. Originally this item was created in hopes to scare and control peasants and small villages by disguising himself with a spell and overtaking them, though one peasant girl saw through the guise and he was soon over taken, the item is now said to be nearly worthless.

Attributes 3rd Edition: Wand of Orcus grants the spell “Disguise self” twice daily, and gives a +1 to any disguise resembling that of a demon.
Attributes 4th Edition: Wand of Orcus grants a “Disguise Self” twice daily, and grants you the power “Necrotic Ray”, At Will Power, standard action, 2d6 + 3 Necrotic Damage.

Shield of Spell Reflection: Good Alignment: At one point there rose a great Paladin, his name is only a whisper known only to the oldest of peasant families. This man was considered a Holy Lord that crossed the seas with only his steed and a golden carpet laid out by the God’s. Upon his death he left behind a single shield hidden within the bowels of the darkest caverns and behind the most sinister of eyes. Only he who has the gaul to take on these evils is said to inherit it’s power, taking on the Paladin Lord’s great burden, is but a gift to a humble man.

Attributes: Any spell that is cast on the character wielding this shield that misses has a 50% chance of being reflected back on the user. Who will then roll that spell/powers damage on themselves. Note: Any secondary effects like poison and ongoing damage will be applied to the caster

Hope some of this helps, happy gaming all!

This post was provided by Dungeonmastering.com expert Krystal. Dungeons and Dragons has always been a passion of hers. She got her start in her wee little years by crawling on the table eating miniatures and dice. She’s been a menace to DnD games around the world ever since!

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Written by Krystal

At a young age, my mother opened up her own gaming store. We had two game rooms, an office, and the front area which had a ton of miniatures and books. I helped manage that store for several years, my mother teaching me the ropes and treating me like an adult so I could learn. Even beyond that she played games at stores like Haster Hobbies and several other places. In fact, my parents met gaming! DnD kind of runs in my blood, as well as any other gaming you can think of. I’m simply a gamer at heart, an artist, and a jack of all trades. I love to write and that’s why I’m here at Dungeon Mastering! I’m going to be going to school for Video Game Design, and my bf is going to school so he can publish Core Rule Sets. In the short few years I’ve been with him I’ve learned all about how to create my own rule system and create a game from the ground up! But my expertise is not limited to DnD alone. I’ve ventured far into Call of Cthullu, and beyond to games like Shadowrun and some White Wolf games..though I’m not a big fan of dice pools. :)

Anyways! Gaming is my passion and my life. I game constantly, go to conventions, and so much more! Maybe I’ll see you there! Happy Gaming!

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10 Responses to “Step-By-Step Process for Creating Magical Items”
  1. David says:

    I just want to say thank you for also including some 3rd edition stuff. I LOVED dungeonmastering’s newsletter, but to be perfectly honest, when the focus shifted to 4th ed, I began to tune you out a bit. Me and my friends have been roleplayers for years, and we prefer the more complex and options-open 3.x system, because 4th ed feels too much like playing an MMO to us. And we get plenty of that from our WoW playage. I understand if you prefer 4th, and I do agree that it’s much better for introducing people that are new to DnD to the universe, but I just have no use for lots of your tools and tips that are so 4th ed system centric. This post was wonderful, because you catered to us all, and for that, I wholeheartedly thank you!

  2. Krystal says:

    Hey David! Thanks for the comment, and to be honest I commonly play 3rd edition also. 4th edition doesn’t have to seem like playing an MMO, and a lot of people have that problem. :P Maybe I’ll write a segment on it hehe, since I finally found the happy medium. My friends and I have integrated to fourth on some nights, and let me tell you some of them HATE mmo’s! You just got to play it like DnD and not get wrapped up in computer tools, miniatures and so on. The thing I like about 4E is that spellcasters don’t feel so useless to me, ya know? Because we get the ability to exert “At will” powers rather than just gallivanting about and 9/10 not using our spells since we can only do 3 a day. Giving us the ability to do something all the time makes each character useful, powers really are what sold me on them. And the power cards are simply an easy and quick access to what your character is going to do. Though I LOVE third edition/3.5!!! :D And don’t worry, I try to focus my articles to include both 3rd/4th, so I hope to see you here more often! :) ((P.S. I’m bias towards 3rd so I have to work to make sure I put in 4E tips. :) ))

  3. Photon1966 says:

    Some interesting ideas and certainly something I do try to do. I also suggest using the mythology of materials that an item is made from. I made alot of effort to get gaming and non-gaming material that helps with this. Like properties of gems. So say a ruby is tied to fire for example. The sword I put into the game which when commanded ignites and does additional flame damage has rubies in the hilt, possible two and the handle might be shaped like a dragon. It’s snout being the actual grip. If gold has ties to light, sunlight, or the like then make items that glow have gold in them. Certain wood also has ties to certain themes and so when bows are made of them I give them properties close to the same themes. I also have added into the game things like Sunblessed wood which when arrows are made from it they are naturally Bane vs undead. So the party goes out of there way to find trees to harvest but there rare and often guarded by Celestial beings who might let them harvest it but need a task done for the right to do that thus creating more interesting stories and adventures.

  4. TheWhite says:

    Hey Krystal, from yet another gamer who prefers 3.5 over 4 (actually, pathfinder is our dnd of choice right now)do you have any decent tips on converting 4e monsters etc into 3.5? I mean, there is a lot of really epic stuff written for 4e that I’d love to use but I’m just not sure how to go about converting them easily

  5. Krystal says:

    @ TheWhite you pose a difficult question many of us face, and one I am MORE than willing to answer though it seems a little more complex then a comment. If you’d be kind enough to wait a minute I’ll write up an article specifically on converting 4E characters, monsters, items, etc. here at DMing.com. :) I would answer as a comment but it will take a little bit more than a comment to fill those shoes, eh? ;) Happy Gaming and I’ll see you soon!

  6. TheWhite says:

    @Krystal. That’s kinda what I was hoping you would say, I’m glad you feel that you have enough time to put into this to make it a good article. Looking forward to it.

  7. Nate T says:

    I find the best way to make magical items important to a campaign is design a single artifact-style item for each PC. I really got the idea from one of the free original adventures given by wizards (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/oa/20051207a). By giving the players an item that has a unique and deep history, instead of a “+2 longsword of deftness”, it gives players a reason to feel pride in their weapon. Then, instead of granted additional items to replace it, give quests or hints within the item’s lore on how to power it up along with the players. This can add multiple weeks to any campaign

  8. Jeff says:

    Good article. I think Items with history and plenty of back story give the players that extra bit of tie in to the narrative that i believe greatly increases immersion. Most of the times I opt for items like this and forgo an in game mercantile system. Do you think the players would prefer a family heirloom off their dying father or a gift for your eternal servitude from the sorcerer king or a dagger with +9 to ogre slaying you get from some market stall? Another cool think I try and do is get the players involved. They often have an idea of where they are taking their character and you wouldn’t want to inadvertently give them something that conflicted with that,
    For example, in my last campaign a Barbarian character had an axe that was forged with the soul of a great chieftain of his tribe. Every time he killed something with a crit he would steal their soul and could later release them for a blast attack that did d6 x [# of stolen souls to a max of 5] + STR mod frost damage. As the campaign progressed the axe was becoming more powerful than the barbarian and he slowly turned into a frost elemental.
    Thanks again for the article!

  9. BrianJH1969 says:

    Love it Makes life easy for the GM.

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