Crafting and Selling Magic Items, Revised

—Edit 2017/04/10— I love how the folks at Wizards of the Coast posted their own revisions to the rules around crafting and selling magic items (as well as other downtime activities) in a new Unearthed Arcana released 3 days after I put this up—and the rules are even worse than the originals!  Oh, you made a carpet of flying that cost 20,000 gp to create? Well, you won’t find anyone anywhere willing to pay a single copper piece more than 15,000 gp for it. Enjoy your 25% loss. By the way, that took you 500 days to craft, so there goes a year and a half as a wasted endeavour.

Sick of Wizards of the Coast screwing you and your players over? Use my rules instead!  They actually obey the basics of supply and demand that any first-year economics student would know! 

Back in 2015, I grew so fed up with the regular system for crafting and selling magic items that I wrote a new set of rules which allowed players to be rewarded for their dedication to a craft without burdening the game with an overly complicated set of rules.

The feedback on this was very positive, and so I recently decided to re-vamp the document using the fantastic services provided by The Homebrewery. This new document incorporates some of the helpful suggestions that I received in order to better present the material.

Simply click the image below to be taken to the full PDF in a new window.

After Word

So I am getting a lot of feedback on this, most of it positive. There has been some vocal dissent, however, all focused around two perceived issues that I wanted to address.

The first complaint that many people are expressing is one I call the ‘Magic Economy Conundrum’. It goes along these lines: “I don’t want to have a magic item economy, so I don’t like this revision.” I would encourage people of this persuasion to re-read the document, for you will find the following passage: “The character must also have a formula that describes the creation of the item. The rarity of such knowledge is up to the DM to decide, and they may determine that some formulae require special quests to discover.” While any exchange of magic items technically counts as a magic item economy, the DM has always had the right to restrict the prevalence of magic items (and, therefore, the scale of a magic item economy) to their desired level, from extremely minimal to practically commonplace. This revision of the rules in absolutely no way changes your ability as a DM to decide that the knowledge of how to craft magic items is so rare that there is no formal economy to speak of. Rather, this revision is intended to allow players who have spent their downtime engaged in crafting to sell their wares with a possibility of earning a profit, thus rewarding their perseverance.

The second complaint that I see is the one I call the ‘Lazy Players Complication’. This one is along the following lines: “With this revision, my players will never want to leave town! They’ll just sit at home crafting!” To this, I can put it no more delicately than to say that if you cannot motivate your players to go out on an adventure, it’s an issue with how compelling you are making the story, not what downtime activities are available to them. If your players would rather stay in town, they can already engage in any of the other downtime activities detailed in chapter 6, “Between Adventures” in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (my players are usually fond of carousing whenever they get a chance). It is incumbent on the Dungeon Master to present material that engages their players. Therefore, rather than externalize your insecurities onto this revision, I encourage you to consider how it will help your game instead.

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3 thoughts on “Crafting and Selling Magic Items, Revised”

  1. How would you rule a simulacrum of a caster using the laboratory to craft an item on behalf of its creator? Take for instance Pumat Sol of Critical Role Season 2, or anyone unlucky/foolish enough to have allowed Sansuri’s Simulacrum from Storm King’s Thunder into their game.

    1. Hi Tim,

      Thank you for your question!

      I would rule it as if the character were crafting the item. There are several reasons for this, aside from the simple one that it makes sense (the simulacrum being a copy of the original, sans a 7th-level spell slot and with half the hp):

      (1) Simulacrum is a 7th-level spell that costs 1,500 gp in materials to cast. This isn’t something a garden-variety wizard will be doing, and by the point in the character’s career where they have gained this ability, they’re already nearing the point where most campaigns end (around level 15), meaning that we’re already entering the stage in the game where most spellcasters are assumed to retire and craft magic items anyway. If a spellcaster opts not to take their simulacrum into combat, this at least provides another way for them to get their ‘money’s worth’ out of the spell before the campaign ends.
      (2) As alluded to above, campaigns don’t last forever. The fastest campaigns could, theoretically, take a party to level 20 within a month of in-game time, especially if they are centred around more localized areas and/or have appropriate options to expedite travel times (such as teleportation). Few campaigns have enough downtime given to the players for them to even think of crafting anything of Rare or higher rarity, even if the DM allows them to find a recipe to make such items. Given the average in-game time of most campaigns, allowing the simulacrum to carry the work of crafting magic items may only result in one or two more items for the party.

      the Archmage

  2. To Point #2 – If you’re players are starting a magic item store and don’t want to go out to adventure then bring the adventure to them. Running a business can be dangerous and cut-throat. The idea of heavily regulated commerce and legal protections is a very, very new things (last 100 years or so). Which means you can have rival merchants trying to steal or break their equipment, maybe hire their staff away from them, blackmail them, set them up for failure with a guild or nobility, and many more ideas. That sounds like a lot of fun if you ask me.

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