Magic items – Basics and Creation
Magic items are divided into categories: armor, weapons, potions, rings, rods, scrolls, staffs, wands, and wondrous items. In addition, some magic items are cursed or intelligent. Finally, a few magic items are of such rarity and power that they are considered to belong to a category of their own: artifacts. Artifacts are classified in turn as minor (extremely rare but not one-of-a-kind items) or major (each one unique and extremely potent).
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- Armour and Sheilds Magic armor (including shields) offers improved, magical protection to the wearer. Some of these items confer abilities beyond a benefit to Armor Class.
- Weapons Magic weapons are created with a variety of combat powers and almost always improve the attack and damage rolls of the wielder as well.
- Potions and Oils A potion is an elixir concocted with a spell-like effect that affects only the drinker.
- Rings A ring is a circular metal band worn on the finger (no more than two rings per wearer) that has a spell-like power (often a constant effect that affects the wearer).
- Rods A rod is a scepter-like item with a special power unlike that of any known spell.
- Scrolls A scroll is a spell magically inscribed onto paper or parchment so that it can be used later.
- Staffs A staff has a number of different (but often related) spell effects. A newly created staff has 50 charges, and each use of the staff depletes one or more of those charges.
- Wands A wand is a short stick imbued with the power to cast a specific spell. A newly created wand has 50 charges, and each use of the wand depletes one of those charges.
- Wondrous Items These objects include magic jewelry, tools, books, clothing, and much more.
Magic Items and Detect Magic
When detect magic identifies a magic item’s school of magic, this information refers to the school of the spell placed within the potion, scroll, or wand, or the prerequisite given for the item. The description of each item provides its aura strength and the school it belongs to.
If more than one spell is given as a prerequisite, use the highest-level spell. If no spells are included in the prerequisites, use the following default guidelines.
|Armor and protection items||Abjuration|
|Weapons or offensive items||Evocation|
|Bonus to ability score, on skill check, etc.||Transmutation|
To use a magic item, it must be activated, although sometimes activation simply means putting a ring on your finger. Some items, once donned, function constantly. In most cases, using an item requires a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. By contrast, spell completion items are treated like spells in combat and do provoke attacks of opportunity.
Activating a magic item is a standard action unless the item description indicates otherwise. However, the casting time of a spell is the time required to activate the same power in an item, regardless of the type of magic item, unless the item description specifically states otherwise.
The four ways to activate magic items are described below.
Spell Completion This is the activation method for scrolls. A scroll is a spell that is mostly finished. The preparation is done for the caster, so no preparation time is needed beforehand as with normal spellcasting. All that’s left to do is perform the finishing parts of the spellcasting (the final gestures, words, and so on). To use a spell completion item safely, a character must be of high enough level in the right class to cast the spell already. If he can’t already cast the spell, there’s a chance he’ll make a mistake. Activating a spell completion item is a standard action and provokes attacks of opportunity exactly as casting a spell does.
Spell Trigger Spell trigger activation is similar to spell completion, but it’s even simpler. No gestures or spell finishing is needed, just a special knowledge of spellcasting that an appropriate character would know, and a single word that must be spoken. Anyone with a spell on his or her spell list knows how to use a spell trigger item that stores that spell. (This is the case even for a character who can’t actually cast spells, such as a 3rd-level paladin.) The user must still determine what spell is stored in the item before she can activate it. Activating a spell trigger item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
Command Word If no activation method is suggested either in the magic item description or by the nature of the item, assume that a command word is needed to activate it. Command word activation means that a character speaks the word and the item activates. No other special knowledge is needed.
A command word can be a real word, but when this is the case, the holder of the item runs the risk of activating the item accidentally by speaking the word in normal conversation. More often, the command word is some seemingly nonsensical word, or a word or phrase from an ancient language no longer in common use. Activating a command word magic item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
Sometimes the command word to activate an item is written right on the item. Occasionally, it might be hidden within a pattern or design engraved on, carved into, or built into the item, or the item might bear a clue to the command word.
The Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (history)skills might be useful in helping to identify command words or deciphering clues regarding them. A successful check against DC 30 is needed to come up with the word itself. If that check is failed, succeeding on a second check (DC 25) might provide some insight into a clue.
Use Activated This type of item simply has to be used in order to activate it. A character has to drink a potion, swing a sword, interpose a shield to deflect a blow in combat, look through a lens, sprinkle dust, wear a ring, or don a hat. Use activation is generally straightforward and self-explanatory.
Many use-activated items are objects that a character wears. Continually functioning items are practically always items that one wears. A few must simply be in the character’s possession (on his person). However, some items made for wearing must still be activated. Although this activation sometimes requires a command word (see above), usually it means mentally willing the activation to happen. The description of an item states whether a command word is needed in such a case.
Unless stated otherwise, activating a use-activated magic item is either a standard action or not an action at all and does not provoke attacks of opportunity, unless the use involves performing an action that provokes an attack of opportunity in itself. If the use of the item takes time before a magical effect occurs, then use activation is a standard action. If the item’s activation is subsumed in its use and takes no extra time use activation is not an action at all.
Use activation doesn’t mean that if you use an item, you automatically know what it can do. You must know (or at least guess) what the item can do and then use the item in order to activate it, unless the benefit of the item comes automatically, such from drinking a potion or swinging a sword.
Size and Magic Items
When an article of magic clothing or jewelry is discovered, most of the time size shouldn’t be an issue. Many magic garments are made to be easily adjustable, or they adjust themselves magically to the wearer. Size should not keep characters of various kinds from using magic items.
There may be rare exceptions, especially with racial specific items.
Armor and Weapon Sizes Armor and weapons that are found at random have a 30% chance of being Small (01-30), a 60% chance of being Medium (31-90), and a 10% chance of being any other size (91-100).
Magic Items on the Body
Many magic items need to be donned by a character who wants to employ them or benefit from their abilities. It’s possible for a creature with a humanoid-shaped body to wear as many as twelve magic items at the same time. However, each of those items must be worn on (or over) a particular part of the body.
A humanoid-shaped body can be decked out in magic gear consisting of one item from each of the following groups, keyed to which place on the body the item is worn.
- One headband, hat, helmet, or phylactery on the head
- One pair of eye lenses or goggles on or over the eyes
- One amulet, brooch, medallion, necklace, periapt, or scarab around the neck
- One vest, vestment, or shirt on the torso
- One robe or suit of armor on the body (over a vest, vestment, or shirt)
- One belt around the waist (over a robe or suit of armor)
- One cloak, cape, or mantle around the shoulders (over a robe or suit of armor)
- One pair of bracers or bracelets on the arms or wrists
- One glove, pair of gloves, or pair of gauntlets on the hands
- One ring on each hand (or two rings on one hand)
- One pair of boots or shoes on the feet
Of course, a character may carry or possess as many items of the same type as he wishes. However, additional items beyond those listed above have no effect.
Some items can be worn or carried without taking up space on a character’s body. The description of an item indicates when an item has this property.
Saving Throws Against Magic Item Powers
Magic items produce spells or spell-like effects. For a saving throw against a spell or spell-like effect from a magic item, the DC is 10 + the level of the spell or effect + the ability modifier of the minimum ability score needed to cast that level of spell.
Staffs are an exception to the rule. Treat the saving throw as if the wielder cast the spell, including caster level and all modifiers to save DC.
Most item descriptions give saving throw DCs for various effects, particularly when the effect has no exact spell equivalent (making its level otherwise difficult to determine quickly).
Damaging Magic Items
A magic item doesn’t need to make a saving throw unless it is unattended, it is specifically targeted by the effect, or its wielder rolls a natural 1 on his save. Magic items should always get a saving throw against spells that might deal damage to them- even against attacks from which a nonmagical item would normally get no chance to save. Magic items use the same saving throw bonus for all saves, no matter what the type (Fortitude, Reflex, or Will). A magic item’s saving throw bonus equals 2 + one-half its caster level (round down). The only exceptions to this are intelligent magic items, which make Will saves based on their own Wisdom scores.
Magic items, unless otherwise noted, take damage as nonmagical items of the same sort. A damaged magic item continues to function, but if it is destroyed, all its magical power is lost.
Repairing Magic Items
Some magic items take damage over the course of an adventure. It costs no more to repair a magic item with the Craft skill than it does to repair its nonmagical counterpart. The Make whole spell also repairs a damaged-but not completely broken-magic item.
Some magic items, particularly weapons, have an Intelligence all their own. Only permanent magic items (as opposed to those with a single use or those with charges) can be intelligent. (This means that potions, scrolls, and wands, among other items, are never intelligent.)
In general, less than 1% of magic items have Intelligence.
Some items are cursed-incorrectly made, or corrupted by outside forces. Cursed items might be particularly dangerous to the user, or they might be normal items with a minor flaw, an inconvenient requirement, or an unpredictable nature. Randomly generated items are cursed 5% of the time.
Charges Doses and Multiple Uses
Many items, particularly wands and staffs, are limited in power by the number of charges they hold. Normally, charged items have 50 charges at most. If such an item is found as a random part of a treasure, roll d% and divide by 2 to determine the number of charges left (round down, minimum 1). If the item has a maximum number of charges other than 50, roll randomly to determine how many charges are left.
Prices listed are always for fully charged items. (When an item is created, it is fully charged.) For an item that’s worthless when its charges run out (which is the case for almost all charged items), the value of the partially used item is proportional to the number of charges left. For an item that has usefulness in addition to its charges, only part of the item’s value is based on the number of charges left.