A DM's Guide to Making Magical Items

SO THERE I WAS, WATCHING MY boys and prepping my dungeon. I had hundreds of rooms to fill up with junk, which really isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many of the rooms I knew what I wanted to do with them, but others, well, I just had no clue! What in the heck are we suppose to do with all of this space? A decrepit library! That would be cool. Of course we have to put some stuff in here, so why not a couple of traps? I invented a little red book that if opened shoots out 5d6 worth of fire damage, save against breath weapon to halve the damage. That, I believed, was that. I actually got to use it too! Shannon picks it up and sees what’s inside and WHOOSH he gets a new haircut, which I found funny because the bum has been killing my monsters all evening. What I didn’t foresee was that they would keep the damned thing and use it against me.

Surprise! I just created a new magic weapon, completely on accident. Of course, this isn’t the first time. I constantly forget one of the carnal rules of trap laying. DON’T LEAVE ANYTHING NOT TACKED DOWN! Traps shouldn’t be movable, they must be a part of the setting and not something that can just be picked up and carried around. Oh well, my loss is their gain. Now I get to design this thing, which brings up a point, there really is no rules about how to create magic items.


This can be either easy for you, or hard and we both know which way I roll, baby! So, easy it is. What exactly this thing does, determines how we classify it. Now, this thing is a book, but books normally are only used once, and then they disappear. Books normally change the character in some way, but this thing doesn’t, it just does damage, thus it is more of a weapon. It deals out magical items, but it doesn’t require an attack roll. Since this thing does 5d6, this sounds more like a Stave then anything else, so we’ll use Magic Staves as our base category.


We need to think of something that is as unique as the item, some way to begin the process of making it real to us. It should both describe the item as well as describe what it does. For my item I think that I’ll call it Nimrod’s Tome of Fire Might. It describes who created it (The wizard Nimrod), what it is (A Tome), and what it does (Fire). Nimrod is also a dork, so I added the word Might and we’ll call it a day.


I already invented one power, it shoots out a column of fire which causes 5d6 in fire damage. But this isn’t enough. Since this causes damage without regard to an enemies armor class, this thing needs some restrictions. In this case, I think that the fairest answer to the problem would be to restrict it with a limited amount of uses, or charges. Since this is classified as a Stave, we’ll go ahead and incorporate the amount of charges a Stave receives, which is 1d6+19. After the charges are spent, then the book becomes dead.


Now that we know most of the magical items characteristics it is time to write a summary of exactly what this thing does, and tell a bit of history at the same time.

Once opened, this book expels a 1ft. diameter blast of fire which causes 5d6 points of fire damage to anyone or anything that it comes in contact with. A Saving throw vs. Breath Weapon for half damage. All items being carried must also make a saving throw else be destroyed. One Charge is expended for every round that this book is kept open.

Nimrod created this book just to see if he could, once completed he left it in his library and forgot all about it. The books binding is dry and died red. The spine describes the book as Dante’s Inferno


Now THIS is something that really needs to be expanded. If it is listed anywhere, then I’d love to know where. At this time I guess that I’ll just find a magical item that is kind of like it and steal the XP value of it. The Wand of Fire is kind of like it, but it does more so we’ll just have to cut down on the XP earned from owning it down to 1,500XP. This feels kind of right.


And there we have it! It’s not an exact science, but it will function. If something else comes up during play, then I can readapt it if I need to without much grief from the players, as long as I am fair. Right from the get-go they realized that it wasn’t something that I had planed on them doing, so they realize that whatever we do with it won’t be written in stone. Play testing something is just as important as writing is, only during play testing can we find out were the problems are.


Noumenon said...

That's a really inspired solution to the book, and it's one I could even use on the fly! If the party picks something up and starts to use it against me... it wears out after X uses.

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