D&D 5E +4 magic items - page 285 - Creating a New Magic Item

GreyLord

Legend
On this page in the DMG it appears that you can make +4 magic items. These would be excessively rare. I have not used one of these in a game, but if I read it correctly, this means that +3 is NOT the maximum bonus you can have for a magic item.

Has anyone made a +4 magic item, and what would you include on it. Would it be an artifact? Has anyone had a greater bonus on a weapon (for example, a +5 or +6 or greater?) in their game? What type of impacts did they have?

Would you suggest it? Would you advise against it?
 

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jgsugden

Legend
What is the difference between a +3 weapon wielded by a PC with a Strength of 29 from a belt of giant strength, and a +7 weapon in the hands of a PC with a strength of 20? Primarily: an attunement slot.

The +3 soft cap is there for a reason, but it is not truly necessary. It is ok to have overpowered PCs, especially at very high levels. I do have a +7 weapon in my campaign, and it has been wielded by PCs in 5E (at the end of two differewnt campaigns) - and it was just fine. It gave the PCs a truly epic retirement adventure experience.
 
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It would be most certainly an Artifact. Even like an Artifact that goes beyond normal Artifacts. But that's only because in 5E, your Artifacts/Super Important/End Game tier Magic Weapons would be a +3.
 

dave2008

Legend
On this page in the DMG it appears that you can make +4 magic items. These would be excessively rare. I have not used one of these in a game, but if I read it correctly, this means that +3 is NOT the maximum bonus you can have for a magic item.

Has anyone made a +4 magic item, and what would you include on it. Would it be an artifact? Has anyone had a greater bonus on a weapon (for example, a +5 or +6 or greater?) in their game? What type of impacts did they have?

Would you suggest it? Would you advise against it?
IIRC, EnWorld made Excalibur a +4 weapon in Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters
 

dave2008

Legend
I don't have any issue necessarily with giving a weapon a +5 or whatever, but I am with @LordEntrails , it is just not very interesting.

Personally, I cap most magic items @ +1 to hit, but I give them interesting abilities and often give them bonus damage. Now, I read a book once were a sword "talked" to its wielder and told them when to strike. When I created a similar sword for my game I did give it a higher +bonus to hit because it fit the fiction of the item.
 

cbwjm

Legend
I'd be willing to use +4 on a weapon but it'd be like it says in the book, legendary. Most likely a singular item like an artefact and the +4 would be only part of what makes it unique. Could even make them the weapons of the gods if that's a thing in your campaigns. How cool would it be finding the spear of Odin or the shield of Zeus.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I think if I did it, I would use the AD&D formula of "+1 weapon, +4 or +5 vs. lycanthropes" or something similar.

That allows some design space to add on other cool effects (e.g. "any foe reduced to 10 hit points or less by this blade in the hands of its attuned wielder is instead killed"), and gives a baseline of flavor akin to a "bane" weapon.
 


Asisreo

Patron Badass
Hmmm...I never went to +4 in my creations, but I think it could be a simple balance to have the +4 weapons be attunement. Now, I'd probably also give them flavorful properties like "Wasp Stinger" "+4 (attunement), wielder can speak with bees, action can control a swarm for 1 minute and must recharge at dawn to reuse this ability."

The +4 is the true benefit but the other stuff is neat little flavor that won't mean much at the level they get the item.
 

I almost always prefer to say "yes" (or, often, "yes, but...") rather than "no," so I have no inherent opposition to making a +4 (or higher!) weapon. But any fancy weapon someone picks up, I want it to be meaningful.

Weapons in Dungeon World can theoretically have whatever +N value you as DM want. +N doesn't affect accuracy, just damage. (There's also "P piercing," which ignores P amount of armor, since AC is DR in this system.) But since HP values are always pretty low, I think the absolute highest HP I've ever fielded at the party was less than 30, a large +N value is still pretty handy.

In my game though...I have striven to make all the tools and weapons the party use feel weighty and important. The Druid found a living acacia-wood "staff" early on, which turned out to be an artifact scythe that had had its blade removed. He's on a quest to restore it, and the material he chooses for this purpose will have significant symbolic consequences. The Ranger has found a bow, which he has since discovered belonged to his inheritance-line ancestor (major reveal there), the First Sultan, thousands of years ago, and if he can collect all of his ancestor's treasures (thus far bow, cloak, and spear), their powers will collectively grow. (It's somewhat a magical/supernatural inheritance, since biologically something like 90% of all humans, orcs/half-orcs, and part-genies should now be at least a little related to him.) The Bard has acquired a genie-wrought sword, Risha al-Ghurab, the Quills of the Raven, which interplay with his performance-magic and his flirtation with the shadows, and helped build into his eventual (not entirely willing) assumption of a prophet-like leadership position for an assassin cult. (He's trying to reform the faction that believes he's their prophesied destroyer-savior, and stands a good chance of succeeding.) The Battlemaster has a sword, inherited from his elven ancestors, with mysterious powers to "steal" the abilities of enemies and weapons he defeats. This has since been revealed as one of the "keys" meant to return, from some planar refuge, an ancient culture of eladrin (who are somehow related to elves, but not clear how--those eladrin who did not depart the world "became" elves.) The blade is certainly powerful in its own right, but it also invites deeper questions and advances a story.

So...if I made a "+4 weapon" or the equivalent...I would want it to be similarly "epic." Something that would communicate that it's not just a particularly sharp sword--that it means something. Or, hey, maybe I could lean into its lack of meaning. It's absurdly powerful, covered in symbolic images or unreadable etched runes, it HAS to be super important, right? Could be an interesting subversion to have a de facto powerful weapon that's literally just a powerful weapon, no special strings attached, but that you must complete a long journey of discovery and adventure in order to learn. Not quite a shaggy dog story (since the weapon is still powerful), but perhaps that could be an interesting direction if anyone new joins the group.

Both sides of the discussion about very high-plus weapons tend to lose sight of this stuff. Critics tend to think of it as pure powergaming, grubbing for every little bonus or secretly hoping to be stupidly OP. That is, critics assume fans of such things are completely uninterested in good story, so therefore it's categorically better to use low- or even non-plus items (or other random wondrous items), since such items are obviously inherently more story-filled. Fans delight in the power but, because discussions like this are necessarily shorn of context, have no stories to hook into, and thus don't talk about them much. Can't assume you know what any given campaign's story will be, so playing the character-creation "game" necessarily involves saying little about things that will depend on a host of factors you can't predict. Obviously best to say nothing at all about stuff just in case it might prove incorrect, right? (Not that the internet has ever encouraged anyone to behave differently...)

Good weapons--good magic items--have some kind of story. It doesn't have to necessarily tie into an epic quest, nor be an insanely powerful artifact. The aforementioned Bard loves his simple, portable battle-drum set with a vigor enchantment on it. Despite sometimes having memory struggles, he's never once forgotten he has them and delights in finding new and creative ways to employ their health-boosting effects. A +4 (or whatever) sword could bring in ancient legends and lost history. Or perhaps it has no history at all, as it defies what was thought possible, and its sudden appearance is a sign of some major change. Or perhaps it's the calling-card or token of some dangerous being, and even associating with it is a risk. Or perhaps it's a powerful tool but also a critical component of something else, forcing the player to choose between keeping their Cool Sword and using that sword to accomplish something they deeply, deeply care about.

I could probably go on naming more possible stories, but I've made my point. There is no more nor less story inherent to +N weapons vs more qualitative enchantments or non-combat magic items. The story, the true value, of these things comes from what we--as DMs and as players--do with them.
 

jgsugden

Legend
For those folks so opposed to the idea of a +4, +5 or +6 weapon:

During your next session in which you have a PC wielding a +2 or +3 weapon, put in a little extra effort and see how much difference it really would have made had it been a +4 weapon.

If your initial impulse is to say that every hit makes a difference - while it makes a technical difference, itdoesn't make a real significant difference as often as you think. For the most part, the enemy needs to go down so much faster with the +4 to hit involved (rathe than +3 or +2) that they get less turns of activity.

While the difference between a +3 and a +4 is there at higher level ... it is not as meaningful as the difference betwen +1 and nonmagical at low levels. There are a variety of reasons for this surrounding frequency for opportunities for one shot kills, monsters hp relative to damage per strike, etc... but the presence of +4, +5 or even +6 damage weapons at higher levels is not that significant. I've had +7 weapons in my game since AD&D in the early 1980s, and those very same weapons are still +7 weapons when they're found today in 5E.
 

MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
Publisher
While the difference between a +3 and a +4 is there at higher level ... it is not as meaningful as the difference betwen +1 and nonmagical at low levels.
I agree with this. Me PCs are at 17th level now and "don't roll a one" is an increasing common refrain against a lot of monsters.

I think it would be a cool way to show "this weapon is special," though I'd want to make sure to give it other features too.
 

aco175

Legend
I'm not sure I have given out a +2 weapon in 5e yet. I did have one party reach 14th level, so I may have, but tend to give out a +0 or +1 weapon with some sort of other powers attached to make cooler.

I guess I could see a +4 weapon, but not sure what the need would be. The 5% extra hit may not be needed that much at the level I would give one out at. I would favor more damage over more attack. Something like the dragon-slaying sword that is only +1, but deals +3d6 damage vs dragons. It is situational in that is it really cool only against dragons, but it unique and makes a better story.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I agree with this. Me PCs are at 17th level now and "don't roll a one" is an increasing common refrain against a lot of monsters.

And we have completed multiple campaigns at level 20 and never had that problem with 5e, because bounded accuracy works well if you donc slash it at every opportunity with stats or powers that break it down so that bonuses become absolutely meaningless.

I think it would be a cool way to show "this weapon is special," though I'd want to make sure to give it other features too.

Not "too", but "instead". That way, the players have to choose between large bonuses to hit (damage is much less important on + weapons) and cool powers, which is why it was a great touch to create the Flame Tongue and Frost Brand as they were.

And yes, we've had artefact level weapons with both bonuses and plusses, and that is what made them special. A Holy Avenger is already a truly special weapon, as ia a Hammer of Thunderbolts, for example, and other weapons can feel really special with a +3 bonus and cool powers. Inflating into +4, +6, etc. does not bring anything to the game either technically or in terms of story.

And yes, we are playing with grognards who have had +6 weapons as recently as in 4e, but no-one thinks the 5e weapons are less cool for being limited to +3 as everything was recalibrated, and in particular the fact that we can have cool items, we don't have (as was the case in 3e and 4e) to pursue a stupid arms race with plusses everywhere on our character sheets just to keep abreast of the power of monsters at high level. That completely devaluated plusses, but in the many years since 5e came out, everything was nicely recalibrated.
 

For those folks so opposed to the idea of a +4, +5 or +6 weapon:
Literally no one in this thread has (yet) said this.

We have said that doing such is boring, uninterested, or hasn't been needed. There are, to us, more enjoyable ways of making a weapon unique and more powerful. As you point out, a static +1 bonus increase actually doesn't do much from a practical sense in combat.
 

MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
Publisher
And we have completed multiple campaigns at level 20 and never had that problem with 5e, because bounded accuracy works well if you donc slash it at every opportunity with stats or powers that break it down so that bonuses become absolutely meaningless.
I'm not saying it's a problem, but I do think that attack bonuses scales faster than AC. Also thanks to bounded accuracy I can use a hoard of low-level threats against high level PCs, but the PCs will almost auto-hit those low-level threats.

I think our overall point is that same though, that weapons with cool abilities are more important than an extra +1.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I'm not saying it's a problem, but I do think that attack bonuses scales faster than AC.

Which is fine, it's by design, it just makes heroes become more heroic.

Also thanks to bounded accuracy I can use a hoard of low-level threats against high level PCs, but the PCs will almost auto-hit those low-level threats.

Indeed, and it makes heroes become even more heroic on these threats.

I think our overall point is that same though, that weapons with cool abilities are more important than an extra +1.

Indeed, a weapon should not need that many plusses to make it really cool.
 

To me it really only makes sense if you want to give an extremely powerful item to a player who really doesn't like a lot of fiddly mechanical bits, but I can't imagine +4 is gamebreaking. The +3 bonus cap was introduced to reign in bonuses for bounded accuracy when they really didn't know nearly as much about the system plays as we all do now.

Obviously there is some point where the static bonus breaks bounded accuracy, and some point where it trivializes a character's innate stats, and both of these are things to beware of unless one of those is an effect you are trying to achieve, but I don't think +4 is either of those points with high level characters.
 

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