D&D 5E Researching Magic Item "recipies"

Nebulous

Legend
I'm sure that sooner or later, players are going to start asking their DMs if it is possible for them to research the formulae or "recipies" required to craft specific magic items. Maybe a player would really like a flaming longsword for their character, or what have you.

How do the DMs present think they will handle this? It seems like a reasonable request, similar to researching new spells. But it could have the potential to unbalance a campaign by allowing in items that a DM would prefer not to include in their game (for example, a decanter of endless water in a Dark Sun game, or a "key item" that opens the door for some particularly obnoxious powergaming -- but old school DMs may argue that I repeat myself).

Well? What do you think?

I had a player leaning toward this last night. I think he wanted to use the Forge of Spells in the Lost Mine of Phandelver to start making his own stuff. I told him he needed to be a dwarf master smithy to utilize the magic for permanent endowment of magic. Otherwise it would only be temporary and fade. I don't want them accessing the ability to make permanent magic items like that at all, so I just won't allow it. I prefer to think of such things as "ancient from another time" when magic worked differently than it does now.
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't think it's so black and white as you are making it out to be. A player can certainly be disruptive without setting out to do so. They can also be willfully ignorant of the fact that they are being disruptive even after it has been pointed out. Most of the time, disruptive powergamers are just trying to make powerful characters -- and what's wrong with that? It's part of the game!

It can be black and white if everyone has agreed to given goals of play. The default ones laid out in the Basic Rules (page 2) are (paraphrased) to have a good time and to create an exciting, memorable story as a result of play. Those are the "win conditions" of D&D. If everyone buys into those goals of play, they will know that it's simply not enough to create the most optimal character or equip yourself with the best loot. If those choices aren't also going to be fun for everyone else at the table and lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story, then they are bad choices. The player is well-advised to do something else or else he or she risks failing to achieve the goals of play.

It really is that simple. It's just gamers tend to forget about it amid all the other things going on in the game. Make it a point to keep your players aware of it and all these concerns about balance and whatnot just go away. Give them the responsibility of creating fun and good stories at the table and watch them rise to the occasion!
 

Werebat

Explorer
It really is that simple. It's just gamers tend to forget about it amid all the other things going on in the game. Make it a point to keep your players aware of it and all these concerns about balance and whatnot just go away. Give them the responsibility of creating fun and good stories at the table and watch them rise to the occasion!

I can see that you feel passionately about this.
 

Joe Liker

First Post
It can be black and white if everyone has agreed to given goals of play. The default ones laid out in the Basic Rules (page 2) are (paraphrased) to have a good time and to create an exciting, memorable story as a result of play. Those are the "win conditions" of D&D. If everyone buys into those goals of play, they will know that it's simply not enough to create the most optimal character or equip yourself with the best loot. If those choices aren't also going to be fun for everyone else at the table and lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story, then they are bad choices. The player is well-advised to do something else or else he or she risks failing to achieve the goals of play.
If you have a trusted group of players who you know have all bought into this philosophy, that's great. They have earned a degree of extra freedom beyond what the default rules allow.

But not everyone has the luxury of playing with such a group. I have played with (and continue to play with) groups of both types. With one group, I would feel comfortable opening the floodgates of item creation, knowing they would use the power for good instead of awesome. The other group, not so much.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I can see that you feel passionately about this.

I find that it cuts through a lot of concerns we DMs typically have and is something that is easily forgotten.

If you have a trusted group of players who you know have all bought into this philosophy, that's great. They have earned a degree of extra freedom beyond what the default rules allow.

But not everyone has the luxury of playing with such a group. I have played with (and continue to play with) groups of both types. With one group, I would feel comfortable opening the floodgates of item creation, knowing they would use the power for good instead of awesome. The other group, not so much.

To be clear, nobody's suggesting "opening the floodgates of item creation." What I did suggest was allowing it to be a function of Research which requires time, money, and possibly a check. I also said to attach a cost of adventure to it which, when you think about it, is the same as adventuring to go get the finished item in the first place. So really, there's no trouble there.

As to the rest, it's really easy to just have this conversation before play, come to an agreement on what's fun for everyone, and then move forward on the same page. Some call this Session Zero. It's a way to avoid conflicts and concerns of the type you mention with your "other group."
 

I would let them research, but depending on the magic item, they may have to travel a bit to find the information they're looking for. This may even require them to first locate where the place they need to travel to is.

A +1 weapon? That information they might find buried in the library of an arcane university? A Holy Avenger? You're going to have to find the Forgotten Holy Archives of [insert deity here].

Now, that doesn't have anything to do with the accuracy of the information. You may find a lot of the books you read feature false starts, flawed methods, were simply flat-out made up by the writer, or several other problems. And even if you do find a way that works, it may contain unnecessary steps.
 

Wolf118

Explorer
Another option is to make the recipe part of the treasure gained in an adventure. We know the basic values of each rarity (100/500/5000/50000/500000), so the recipe could replace an equivalent amount of gold & gems. Of course, there's still the need to find the exotic materials....
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
5th ed is supposed to breakaway from earlier editions ability to forge what should be priceless artifacts as easily as summoning water.

If you're going to let your players 'create' magic items, then you need to put some hard and fast rules to keep them from becoming a magic item factory. The fact that a PC has a flaming sword, much less MADE it should be a fairly impressive feat in all but the most magical of settings. At least in this edition's context.
 


I thought I saw it in the DMG that a Item formula counts as an item 1 step more rare... or equal in an game where item creation is more prevalent. And even with the formula, materials are still an issue.
 

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