D&D 5E Special Ingredients for Crafting +x Items

pukunui

Legend
Hey all,

I really like the buying / selling / crafting magic item downtime activities from Xanathar's Guide to Everything, and I generally defer to them when my players want to buy / sell / craft magic items.

This evening, my players bequeathed a 750 gp "gem-studded cloak fit for a king" to the local dwarven community. They had recovered it from some duergar who had been looting an old dwarven ruin. They were hoping that, in exchange, the dwarves would be able to craft a magic weapon for the barbarian PC. I said sure and promptly looked up the crafting magic items rules in XGE.

I'm happy to say that the dwarven smith has an appropriate formula already. The PCs can pay the gold and wait the required amount of time. But the rules also call for the acquisition of a special ingredient. They say, "If appropriate, pick a monster or a location that is a thematic fit for the item to be crafted. For example, creating mariner’s armor might require the essence of a water weird. Crafting a staff of charming might require the cooperation of a specific arcanaloth, who will help only if the characters complete a task for it."

OK. That's all well and good ... but what if the item to be crafted is a plain old generic +X item with no special thematic features?

In this particular case, the players want to have the dwarves make the barbarian a +2 battleaxe.

A +2 weapon is rare, so they need to face a creature with a CR of 9-12 in order to get the special ingredient, although it doesn't necessarily need to be a body part. I'm having a look through the CR 9-12 creatures on D&D Beyond, but so far nothing's jumping out.

Anyone got any suggestions?
 

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Curse of Strahd has the CR 10 Amber Golem, which could possibly provide either amber dust to be used as flux for the metal, or piece of amber (perhaps from its core, where the magic was most concentrated) to be carved, polished, and embedded into the weapon to "hold" the enchantments to it.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Anyone got any suggestions?
Sure....

1. The haft of the axe needs to be made from the wood of a treant (CR 9). They can convince one to help them or kill it and take some of its wood, as they desire...

2. The fire to stoke the forge must come from at least a young gold dragon (CR 10). The dwarves know of a dragon that might help, but the PCs have to find it and of course help it/ do something for it before it will help them.

3. The axe blade, to finish the forging of it, must be bathed in the blood of at least a young red dragon (CR 10). The dwarves know of a dragon that is causing trouble nearby. The PCs must find it and gain its blood.

OR the red dragon lives in a "lake of fire" and the PCs need water from the lake to bath the blade in...

4. As 2/3 above, but make it an Efreeti (CR 11).
 

jgsugden

Legend
If you want a default, dragon bone/blood/etc... has a generic acceptability that can allow it to 'plug and play' in almost any item.

However, I handle this stuff a bit different. I set a cost for item construction (in time and gp). Then, I allow the provision of specific materials to reduce the time and gp cost associated with the creation of an item. The PCs can research options and then hunt down what was suggested, or they can suggest something and we'll determine how much it helps.

I try to keep it from feeling like a MMORPG 'miniquest' that is just a nuisance for most of the party and that the group wants to rush through. I want it to feel more organic, and less burdensome. To that end, capitalizing upon things they have already encountered and harvested, or harvesting something convenient along the way is less budensome. And, if they really need the cost reduction, there is a route to find one even if they can't come up with anything.
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
I think there are a lot of good ideas in these replies.

I think one question you need to ask is how magic items are in your world. Are any magic items rare and special? I wonder because you used the phrase 'plain old generic +X item', and sometimes we say things that give more context we haven't thought about.

Are magic weapons special in that seeing even a 'plain' +2 weapon is something special? Or, are magic items more like the Forgotten Realms in 3.x, where the Red Wizards of Thay ran magic-item creation businesses so the PCs had easy access to magic items with the in-world explanation that the Red Wizards were essentially power-levelling their members?

Let's say with your example of a +2 axe, with an appropriate crafter with the formula, I'd say you're looking at: meteoric/extraplanar ore (luckily, there's a crash site off in the distance), you'd need an appropriately hot enough flame (maybe find some cinder from the Plane of Fire), and pure water to quench the steel. Maybe the cinder keeps the blade permanently hot and it needs to be used to strike the killing blow on some creature of ice/water? YMMV
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
If you want generic, you could go with a Scroll of Magic Weapon of the appropriate +X and and arcane lodstone set into the weapon to serve as a permanancy anchor for the spell.

Or a Smith's Hammer blessed by your game's god of Forge/Craft, which can only be used once to grant the wanted property.
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
On a random tangent, another concept I like for magic items - and I admit it depends on the setting - was the way the first edition of Legend of the Five Rings treated 'magic items' like katanas. Sometimes, it was the master craftsmanship, but often the weapons were more effective because, over countless generations, the spirit of the item became awakened due to proper respect being paid to it and the repetition of its use.

Maybe that's something you could use in a weapon crafting - guiding a proper spirit into a weapon, even if it's just a 'base' +X weapon. Shouldn't be hard to find a soul that wants revenge, or to keep fighting
 

I haven't actually had anyone try to craft a magic item in a campaign yet, but one suggestion I found online is to look for spells that require material components and have effects at least thematically similar to whatever the magic item does.

Unfortunately, the magic weapon spell doesn't require a material component.

I then looked to spells that increase attack bonus or Strength and noticed Enhance Ability: Bull's Strength. This spell requires the hair of a beast (in this case a bull, presumably), but just a normal bull doesn't sound impressive enough for a +2 battleaxe. However, two CR 5 gorgons (a bull-like beast with iron scales) make a CR 9 encounter, so maybe they could get the largest, least damaged scales from two gorgons?

The AD&D book Volo's Guide to All Things Magical might be of use for anyone looking to create magic item crafting recipes. It lists the magical uses of various materials, including wood, gems, metal, etc.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
FWIW, a while ago I started on a project for rules and formula/process for crafting every magic item in the DMG, but didn't get much interest in it at the time so abandoned the project... :(
 


Normally I'd default to the steel needing to be quenched in fresh dragon blood. But given the CR range and the association I have between dwarves and giants, I might send them after a giant and it's fresh blood instead.

I'd make it clear that this is not the way to make a +2 axe, but rather just a way that the dwarves know. I'd have them capable of making a +1 axe without fresh magic creature blood (a fair market trade for the thing they gave the dwarves), and have the blood (perhaps requiring some particular spell or ritual to collect to help explain why this hasn't all been industrialized) just take it to that next level of power. That way the group can decide whether they want to jump through an extra side-quest or not.

I'd also give the axe some additional minor beneficial property, because pure +X is fine when it's just a +1 whatever there so that everyone has a magic weapon, but anything rarer than that should have some more personality to it, particularly if they did a sidequest to get it.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I'll add that in my games I no longer have any +X weapons or items (armor, etc.). Instead I try to make each item unique and have a special background which represents the item's properties.

For example, if the barbarian wants a magical axe, the dwarves craft the weapon and give it to the barbarian (and the party), but the weapon is not ready until the PCs carry the weapon to the peak of Mount Dakenmosh. There is an ancient altar there, dedicated to Hrun, their god of thunder and lightning. The barbarian must wait until the next thunderstorm and place the battleaxe on the altar. If Hrun blesses the axe, striking it with his lightning, the battleaxe will be ready.

Of course, the PCs have to get there, and when they get there deal with the creatures which have taken over the altar site, etc. They also don't have much time, as the next storm is quickly approaching! If they fail to free the site before the storm comes (or finishes), then Hrun will be angered and never bless the axe.

If they succeed, the barbarian will learn (from attuning maybe?) that the battleaxe will be known as Hrunder after the god Hrun. It is magical (obviously) so will overcome non-magical resistance, and grants the wielder resistance to lightning and thunder damage. Once per short or long rest, the axe can cause an additional 2d8 thunder or lightning damage to a creature it strikes.

Or something...
 

CreamCloud0

Adventurer
I might suggest powdered adamantine or some other comparable special metal to be included in the metal’s alloy, but the mineshaft they used to get the metal from has been occupied by some terrible creature/s and is no longer accessible unless they clear it out or at least sneak in and retrieve some ore, im not the most versed on underground monsters though but what about a special ‘living metal’ golem created naturally by the magically conducive metal,

Even if the barb only asked for a +2 weapon throwing a few extra secret features on there too might be a nice surprise, you could have it be determined by needing the weapon to be ‘dedicated’ to a god to finish sealing in the enchantment and whatever and the extra stuff is based on the domain of who they choose, or have them pick from some spare bits and pieces the smith had around ‘for decorating the axe’ that determine tge extra effects, if they don’t pick anything specific then pick a few yourself to add
 

aco175

Legend
Some / most depends on how common a plain, old +2 weapon is in you games. In mine, I do not think I have given one out in 5e, but my groups tend to retire around level 10-13. I tend to give out +0 or +1 items with abilities like what @DND_Reborn talked about upthread. I might give the player some choices about what abilities he wants and that determines what challenges they need to overcome.

Maybe the player wants to deal +1d6 fire all the time and 1/day cast fireball. That would be different than if the player wanted to be able to throw the ax and have it come back and 1/rest be able to re-roll an attack.
 

pukunui

Legend
Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

I just thought I’d mention that I’m running a pretty basic “beer and pretzels” style game, and the players seem to want basic magic items with numerical bonuses over fancier stuff.

I prefer the latter myself and would rather not include +x items if I can help it, but they specifically asked for a +2 battleaxe for the barbarian.

They also want things like a +1 breastplate, a cloak of protection, a luckstone, etc. All the things that provide numerical bonuses!

The wizard already had an arcane grimoire +1 and has just bought a wand of the war mage +1 (for an effective +2 on spell attacks).

At first I was panicking a bit but then I reminded myself that this is just a beer and pretzels game. Let them have their +s if that’s what they want.

Also, one of the PCs is a forge cleric, so can make a weapon or suit of armor a +1 through his class features. Kind of hard to ban +x items when one of the PCs has it as a built-in class feature!
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Also, one of the PCs is a forge cleric, so can make a weapon or suit of armor a +1 through his class features. Kind of hard to ban +x items when one of the PCs has it as a built-in class feature!
FWIW for Forge Cleric I just give them different features equal to other uncommon armor and weapons, such as Adamantine armor to stop critical hits or the cleric chooses resistance to one form of damage. That one is particularly useful if the cleric knows what might be coming and can change the resistance when they use their feature to enchant the armor.

There is nothing wrong with +X items, and in the past I used them, but I still liked to give them something defining. Like I had a DM PC that I played and ended up with a +1 Dagger, but it allowed her to cast invisibility once per day as well, which at lower levels was super useful since she was a scout for the party.
 

cbwjm

Legend
For magical items, I like to include special materials from older editions as well as what's available in 5e. +2 and +3 weapons might require adamantine, +1 weapons might simply require fine steel. I do tend to still require some spells in the process, unless you're a dwarf crafting their once in a lifetime masterpiece. So for a +2 axe, some adamantine is generally enough as long as the spells are available.

For other items, I might require an item in my game called a planar shard from a specific plane of existence. Flametongue would require a planar shard from the elemental plane of fire for instance. Though these shards are typically able to be attached to weapons by a mage-smith (someone trained in Arcana and blacksmithing or other relevant tools). The barbarian in my game has a shadowfel shard attached to her warhammer which makes it magical and deal 1d6 extra necrotic damage

Some items require special items and/or circumstances. I have a dwarf NPC crafting his masterpiece, an axe forged from adamantine in an ancient forge of the old dwarf kingdom deep beneath the mountains. To complete it, he will require a quill made from the feather of a stormcrow with which he will etch runes into the axe using lightning for ink.
 

aco175

Legend
You could always make the quest something not even connected with the making of magic. The dwarves could have the magic part taking care of but need something else from someplace. Maybe a dragon has been bothering them or some beholders underground and the Pcs are just right for the job. It saves the dwarves gold from hiring adventurers.

I once had the PCs delivering a letter to a dragon from another dragon, only to find out is was a long distance chess game to determine if the two would mate. Brought a twist to game when the letter read "Queen takes Rook- Mate."
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

I just thought I’d mention that I’m running a pretty basic “beer and pretzels” style game, and the players seem to want basic magic items with numerical bonuses over fancier stuff.

I prefer the latter myself and would rather not include +x items if I can help it, but they specifically asked for a +2 battleaxe for the barbarian.
The problem with +X items is that they are far more effective than they look.

This means power creep; a character with a +2 axe is going to change the CR of foes the character can defeat by a non-zero amount. And it isn't all that cool. Plus, +X items are fungible; you can swap one for another.

In short, don't give them what they want. Bwahaha. Give them instead something awesome!

Here, what I'd give them is an axe that deals 3d6 damage, +1d4 lightning. You might say "wow, that is an amazing axe", but it isn't as good as a +2 axe.

Suppose you have a level 10 barbarian with 20 strength attacking an AC 20 target recklessly, with -5/+10 from GWM. +4 to hit for 21.5 damage.

They hit 44% of the time and crit 10% of the time doing 10.11 damage per swing.

Give them a +2 Axe. They now hit for 23.5 and hit 58% of the time and crit 10% of the time for 14.28 damage per swing.

Now, give them the above axe; it does 28 per swing, hits 44% of the time and crits 10% of the time. It does 13.62 damage per swing. Less than the +2 axe. This is key; we made a crazy axe that isn't as good as a "boring" +2 item.

We can now add on fun stuff without overpowering it.

1. It requires attunement, but not for the one who got it blessed at the altar.
2. It is a 30/60 range throwing weapon. Throwing it while in melee range does not cause disadvantage.
3. It returns to your hand at the start of your turn if you will it, moving up to 200', so long a there is a path. (If more than 200', it will start returning)
4. On a critical hit, you can unleash a thunderclap that can be heard from 100s of feet away: if you do so, all creatures of your choice within 10' must make a strength save (DC based on wielders strength: 8+prof+strength) or take 1d12+strength thunder damage, be knocked prone, and pushed 20' away.

I like the treant wood handle. Combat? Diplomacy? Either works. And then the weapon has to be blessed at the altar of god of thunder on top of the mountain. The wielder must stand on the altar, and be struck by lighting through the weapon. If they are judged worthy, the runes will activate.

Part of the deal here is that this weapon isn't fungible. You find another cool axe? Is it better or worse? It will be different.

Also, a neat item like this begs to be upgraded. Make a plan to upgrade that lighting damage to d8 (I made it d4 so it looks different than the d6s; so you can roll 3d6 and 1d4 at once; so skip over 1d6) at some point, in a tier or so, and throw on something else (maybe you can throw it in a line, attacking each foe granting cover to a target in order, or everyone along the line has to make a dex save).

This "stormbringer" axe is (in most situations) weaker than the +2 axe the PCs are asking for. Now, which axe will PCs remember and think is cooler?

Even in a beer and prezils game.

...

What more, that +2 item, as accuracy piles up the DM ends up wanting to boost enemy AC; but this in turn makes characters without +X items become more gimped.

They also want things like a +1 breastplate, a cloak of protection, a luckstone, etc. All the things that provide numerical bonuses!
Yes, again, +X items are crazy strong and don't feel strong.

Also, many don't require attunement. So you can stack them on top of a PC and keep getting stronger, unlike attunement items.

Are you sure they want +X, or maybe they find +X easier to convince you to give them? :)

Would they wear a cloak of protection over a cloak of displacement? I suspect the second. But the first is easier to convince a DM to give you.

The wizard already had an arcane grimoire +1 and has just bought a wand of the war mage +1 (for an effective +2 on spell attacks).

At first I was panicking a bit but then I reminded myself that this is just a beer and pretzels game. Let them have their +s if that’s what they want.

Also, one of the PCs is a forge cleric, so can make a weapon or suit of armor a +1 through his class features. Kind of hard to ban +x items when one of the PCs has it as a built-in class feature!
Sure, the Forge cleric can make one +1 item. By avoiding +1 items elsewhere, you also avoid that feature becoming obsolete!

A PC should always need a item converted to +1 by the forge cleric. Ideally more than 1, so there is choice. :) <- evil

I might also suggest using random magic item tables to determine what is for sale in an area, rather than some kind of universal price list. And use the price ranges in the DMG for how much they cost (as items aren't easily available, the fact that worse items cost more than better items doesn't fundamentally matter; they can choose to buy an item at the price asked, or not. They won't be able to sell the item for the price they bought it either, unless they run into someone who wants that specific item.)

---

Adamantine armor that grants 10 temporary HP at the start of your turn.
Cloak of Displacement
Cloak of Invisibility
Ring of Invisibility
Stone of Fortune (At midnight, roll 2d20; you can swap any ability check or saving throw you make with these dice).
 
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pukunui

Legend
Are you sure they want +X, or maybe they find +X easier to convince you to give them? :)
Yes, I am sure. I have been playing with these guys since the start of 5e, if not before. They subscribe to keeping it simple, and they like the old school +s. When they found a sentient sword of sharpness, the player who claimed it was like, "Hey, wait, this doesn't appear to have any plusage." I was like, "Nope! Not all magic items in 5e have pluses!"

They want the numerical advantage. Plain and simple.

(I even confirmed this with the barbarian's player, who confirmed that he wants the +2 over extra fire damage or whatever because "That extra point of damage could often turn things to the party’s favour. Tho the specific damage like fire could be much higher, the extra damage is always there. In a way, they even each other out.")

I might also suggest using random magic item tables to determine what is for sale in an area, rather than some kind of universal price list. And use the price ranges in the DMG for how much they cost (as items aren't easily available, the fact that worse items cost more than better items doesn't fundamentally matter; they can choose to buy an item at the price asked, or not. They won't be able to sell the item for the price they bought it either, unless they run into someone who wants that specific item.)
I was using the Buying a Magic Item downtime activity from XGE. It refers to the random magic item tables, but it also allows for the PCs to find a specific item if they roll well enough - and the PC doing the looking has +12 on Persuasion, so they're almost guaranteed to find specific items. However, because they weren't finding everything they wanted by trawling the auction houses and private sales, that's when they decided to gift the kingly dwarf cloak to the dwarven community in hopes that there would be a smith among them who could manufacture the specific item they want. Because they are in Waterdeep, the largest city on the Sword Coast, it isn't particularly unreasonable.
 

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