I mentioned in a comment here that I've created a variant system for forging magic items, and u/Naked_Arsonist requested that I share the whole thing. So here goes!
Every item the players find is made of a material. Each different material has its own magical properties, specifically a magic conductivity level. This level represents the maximum flow of arcane energy that the material can take without breaking down. Materials also have a strength. This represents the maximum bonus that can be achieved through physical means, e.g. sharpening a sword or reinforcing armor.
For example, some interesting materials are:
|Branch of the World-Tree||9||1|
So, given maximum time and resources, one could forge some +3 steel armor with two minor enchantments.
Runes represent enchantments that can be applied to items. Each rune has a power level which determines how much conductivity it requires in order to function. It also has a source material which is the material that the rune must be painted with. The players discover runes and source materials on their journeys instead of magic items.
|Rune||Power Level||Source material|
|1d6 fire damage on crit||1||Ruby dust|
|Dimension door 1/day||4||Essence of æther|
|Strength becomes 27||8||Crushed cloud giant's heart|
I originally created a pool of runes based on the effects on existing magic items in the DMG. Common effects cost 1, Uncommon 2, Rare 4, Very Rare 6, and Legendary 8.
Importantly, the players start with access to a large (but incomplete) list of possible runes so they know what to look for.
Physical refinement causes an item to gain an attack or defense bonus (+1/+2/+3). No special source materials are required for this, just time, skill, and a hot-enough forge. Forges that can create +3 items are quite rare and naturally very far away from where the players began their journey.
Enhancing Base Materials
It's possible to enhance both the maximum conductivity and the strength of a material, but doing so requires the use of a specific rare material (fossilized amber in my world, but who knows what in yours) and can add at most 2 points of conductivity or 1 point of strength.
This provides two chances for interesting gameplay: first, the players have to find the material. Second, they have to choose which item to spend their scarce resource on. Should they even spend it now? Maybe they should wait until somebody gets some mithril armor.
Impact on Gameplay
I've noticed three very positive impacts on gameplay:
- Coming up with combos is fun for both the creative players and the hack-and-slash ones. Even our barbarian "I run in and hit it" player has taken an interest in finding an optimal build.
- The players actively look for things to do other than the main quest just to see if they can get rune materials. No need to add quest givers when there's probably some obsidian in those mountains over there.
- Loot becomes more interesting and varied. A "jade statue of a cat worth 50gp" is a lot more valuable when you can draw poison damage runes with jade dust. Then again, do the players need that 50gp?
I hope this system can provide some inspiration to all of you DMs out there! As with everything, this is still a work in progress. I'd appreciate any feedback or ideas that people have either way!
- Items and runewords in D4
- An idea I had for how one could maybe use runes in D4 for both the old and the new runeword systems simultaneously
- D2 Runes and Runewords is the best loot system in any aRPG. It should be a industry standard by now.
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "As requested: my magic item forging system" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
- Dragonheist of Frost Maiden for seven players? Lengthy post
- How do I handle law and order now that my player has been thrown into jail?
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