Buying and Selling Magical Items

Anyone who plays D&D in campaigns comes to the realization, that the characters will have more gear at some point than they need. Be it due the numbers of attuneable items (I love the attunement system for the limit, normally) or because they found simply better gear and the old one is not needed anymore. Or, of course, because you, the DM, gave all these enemies some cheap magical items, for whatever reasons.

Or maybe your players wants to buy some simpler magic gear, like a Battle Axe +1 without going through all the trouble of a great adventure.

The main question remains: How do you determine the price. Of course the DMG have a table, which shows the value of a magic item, but it’s always in a range.

  • Common: 50-100 gp
  • Uncommon: 101-500 gp
  • Rare: 501-5.000 gp
  • Very Rare: 5.001 – 50,000 gp
  • Legendary: 50,001+ gp

For my campaigns, I use simple pointers.

  • Potions are always the least possible price
  • Scrolls are twice as valuable as Potions, this is also the standard price for one-time consumables
  • for every further charge of non-rechargeable consumables add a potion
  • Weapons and Armor uses a special table, depending on their type (see below)
  • non-combat gear is 30% of the highest possible price, if you have to attune it and 60% if you don’t have to
  • 60% for attuneable combat gear and 90% for gear you don’t need to

This won’t be helpful for all items, but at least it covers a lot. For weapon and armors, I simply take the highest possible price for the rarity and takes a portion of it, depending on the type of item. Since I personally think, that a dagger is much easier to enchant than a greatsword (since it’s simply lesser you need to work on) and the power of a weapon or armor often synergies with its price.

Armor (Rare; x10 for very rare and x100 for legendary)

Here you have consider the fact, that there are some things to consider. First, the most powerful armor in each category have to be more expensive than a lesser armor of a category before, since they are less useful. And heavy armors in general are bad except the Plate Armor or if you have a sub-par Strength score. You always have disadvantage and only your STR determines the final outcome and most characters which uses heavy armor, should have STR 15 to see it through.

  • Padded 501 gp
  • Leather 550 gp
  • Studded leather 1100 gp
  • Hide 550
  • Chain shirt 1100
  • Scale mail 1100
  • Breastplate 3500
  • Half plate 4000
  • Ring mail 550
  • Chain mail 1500
  • Splint 3000
  • Plate 5000
  • Shield (Common 110gp, Uncommon 550 and then use the x10 formula)

Weapons (Uncommon, rare x5, very rare x50, legendary x500)

Since most weapons aren’t as pricey as armor and there are actually reasons to have a certain weapon within your proficiencies, these should be normally less valuable. But don’t hesitate to push up the value of certain weapons, like Flametongue, which seems to be too great of a weapon for the ‘over the thumb ruling’ I provide.

  • Club 101 gp
  • Dagger 110 gp
  • Greatclub 110 gp
  • Handaxe 120 gp
  • Javelin 120 gp
  • Light hammer 110 gp
  • Mace 120 gp
  • Quarterstaff 110 gp
  • Sickle 101 gp
  • Spear 101  gp
  • Crossbow, light 250 gp
  • Dart 120 gp
  • Shortbow 250 gp
  • Sling 101  gp
  • Battleaxe 150 gp
  • Flail 150 gp
  • Glaive 200 gp
  • Greataxe 300 gp
  • Greatsword 450 gp
  • Halberd 200 gp
  • Lance 150 gp
  • Longsword 175 gp
  • Maul 150 gp
  • Morningstar 175 gp
  • Pike 120 gp
  • Rapier 250 gp
  • Scimitar 250 gp
  • Shortsword 150 gp
  • Trident 120 gp
  • War pick 120 gp
  • Warhammer 175 gp
  • Whip 110 gp
  • Blowgun 150 gp
  • Crossbow, hand 500 gp
  • Crossbow, heavy 450 gp
  • Longbow 450 gp
  • Net 101 gp

Be beware

These are only quick and dirty rules for the value of items. If a player asks about a certain item, like: “How much would it be, if I want to acquire a Longsword +1?”, you can look this list up, to say: “At least 175gp, but be prepared to spend more.”

If the players asks about a “Manual of Bodily Health”, of course you’re supposed to answer in mean laughter. A permanent boost to an ability score is of course something, which isn’t measured in gold pieces, but in mercy.

Consider always the possibility to lower or raise the price, if you can or if the item is especially powerful or too specialized to be useful most of the time. You should even go over the normal limits of the category, if you think it’s doable.

And of course, it’s only the value. For selling, you should adjust it (normally half the value, but I often use reputation and such to raise or drop the selling price).

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Magic Items aren’t necessarily boring!

Since I’m preparing for my first real 5e campaign next week, I’m kinda into the preparing stuff. And since I read HotDQ now, I address some issues early, to be able to counter them. And this time it was the magic items at the end, I’d like to include one of the items early as ‘the stolen treasure of Greenest’ kind of thing, so my players can looking forward to it (they keep track of the plot, so this info will be around for a long time).

Non-consumable Magic Items were in some editions a necessity and sometimes you’ll just find a sword. The DM will say ‘That sword has a magical aura’, after checking it with Detect Magic, then comes the identify process and wow, you got a longsword +1. While in 3e Detect Magic was a 0th level spell and in 4e a use of the Arcana skill, the ability to see magical auras came back into 5e in form of a 1st level spell/ritual. So before you go to the short/long rest, a ritual caster might take a look at the stuff you collected from your enemies and dungeons.

You can say a lot about 4e (I personally played that editions until the playtest came), but at least there were descriptions to all magic items in there, which already emphasized the idea, that magic items were special and the best: No further work for the DM. In 3e you had a toolbox to customize magic items, which doesn’t really fare well imo, but without any further lead on how magic items could be remotely more interesting than their stats.

In the playtest and I’m sure in the DMG, too, there are a few pages to customize your magic items. If you as the DM are lazy, you can simply look into it and make easily magic items, which gets more interesting for your players without adding something to the stats. If you’re a player, these things might make your gear much more likable and you should ask the DM if you may customize that item yourself.

For now I’ll go into the stuff, WotC already considered:

Creator: The creator of the item and its culture says a lot about the appearance of the item. A elven sword would most likely be more thin and light than a normal counterpart, while vines and leaf ornaments are adorned. A weapon of a ifrit may be made out of black iron, while orange and red colors prevail the rest of the color scheme. And a gnomen weapon might look like well-used and tattered, so a thief won’t steal it. Even some side effects (like base temperature) might be different.

Nature: This contains the purpose and the mark it left. An item like a sword of truth would definitely leave a mark in legends and history, while its purpose could be to be a ceremonial weapon for court. The axe Giantbane would definitely have a history of slaying giants, while the lance Eternal Ice might be a present from the Prince of Frost, leader of the winter feys.

Minor Properties: These are tiny little boons items could grants, even though in the playtest some were stat-wise benefitting, which I kinda disliked. A shield with ‘guardian’ would grant +2 initiative, while a longbow with ‘compass’ let you only know which way is north. I do think, there can be a bit of power, but it shouldn’t be as brief as a bonus to one or more stats. A ‘floating’ breast plate which actually helps you swim? That’s cool! And the best, it stacks with any other properties the item already had.

Minor Quirks: A item might have a quirk, which usually doesn’t downgrade its innate power, but makes it a bit less conformable to use. Like a ‘confident’ belt, which makes you feel stronger, a ‘loud’ maul, which always thunders when smashing the ground or an enemy or a ‘muttering’ magic book. Some were either bothersome, like ‘hungry’ which meant that the item can only use it’s properties when tasting fresh blood that day or ‘possessive’ which meant that you can only attune that specific item.

If you run that whole process every non-consumable item, they’ll become more interesting. But there are some other things you might consider, here two of my personal choices:

Personality: Even though not all magic items are intelligent, most of them were created for a specific reason (like Nature already covered). So even without real intelligence an item might see a calling. When creating the orcish item ‘Dwarf Smasher’, then that item might not attune to dwarfs or might give disadvantages to attack rolls, when there is a dwarf nearby, but not the target of the attack. These can play out benefiting, too, in giving advantage to an attack roll, when attacking a dwarven leader.

Oddities: Sometimes a item can be odd, without having a real quirk. Like the fact, that the Great Sword is only about 4 feet long, but has a blade twice as big. Or that the armor has hatch to make it easier to relieve oneself. Or a spelling error at the runes. Or even a missing comma. Even a minor oddity might bother the new owner for a whole life.

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For now I’ll simply make the items at the end more interesting and let’s see if I stumble onto something else which seems to be interesting enough to share.