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Old Screeds

Item Creation Feats [4 April 05] Hot or not?

Dungeons and Dragons spell casters have too many good choices when it comes to feats. Combat Casting, Spell Focus, Spell Penetration, Augment Summoning, Weapon Focus (Ray), Improved Familiar, a slew of Metamagic feats ... the list of caster-specific feats goes on. Not to mention the dozens of other useful feats, from Dodge to Toughness to Skill Focus. Given all that, why bother with Item Creation feats?

Restricted magic games: In some D&D campaigns, magic items are rare and valued. Although items can be bought -- maybe even at DMG market price -- there's no telling what'll be available at any given time. In these games, cranky arcanists seldom produce items for sale, and temples may sell curing magic only to devout followers. You have been tithing, right?

In this kind of game, the only way to get your hands on that robe of eyes you've been dreaming about is to make it yourself. Item creation feats may be crucial in outfitting your party properly.

And you may want to shake up this magic-poor game world by setting up a magic shop. Since you may be the only one who will put merchandise on your shelves, becoming an itemsmith is essential.

Abundant magic games: In other campaigns, magic is commonplace, if expensive. Continual flames light city streets; teleportation circles connect nations, for those who can afford the rental. You can find a magic shop on almost every corner, and just about any item in the core books can be bought for market price.

But even in these games, there are reasons to do it yourself. From an economic point of view, items you make yourself cost half price, so each of your gold pieces stretches twice as far. And even if any stock item may be bought, you might find that the only way to don your +5 Spectacles of Use Magic Device is to make them yourself.

But is it really cost efficient to make your own items, given the experience point cost? In my opinion, the xp cost is small enough that it can be shrugged off. For example, take an 11th level itemsmith who has used all his gold to make items for himself. Per the DMG, he is worth 66,000 gold pieces and has 55,000 experience points. Using all that gold for item creation, our itemsmith ends up with 132,000 gp worth of goods at a cost of 5,280 xp, or about a half a level's worth. It does not seem so bad to me to be a half a level behind your friends if you have twice as much gear as they do.

What about the cost in time? That 11th level itemsmith has also spent 132 game days making his gear. Well, the true cost of that depends on the itemsmith's game master and fellow players. If your pals are hyperactive bums, they might demand things to do on all those days you are in your lab. That means lots of gaming you miss out on. It may be necessary to bribe such bums with gifts of minor items you make, or by making items at cost for them.

If an itemsmith's pals are mensches, they won't mind letting time pass in a flash. With friends like these, the itemsmith would be wise to cover their expenses, like room and board, incurred in waiting around. And the occaisional gift of a minor item, like a potion, is well worth it.

Class by class: But is every class equally suited to be an itemsmith? Wizards, druids, and clerics have access to a wide range of spells; they have an easier time prepping the varied spells needed to make items. The cleric with the magic domain makes a very flexible itemsmith, since she can use arcane scrolls to cast required spells too. Wizards, with their bonus feats, have an easier time squeezing an item creation feat or two into character development.

Sorcerers and bards have it tough,though; with a very limited spell selection, it's hard to make many items. Granted, you can use scrolls (if you can obtain them), and your fellow casters can help by casting the right spells for you, so it might work out even for these spontaneous casters.

But sorcerers still make the worst itemsmiths. They need the flexibility of metamagic feats more than wizards do. And sorcerers already have tons of spells to cast -- they don't tend to run out.

Bards, on the other hand, have very few top level spells -- maybe just one, with a high enough charisma. A 7th level bard with a 16 charisma, for example, knows two third level spells but can only cast one per day. How frustrating! So scrolls and wands make more sense for bards. Give him the Craft Wand feat, and it is easy to imagine this bardic itemsmith with wands of Charm Monster and Cure Moderate Wounds -- sweet. And with a decent Use Magic Device skill, a bard can create and use a wide range of items. Still, it is a tough choice for a bard to give up a feat, especially when, as a jack-of-all-trades character, you have plenty of other feats for which you lust. It might do you well to find out how easy bardic magic items are to obtain; if you can't buy that arcane Cure Moderate Wounds wand, making it yourself becomes more attractive.

But if magic items really float your boat, there's no greater satisfaction than making your own. There might even be magic-item-oriented prestige classes that fit the itemsmith perfectly -- for example consider my own Wandslinger, a nice choice for a bard.

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