Can a system that allows Players to make any magic item in D&D be balanced?

John Out West

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One of my goals in the pursuit to create better crafts includes Artificing; magic item creation. After a few iterations, we created a version of Artificing that no longer can target and attack every creature in the world or change places with the gods, however I'm sure we missed something that will cause a catastrophic failure of the whole system. I would love if you would help me find the flaws in the system.

Artificing Theory & Balance:
Beyond the initial goal of a zero-gold system, where players don't have to buy anything to create magic items, we also wanted to make a craft that was balanced for the GM. In this case we created two drawbacks for Artificing: Thaumogenesis and Gemstones.
Each Artifice requires a Gemstone, which controls its capabilities. If GM's don't put gemstones in their player's inventory, or put very small flawed gems in their loot boxes, they won't be able to create overpowered items.
In Thaumogenesis, each Artifice creates an Anti-Artifice, a living creature connected to the item that cannot be destroyed without also destroying the magic item. The Anti-Artifice is a reflection of it's creator, and slowly learns to hate the Artificer, eventually coming to kill him. The Player is forced to destroy the Anti-Artifice, or find a way to avoid him until the connection between him and the item is broken. With Thaumogenesis, GMs are able to threaten players who create too many or too powerful items with Nemisis-like monster, forcing them to craft cautiously.

Those are the very basic ideas. The system has a 3 page introduction, another 5 to elaborate, and 11 of actual abilities you can imbue into an item. You can find the Artificing rules here.

I'd love to get your opinion on the subject, as well as any thoughts on the system itself.

The Benj

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That Thaumogenesis idea is a very flavourful one. I would anticipate players coming up with elaborate plans to trap their created monsters though.


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I find some of the terminology you've chosen for your crafting project to be problematic. It's been bothering me since I first saw your post on the crafting project, but I waited until I could offer constructive feedback before responding.

"Runeing" is not a word, but "ruining" is. You can see the potential for confusion when talking aloud about the process. I would suggest that you change the term to "inscribing." It more accurately describes what is being done, and sounds natural in speech (inscribing runes rather than runeing runes).

"Artificing" is likewise not a word. Furthermore, the root you've chosen ("artifice") is not a synonym for any kind of magical item. Artifice means trickery and deceit, and is not interchangeable with artifact. Perhaps "enchanting" could work here - I didn't see you using it elsewhere.

John Out West

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Hey Benj, Yes, trapping them is something I've thought of, which is why you cannot trap them while they are "Waxing," otherwise they will die from deprivation. Once they are "Waning," Players can totally capture them, which sounds like an awesome quest, and a potential hazard in the future when you have someone snooping around your basement.

Hey Meta. To quote Thor: "All words are made up." As it says in the crafting page, the official name is "Spell-Scribing," however it is colloquially referred to as Runeing, as it describes the craft better. Inscribing may seem like it would describe the craft better, however, Rune's are more heavily associated with the arcane, while inscriptions are not. Also, its pronounced "Rue-ning" as opposed to "Rue-en-ning." I expect you would be able to tell which one is meant by context, except maybe "You're Runeing/Ruining this for me!" which could go either way. I would love to hear your thoughts on the Runeing craft as a whole.

Artifice/Artificer are terms used in fantasy to describe people who make magical objects, most probably because Enchanting and Enchanters are people who control minds with magic. Artificing is a colloquialism.

I agree that the words we use are important, and I believe Artificing & Runeing do well to display a lot of information with a single word. What i'm more concerned with are words like "Keystone," which I use to describe important crafting materials in Alchemy; as I question if people would understand its meaning and symbolism.
I am constantly concerned that I may have given something a name with little or no thought which causes confusion. I really appreciate you bringing it up because its an important topic, and if you notice any other words which seem hastily written I would love to know about it.

Strange Visitor

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Personally, if you balance the resources needed to make magic items with the effort to get them in other ways, I see no particular problem with making them; there may be issues with the value of items relative to each other (and thus for the PC control over the process to have implications that finding them in treasure doesn't), but that just indicates you actually have to look at what they're all worth.


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One of my goals hibbidy bibbidy boop...
I freakin' love this. I've done this in games. It's awesome. I could go on for pages on why, but I won't.

So I'm going to read your rules and give you my in-depth opinion, but you're going in a fun direction. NOTHING makes a player feel more connected to a game or character than allowing them to work for the special advantages their character has. I experimented with "motes" of magical energy that character's collected or could go on side quests to attain allowing them to, essentially, "buy off" XP expenditure.

Okay, reading now.

John Out West

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That's awesome paladin. Here's a link to our Craft Testing Page, which has the most recent version. ( I had to make a minor change to the system.) We also have a discord page if you want to have a more active discussion. ( I send it upon request)


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1.) Don't spend so much time on Input. Let it be simply "at will." I see what you're going for, but as brevity is the soul of wit, so to is simplicity the heart of good games. Accidental activation seems like something a cruel GM will use to mess with his players. I'd eliminate the whole thing. Just assume a character can use their Artifice at will. Anything else is flavor text.

If someone other than the creator uses the Artifice, let them use the Identify spell or Use Magic Device to figure out how to activate a foreign artifice.

2.) Sorry about this, but I just have to say that, three pages in, the crunchy GM in me has a raging... um... enthusiasm for this.

3.) You are doing a great job of trying to encompass everything, but D&D does have a base system which accounts for expected damage per level per cost already built in. I recommend reading "True 20" - pretty good stuff when it comes to designing customized d20 rules.

4.) Anti-Artifice kicks this up to 11. I love magic that is double-edged.

5.) This is crunchy. But it's like a little mini-game. Plus, instead of just rolling loot for a party of adventurers, the specifics of a gemstone or precious metal is now suddenly very important. I have an image in my head of the party's wizard begging the fighter to let her buy the flawless sapphire he found as he calmly settles on a ridiculous price.

My ultimate opinion is that this system provides a level of customization that players will love, but can be simplified and streamlined. You have 20 some pages of info that I think you could cut in half. But as a rough idea for a system, if this were a supplement, I'd consider paying for it if it meant giving me a little more to give my players. Make sure, though, that you let non-magical characters have access to this, perhaps by hiring an NPC to craft items to their specifications.

John Out West

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Hey thanks for the tips Paladin. Its really nice to get feedback. All the crafts in my system are supposed to be Skill (Profession), and shouldn't require any sort of background or prerequisite to be taken. (Although Guild Artisan would be most appropriate)

I think everyone can agree that simpler is better than complex if they can provide the same gameplay. I've skimmed through this time and time again trimming fat, but its nature almost demands it to have a ton of customization options. As I've mentioned in the beginning, I had to find ways around artifice designs that attack every creature in existence, ones that teleport enemies to the moon, and other instant-kills while also maintaining the ability to make potentially any item. That caused some complexity which is difficulty to cut.

The trouble with reducing "Input" to "At-Will" is that it makes some items impossible to create. A cloak that keeps you from dying when you become wounded cant be activated if the character is unconscious, and a sword that glows when orcs are near would require the user to be aware of the orcs. At the moment the Input section is only a half page, so i'm actually really surprised that you would call it out.

I agree that characters should be able to identify the powers of an artifice, although I've always enjoyed the old-school way of having to play with an item until you accidentally find out how it work. Accidental/Enemy Activations are a balancing tool to allow players to use artifices as part actions. As it says in the Accident Activation section, an artificer can choose to make the input thoroughly complex that it couldn't be easily copied or accidentally used. I think it works well for balance, but I'm all ears if you can think of a better solution. I really don't want to remove it, as it again would limit the item possibilities.

An important thing about Artificing is its context within the crafting anthology that I've created. Artifcing is complex, but its also the most complex craft of a series of craft, many of which that are less than Five pages (Runeing, Herbalism, Tinkering) and others which are largely a list of uses for the craft. (Alchemy, Blacksmithing, Rituals) Its whole purpose is to give a framework for creative players create almost anything.

Artificing's context within the anthology also brings up a precedent, that GM's/Players are encouraged to add their own recipes, augments, and powers. In this case its a question of how much we can remove to let GM/Players use their imagination. I think the framework and large number of examples are enough to give an idea for GM/Players to make something balanced. Inputs and Recipients are only a half page each, the entire miscellaneous section is 2 and a half pages, and the powers are just six pages. If powers were each moved to a half page that would be 3.5 which would be doable. That being said, I'm not sure what i would remove, as they all seem pretty important.

I'll take another look, see about adding a section specifically to inform GM's and Players about creating powers. Thanks again!


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I agree with Strange Visitor that the main way to balance is to make the effort and risk of creating a new item roughly equivalent to the effort and risk required to obtain a similar item (or funds to purchase one) through adventuring. Basically, the advantage of crafting instead of purchasing or finding an item should be that you have more control over what the item does.

Alternatively, crafting requires skills that you have to select instead of skills that are useful during adventures. Crafting is most naturally done between adventures (because it takes time and requires tools), so not being as able during adventures could be an alternative cost.
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