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

John Out West

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With some help from you guys I cut some of the fat from the Artificing system. You can see it here.

I did this shortening by adding in a half-page that let me remove a large chunk from every school of magic, and allow them to create their own power . I posted the helf-page below, and I would love if you would try to see how it feels from the perspective of a player or a GM, and if you can find a way to break it I would be appreciative!

Secret Powers:
Artificers can potentially learn, find, or create new Powers that are not on the list below. These new powers have endless possibilities and generally adhere to the following guidelines:
(Damage) Is always used when determining the potential of damage, healing, Increases or decreases of maximum health.
(Distance) is used to determine the distance potential of a Power, how far away, long, wide, or tall the effect it creates is.
(Duration) is used to determine how long the effects of an impermanent Power last.
(Attunement) is required by items that are difficult to control, give stat bonuses, resistances, or involve an artifice’s user.
(Charges) are used by taxing Powers, such as healing, changing the form of animate targets, and resurrection.
(Feeble) is assigned to any power that could potentially defeat a healthy creature instantly under ordinary circumstances.
Artifices use magic energy to manipulate the world, but they cannot create matter. Conjurers can bring water from here to there, and Transmuters can turn air to water, but nothing can turn energy into matter.


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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.
Both Gemstones and Thaumogenesis sound interesting.

I suspect the potential issues with Gemstones will be a) establishing rules for what can (or cannot be crafted); and b) reliance on GM judgement about what gemstones to allow players to have. In practice it might end up a little bit like a complicated version of GM's fiat: the GM releases only the Gemstones that suit the GM's agenda. If however, the player has a lot of choices about how to use a given Gemstone, then a) becomes more of an issue.

Thaumogenesis has lots of plot potential. But you wouldn't want it happening over and over again. So it makes most sense in campaigns/ worlds where creating magic items will be a rare (once a lifetime?) event. Otherwise you are more or less saying that any artificer will spend a lot of their time ducking and weaving to deal with anti-artifices - which is great if that is what you want to spend your adventuring time doing, but might be a drag for other party members? 'Reflection' of the artificer is a broad concept, and it would be interesting to ring the changes on that. I think it would be more interesting if the anti-artifices' hatred could be expressed in other ways than simply trying to kill the artificer: what about ruining reputations, destroying the artefact, harming friends and families, thwarting major projects etc?

The other major issue I see with Thamogenesis is the difficulty of balance. It lets the player decide how awesome to make the artefact, and then it's up to the GM to wreak revenge for that. But the genie is already out of the bottle, and the PC can't be dead more than once. So potentially quite disruptive to a campaign, because the incentive to temper aspirations only works if the PC behaves sensibly? I.e. so I make a super-duper world-destroying artefact and give it to my neighbour: now what are you going to do about that, Ms GM?

Not that I would ever do that... :unsure:

John Out West

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Hey Kenco you bring up good points.

First off, there are a lot of rules on what can be crafted, or rather what kind of gemstone is required to craft an item. That's what the whole "Secret Powers" section is about, making up your own powers and the basic rules to govern them. So its one of those things where the rules say you can't Target every creature, because that would be a (Target) which has specific rules. Also it says that you cant deal infinite damage, because that would be under the (Damage) rules which are limited to the gemstone's power.

The Secret Powers is something I really want some feedback on.

Players are naturally creative and destructive, so I think that they'll be able to make due with what gemstones are given to them. Even the smallest gemstones can be used to great effect (I recently created a list of awesome Artifices that can be made with weak gemstones)

Anti-Artifices do actually have a lot of different things they can do. Some will try to kidnap your friends and allies, others will enslave people and use them against you, some with gather friends themselves or even other anti-artifices. Artificers should spend a lot of time ducking and weaving, unless they find some way to trick it or escape it. Some hire Anti-Artificers, which are adventurers who get payed very well to bear illusory magic that makes the Anti-Artifice think that they are their creator, but more likely the players themselves would be payed to be Anti-Artificers.

"Reflection" of the artificer means that, in rule terms, that they will quickly mature to have similar powers. So if you're a level 1 wizard with 5hp it will grow to have some magic ability and 5hp, while a level 20 fighter would make a anti-artificer who is a master of weapons with huge health. This is another balancing tool. It also explicitly says that they can grow and change in different ways, but the reflection is the base.

I think the worst case scenario is a player creates lots of items and gives them to their allies. In that case, most likely the Anti-Artifices will Merge instantly instead of Waxing, and then immediately kill the Anti-Artificer with superpowers. In this case, the players might be trying to scam the DM, and I would threaten their new characters to be level 1 if they die again.
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