Crafting magical items in the Dungeon Masters Guide (DMG) is listed as an optional rule that you can allow players to do. Here I will summarize the two rulesets for making magical items. You just need to meet the requirements then the item is successfully created. Magical items are not only categorized by form but also by rarity. The rarer the item the more expensive, time-consuming and powerful they are.
Examples of Magic Items:
All magic items as objects are immune to poison and psychic damage. They may be immune to other forms of damage if the DM feels appropriate e.g. a rope being immune to bludgeoning damage. They are also resistant to all other forms of damage due to being magical. Otherwise, they are as durable as the substance they are made of.
Common: Potion of Healing, 1st Level Scroll
Uncommon: Shield +1, Potion of Fire Breath, Ring of Jumping, Immovable Rob, 3rd Level Scroll, Staff of the Adder, Wand of Magic Detection, Longsword +1, Bag of Holding
Rare: Armour +1, Potion of Superior Healing, Ring of Evasion, Rod of Rulership, 5th Level Scroll, Staff of Healing, Wand of Fireballs, Longsword +2, Boots of Levitation,
Very Rare: Shield +3, Potion of Flying, Ring of Regeneration, Rod of Adsorption, 8th Level Spell Scroll, Staff of Power, Wand of Polymorph, Longsword +3, Carpet of Flying
Legendary: Armour +3, Potion of Storm Giant Strength, Ring of Three Wishes, Rod of Resurrection, 9th Level Scroll, Staff of the Magi, Vorpal Sword, Cloak of Invisibility.
Version 1: Dungeon Master Guide Version.
As described on pages 128 and 129 of the Dungeon Masters Guide. Here is a broken down summary of the requirements to make an item.
Formula: You first must have the formula to create the item. It’s a description or recipe on how to make the item.
Level: Minimum levels are required to be able to make items of a specific rarity.
|Item Rarity||Creation Cost||Minimum Level|
|Very Rare||50, 000 GP||11th|
Materials: Any special materials required are decided on by the DM or even if it requires it to be made at a special location.
Spells: You must be a spellcaster with spell slots and be able to cast spells that the item can produce. No particular spell is required to make a +1 weapon or possibly another item that does not have a relevant spell associated.
Time and cost: Make progress by crafting 25 GP value of the item each day. Character is assumed to have worked 8 hours each of those days. If the item will be able to cast a spell then the crafter must cast that spell every day as part of crafting the item and expend any spell components required each time. If the item will only be able to cast the spell once then the components are only required once (eg a Spell Scroll)
Multiple Contributors: Multiple characters can combine effort to make the item as long as they also meet creation requirements. Each extra contributor also adds 25 gp value per day.
Living Cost: While making a magic item characters can maintain a modest lifestyle without having to pay the 1gp cost. Or a Comfortable lifestyle at 1gp per day.
This method has two limits to creation. Firstly, the level limit restricts players from making things outside there the tiers of play power levels. The materials also restrict players from making something with an abandon that may unbalance a campaign. Thirdly it restricts players from creating items that use spells they don’t already have access to. This makes making magical items more of an activity to supplement the powers you already have then give you drastically new powers.
Version 2 : Xanthar’s Guide to Everything Version:
Found on Pages 128 and 129 (same page numbers as the DMG oddly enough)
This version separates the making of magical items into three categories: Healing potions, Scrolls, and Everything else. Xanthar’s guide also includes the possibility of complications for every downtime activity. I have not included that here.
Everything Else Items.
Formula: You first must have the formula to create the item. It’s a description or recipe on how to make the item. The formula includes exotic materials from some creature of a certain CR (Challenge Rating) – this need not be the parts of the creature but could be something guarded by the creature or given by the creature in exchange for service.
|Item Rarity||CR Range|
Materials: Something strange is listed from the formula as well as the normal GP cost to create.
Spells: Spellcasting ability is NOT required to be able to make a magic item.
Tool and skill Proficiency: You need to have a tool proficiency to create the respective item or proficiency in the Arcana skill.
Time and Cost: Xanthar’s measures downtime activities into units of ‘work weeks’ being five days of 8 hours each. Divide the cost of the item by 50 and this is how many weeks it takes to create.
|Common||1 (5 Days)||50 gp|
|Uncommon||2 (10 Days)||200 gp|
|Rare||10 (50 Days)||2,000 gp|
|Very rare||25 (125 Days)||20,000 gp|
|Legendary||50 (250 Days)||100,000 gp|
Brewing Potions of Healing: All you require is proficiency in the Herbalism kit and it takes the following amount of time and cost.
|Healing||1 day||25 gp|
|Greater Healing||1 workweek||100 gp|
|Superior healing||3 workweeks||1,000 gp|
|Supreme healing||4 workweeks||10,000 gp|
Requirements: Character must have proficiency in the Arcana skill and be a spell known or prepared to scribe the scroll as well as have any material components that are used for the spell.
|Cantrip||1 day||15 gp|
|1st||1 day||25 gp|
|2nd||3 days||250 gp|
|3rd||1 workweek||500 gp|
|4th||2 workweeks||2,500 gp|
|5th||4 workweeks||5,000 gp|
|6th||8 workweeks||15,000 gp|
|7th||16 workweeks||25,000 gp|
|8th||32 workweeks||50,000 gp|
|9th||48 workweeks||250,000 gp|
The Xanthar’s version has some strange implications for everything that’s not a healing potion or scroll. If you have a formula, the required materials, and a relevant tool proficiency, anybody can make any magical item. Read that again. ANYBODY. This makes a strange case where fighters, barbarians and even non-player classes like the humble commoner could make staffs and wands with powers they have no access to otherwise. So a smith with the right formula and materials could make magic weapons and armour without any involvement from a spellcaster. Anyone can even make items that they cannot be attuned to. The CR component requirement appears as the only limiting factor. Even this could be worked around once a formula is decided upon by the DM. You could see a very rich NPC sending high-level characters to gather components that they themselves have no idea what they intend to do with them.
The rules for making Healing Potions and Scribing Scrolls appear to work well. It opens up a way to make healing potions to any class with the Herbalism kit and fixes the discrepancy of the PHB listing a healing potion as costing 50GP but the cost of making it in the DMG is 100gp.
Overview of both
Formulas: Both methods require a formula to make an item. This feels like an untapped plot idea and could be a new quest reward for players. The formulas themselves are possibly worth more than the item it instructs how to create. In neither method, however, is their guidance for players trying to create a formula from scratch. Would trying to make a formula involve some risk and trial and error? I would expect so.
Formulas also make an interesting game hook – trying to keep a formula out of enemy hands or protect/retrieve someone who has successfully made a magical item the enemy wants to use.
What’s best for your campaign?: Xanthars’s method is definitely simpler for Healing Potions and Scrolls. Xanthar’s rules for creating everything else also seems more streamlined. The only major sticking point or cause with concern is that the limiting factor for creation is only by CR rated materials. Once you have laid down that X magical item needs X formula and CR material you better hope that your players don’t figure out a way to work around it. Although another limiting factor to balance this is how much downtime you give players.
If it makes more sense for your world that only spellcasters can create magical items and you want to ensure magic items made are extensions of what spells they already have then the DMG method would suit you better.
If you use either I would recommend using the Healing Potion and Scroll Scribing method from Xanthar’s as it has its own inbuilt limits and gives parties without healing and magic other options.
Gavin’s Making Magic Items Method.
Here’s what I would want to use. My rules for researching and testing formulas could be pulled out and used for the established methods easily enough.
Crafting Magic Items: For Healing Potions and Scrolls use Xanthar’s rules. Except for Divine magic Scrolls the Religion Proficiency can be used in place of Arcana.
Formula: You must have the formula to create the item. If you do not have a formula then you can research it as per below.
Materials: Any special materials required are decided on by the DM or even if it requires it to be made at a special location. The rarer the item the more likely this is required.
Limits of Magic: Magic is tied to the lifeforce of the maker. With the death of the last contributor to the item, make a Death saving throw for the item. If the item fails by 5 it loses its magical power permanently except its resistance to damage. If it fails by more than 5 it loses all magical power permanently. If the item is single-use or has a limited number of uses, it does not need to save.
|Item Rarity||DC Save|
|Common and Uncommon||DC 20|
|Very rare||DC 13|
Researching a Formula: Characters require learning multiple lore pieces to figure out what will work as a magical item formula. Using Xanthar’s method of research a character spending a workweek of time and 50gp on materials can try and research lore. With an intelligence check, a character can learn up to three pieces of lore each workweek. The total number of pieces of lore for the formula of each item rarity is as follows:
|Item Rarity||Number of Pieces of Lore|
Once the character has enough pieces of lore for the formula the magical item can be attempted to be crafted.
Testing a formula: To test a researched formula the creation of the item must be attempted. Make a Tool proficiency check relevant to the item or an Arcana or Religion check if the item requires a spellcaster. The DC is:
|Common and Uncommon||10|
On success, the item is created and the formula is successful. On failure some aspect of the process is wrong. The formula can be tested again after spending an additional half the time and cost. The check can then be made again at the same DC.
Level: Minimum levels are required to be able to make items of a specific rarity.
Spells: Items that produce spell effects need a spellcaster with spell slots and be able to cast spells that the item can produce. These items are wands, staffs and anything that duplicates a spell effect such as ‘Hat of Disguise’ or ‘Ring of Jumping’. If no particular spell or combination of spells is required then it can be crafted without a spellcaster.
At least one person involved at all times of the item’s creation must be able to be attuned to the item if the item’s use is restricted by certain skills, classes or alignment etc.
Time and Cost: This takes several ‘work weeks’ being five days of 8 hours each. Divide the cost of the item by 50 and this is how many weeks it takes to create. Items creation can be paused and returned if longer than a week. If the item is single-use them half the cost. If multiple uses then it’s made at 75% of the cost. If the item will be able to cast a spell then the crafter must cast that spell every week as part of crafting the item and expend any spell components required each time. If the item will only be able to cast the spell once then the components are only required once.
|Item Rarity||Workweeks*||Cost||Minimum Level|
|Common||1 (5 Days)||50 gp||3rd|
|Uncommon||2 (10 Days)||200 gp||3rd|
|Rare||10 (50 Days)||2,000 gp||6th|
|Very rare||25 (125 Days)||20,000 gp||11th|
|Legendary||50 (250 Days)||100,000 gp||17th|
Tool and skill Proficiency: Proficiency in the relevant Tools to create the item is required. If the item also produces a spell effect then Proficiency in Aracana or Religion for arcane or divine magic respectively is required.
Multiple Contributors: Multiple characters can combine effort to make the item as long as they also meet one of the creation requirements. Each contributor adds 50 gp value per week.
Living Cost: Characters still have to pay for their living costs as normal.
This ends my informative rant of making magic items.
Have fun crafting!