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Magic items tend to be quite rare, as they can allow people to do supernatural things repeatedly, but often DMs give players opportunities to find, buy or even steal magic items in the world. However, there is a fourth way to obtain magic items, which is to craft them yourselves! In this article we’ll go over the different rulesets for crafting your own magic items, what you’ll need in order to do so, and how best to optimise your crafting experience.
Table of Contents
What are magic items?
Magic items are powerful items in the world which can often do wondrous things! From increasing ability scores (such as the Headband of Intellect, or Belt of Giant Strength), allowing you to cast new spells (such as a Circlet of Blasting or Staff of Fire), or even such powerful effects as making your cloak billow on its own! (Cloak of Billowing).
Some magic items require you to attune to them, which basically means you need to devote more of a connection to the item to be able to use it effectively. This takes an hour but can be done during either a short or long rest. Make sure you check if any new items you find require attunement, as you can only attune to 3 items at a time in 5e!
Magic items generally tend to fit one of 3 roles for any particular character:
- Amplify strengths: Magic items can allow you to perform better at the things you already do well, such as a luckstone granting +1 to all ability checks.
- Fortify weaknesses: Magic items can also cover weaknesses in your character. For example, if you have a low speed, you can find items to increase this, such as the Boots of Speed.
- Grant new features: Sometimes magic items like you do things you could do before, such as casting new spells, flight, or the ability to summon creatures, such as with the Figures of Wondrous Power.
How to craft magic items in 5e
There are actually two sets of rules for crafting magic items in 5e. If you want to use the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG), where the rules can be found on page 129, alternatively the rules can be found on pages 128-129 of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. I would advise speaking with your DM before you request to craft something so that you can both get on the same page about which set of rules to use.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything provides more detailed crafting rules
Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG) to crafting magic items rules
Before you can begin your crafting, you’ll need to know what you’re making and how to do it. This comes in the form of a formula, which describes the construction of the item. This can come from anywhere, and can even become a plot point or piece of loot itself! You’ll also need to be a spellcaster with spell slots (sorry barbarians and monks!) as weaving magic into items requires a certain understanding of the arcane.
Using this set of rules, each item has a corresponding creation cost, and minimum level requirement depending on their rarity, as shown in the table below. A character who spends a day of downtime working to craft produces 25gp towards the total cost. Multiple characters can work together to reduce this, as the assistants can also contribute 25gp per day if they also follow the crafting requirements.
Additionally, if the item you are crafting can produce a spell, then you must be able to cast the spell every day for the length of time that you are casting, which generally means this is limited to casters that have the spell on their spell list unless you wish to fork out lots of money on spell scrolls! However if the item can produce the spell only once, such as for a spell scroll, the crafter needs to only cast the spell once during the crafting time.
How long and how much does it cost to craft magic items? (DMG)
As you can see, Very Rare and Legendary items take a huge amount of money and time (2,000 and 20,000 working days respectively) to craft, meaning you’ll need access to lots of gold and downtime, or the potential to hire assistants to speed up the process.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (XGE) to crafting magic item rules
The rules in Xanathar’s are slightly more complicated, but arguably easier to fit into a campaign. The rules for potions of healing are separate and will be covered after the main rulings.
Firstly, it opens up crafting to all characters by switching the spellcasting requirement to a tool proficiency requirement, making your choice of tool more important and useful as you build your character. The requirements are as follows:
What tools do I need to craft magic items? (XGE)
|Antitoxin, Potion of Healing
|Leather Armour, Boots
Secondly, as in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, you’ll also need a recipe to craft your item of choice, however, these recipes may also call for specific items required to craft. For example, a Flame Tongue sword may need the heart of a Red Dragon, a Headband of Intellect may need the brain of a Mind Flayer, or Gloves of Thieving may require you to steal some gloves off someone else… The ball is in the DM’s court with what is required per item, and where they can be found, allowing for endless creativity as quests and adventures can be born from sourcing these materials.
Remember that finding such resources may not always come from combat and looting a corpse, perhaps a creature requires trade for their resource or the location of where the item can be forged. If you’re looking for advice on how to appropriately scale the challenge of finding the item with monster CR, consider the following table from Xanathar’s, page 129:
How rare should resources for magic item crafting be? (XGE)
Finally, the item will need dedicated time and money to craft the item, again depending on its rarity. This time and money cost is halved for consumable items such as a potion or a scroll. Each work week is 5 days, consisting of 8 hours of working.
How long and how much does it cost to craft magic items? (XGE)
*Halved for consumable items
Brewing Potions of Healing (XGE)
Xanathar’s Guide also has rules for brewing Potions of Healing, use the following time and cost table:
|1 work week
|3 work weeks
|4 work weeks
A Potion of Superior Healing
Scribing spell scrolls (XGE)
Finally, Xanathar’s also has rules for scribing spell scrolls, a one-off use of a specific spell that can help out in a pinch if you don’t have a certain spell prepared, or any spell slots left to cast it.
To craft the spell scroll, you need to be proficient in the Arcana skill and have to hand any material components that the spell requires. The crafter must also know the spell and have it prepared, in order to scribe it.
The gold and time costs per level of spell can be found below:
|1 work week
|2 work weeks
|4 work weeks
|8 work weeks
|16 work weeks
|32 work weeks
|48 work weeks
They see me scribin’, they hatin’
To summarise crafting rules for Xanathar’s Guide to Everything:
- Find the recipe/formula for the item, and any special ingredients required
- Be proficient in one of the needed tools, or Arcana
- Spend the time and money as listed in the relevant table, for either items, potions of healing or spell scrolls.
Special crafting materials and their roles:
As mentioned above, both the rule sets require at least a formula or recipe in order to craft items. This can be a great way to create new plot hooks or add aspects to existing quests and campaigns.
As a DM, you can think about what monsters or encounters would hold reagents for specific magic items, and find ways to bring them into the campaign. They could become whole objectives that the party wants to plan and strive towards, in the case that a powerful creature may hold the key to the item that they want.
Alternatively, the items don’t need to come from fighting a creature, instead consider things such as powerful mages offering workshop space to actually craft the item, or assistance in crafting them to speed up the process and reduce costs.
In one of my games, I have a party member who is an artificer and spent lots of downtime crafting recently. Here are some of the highlights on his list to make, and what items were requested by the DM in order to do so:
- Lantern of Revealing: Will-o-wisp mote
- Staff of Fire: Heart of an adult red dragon or the horns of a Balor
- Cloak of protection: Displacer beast hide
As a DM, get creative with what materials are needed! Putting interesting requirements forces the players to think about how they could obtain them, and lets you create interesting scenarios for the players to discover them.
The same can go for recipes, they can be rewarded, traded for or even stolen depending on the player’s intentions. Recipes can be more of an incentive than the required materials, allowing the party to plan ahead for how they will use the recipe to make the most of it. As a DM it’s up to you if recipes are single use, or if they can be used multiple times to recreate the item.
Tips and tricks for crafting magic items
Work together to save time
You can cut down on time spent crafting by having your party members help you. Divide the time to craft by the number of people crafting to find how long it takes with help. Just make sure your assistants are also proficient in what is required to craft.
Harvest everything you can
You never know when a monster reagent, special component or random item could be used in a recipe. It’s much easier to craft if you just need to go to your bag of holding for items instead of tracking one down from the wild.
Roleplay the crafting
You can make the crafting of items special by describing the technique that either you, or the player character went through to craft. If you make it epic, then the item will feel cooler when the player has it.
Consider the difference in the following:
“I spent 10 weeks and 2,000gp to craft a Flame Tongue”
“Over the course of 10 weeks I tempered this blade using the preserved head and heart of a Red Dragon, using its lingering breath to coat the sword in flames and imbuing fire into the very steel of your sword. By week 7 I didn’t even have to light the forge, the sword was hot enough to strike into shape on its own. Here you have your new blade, may it strike true when you need it most.”
A step-by-step example of crafting a magic item
Let’s go over the steps required to craft your very own magic item, let’s say “Gauntlets of Ogre Power”
- Firstly, be either a spellcaster or proficient in Smith’s Tools or Arcana, depending on what ruleset you choose.
- Find a recipe or formula for the Gauntlets. This could come from someone studying Ogres, loot in a random treasure chest or some other source
- If you’re using the ruleset from Xanathar’s, also find any required ingredients for the Gauntlets, which could be something like muscle tissue of an Ogre or Hill Giant (up to your DM)
- Find a suitable location to craft, such as a blacksmith’s or an arcane workshop.
- Depending on the ruleset, spend either 20 days and 500gp or 2 workweeks and 200gp
- Enjoy your new self-crafted magic items!
Commonly asked questions
Can anyone craft magic items?
If you’re using the rules from the DMG, then you’ll need to be a spellcaster in order to craft. Via Xanathar’s, you just need proficiency in the relevant tool, or the Arcana skill.
How can the DM balance the use of magic items?
The DM can balance by carefully reviewing what magic items they include, either in loot tables or via crafting. If the party gets too powerful in combat, they can tweak enemy stat blocks or add more enemies to balance encounters. If just one particular item is a problem, there are ways to get around it such as if it breaks, gets stolen or runs out of charges.
How can a player character learn to craft magic items?
If a character can learn proficiency in a relevant tool skill, or Arcana, such as via the Skilled Feat or by spending time training, they learn how to craft items via that skill.
What happens when a player character fails to craft a magic item?
By the rules, there are no rolls to decide if the crafting works. It would be crushing to spend so much time and gold just for an unlucky roll to cause it to fizzle, and it doesn’t really make sense that weeks of work could come down to one roll. Instead, complications can arise or progress can be halted, but as long as the in-progress item can be safely stored, players can resume crafting when they have time. See pages 129 and 133 of Xanathar’s Guide for some examples of complications.
If you really want to be mean as a DM, you could introduce some form of negative to the item when it’s crafted, if it would be applicable. For example, using a stolen recipe may result in the crafted item being faulty, as a result of the original owner protecting their recipe from unwarranted use.
Go make some magic (items)!
Well, there you have a guide to crafting magic items in dnd 5e! A perfect way to spend all that gold you’ve got saved up, even if it costs a lot of time!
Make sure that you speak with your DM about which ruleset to use ahead of time, so they can be prepared to add the ability to craft items into the campaign.
After that, give it a go! It can feel great to take ownership of the items that appear in the campaign, taking some of the onus off the DM (which they will likely be very thankful for!)