Excerpts Archive | 5/16/2008
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Excerpts: You and Your Magic Items
4th Edition Player's Handbook

In today’s preview, we asked Andy Collins to reveal a bit more about the role your magic items play in 4th Edition. Then we present three such items for your characters to quest after!

We’ve been saying for a long time that we wanted magic items in 4th Edition to take up a smaller portion of a typical character’s array of options than in previous editions. The primary method used to accomplish this was to expand the average character’s class- and race-based power options. Even if a 4th Edition PC carried around the same array of gear as his 3rd Edition counterpart, you could still honestly say that those items were a smaller percentage of his options than before.

However, that semantic flourish wouldn’t really change the perception among many players that the average character simply had to carry around too many items to keep up with the foes he faced. Between six different stat-boosting items and at least three AC-boosting items (four counting shields), the typical player character faced an enormous drain on resources simply to stay competitive with the enemy. Something needed to change.

In 4th Edition, only three magic items are important for your attacks and defenses to keep up with the escalating power of the monsters you face. These are your weapon, your armor, and your amulet or cloak (also known as your neck-slot item). Together, they enhance your attack rolls, damage rolls, and all four of your defense scores.

The game assumes that the “plus” of each of these three items follows the normal enhancement curve of items in the game: +1 from 1st to 5th level, +2 from 6th to 10th, and on up to +6 from 26th to 30th. Many (perhaps even most) characters will have at least one item slightly ahead or behind this curve, but if you’re more than a couple of points ahead of or behind the expected progression, you may find your foes notably less (or more) challenging than normal.

Beyond those three key items, characters are free to accessorize in whatever manner they prefer. If you like to carry only the choicest items, picking and choosing the most powerful pieces of equipment that you can find or afford, that’s a reasonable plan. In fact, you could reasonably survive with just a good weapon, a good suit of armor, and a good neck-slot item.

On the other hand, if you prefer to wield a larger array of lower-powered magic items, that’s OK too… with some caveats. Most items are tied to body slots, so there’s a built-in limit to the sheer quantity of items most characters can easily tote around. In addition, each character can only activate a few different magic item powers in a given day, so the guy who brings a loaded pack full of flashy items doesn’t get as much bang for his buck. Again, your class powers should be the main focus of your character, not the precious little trinkets you swiped from cave-dwelling fiends.
--Andy Collins

As you gain levels, the mundane equipment you purchased as a starting character becomes less important; it’s overshadowed by the magic items you acquire on your adventures. Magic armor that can cloak you in shadow, magic weapons that burst into flame, magic rings that turn you invisible, or Ioun stones that orbit your head to grant you great capabilities—these items enhance and supplement the powers you gain from your class and enhance your attacks and defenses.

Magic items have levels, just as characters, powers, and monsters do. An item’s level is a general measure of its power and translates to the average level of character using that item. In practice, your character will end up with some items that are three or four levels above your level and others that are several levels below. There’s no restriction on using or acquiring items based on their level, except that you can’t use the Enchant Magic Item ritual (page 304 of the Player's Handbook) to create an item above your level. If, for some reason, your 10th-level character finds a 20th-level magic sword, you can use it to full effect.

You can sometimes buy magic items just as you can mundane equipment. It’s rare to find a shop or a bazaar that routinely sells magic items, except perhaps the lowest-level items. Some fantastic places, such as the legendary City of Brass in the heart of the Elemental Chaos, have such markets, but those are the exception rather than the rule. Your DM might say that you can track down a seller for the item you want to buy or that you might have to do some searching, but in general you can buy any item you can afford.

You can also use the Enchant Magic Item ritual to create an item of your level or lower. In terms of the economic transaction, creating an item is the same as buying it: You spend money equal to the market price of the item and acquire the item. Some DMs prefer to have characters enchant their own items rather than buy them, particularly for more powerful items.

As you adventure, you’ll come across magic items as part of the treasure you acquire. Often, these are magic items much higher than your level—items you can’t enchant and can’t easily afford to buy. Ideally, these are items that someone in your party can use effectively, which makes them very rewarding treasure.

If you find a magic item you don’t want to keep, or you find an item that replaces an item you already have, you might end up either selling the item or disenchanting it (with the Disenchant Magic Item ritual; see page 304 of the Player's Handbook). This isn’t a favorable transaction for you—the sale price of a magic item, or the value of residuum you get from disenchanting it, is only one-fifth the normal price of the item. That means selling an item gives you enough money or residuum to buy or enchant an item that’s five levels lower than the original item.

Identifying Magic Items

Most of the time, you can determine the properties and powers of a magic item during a short rest. In the course of handling the item for a few minutes, you discover what the item is and what it does. You can identify one magic item per short rest.

Some magic items might be a bit harder to identify, such as cursed or nonstandard items, or powerful magical artifacts. Your DM might ask for an Arcana check to determine their properties, or you might even need to go on a special quest to find a ritual to identify or to unlock the powers of a unique item.


The purchase price of a permanent magic item depends on its level, as shown on the table below. The purchase price of a consumable item (such as a potion or an elixir) is much lower than the price of a permanent item of the same level. The sale price of a magic item (the amount a PC gets from either selling or disenchanting an item) is one-fifth of the purchase price.

Prices shown are the base market price for the items. The actual cost to purchase a magic item depends on supply and demand and might be 10 to 40 percent more than the base market price.

Magic Item Prices (first 10 levels)

Item Level Purchase Price (gp) Sale Price (gp)*
1 360 72
2 520 104
3 680 136
4 840 168
5 1,000 200
6 1,800 360
7 2,600 520
8 3,400 680
9 4,200 840
10 5,000 1,000

* Or equivalent gold piece value of residuum acquired from disenchanting an item

Magic Item Categories

Magic items fall into seven broad categories: armor, weapons, implements, clothing, rings, wondrous items, and potions. Items in a particular category have similar effects—all magic weapons give you bonuses when you attack with them, and all magic boots have powers relating to movement. Aside from those broad generalities, though, magic items possess a wide variety of powers and properties.

Within the broad category of clothing, items are grouped by kind of clothing—whether you wear the item on your head or your feet, for example. These are called item slots, and they provide a practical limit to the number of magic items you can wear and use. You can benefit from only one magic item that you wear in your arms slot even if, practically speaking, you can wear bracers and carry a shield at the same time. You benefit from the item you put on first; any other item you put in the same item slot doesn’t function for you until you take off the first item. Sometimes there are physical limitations as well—you can’t wear two helms at the same time.

Wondrous items include a variety of useful tools, from a bag of holding to a flying carpet. Each item’s description indicates how a character accesses its effects.

All magic armor gives you an enhancement bonus to your Armor Class. All magic weapons and implements give you an enhancement bonus to your attack rolls and damage rolls when you use them to make an attack. All magic cloaks, amulets, and other neck slot items give you an enhancement bonus to your Fortitude, Reflex, and Will defenses. Other magic items don’t generally give you bonuses to these numerical statistics, though there are some exceptions.

Flaming Weapon
Level 5+
You can will this weapon to burst into flame.
Lvl 5 +1 1,000 gp Lvl 20 +4 125,000 gp
Lvl 10 +2 5,000 gp Lvl 25 +5 625,000 gp
Lvl 15 +3 25,000 gp Lvl 30 +6 3,125,000 gp
Weapon: Any
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d6 fire damage per plus
Power (At-Will Fire): Free Action. All damage dealt by this weapon is fire damage. Another free action returns the damage to normal.
Power (Daily Fire): Free Action. Use this power when you hit with the weapon. Deal an extra 1d6 fire damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 fire damage (save ends).
Level 15 or 20: 2d6 fire damage and ongoing 10 fire damage.
Level 25 or 30: 3d6 fire damage and ongoing 15 fire damage.

Phasing Weapon
Level 14+
This weapon’s projectiles phase in and out of reality when fired, slipping through cover as if it weren’t there.
Lvl 14 +3 21,000 gp Lvl 24 +5 525,000 gp
Lvl 19 +4 105,000 gp Lvl 29 +6 2,625,000 gp
Weapon: Any ranged
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d6 damage per plus
Property: Your ranged attacks with the weapon ignore the penalty to attack rolls for cover or superior cover.

Holy Avenger
Level 25+
The most prized weapon of any paladin.
Lvl 25 +5 625,000 gp Lvl 30 +6 3,125,000 gp
Weapon: Axe, Hammer, Heavy Blade
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d6 radiant damage per plus, and you can spend a healing surge
Property: A holy avenger deals an extra 1d10 radiant damage when the power you use to make the attack has the radiant keyword.
Power (Daily): Minor Action. You and each ally within 10 squares of you gain a +5 power bonus to Fortitude, Reflex, and Will defenses until the end of your next turn.
Special: A holy avenger can be used as a holy symbol. It adds its enhancement bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls and the extra damage granted by its property (if applicable) when used in this manner. You do not gain your weapon proficiency bonus to an attack roll when using a holy avenger as an implement.

Be sure to return Monday for a look at minions!
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