Dec 2, 2014

Eberron 5E: Magic Items, Part 1

A lot of people on various game message boards seem to think that D&D 5E's de-emphasis on magic items means problems for Eberron. From what I can see, nothing could be farther from the truth.


5E has been crafted with the idea that magic items are not essential for character creation and advancement, but rather a reward that should commonly be available to adventurers at certain levels. That's it. Here are a selection of actual quotes:
  • "The adventurers can solve puzzles, talk with other characters, battle fantastic monsters, and discover fabulous magic items and other treasure." -- PHB page 5, "Introduction"
  • "Each character brings particular capabilities to the adventure in the form of ability scores and skills, class features, racial traits, equipment, and magic items." -- PHB page 7, "Adventures"
  • "The value of magic is far beyond simple gold and should always be treated as such." - PHB page 144
In fact, several race and class features are reduced in value (or even valueless) in a campaign with absolutely no magic items whatsoever.
  • "Artificer's Lore. Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to magic items, alchemical objects, ar technological devices, you can add twice your proficiency bonus, instead of any proficiency bonus you normally appIy." -- PHB page 37, "Rock Gnome" racial feature
  • "Use Magic Device. By 13th leveI, you have learned enough about the workings of magic that you can improvise the use of items even when they are not intended for you. You ignore all class, race, and levei requirements on the use of magic items." -- PHB page 97, "Thief" class feature
What do the books say?
  • "Magic Items. Selling magic items is problematic. Finding someone to buy a potion or a scroll isn't toa hard, but other ilems are out of the realm of most but the wealthiest nobles. Likewise, aside from a few common magic items, you won't normally come across magic items or spells to purchase. The value of magic is far beyond simple gold and should always be treated as such." -- PHB page 144, "Selling Treasure" EMPHASIS MINE
Emphasis mine. So, magic items are an integral part of D&D, even in 5th edition. The only "problem" is that you won't have magic item shops cluttering up the landscape anymore. Well, that's the way we did it back in the old days. I played years of 1E AD&D, and I think I came across all of one solitary magic shop, and it was clear from the way it was introduced that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the characters. You are expected in 5E to earn your magic items, not simply walk into a shop and buy them. You want a particular magic sword? Do the library research, follow up on rumors, and find it your self. But beware -- the current owner is probably none too keen on you scarfing his stuff for your own use!

So what does this mean for Eberron? Simple -- most of the magewrights (craftsmen in Eberron who have enough magic talent to do one or two small magic tricks, which they use to make their jobs easier) who make magic items, make non-adventuring gear. They're not making an armory of magic armor and weapons for people, they're making lightning rail cars (magical trains), or elemental-bonded airships, or unbreakable flasks, or everbright lanterns, or glamerweave clothing that sparkles like a rainbow on mica. They're making the stuff people in peacetime want to buy. Why should they be making weapons and armor anyway -- the Last War is over! Most people want to forget the last decades and try to forge something new and (hopefully) less lethal.

So, how does that affect Eberron?

  • "Magic, and reliance upon magic, shapes and defines the societies of Eberron. For thousands of years, wizards, sorcerers, clerics, artificers, [and] magewrights have brought their magical talents to bear to solve the problems life poses... These solutions have helped humanoid society develop and thrive on every continent—particularly on Khorvaire. The result is a society suffused with magic. Skycoaches fly among the soaring towers of Sharn. Blacksmiths chant spells over forges to improve the way they work. Airships ferry passengers from Zilargo to Karrnath. Weavers draw threads of shadow into their fabrics. Streets are illuminated with [light] spells, and arcane marks emblazon letters of credit and other important documents. Magic is in common use, and low-level spells are easily accessible, although high-level magic is rare and wondrous." -- ECS page 89, "Magic in the World"
  • "In general, minor magic items are easier to find and purchase in Khorvaire than described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide." -- ECS page 90, "Goods"

In Eberron, magic items may be available at ordinary shops. Maybe not every clothier has glamerweave duds on hand, but the best one in any particular town probably has some. If it's a town with a magewright clothier, he probably makes them on consignment for shops in the big cities (where they pay top coin), but he might make some leftovers or returned items cheaply available to PCs who happen to clean out the nearby nest of bugbears that's been killing livestock. A city like Sharn has several competing shops (and even chains) that might stock some "glamerweave standards" ("This tunic is daringly low cut in a distinctive kalashtar style! For a small additional fee, we will include this amulet which will give you the pecs of a god!"), and will have multiple craftsmen capable of making custom outfits guaranteed to wow them in the Karrnathi court.

Most mass-produced magic items are created with schemas, which are basically magic items that impart the knowledge necessary to create a specific magic item. There are schemas for everbright lanterns, and skycoaches, and so on. You must still fulfill whatever prerequisites the magic item requires -- it won't turn a magewright into a cleric for the purpose of creating a particular item, for example -- but at least the crafter in question does not need to master the ritual for the creation of a specific item; the schema does it for him. So, there are probably only a few dozen spellcasters who actually have mastered the creation of glamerweave clothing; most minor craftsmen who make the "glamerweave standards" I mentioned above use schemas to do it. The item still takes the regular downtime and still costs the same to make, but at least you can spread out the creation of items to a few hundred craftsmen on the continent of Khorvaire. Still, good luck finding a glamerweave craftsman or schema in Darguun when the Lhesh Haruuc asks you for a specific gift...

I'll go into more details (as I see them) in Part 2.

2 comments:

  1. I've been scouring the internet looking for good Eberron 5e conversions, and yours are some of the best I've seen. Well done! If you have stuff for artificers and/or aberrant marks, please share!

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    1. I was originally going to include a direct translation of the 3.5E feat in my Dragonmarks conversion, but I was unsatisfied with the way it was turning out. Really, to do an aberrant mark justice, the player should take the Magic Initiate feat and work with the DM to come up with a flavorful interpretation of the powers gained as aberrant abilities.

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