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Musings from an Empty Tankard: Quantifiable Magic

Musings from an Empty Tankard: Quantifiable Magic

Being an odd collection of random optional rules for your game…

A mana system is a system of magic in which spellcasters expend quantifiable amounts of magical energy (or mana) to produce magical effects. And since 5th Edition relies on spell slots to determine how individuals cast spells, they are quantifiable, meaning you can utilize their relative values to determine the approximate spell-slot cost of similar effects as you would in a mana system. Quantifying magic provides a GM with a quick guide for converting different magical effects. Here we’ll look at practical uses for quantifiable magic when dealing with magic items.

In a typical game, characters gain rewards intended to be useful, unique, and wondrous. Rewarded magic items provide the character with value, either enhancing the character’s performance or contributing to the story. However, sometimes a reward offers little or no value to the characters or the story. Giving these “drop-or-sell” items a quantifiable value allows characters to repurpose the inherent magic stored in an otherwise unpurposeful item.

Below are three alternate ideas for using “drop-or-sell” magic items. Determine the item’s inherent magical value by the spell slot cost associated with the spells that mimic the effects produced by the item.

Transfer an Enchantment. If spellcasters can transfer scrolls into a spellbook, you might give them the option to transfer an magic item’s magical properties back into a spell. You might even permit a spellcaster to add a new spell to their known spells, which they learn by deconstructing the item. The deconstruction of a magic item requires time, money, and resources and is most appropriate as a downtime activity. A reasonable cost for deconstructing an item is half the cost it takes to create a magic item (though the deconstruction will destroy the item). If the item contains more than a single magical property, the individual must choose which property to transfer. Determine the time and level requirements as you would for crafting magic items.

Once the character deconstructs the item, they learn the item’s enchantment as a spell. The enchantment must then be placed somewhere. For example, you might allow a wizard to place the enchantment into their spellbook or a sorcerer to etch it into their mind, replacing one of their known spells. Alternatively, you may allow a character to transfer the enchantment to another more appropriate or useful item.

The GM can make the transfer process more challenging by requiring the character to make an ability check to complete the transfer, such as an Intelligence (Arcana) check to determine success. For example, a failed attempt might result in an explosion, a temporary drain of magical energy, limited use of the power, a weaker version of the item, a cursed item, or the inability to transfer the enchantment. On the other hand, a critical success might result in a new item with a slightly increased bonus, an unexpected power, an additional power, or more charges than the deconstructed item.

Recrafting. This option assumes that characters can refashion a magic item into another item. Maybe you find an enchanted crown but despise nobility and would never wear such an item. Maybe you win the weapon of your most bloodthirsty enemy and desire to refashion it into a symbol of peace. The GM may allow characters to spend downtime recrafting the item. Recrafting the item requires proficiency with the proper artisan’s tools to craft both the existing item and the new item. Likewise, the materials used in the construction of the new item must be the same as the physical properties of the original item. For example, you could use jeweler’s tools to rework a crown into a necklace or armband, but you cannot transform a metal crown into a suit of leather armor. There is no significant cost in reshaping the item, but the time needed to create the new item is consistent with the cost for creating the original item from scratch. The recrafted item retains all the magical properties and functions of the original item, except if the new form is physically altered in such a manner that it couldn’t perform the function. For example, a handaxe recrafted into a mace wouldn’t do slashing damage but would do bludgeoning damage. The GM may also make the task more challenging by requiring the crafter to make a Knowledge (Arcana) check to ensure the recrafted item doesn’t lose its enchantment.  Use the Quantifiable Magic table below to set the DCs.

Refueling or Boosting. Sometimes characters find potions, scrolls, or wands that for whatever reason they have no use for. This option allows spellcasting characters to use consumable magical items to temporarily enhance or recharge other items. To transfer magic, the spellcaster must meet the minimum caster level requirements on the Quantifiable Magic table below.

A spellcaster proficient with the appropriate artisan’s tools can attempt to make a successful Intelligence (Arcana) check to perform a ritual to transfer the magic within the item to another magic item, either to recharge it or to provide it with a temporary enhancement. Performing the ritual with a scroll requires proficiency with calligrapher’s tools. Performing the ritual with a potion requires proficiency with alchemist’s tools, and performing the ritual with a wand requires proficiency with woodcarver’s tools.

Use the Quantifiable Magic table below to determine the results of boosting or refueling an item with another consumable magic item. A charged item gains charges, and an item that enhances ability checks gets an enhancement bonus. The spellcaster adds their spellcasting ability score modifier (minimum +1) to the number of charges or the duration of the temporary enhancement bonus.

Quantifiable Magic

Item  Rarity Minimum Level Time RequiredAbility Check DC Charges Gained  Enhancement Bonus
Common3rd10 minutes132d6* +1 for 1 minute*
Uncommon3rd15 minutes153d8 +2 for 1 minute
Rare6th30 minutes184d8 +4 for 1 minute
Very Rare11th1 hour204d8 +6 for 1 minute

* plus the caster’s spellcasting ability score modifier (minimum +1).


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