[RPG] Do magic items really cost at least as much to create as they do to purchase


The table on page 129 of the DMG lists the costs to craft an item.

Taking as an example a Common magic items, such as a level 1 spell scroll, the cost is listed as 100 gp. The crafter can only make 25 gp worth of progress per day, so this takes 4 days worth of effort, at 8 hours per day. The crafter must use a spell slot to cast the spell once on each of those days.

Meanwhile, the guidelines on page 139 for the costs of magic items states that a common magic item is worth 50-100gp with consumables, such as a spell scroll, costing half. So a first level spell scroll "should" cost at most 50 gp.

Looking at the tables for other rarities of items, again the creation cost is listed as the maximum of the suggested values for items of that rarity, and that doesn't even take into account the value of the crafter's time to work for many, many days to craft it.

Am I missing something here? Can someone explain how this makes sense?

(Obviously, this assumes a campaign where at least common magic items are available for purchase)

I understand that the prices listed in the DMG are suggested starting points only, but why are the suggested starting points for item values inconsistent with the suggested starting points for item creation?

Best Answer

I think there's two reasons why it would make sense for magic item creation costs to be as high or higher than purchase cost, that fit with the idea of D&D and the stories portrayed:

Most of the permanent stuff for sale is ancient

For most of it, it doesn't matter how much gp a caster once spent for it. The magic item for sale in the Bazaar of the Bizarre isn't made by the owner, or anyone he knows. It's made by an ancient wizard, who died centuries ago, and isn't going to see a penny of that money. It was probably looted by adventurers, who then decided they didn't need it all that much, so they sold it for whatever they could get for it and now it's for sale for whatever the item's owner thinks he can get for it.

The reason he asks you for 2000gp, even though you can make it for 2000gp is because A) most of the people who can afford a magic item, could also make one themselves and B) he's now undercutting any bored Wizard who tries to compete with freshly made magic gear. Considering these magic items are practically indestructible and require next to no maintenance, there's eons of time that they've been made in and most are simply still around to be found.

The market for permanent magic items is terrible because the stuff literally lasts forever and there's a whole class of people whose only job is to venture into the wilds, "liberate" the items and then sell them cheap so they can get some more potions for their next "adventure". Sellers are simply responding to this dynamic.

Most of the consumable stuff is made by specialists

The reason your Wizard takes 4 days to write a scroll and spends a 100gp on it is, for a major part, because your Wizard is a firebreathing, lightning throwing, people charming, monster summoning murder-machine and not a scribe.

Probably if you decided to spend 90% of your time learning how to write a Scroll of Burning Hands faster and cheaper than usual, you could also learn to do it in half the time and for half the cost and earn some money selling those scrolls to the other Wizards who don't perfect the art of calligraphy but instead waste their time going out to kill things and take their stuff.

You simply cannot reasonably compete with the people who dedicate their lives to creating consumable magic items and never learn to survive adventures. (And the reason there aren't any rules for doing so is because this is Dungeons & Dragons and any such character would be an NPC, not a player character)

Why you can't make money selling magic items

Ultimately, what it comes down to is this: making a lot of money off of creating and selling magic is boring and not what D&D is about, so the standard rules don't allow for it. The above is just flavoring for why it's like this.

Any experienced DM who can turn "making and selling +1 swords" into a fun play session will have enough experience to tweak (or disregard) the rules so that it works.

Any DM who doesn´t have that level of experience cannot accidentally screw up his game by showing his players how to make loads of money without actually risking their hides in the adventures that the game is about.

It's a win for everyone.

Related Topic