Magical Mondays: D&D Items vs. Pathfinder Items   Leave a comment

For the most part, Pathfinder and D&D’s 3.5 rules for magic are very similar. In some places, they’re similar enough as to be identical. In other places, they’re so different that it can completely change your approach to a character’s creation of magic items. Part of this results from the fact that Pathfinder took the approximate decade of 3.5 playing that D&D players enjoyed and modified the rules a bit. Some of these changes were obvious: experience points were no longer required for magic item creation in Pathfinder. Other changes were less obvious.
A lot of these changes result from a particular attitude toward magic item creation that the d20 system instilled in its players. Magic Potions, for instance, aren’t mysterious liquids capable of performing amazing feats: instead, they’re these theoretical widgets that players can apply spells to in certain ways. From a storytelling perspective this is ridiculously frustrating, especially if you’re a GM who has the kinds of players who believe that adamantium grows on trees, freely available in any market.
Another strange result from the d20 rules and Pathfinder rules is that Craft Wondrous Item is overused as a feat. So many, many things that should be one feat get pushed into the catch-all category of Wondrous Items. Still, from a playing perspective, some of these items suggest interesting things. Let’s take a look at a couple of options, and imagine what we could do by twisting the rules a bit. I’ll talk about how the items work in D&D, then in Pathfinder, and then I’ll suggest differences “In Cantadel” to demonstrate some house rules that I might use in my own campaigns.

The most basic magic item (arguably.) You can take the essence of a spell, and imprint it upon paper. You can then complete the spell at a later date to cast it, obviating the need to have it prepared in the future for a one-time use.
In D&D: Scrolls in 3.5 read as written, and contain a rarely noticed quirk that allows a single “scroll” to have many spells imprinted upon it. A caster preparing for war might be able to create a scroll that contains a number of different offensive or defensive spells (though the ability to reliably find those spells amid all of the options is up to the GM.) Alternatively, a scroll might have several iterations of a single spell. Ten copies of Magic Missile all on a single magic item could profoundly alter what a low level wizard prepares in a day. Since a magic item requires one day (eight hours) of work for every 1000 gold of the item’s market price, there’s no time difference between creating a scroll of a single magic missile (for 25 gold) than it is for creating a scroll for twenty uses (500 gold).
In Pathfinder: Scrolls were scaled down time-wise in Pathfinder. For scrolls that cost less than 1000 gold, the time-investment is only two hours for every 250 gold in the market price. So, there really is a difference between a 250 gp scroll and a 500 gp scroll. (Though not, you should notice, between a 1001 gp scroll and a 1999 gp scroll.) The other difference is that Pathfinder directly changed the rule that a scroll could hold multiple spells. While there’s no problem with a single physical “scroll” item that has multiple scrolls, Pathfinder treats each instance of a saved spell as its own “magic item.” So, the scroll with 25 uses of magic missile on it from 3.5 would now cost the same, but require six days and two hours to finish. Still, having a single scroll with that many spells in less than a week isn’t a horrible plan.
In Cantadel: Creating a “scroll” is very basic magic, discovered by most societies that have written languages (meaning that elves, dwarves, gnomes, orcs, and even humans all claim to have invented this type of magic item.) I generally use both the D&D rules for “multiple charges” and the rules for Pathfinder for reduced time. So, the twenty-five use magic missile scroll would only cost four hours to make but would still count as just one single magic item. Note, however, that a caster making such an item would need the ability to cast Magic Missile twenty-five times in a day to make it. You either need to be a tenth level sorcerer to pull off this accomplishment, or you need to have a large team of casters. This kind of item would most commonly be found in, for example, the arsenal of a wizard college. Or a regular wizard at first level could spend twenty-five days preparing it by just preparing magic missile once a day for the better part of a month.
In addition, I use scrolls to create items where magic is imbued through words or writing onto a sheet of paper, parchment, canvas or other similar item. A magic painting, a magic book, even a magic deck of cards will generally be created through the Scribe Scroll feat in my campaign setting. One particular magic item I created was the “Four of Celadors”, a playing card that could be activated by its creator, Celador Barbicane, to create four weaker versions of herself. Most campaigns would make this a wondrous item, though in Cantadel it’s a scroll through and through.

In D&D: A single-use of a spell in liquid form. Any spell of third level or lower where the target isn’t “personal” can be turned into a potion (or oil), so tragically the world doesn’t support a potion of Shield or a potion of Glibness. Unlike every other type of magic item in the game, potions always take a single day (eight hours) to brew. Effectively, the differences between a scroll and a potion are that anyone can use a potion without being a caster and the target of the potion (the imbiber) can’t be varied.
In Pathfinder: The primary difference is in time. Like scrolls, a potion of less than 1000 gp will take two hours for every 250 gp in the base cost. There is a minor discrepancy in the core rulebook’s rules regarding potions of greater than 1000 gp, however: the feat discription suggests that a potion requires 1 day per 1000 gp in the base cost, but the details about magic item creation in chapter 15 suggests that brewing a potion always requires one day. This won’t matter too much, however: the only potions of greater than 1000 gp are 3rd level created by Bards, Rangers and Paladins.
In Cantadel: I’ve already talked at length about Alchemical Secrets in Cantadel, and how I use them to allow players to create potions in different ways. I’ve also discussed before how I permit potion brewers to create magic items that are described as salves, elixirs and the like. For baseline potions like this, though, I play the rules pretty straight (while encouraging players to look into Alchemical Secrecy.) I don’t like the time reduction rules for NPCs, but for players? I’m more than willing to cut potion brewing down to just a couple hours.

In D&D: Rods are amazing things. They’re the true-fantasy version of Staves, as opposed to the “super wand” that an actual Staff is. Rods are items, usually implied through lore to be ceremonial in nature, capable of performing wondrous things, many of which break the rules of the base D&D game. If you want a magic item to just do something *weird* in the hands of an evil NPC, a Rod is the way to go. D&D later created Scepters as a form of weakened staff, but Rods will always be the true Scepters in my mind. (Case in point: if you want to recreate Jafar’s snake staff from Aladdin, I’m make it some sort of Rod of Hypnotism or something like that.) Oh, and as a fun note: have you ever noticed the rule that spells using material components or XP components don’t need those components to be expended when creating the rod? This won’t change the market price, but it’ll make it less costly for any caster to make.
In Pathfinder: Rods are still amazing, but due to Pathfinder’s emphasis on module-ising magic item creation they’re effectively just more expensive Wondrous Items. Thematically there’s no reason for a player to take the Craft Rod feat unless the player specifically wants to recreate an item from the rules with it. You could argue the same for D&D, I suppose. Pathfinder still makes rod creation take up the material cost of spells and it doesn’t have XP components for spells, so item for item you don’t even get the material cost reduction that rods offer in 3.5. I still encourage GMs to use this feat to create unique magical effects for villains, however.
In Cantadel: Rods are required for some certain types of effects. Generally, if a player wants a constant effect to hit multiple allies at once, I require it to be made as a Rod instead of a Wondrous Item. There’s absolutely nothing in the rules to enforce this, but it’s my personal justification for the feat. Story-wise, I maintain that magical items are special beyond their unusual effects; there’s something about the form of the item that speaks to the function. As such, a player can’t just say “I’m gonna make a Wondrous Item item and drop the following Spells modified by the following Effects” into it. In Cantadel, magic is not plug-and-play. Sorry, Munchkins. (Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of room for you to abuse other rules.)

Knowing how these magic items work in different settings can help you to make a better character for your story. Ideally, a GM will work with you to bend rules if it fits your character. Don’t take advantage of your GM, though. Follow Secord’s Rule and make it a genuine part of your story.
That’s all for today’s Magical Mondays! Happy Memorial Day to everyone in the United States reading this.


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