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Chapter 2: Building Games

Building Items

Source GM Core pg. 130
Creating your own magic and alchemical items is an amazing way to customize the adventure and gameplay for your group and add unique elements without requiring quite the same mechanical depth as a whole new class, archetype, or ancestry.

New items make great mementos of previous adventures and tend to be one of the easiest elements for a character to begin using mid-campaign after receiving them as a reward. This section explains the philosophy and numbers behind creating items so you can design your own in no time!

Concept and Role

Source GM Core pg. 130
First, come up with a concept for the item based on the role the item serves in your game and in the game's world. You might include a new item in an ancient ruin to hint at its history and characterize the people who used to live there. For instance, a Thassilonian ruin might have an item based on rune magic, while a Jistkan ruin might have an item related to the empire's ancient constructs.

A new magic item might be important later in the story, or its role might be as simple as a fun wolf-themed item for the monk that uses Wolf Stance. Keep your concept in mind to guide you through the process. Start thinking about what kind of magic item it will be. Each item type has its own niche, and some are less likely to be as useful to the PCs. For instance, new weapons and armor require the PC to give up the weapon or armor they already have, which might make them more reluctant to use the new items unless they're noticeably better, while consumable items don't have as big an impact on the story as permanent items.

Item Level

Source GM Core pg. 130
A new item is typically going to be within a few levels of the PCs. If it’s too low, it might not be interesting, and if it’s too high, it might be too powerful or too lucrative to sell.


Source GM Core pg. 130
First, look at similar items. For example, if you want a permanent item that lets someone fly, look at the flying broomstick, which moves of its own volition to a location and thus can't be used to gain a huge advantage in combat, and winged sandals, which can. This will give you an idea of the right level range and the specifics and limitations of existing items. You might even be able to just adjust one of those to get what you want with minimal work.

Item Effects

Source GM Core pg. 130
Next, use the item’s concept and role to decide its effects. This is where your creativity will bring the item to life. Make sure to have it do something exciting and roleplay-inspiring. A magic item that does nothing more than deliver a bonus is far less interesting, even if the item does have a load-bearing item bonus, like a magic weapon. To determine the item’s power, take into account the special abilities you give the item as well as the item bonus (if any) that it grants. For specific advice for the type of magic item you are creating, check out Designing by Type on page 131.

Special Abilities

Source GM Core pg. 130
When deciding what special abilities are appropriate for what level, it's best to look for similar spells to gauge the effect. For most consumables, the effect should be less powerful than the highest rank spell a spellcaster of the item's level could cast. Scrolls are about the most efficient you can get—they're the same level the spellcaster would be—but they require a spellcaster that has the spell on their list, and take the same actions as casting the spell normally.

The most straightforward choice is a once-per-day ability. For this, the item's level should be at least 2 levels higher than the minimum level a spellcaster could first cast that spell. For example, if your ability is about as powerful as a 3rd-rank spell cast once per day (perhaps haste), then it should be at least a 7th-level item. A basic wand is a good example. However, a wand is flexible and can contain the most effective possible choice for its spell rank (such as long-lasting spells where once a day is effectively permanent), so a specific item that doesn't grant such a spell could have additional powers or bonuses at the same price as a wand.

If the item can be activated multiple times per day, it should be at least 4 levels higher instead—9th level in our example. Frequency could range from twice per day to once per hour and anything in between. Choose whatever makes sense to allow the characters to use the item more frequently without being effectively constant or unlimited. The appropriate frequency, or whether it's ever okay to have unlimited activations, varies wildly based on the spell. Unlimited castings of a cantrip is fine, but an effect akin to a non-cantrip spell is rarely a good idea. Only attempt to build such an item when you're certain of the consequences.

Items that can be activated less often than once per day don't appear too often, and they usually fit best with abilities that make sense outside of encounters. It's still best to stick to the guidelines for once-per-day abilities, but these items tend to have more properties—and often strange ones.

Constant Abilities

Source GM Core pg. 130
If you want an effect to be constant, set the level and Price accordingly. For instance, let’s say your group is 16th level and you want to give them an item themed around flying. A 7th-rank fly spell lasts an hour already, so one casting covers a significant portion of the adventuring day. To keep it simpler, you decide to create a 16th-level cloak that lets the wearer constantly fly. Remember, some effects were never meant to be constant and could warp your game.

Activation Actions

Source GM Core pg. 131
Watch out when picking the number of actions an activation takes! A 1-action activation that casts a spell with a 2-action casting time is drastically more powerful in an encounter than an item with a 2-action activation would be. An item like that is typically much higher level, and it works best with “helper” spells or ones with limited utility rather than offensive spells. The safest bet is to use the same number of actions the spell normally takes to cast.

Scaling out of Usefulness

Source GM Core pg. 131
Some spells aren’t appealing if their rank is too low. For instance, an item that casts 1st-rank breathe fire three times per day might be 5th or 6th level. The problem is that spell scaling has the biggest impact at low levels, so the spell isn’t effective compared to other actions a character could take. Err on the side of fewer, more impressive activations.


Source GM Core pg. 131
If your item includes item bonuses, check the table below for the minimum item levels the game's math expects permanent bonuses to be applied to. A lower-level item might give such a bonus temporarily, but keep track to make sure the item isn't effectively permanent. If a character typically picks three or fewer locks a day, there's no difference between a +2 item bonus to pick all locks and an activation that gives a +2 item bonus to Pick a Lock three times per day.

For attack bonuses, AC, and saves, the minimums match runic weapon and magic armor. You can have other items with these bonuses (like handwraps of mighty blows), but keep in mind they compete with fundamental runes.

Skill bonuses come on a wider range of items. Some are more broadly useful, so an Athletics item might be more expensive than an equivalent Society item. Gaining a bonus to Perception is especially valuable compared to gaining a bonus to a skill. Just because an item is the minimum level for its bonus doesn't mean the bonus should be the item's only power. The item can and should have an additional interesting power beyond the bonus. Likewise, an item can come at a higher level than the minimum, but if it's much higher, its abilities start to compete with the next bonus.

Table 2–17: Levels for Permanent Item Bonuses

Attack bonus21016
Save (resilient rune)81420
* This is also the minimum level for apex items.

Designing by Type

Source GM Core pg. 131
The following guidance applies to items of various types.

Alchemical Items

Source GM Core pg. 131
Alchemical items are consumables. Because alchemists can make a large number for free, alchemical items tend to be on the weaker end for their level, with lower Prices. Avoid alchemical effects that feel too much like magic. Alchemy is capable of fantastical things, but should have its own distinct feel; where you draw the line depends on your game.

Alchemical bombs are like weapons for alchemists and should primarily deal damage, with small extra effects. Existing bombs are great models. Elixirs are varied; make sure not to duplicate potions, especially highly magical ones. Poisons are one of the trickier alchemical items to make, and it's usually best to just tweak one found on pages 248–250 to avoid making something that's overpowered; compare to poisons of the same type that have similar onset and stage duration, as longer onset and duration poisons tend to deal drastically more damage. Alchemical tools are best used for adding a little weirdness. They can be creative and interesting, but tend not to be powerful.


Source GM Core pg. 131
Magic ammunition is consumable; launching it destroys it. Pay attention to whether you give the ammunition an activation: any big flashy effect for its level should almost always have one, since otherwise the effect is essentially a free action on top of a Strike. This is particularly important for extremely low-level ammunition, since a high-level character could use that ammunition for every Strike without noticing the gold cost. If the ammunition doesn’t deal normal Strike damage on a hit, remember to say that! Dealing damage is the default.

Armor and Weapons

Source GM Core pg. 131
Specific armor and weapons replace the opportunity to add property runes, so you have a lot of space to design. Choose abilities that feel attached to the fact that they are weapons or armor; for instance, a fiery sword that you point at an enemy to shoot fire bolts is more on theme than a fiery sword that casts wall of fire in an unconnected way.

The specific item should cost more than the base armor or weapon would with just the fundamental runes, but you can often discount the cost of the additional components significantly as part of the specific item's special niche. Be careful about specific armor or weapons that include property runes in addition to unique specific abilities. If you discount the item, you might end up with an item significantly superior to one built using the normal property runes system. That's not always bad, since it's still giving up customization for power, and this can be appropriate if the item has an important place in your story. Just make sure the difference isn't too drastic. If you just want to create armor or a weapon with runes and no extra special abilities, you can do so. The Price of such an item is the sum of all the runes' Prices, and its level is that of the highest-level rune on the item.

When picking abilities, you can also consider taking from the relic gifts found on pages 309–319. Even if your game doesn't use relics, that section has plenty of choices sorted by theme. If you do, keep in mind that relic abilities are typically more powerful than usual for their level and that those abilities wouldn't scale on a normal magic item.

Held Items

Source GM Core pg. 132
Usually, held items should require manipulation to use, with Interact activations. They are most often tools, implements, items that can be thrown, and the like. Imagine a PC physically using the item and what that looks like.

Remember that held items are more challenging for martial characters to use, compared to spellcasters or hands-free characters, like monks. A barbarian might have to give up a two-handed weapon to use a held item, and so is less likely to use one. This means you might want to design held items specifically for non-martial characters, or have them be items a martial character uses outside of combat.


Source GM Core pg. 132
Oils are consumables you slather onto items or, rarely, creatures. They provide an interesting opportunity to apply effects to other items. Just remember not to accidentally make something that should be applied topically into a potion; for instance, a petrified character can’t drink an anti-petrifying potion! The actions an oil takes to use depend on how thoroughly it needs to be applied. For one used outside of combat, it could take a minute or more.


Source GM Core pg. 132
Potions are consumables in the truest sense; you literally consume them. Since the action of drinking isn’t easy to split up, they take only a single action to activate. This advantage makes potions that replicate spell effects incredibly powerful, and it’s the reason potions are nearly always higher level than scrolls with similar effects.


Source GM Core pg. 132
Property runes are a fun and versatile way to customize weapons and armor without throwing away the previous items. Each should be fairly simple, especially at lower levels, because combining runes can make things overcomplicated. Compare to other properties to determine the right level.


Source GM Core pg. 132
You’ll never need to design a new scroll, but use them as a comparison when designing other types of consumables. If you’re designing a consumable that seems like it’s much better than a scroll of its level—or faster to activate—you should probably raise the item’s level or adjust the effect.


Source GM Core pg. 132
Use the sturdy shields as benchmarks for the best possible shield Hardness, HP, and BT for a shield of that level. Your new shield should have less than those benchmarks since it also does something else, and you can use the magnitude of the reduction to build room for creative defensive abilities.


Source GM Core pg. 132
You’ll need to come up with a theme and curate a list of spells that stay close to that theme, typically one to three per spell rank, all on one spell list. A staff is always at least 3 levels higher than the minimum level for a spellcaster to cast the highest-rank spell it contains, so a staff with up to 4th-rank spells would be at least a 10th-level item.


Source GM Core pg. 132
Structures are evocative and make great tertiary items, quirky but not part of a combat build. This allows you to price them affordably, but make sure there isn’t some hidden abuse where the structure drastically alters encounters. The structure trait is intended to help as a starting point.


Source GM Core pg. 132
Because talismans are affixed ahead of time but don’t take an action to retrieve, they reward forethought and planning. Those that can be activated as a free action also have the best action efficiency of any consumable. In the same way scrolls reward specific spellcasters, talisman requirements reward particular types of characters. Talismans might grant a single use of a feat, with an additional effect if the character already has that feat. Think of talismans as martial characters’ answer to scrolls to expand on the options of the non-spellcasters at your table.


Source GM Core pg. 132
You won’t need to design basic magic wands, but you might want a special wand. When designing a new special wand, your wand’s level will usually be 1 to 2 levels higher than the basic wand, depending on the magnitude of the special effect. Remember that if you make the wand 2 levels higher, it’s now competing with wands of a spell a whole level higher, so the special effect should be worth that cost!

Worn Items

Source GM Core pg. 133
Worn items vary wildly in their effects, but they all take up one of a character's 10 invested items. Remember to include the item's worn entry, if applicable (or “—” if you could imagine someone wearing 10 or more with no difficulty). Where the item is worn should usually match its effects or bonuses: shoes help you move, eyepieces affect your vision, and so on. As with held items, imagine a character wearing the item to picture how they use its magic.

Apex items are always at least level 17 and should have unique abilities on top of their bonus, just like other items.

Fill in the Numbers

Source GM Core pg. 133
You’re almost done! The final step is to fill in the numbers.


Source GM Core pg. 133
Choose any DCs for the item’s abilities, typically using the typical DCs in the table below. An item with a narrow function might have a DC up to 2 higher, and one that forces a save (such as with an aura) is typically 2 lower. The lower the DC, the quicker the item becomes obsolete.

Table 2–18: Magic Item DCs

Item LevelDC

Item Prices

Source GM Core pg. 133
Each item level has a price range. Based on the item's role and abilities, decide where in that range to place it. There's plenty of variation, and you primarily need to worry about Price only if you expect the PCs will be able to sell it.

Primary items cost near the highest value for their level. They have a big impact on combat or player ability. This includes weapons, armor, and Perception items. The highest price is for items like runic weapon, magic armor, and apex items. So a +1 striking weapon is 100 gp at 4th level.

Secondary items, with middle values, give significant secondary benefits or enhance highly consequential noncombat or support skills like Medicine or Crafting.

Tertiary items, with low value, are weird or very specific items, ones not usually core to a character's build. Especially strange ones might fall into the gap between two levels.

Table 2–19: Permanent Magic Item Price

LevelPriceCore Item
110–20 gp
225–35 gp+1 weapon
345–60 gp+1 skill item
475–100 gp+1 striking weapon
5125–160 gp+1 armor
6200–250 gp
7300–360 gp
8415–500 gp+1 resilient armor
9575–700 gp+2 skill item
10820–1,000 gp+2 striking weapon
111,160–1,400 gp+2 resilient armor
121,640–2,000 gp+2 greater striking weapon
132,400–3,000 gp
143,600–4,500 gp+2 greater resilient armor
155,300–6,500 gp
167,900–10,000 gp+3 greater striking weapon
1712,000–15,000 gp+3 skill item, apex item
1818,600–24,000 gp+3 greater resilient armor
1930,400–40,000 gp+3 superior striking weapon
2052,000–70,000 gp+3 superior resilient armor


Source GM Core pg. 133
Consumables have a slightly narrower range, with top-end items like scrolls, optimum healing potions, or super-useful consumables like a potion of invisibility at the high end.

Table 2–20: Consumable Price

13–4 gp
25–7 gp
38–12 gp
413–20 gp
521–30 gp
631–50 gp
751–70 gp
871–100 gp
9101–150 gp
10151–200 gp
11201–300 gp
12301–400 gp
13401–600 gp
14601–900 gp
15901–1,300 gp
161,301–2,000 gp
172,001–3,000 gp
183,001–5,000 gp
195,001–8,000 gp
208,001–14,000 gp