Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 2: Tools / Building Items

Designing by Type

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 83
The following guidance applies to items of various types.

Alchemical Items

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 83
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 usually 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. Be careful with mutagen drawbacks; it’s easy to make one that doesn’t affect certain characters. Look at the serene mutagen. If its drawback didn’t affect spells, Wisdom‑based casters who didn’t use weapons would have no drawback. Poisons are one of the trickier alchemical items to make, and it’s usually best to just tweak one found in the Core Rulebook 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 especially creative and interesting, but tend not to be powerful.


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 83
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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 83
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 96–105. 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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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 level, 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-level spell it contains, so a staff with up to 4th-level spells would be at least a 10th-level item.


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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 Gamemastery Guide pg. 84
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.