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Paizo PRD:

Magic items produce spells or spell-like effects. For a saving throw against a spell or spell-like effect from a magic item, the DC is 10 + the level of the spell or effect + the ability modifier of the minimum ability score needed to cast that level of spell.

I'm writing up some magic items, and I'm running into some difficulty, because I've got a few places where my items' effects are similar to existing spells, but use a higher DC than what I'd get with the above guideline.

For example, if I've got an "evil vizier"-type character who hypnotizes people to do as he tells them, I might give him magical lenses that let him cast suggestion once a day.

  • That's a third-level spell, requiring a 5th level caster; typical pricing should be 3 (spell level) * 5 (caster level) * 1800 (command-activated) / 5 (once per day) = 5400 gp.
  • Construction requiremenets are only Craft Wondrous Item and suggestion.

But if I left it there, I'd expect the save DC against the suggestion to be 14. And (for my game) I want it a bit higher, so it'll be a serious threat to court members and to PCs. Say I want to bump it up to 17.

How do I do that, mechanically? There doesn't seem to be a clear way to go about this.

  • I could use Heighten Spell for a 5-th level Suggestion, giving me a DC of 17, but that would increase the price enormously (from 5400 to 16200). That seems excessive, and also kind of raises the item out of the scope and value I want it available in.
  • Could I add Spell Focus feats or high Int abilities as requirements to bring the DC up? What does that do to the cost?
  • Should I be adding in other spells and abilities that affect saves, and going by that? That seems very awkward.
  • Should I be setting the DC where I like and fudging the price as I see fit?
  • Or something else?
  • Or should I just not be messing with the DC in the first place...?

Thanks :)

EDITED TO ADD: The vizier's lenses are just an example; this is a fundamental problem I'm running into repeatedly with my items. I like trying to make cool items out of low level spells, but I don't want them to be useless for mid-level characters. And if achieving that pushes the price range way, way beyond low level, then I've defeated the purpose of creating low-level items to begin with. Alas.

Maybe this is a balance issue? Is it really that tough to come up with general guidelines on how changing a DC affects the item's value? One would think by now there'd be at least some general advice, but I can't find anything anywhere beyond "avoid it," "fudge it," and/or "guesstimate it."

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Using a heightened suggestion seems straightforward, as you suggested. Why does the cost matter so much? Did the vizier create the lenses or find them? –  okeefe Nov 27 '11 at 4:29
    
@okeefe: See my edit, also my comment to mxyzplk. Suffice to say, this has been a recurring problem for me of sufficient magnitude that I could really use a good general solution. –  Jester Nov 28 '11 at 19:07
    
Look out for possible overuse of these magic items by your players. If they manage to defeat the vizier and put their eyes on the lenses (pun intended), you have dropped a possible intrigue-campaign buster in your game. I think the non-linear economy behind magic items is intended to avoid giving too much power to PC. –  Erik Burigo Nov 29 '11 at 8:48
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@ErikBurigo: Thanks, that's a lot of why correct pricing is important to me. I don't quite see it as an intrigue-buster, though - most parties would have the suggestion spell themselves by this point, and would be able to cast it with a higher DC (using wisdom bonuses, and applying buffs and debuffs). I guess as others have said, the object is to keep magic items strictly weaker than what a similar-level spellcaster can achieve on his own. –  Jester Nov 29 '11 at 21:23

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You are always welcome to fudge it, or not use the weirdo magic item economy in Pathfinder, but if you are wanting to go by the rules, you are doing it right. Higher DCs are supposed to cost that much more. Just like a +1 sword to +2 to +3 grows in cost squared, DC increase isn't priced linearly. A DC 14 is a lot less useful than a DC 17 and so the cost being 3x as much is how the system works.

You can try to eke out more "according to the rules" by adding cheesy limitations to the item to drop the cost, but it would be best to just wing it the way you want it. Unless you're publishing it, no one will care except inasmuch as it advances the play of your campaign.

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For my home game, I'd definitely fudge it :) This isn't exactly "to be published," but it's for a public venue where at least some people really care about the pricing being at least in the right ballpark. And the big thing is, it's not just a single item or example - this is a problem I'm running into with a lot of my items. It's turned out to be pretty fundamental - I like trying to do cool stuff with low level spells, but I want them to be interesting for mid-level characters too. And if doing that makes the item go way beyond low-level, I've just kinda shot myself in the foot. –  Jester Nov 28 '11 at 18:58
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You are right in that it is a fundamental premise of the system. It prevents $$ and magic items being the solution to everything. If the pricing's too linear, then you will get a PC with a DC 21 Doodad of Winning Encounters he pulls out every encounter. That does have down sides, but to fix those down sides you have to replace the magic item crafting rules and do things like "make item power scale relative to character power" or whatnot. If you're looking to be RPG Superstar or CharOp board compliant under RAW - sorry, it costs a lot. –  mxyzplk Nov 28 '11 at 19:36

If you raise the DC of the item, it's worth more, so it should cost more. Adding a requirement like Spell Focus or high Intelligence wouldn't do much, as by the item creation guidelines this only reduces the value by around 10% to 30%, and I've yet to see a wizard PC who didn't have Spell Focus and high Intelligence.

Instead, you could give the court members a penalty for some reason. The wizard perhaps has cursed the castle or its occupants, or perhaps he's convinced the king so well that the court respect him, and suffer a -2 circumstance bonus to his Suggestion spells.

Or, stat it up as a staff, which uses the caster's own spell DC.

Or, give the wizard a custom feat or prestige class that gives him a bonus to use Suggestion spells.

Or, he's a wizard and just casts Suggestion.

Or, the item has the higher DC via Heighten Spell but costs less as treasure because it has fewer than the full number of charges, since he's been using it a lot. Money is no object to him, since he's already used his power to make the king fund his replacement lenses by claiming it's needed for "research".

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The vizier is an example; I know there are ways to make a DC 14 item sufficient for plot purposes, but I'm interested specifically in making a DC 17 item. So you're saying Heighten Spell is the only route to go here? Suggestion with DC 14 is a level 3 spell, DC 16 is a level 4 spell, and DC 17 is a level 5 spell? No middle ground? –  Jester Nov 26 '11 at 22:00
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@Jester The only methods I know to increase item DC, within the rules, are to create it using the rules as a staff, and to use Heighten Spell. However, since a heightened suggestion would be less powerful than dominate person of the same level, it would be reasonable to lower the price. –  Jonathan Drain Nov 27 '11 at 2:09

The RAW provide no definite mechanical method for increasing the inherent DC of a magic item.

But the RAW do provide the general guideline:

The correct way to price an item is by comparing its abilities to similar items (see Magic Item Gold Piece Values), and only if there are no similar items should you use the pricing formulas to determine an approximate price for the item.

With that as a guideline, use the RAW to determine two price points: 1) The price of the vanilla item with the low DC. 2) The price of the item with the spell level Heightened to the desired DC.

These two price points tell you what the full upgrade cost would be (#2 minus #1).

Then compare your chosen spell with similar spells at the Heightened level, and give a discount on the cost increase to compensate for the Heightened lower-level spell being weaker than a spell at the Heightened level.

Using your example, Heightened (+2) Suggestion is a 5th level Enchantment (Compulsion) spell, which has an obvious analogue: Dominate Person is also a 5th level Enchantment (Compulsion) spell.

Since the full upgrade cost could in theory upgrade the item's spell (from Suggestion to Dominate Person) while also increasing the DC to the target of 17, you have to decide how much of the price increase to charge for just upgrading the DC. There are no objective guidelines here, but it's pretty clear that the upgrade to Dominate Person is more valuable than the upgrade to the DC.

I'd suggest charging 25% of the upgrade cost in this case, since there's a direct analogue spell at the Heightened level much stronger than the item's own spell. If there is no analogue, I'd charge the full upgrade cost. If there is a weak analogue or a direct analogue that is only slightly or situationally better, I'd charge 50-75% of the upgrade cost.

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