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In regards to magic item rarity, the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay first edition book states:

They should be kept rare enough so that finding one (even in the hands of an NPC opponent) elicits some excitement from the players, but not so rare that they despair of ever possessing such treasures.

Is there a magic number? Does it ultimately depend on the group? Do the novels or campaigns provide any insight? I'm not familiar with later editions of WFRP, so I'm not sure if this question was addressed in more detail as the system matured.

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Hi, I made you a generic wfrp tag so you don't have to tag every edition. In general we try to use a generic tag if a question spans a game regardless of edition, as this one does. –  C. Ross Jan 21 '13 at 13:40
    
@C.Ross Thanks, I was surprised there wasn't one already. –  user7275 Jan 21 '13 at 14:50

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WFRP, 2nd Edition, p.169:

Magic Items

Magic items are beyond rare in the Warhammer World. There are not magical smiths churning out masses of magic swords in the forges of Nuln. Each magic item is unique, with its own special history and powers. A character with one magic item is considered lucky. The mightiest heroes of the Old World might have three. (...)

(All emphasis mine.)

I don't have the other books handy, but I strongly suspect this approach has been rather consistent through the editions. We've always played it this way, at least: a simple, single magic item in WFRP is, imo, about the equivalent of a minor artifact in DnD in terms of value, rarity and importance.

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That helps clarify quite a bit, it's worded much stronger than it is in the 1st Edition. –  user7275 Jan 21 '13 at 14:54

Many of the novels clearly allude to powerful magic items in use by many. You will often find dwarves (dwarfs) wielding axes with glowing runes or Chaos Warriors cutting through Empire lines with cursed lances, maces or two handed swords..

Magic items did come into their own with a supplement providing details on rune magic, if not explicitly then implicitly making magic items and crafting more accessible to players.

Many magic items in my experience with 2E come into play not as something sought after or hoarded, but as sourced by those in league with Ruinous Powers. These items possess trapped demons that cultists wish to unleash or promise boons to those in service of Ruinous Powers (see Archaon's Six Treasures of Chaos).

In a decade of playing WFRP 1E through 2E (skipping 3E) I have rarely had players in possession of magic items or seeking them. Not out of desire as GM to limit them, but just not finding the need to introduce them. This is especially true with temporary clerical blessings easily obtainable from priests. Additionally, this aspect plays directly into the forces of good vs. seemingly insurmountable evil fueled by warpstone and Ruinous Powers.

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My group ran through all of The Enemy Within campaign and a few side jobs, I never had a magic item, and I can't say I really gave it a second thought. –  user7275 Jan 20 '13 at 21:44

There is no magic number in the third edition books. Based on the flavour of the game and the printed scenarios that I've seen for that edition, I'm happy with the following rule of thumb.

Make your players work for magic items by focusing entire adventures around them. This gives the players a feeling of achievement. At most, I'd sprinkle one to two per player throughout the entire campaign. In a 4 person group that might mean 1 or 2 every rank (a full career in WFRP 3E) of play.

I prefer WFRP without magic items though. The feeling of grim and gritty is short-circuited by having items of magic power. Those are for the Special Characters who lead armies. Not the guys who run around in mortal danger from the enemies of the empire.

Sources

Liber Carnagia: An adventure revolving around the Chaos spear Crimson Rain waking up.

The Game Master's Guide (Under Tomes and Artifacts in the Colleges of Magic chapter): The art of making magnificent and potent items like the Runefangs is described as lost to all but a few. All powerful magic items are extremely old and valuable. Today, minor magics like potions and charms are still created, but nobody really knows if they work or not.

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So does the 3e sum it up the same as the first? Sort of a "here it is, don't hand it out like candy," kind of thing? –  user7275 Jan 20 '13 at 21:50
    
"Today, minor magics like potions and charms are still created, but nobody really knows if they work or not." Makes it seem like lesser items have an almost 'snake oil' quality about them. –  user7275 Jan 21 '13 at 14:57

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