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Suppose that in the course of an adventure, you come across some magic or otherwise special item (magic, or has special properties, or both); for instance, you find a necklace of resistance, or an animal with a hide that's immune to slash/pierce, or something of that nature.

Is it generally possible, either within the system itself or commonly in house rules, to allow characters to try to "repurpose" these items to craft weapons, armor or items that have special properties? Some mechanic that reduces the crafting cost, obviates the requirement to know a spell or have a feat, or makes it possible to create something not otherwise available. For instance, maybe you kill a medusa and tie its head on a stick... Or something.

I am very new to tabletop role playing, so forgive me if this is a silly question. I'm just thinking that, in "real" life, it seems like it could be possible to do this kind of thing, except, of course, no magic and not many special physical properties...

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One clarification - I'm not really looking for a "disenchanting" mechanism a la Elder Scrolls... So you couldn't turn a dagger of fire into a mace of fire... more like physically incorporating one item in the crafting of another, e.g., inlaying armor with enchanted jewelry or putting a cursed item inside the business end of a morning star, or something. – Patrick87 Jun 29 '13 at 18:19
A friendly warning - a lot of systems are abstract to the point that 'real life' becomes irrelevant. If you try to match the rules to reality, it's not always going to end well. – Dakeyras Jun 29 '13 at 19:50
@Dakeyras A good point, and well-taken. – Patrick87 Jun 29 '13 at 20:24
Its better to edit clarifications into the question than leave them in the comments. – Jason_c_o Apr 24 '14 at 23:10
up vote 16 down vote accepted

An item is allowed to have additional magics added to it, where the cost of the addition is the cost of the final product minus its current value. That is, take a +1 quarterstaff (2300 gp) and make it a +2 quarterstaff (8300 gp) for 6000 gp. See Creating Magic Items – Adding New Abilities:

Adding New Abilities

A creator can add new magical abilities to a magic item with no restrictions. The cost to do this is the same as if the item was not magical. Thus, a +1 longsword can be made into a +2 vorpal longsword, with the cost to create it being equal to that of a +2 vorpal sword minus the cost of a +1 sword.

If the item is one that occupies a specific place on a character’s body the cost of adding any additional ability to that item increases by 50%. For example, if a character adds the power to confer invisibility to her ring of protection +2, the cost of adding this ability is the same as for creating a ring of invisibility multiplied by 1.5.

For many items, combining functions (rather than upgrading them as with weapons) in one item carries a price premium equal in value to half the value of any functions after the first. This would also be part of the cost of adding magic to an already-magic item.

Stuff like directly using hides or medusa heads to make items, kind of. By default, yes, your character needs to have the appropriate materials (whose worth equals the crafting cost of the item), but what the “appropriate materials” are is left undefined and up to the DM.

Thus a DM may decide that a spike, gem, etc. is worth a certain amount towards the crafting cost of the item (e.g. that sword costs 2000 gp to make, but the gem you just found can be used for a part of it: you only need to provide materials [steel, leather, whatever] worth 1000 for the remainder of the sword). Most of the time, though, it’s more like “I go to the blacksmith and buy whatever I need for the sword from him.” Requiring specific, especially rare, materials doesn’t really occur in the rules except sometimes for certain spells (e.g. raise dead requires diamond dust).

I haven’t personally seen one, but I’d be surprised if no one’s drawn up lists of explicit materials for particular items. I doubt it’s official, though.

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Thank you for your answer! Due to my inexperience, I'm having a little trouble applying this to what I had in mind. Supposing I'm crafting a brand new item, and have some element (a spike, a gem, etc.) or a material (hide, metal, etc.) that, by virtue of its being in contact with some other item, conferred some effect on its target (damage, effect, etc.) or wearer (resistance, effect, etc.). W.r.t. crafting a brand new item, could having such an item reduce the cost (e.g., no extra money for fire); eliminate a requirement (e.g., no need to know a fire spell); or make possible something that – Patrick87 Jun 29 '13 at 21:58
Wouldn't otherwise be possible (e.g., create a continually burning weapon that functions as a torch and does damage)? – Patrick87 Jun 29 '13 at 22:00
That kind of thing is generally up to the DM, and effectively is a part of the cost of the item. Most items do not require particular items to craft, but they do require "materials" (the specifics of which are left up to the DM) equal in value to the crafting cost of the item. A DM may decide that a spike, gem, etc. is worth a certain amount towards the crafting cost of the item (e.g. that sword costs 2000 gp to make, but the gem you just found can be used for a part of it: you only need to provide materials worth 1000 for the remainder of the sword). – KRyan Jun 30 '13 at 2:26

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