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My fellow players would like to have a command-word or use-activated "button" of Cure Light Wounds at will, i.e. unlimited uses/day.

How much should this cost (if it should be available at all?)

Item cost estimation rules per DMG

The Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG) contains guidelines on the value of custom magical items. This includes guidance on the estimated price of spell effect items, like the Cape of the Mountebank (command activated Dimension Door 1/day) and use-activated/continuous effect items like the Lantern of Revealing (continuous Invisibility Purge.)

The general formula for the cost of a command-word/use activated spell-effect item appears to be the following five numbers, all multiplied together.

  1. Base price 1,800 GP for command-word activated items, or 2,000 GP for use-activated or continuous items.
  2. Spell level × Caster level
  3. Factor for base spell duration - if a continuous effect item.

    If a continuous item has an effect based on a spell with a duration measured in rounds, multiply the cost by 4. If the duration of the spell is 1 minute/level, multiply the cost by 2, and if the duration is 10 minutes/level, multiply the cost by 1.5. If the spell has a 24-hour duration or greater, divide the cost in half.

  4. Body slot factor - ×1.00 for an item taking up a body slot, ×1.50 for an item taking up a "strange slot" (i.e. Boots of True Seeing - see Body Slot Affinities), ×2.00 for an item that doesn't occupy a slot.
  5. Charges/uses per day - ×1.00 for unlimited uses per day, ×0.80 4 uses/day, ×0.60 3 uses/day, ×0.40 2 uses/day, ×0.20 1 use/day. Alternately, ×0.50 for an item with 50 charges.

Example: Ring of Friendship

Taking the example of the Ring of Friendship (10,800 GP, command-word activated Charm Animal (Clr/Drd 1st, CL3) at will), we have:

  1. 1,800 GP for command-word activated
  2. Spell level 1 × caster level 3
  3. Factor for base spell duration - N/A (not a continuous effect item)
  4. ×2.00 for Body slot factor - apparently ×2 because rings don't have a body slot affinity
  5. ×1.00 for unlimited uses/day

Cost of Ring of Friendship 1,800 × 1 × 3 × 2 × 1 = 10,800 GP which matches the 10,800 GP cost quoted in the SRD.

Extrapolating to a Ring of Cure Light Wounds

Let's try and create a Ring of Cure Light Wounds, a command-word activated item which casts Cure Light Wounds (Cleric 1st, CL 1) unlimited/day.

  1. 1,800 GP for command-word activated
  2. Spell level 1 × caster level 1
  3. Factor for base spell duration - N/A (not a continuous effect item)
  4. ×2.00 for Body slot factor - apparently ×2 because rings don't have a body slot affinity
  5. ×1.00 for unlimited uses/day

According to these factors the Ring of Cure Light Wounds should cost 3,600 GP.

However, everyone in my RPG group has a different opinion.

  • Alice thinks the above cost (3,600 GP) is correct.

  • Bob thinks that the Ring of Cure Light Wounds is ludicrously overpowered and shouldn't exist. (It dispenses literally infinite healing out of combat - a major game balance issue.)

  • Charlie thinks that such an item is outside the rules given by DMG because the DMG gives rules for spell effect items based on spells with a duration, i.e. rounds/level, minutes/level, but gives no rules for spells with instantaneous duration (i.e. Cure Light Wounds.)

  • Dave agrees with Charlie that the rules don't cover spell-effect items for instantaneous spells, but rather than disallowing them entirely, Dave thinks the "duration factor" should be ×4 (as if Cure Light Wounds had a duration of rounds - the most expensive option that DMG allows for.)

  • Erin thinks that the DMG guidelines are flexible and we should consider the cost of the Ring of Cure Light Wounds in context of other, existing magic items. For example, the Ring of Regeneration is 90,000 GP. The Ring of Cure Light Wounds is at least as powerful (if not more powerful!) so it should cost at least 90,000 GP.

Who, if anyone, is right? RAW preferred, otherwise RAI.

EDIT: For context, this came up in the context of a dungeon crawl a-la Tomb of Horrors. Frequent combat, little chance to rest, and no prospect of re-supply.

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Casting Cure Light Wounds at will looks like quite a game breaker to me. It would allow the PCs to heal back to full health after every encounter, unless they are under extreme time-pressure. – Philipp May 7 '14 at 14:11
Comments are not for arguing in, nor discussion. If there are interesting points you want to raise in a question and answer format, ask a question (as I did.) If there's discussion you want, take it to Role-playing Games Chat. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 8 '14 at 9:13
If your party has a healer, I'm pretty sure there is a reserve feat in Complete Divine or somewhere like that that lets you heal 3xspell level HP per level of available healing spell at will. – Cobalt May 18 '14 at 2:43
up vote 24 down vote accepted

Contextually, Bob's Correct

If the campaign is a series of tombs of horrors, then a ring of cure light wounds is an item beyond price. If the party can't leave the dungeon to resupply and can't get down to one encounter per day (i.e. the so-called 15-minute workday) via spells1, the ring of cure light wounds is a literal lifesaver.

In other words, if the campaign is already on hard mode, the ring switches it, not to easy mode, certainly, but to average mode. That's a legitimate concern for the DM. The DM's already decided the campaign's supposed to be difficult and the ring makes the campaign substantially less difficult. As the ring violates a campaign tenet, the ring just shouldn't be available... or, if it is, only available as a result of a heinous Gygaxian Faustian bargain.

For the Game as It Was Likely Envisioned, Erin's Correct

The Dungeon Master's Guide would likely pick Erin's suggestion. If worry-free, constant healing is desired, everybody should pony up for rings of regeneration (DMG 232) (90,000 gp; 0 lbs.). Sure, each ring of regeneration costs as much as 120 wands of cure light wounds [conj] (PH 215-6) (1st-level spell at caster level 1) (15 gp/charge), but, y'know, the Dungeon Master's Guide says to "[u]se good sense when assigning prices, using the items in this book as examples" (282), and the game thinks that's what worry-free, constant healing should cost, so that's how much it does cost. In fact, a custom magic item like a use-activated ring of cure light wounds--or like a continuous item of true strike [div] (PH 296)--is such an anathema, I bet the year 2000 Dungeon Master's Guide would laugh at the player who suggested it and have the next wandering monster "randomly" attack him first for good measure.

For Many Games as They Are Now, Alice or Dave Is Correct

Many current players feel that constantly reacquiring wands of cure light wounds to have their characters freshen up between encounters is, at worst, just an inconvenience, like tracking arrows remaining in a quiver. In the same way that running low on arrows creates tension at low levels, managing healing resources at low levels creates tension. But many players feel that by the time a character's reached a reasonably high level--say, for example, a Ftr9--the character should have more important things to worry about than how many arrows he has left and shouldn't have to worry that he's burning through party resources because he fell down a 200-ft.-deep pit. That Ftr9's Wealth by Level (DMG 135) says that a wand of cure light wounds--an entire wand--is worth only about 2% of the gear he's toting. The Ftr9 can buy a wand of cure light wounds and have leftover cash after splitting 4 ways the take from one encounter (DMG 51). If a DM has such players, a ring of cure light wounds makes the game more fun because it cuts down on tracking charges from wands of cure light wounds, and the DM should probably allow it-- either at low levels at Alice's price or higher levels at Dave's price--unless the DM's vision of the game differs substantially from that of the players' vision.

A Brief History of the Ring of Regeneration
As the sole item that grants continuous healing in core Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, the ring of regeneration is terrible and using it as an example of what continuous healing should cost is terrible. I'll explain.

Building as they were in 2000 from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition, the ring of regeneration included in the Dungeon Master's Guide for Dungeons and Dragons, 3rd Edition probably looked fine to the authors. The revision was a much needed nerf to improvement over Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition's ring of regeneration, which, for the record,

restores 1 point of damage each turn [10 minutes] and eventually replaces lost limbs and organs. It will bring its wearer back from death.... Only total destruction of all living tissue by fire, acid, or similar means2 will prevent regeneration. Of course, the ring must be worn, and its removal stops the regeneration process. (Encyclopedia Magica, Vol. 3 993)

Such an item was coveted in both Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition, and for good reason. One's character could lose limbs and organs. ("Hello, sword of sharpness! And you, too, wall-mounted sphere of annihilation!") Dying was really painful instead of a speed bump. And healing was, itself, extremely valuable, the province of classes that often weren't much fun to play and rarely advanced beyond level 6 through actual play.3

So when the time came to include the highly-sought-after ring of regeneration in Dungeons and Dragons, 3rd Edition, the price went through the roof because legacy yet actual functionality plummeted. Creatures no longer lost limbs except under extremely rare circumstances. Creatures now healed their levels in hp per 8 hours rest instead of just 1 point per day of rest. And forget about the ring bringing the character back from the dead. The only improvement Dungeons and Dragons, 3rd Edition made to the ring was proportionate healing (that is, 3rd Edition's heals a creature's level in hp)... and then multiplied the healing increment by 6.

Anyway, the current ring of regeneration sucks as useful measure by which to gauge unlimited healing.

  1. By, after the first encounter, hiding in, for example, the space created by the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell rope trick [trans] (PH 273), the 5th-level initiate of Gruumsh (CR 24) spell pocket cave [conj] (CR 33), or the 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion [conj] (PH 256).
  2. Okay, a similar means to fire is heat. Sure. I get that. That's a thing. But what's a similar means to acid except, like, better acid? I hope whoever wrote that spent his $0.10 from those words wisely.
  3. Compare the experience level chart for the cleric or priest, respectively, in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons or Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition to other classes' experience level charts. It's hilarious.
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The Ring of Regeneration is a pretty poor example, simply because it's based on Regeneration being a high level spell. The actual effect is so weak that nobody would ever buy one, considering the same cost will get you +5 full plate, a +5 shield, a +4 ring of protection, and a bunch of wands/potions. Those will be far more effective at both healing you and making you not need healing. – Tridus May 7 '14 at 16:54
@Tridus O, I know. That's why it's used as an example for the game as likely envisioned and nowhere else. Back in 2000, coming off of AD&D, 2nd Edition and having only playtested low-level D&D, 3rd Edition the updated-for-3rd-Edition ring of regeneration probably seemed to be at exactly the right price point. But over a decade later it's an overpriced relic (and not the cool kind). – Hey I Can Chan May 7 '14 at 17:03
2. I think similar means is stuff like disintegration. It's similar in the sense that it's total destruction of all living tissue – Simanos Nov 29 '14 at 16:57

Erin - Kind Of

This part of what Erin said is right:

Erin thinks that the DMG guidelines are flexible and we should consider the cost of the Ring of Cure Light Wounds in context of other, existing magic items.

DMG p. 282 says something pretty similar in the bottom right corner (SRD version):

Not all items adhere to these formulas directly. The reasons for this are several. First and foremost, these few formulas aren’t enough to truly gauge the exact differences between items. The price of a magic item may be modified based on its actual worth. The formulas only provide a starting point. The pricing of scrolls assumes that, whenever possible, a wizard or cleric created it. Potions and wands follow the formulas exactly. Staffs follow the formulas closely, and other items require at least some judgment calls.

So in that regard, Erin is right. However, a Ring of Regeneration is a poor comparison. That's passive, and can restore severed limbs. It's also really overpriced for what it does. A ring of Cure Light Wounds would need to be activated, taking up rounds in combat.

Balance Issues

IMO, this is not as big of a balance issue as you believe it is. The feat Touch of Healing (Complete Champion) gives the user a standard action heal based on a healing spell they have available to cast, usable so long as they don't cast that healing spell (aka: infinite uses). It can't heal someone over half of their max HP, but it's still a way to recover after every combat, and it costs 0gp (the feat slot has its own value, of course). Combine with castings of Lesser Vigor (cheapest and most effective out of combat healing spell there is), or wands of Lesser Vigor (750gp for 50 castings), and suddenly just how awesome is this ring looking?

Yes, it will eventually turn out to be worth having. Unless you charge 10,000gp for it, at which point you'd have to go through an absurd number of wands and low level healing spells to reach the break even point. And that's assuming you don't have a Cleric or Druid with some levels into them who can afford to drop a few low level spells on out of combat healing, which is free.

It's certainly a convenient item to have, but unless you have no access to wands or don't have people who can afford to cast healing magic, it's not game breaking IMO.

Should You Allow It?

If you believe it's too powerful even after what I've explained, than don't allow it. Players can achieve the same effect by buying wands, which are already in the game and a limited use consumable. Or someone can buy the Touch of Healing feat if you're allowing Complete Champion as a source book.

This ring is most useful when spells are very limited at low level, and they can't afford it then anyway. This ring has no combat usefulness whatsoever beyond very low level, as using a standard action to cast CLW is not going to be an optimal action for a level 8 character.

Personally? I'd allow it, at the 3600g quoted by Alice. It's an upfront cost that only saves money long term after they've burned through five wands, and they can buy the wands as needed for a much smaller upfront cost. Five wands is a lot of healing.

In your game you mentioned not having the ability to resupply, and that does increase the value of the ring somewhat as wands are no longer an option. Even then, I still wouldn't charge over 5000g for it. Anything beyond that and taking it gets so expensive that it's going to compete on price with items with effects that are much harder to replace. Plus, you'd price it out of the range of the lower levels, which is where spellcasting resources for healing are scarcest and an item like this shines.

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The author of the Dungeon Master's Guide said you should not be able to create this item.

Source: Making Magic Items FAQ, Monte Cook (2001):

The most important thing to remember is, Table 8-40 doesn't determine prices. It suggests them. Don't say, "Wow, these shoes of continual improved invisibility sure are cheap." Do say, "Hmm, these formulas don't work when it comes to spells like improved invisibility." When someone asks me, "Can I really make an item that will cast cure light wounds at will, activated by a command word, for only 900 gp?"I now reply, "Only if your DM isn't paying attention."

The main problem is that spells aren't balanced in the same way as magic items. A single casting of improved invisibility, for example, might be equal to a single casting of locate creature. But an item that allows you to use improved invisibility at will is not equal to one that lets you use locate creature at will, because a character wants to cast improved invisibility numerous times a day, every day. Not so with locate creature. Spells are balanced because of their durations, and because casters only have access to a limited number of uses in a given day. Take those away, as with a constant effect in a magic ring, and the magical effects on the game need rebalancing.

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Bob and Erin seem to get it

Item creation rules for custom items are guidelines, and explicitly subject to DM approval. It's up to the DM to decide whether the cost makes sense and whether the item should be allowed at all. Of course in a sense, this is true for anything in the game, but it's doubly true for item creation, since the rules don't even pretend to cover every possible angle. Use your common sense.

So Erin is totally correct that the rules are flexible, and you should compare it with other items. Also, Bob may well be correct in that the item is simply too powerful. Is it? Unlimited out-of-combat healing can be very powerful in D&D, depending on your style of play.

What kind of game do you want?

The real answer to your question is one of game style. Unlimited healing has a significant impact on the flow of your game. Are you fine with everybody completely healing up after every combat?

For context, this came up in the context of a dungeon crawl a-la Tomb of Horrors. Frequent combat, little chance to rest, and no prospect of re-supply.

Well, if that's the type of game you want -- if you want the frequent combat and little chance to rest to mean anything -- then free unlimited healing is going to kill the tension stone dead. Do you want the Tomb of Horrors or the Tomb of Mild Inconveniences?

If that's your kind of game, I'd ban it. Although, with little chance to rest and no prospect of resupply, how are they even going to get the time and components to create such an item? Is the question not irrelevant in the first place?

But there are a lot of games where it might be totally reasonable to have this item for 90,000 gp, or possibly even for 3600 gp.

The real impact of this Ring of Cure Light Wounds

Keep in mind that cheap and easy healing already exists; a Wand of Cure Light Wounds doesn't cost much, and for higher level parties with sufficient access to supplies, it's trivial to buy a few. Or a lot. That already makes out-of-combat healing fairly trivial, which means that your Ring of Cure Light Wounds won't change that aspect of the game much. There are some differences, of course: the wand needs a divine caster or someone with Use Magic Device, so if you've got only one of those and he's down, the ring solves a problem that the wand won't. But that's not a reason to ban it; it's just a reason why it should be more expensive than the wand.

Not everybody likes this abundance of cheap healing, however. Particularly if you want to emphasize the resource management aspect of the game; resources are hard to get, safe places to sleep are rare, they need to carefully consider how to use their spell slots and how long their magical resources will last, and they can't just buy or create whatever magic item they need, then they probably won't have a ton of Wands of Cure Light Wounds. And then, giving them access to unlimited out of combat healing has an enormous impact.

Also, the wands still cost money, so they'll still be somewhat careful not to waste charges, whereas with the ring, they'll just heal up completely after even the most minor scratch. There's no reason to talk around with even 2 points of damage. The only damage that is relevant is damage that's big or repetitive enough to take them from full HP straight to death. What doesn't kill them won't even hurt them.

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It sounds like an Eternal Wand from Eberron. Basically, they have an infinite number of charges, but can only be used a limited number of times per day (typically 1-3, default 2 uses). They "recharge" once a day.

There is a discussion of the exact formula used to price such wands on the Paizo boards, but basically:

(spell level) x (caster level) x 2,000 gp x (uses per day/5)

So let's say we want an eternal wand that has 50 uses per day. That would put the price at 20,000gp. Nobody wants to lug a bunch of wands around, so for style points, I say put it into a Staff, and give it the same hardness and hitpoints as a staff.

So now you have an Eternal Staff of Cure Light Wounds that has 50 uses per day, never runs out of charges, and costs you 20,000gp. However, it's a staff, so it has AC 7, 10 hit points, hardness 5, and a break DC of 24, as per standard staff rules.

However, the formula above was only intended for eternal wands with 1-3 uses per day. If you were going to take 25 standard eternal wands (2 uses/day), superglue them together and call them an Eternal Staff, then you'd first need to supply 25 eternal wands, which are exceedingly rare items. As GM, you may want to add a rarity multiplier. I'd say somewhere between 2x and 5x.

Is this the best use of your resources? Heck no. How many days do you intend to spend inside the tomb? Buy that number of Wands of Cure Light Wounds instead. Betcha it's less than 50.

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I agree with Tridus's great answer, but wanted to add my own cents cents regarding game balance. I would allow it at the cheapest cost (3600 GP), with a couple of riders:

  1. It only works on the PC who is wearing it. That way the player is responsible for their own healing and no one in the party has to stop and heal up everyone after every fight. After all, activating the ring is a standard action that takes up most of a round.

  2. Taking a cue from the Ring of Sustenance, the PC has to wear the ring for a certain amount of time before it will work. If they take it off, it won't function until they wear it for that same amount of time again. This prevents the party from passing around a single ring to heal everyone.

This would make the ring weaker than a wand of Cure Light Wound; however you are getting rid of the problem of running out of charges at an inopportune time. As mentioned in the other posts, this ring is most useful at lower levels (when 3600 GP is a lot of money), but quickly drops off in usefulness.

It's important to note that if you use wandering monsters in your campaign, you could end up with a situation where the time that elapses while the PCs are healing is enough that a wandering monster check would be made. This could lead to a situation where the PCs stop to heal up after a fight and are attacked again. There are several other situations where time is of the essence (escaping a collapsing building, chasing a foe, infiltrating an enemy's citadel) where the very act of taking extra time to heal could be a bad decision on the PCs part.

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That would work as well. I'd expect the DM to have something nasty up his sleeve if the party spends 50 or so rounds activating their rings to heal up. :) – Discord May 7 '14 at 16:12
OK, comments shouldn't be used for discussions, but I have to respond here. @Discord: wasting the players' money on useless, overpriced items is a terrible idea, and if that is the goal (rather than a mistake), you should highlight that (and I hope most will see it for the terrible idea it is). Just say no, don't passive-aggressively waste their time. And no, a DM should not have something nasty come along every time the players stop to heal up. That doesn't make sense, and is arbitrary and vindictive. That should happen only when it makes sense or improves the game for that to happen. – KRyan May 7 '14 at 16:20
In regards to KRyan and ilinamorato, I used the wrong wording on the comment about "something nasty." I am not advocating the party being attacked at every rest period. Li-aung mentioned a ring of Cure Minor Wounds, which would take a HUGE amount of time to heal a high-level party completely. There are cases when it's not going to be in the party's best interests to spend an extraordinary number of rounds healing up after combat. (Wandering monsters, being pursued by a for, a story-based time limitation, etc.) – Discord May 7 '14 at 17:22
This isn't an answer to the question asked. Or rather, the only thing that is an answer is 'make everyone buy their own' and 'it's fine'. Doesn't address any of the analysis in the first post or the effects on the game or anything. – user2754 May 8 '14 at 9:24
It's not an extensive analysis, but it does provide a very reasonable way of handling such a ring, if you want it to exist. Having unlimited, free out-of-combat personal healing is not remotely useless (as KRyan suggests). It is, in fact, still an incredibly powerful ability. Also, checking for wandering monsters whenever the party rests is a time-honoured tradition. Not everybody likes it, but it's a totally valid style of play. Can we agree that different people like different play styles, and that D&D allows for that? – mcv May 8 '14 at 14:12

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