I'm starting a new 3.5 campaign, using only the 3 core books for character creation, and starting all my players off at level 1. One of my players has written a (rather good) backstory for his character, but it would require him to start with a Hat of Disguise. Since I am a fairly new DM, I have little experience balancing magical items, and I am unsure whether I should allow it. My questions:
- Will a 1st-level player with a Hat of Disguise upset party balance? To what amount?
- Will it help to give that player a related disadvantage/plot hook, eg. The player loaned the money for the hat from some dwarves, and it's time to collect?
- Should I offer the other characters similar advantages?
- Should I somehow nerf the hat? Eg. one use per day?
- Is there a general rule of thumb for balancing magic items or other advantages like this? Based on gold cost or caster level, perhaps?
Some more information:
- The character is a rogue.
- The character will never sell the hat.
- The Hat is a CL1 wondrous item that costs 1800. It allows the wearer to alter his appearance as per the first level disguise self spell.
- I am aware of some advice on the subject, such as the half-wealth and 25% rules (see for instance this answer. However, these seem to be guidelines for letting characters buy items rather than granting items to enhance roleplay.
In short, I want to give him the hat because it'd make for some good roleplay, but I don't want to incite jealousy or greatly alter the balance of the game.
Originally this question included the backstory of the character but this was removed as it was confusing people. Unfortunately, many of the original answers rely on information from the backstory so I've added a summary here:
The character wants to use the hat of disguise to maintain a life-long disguise as an elf.