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When looking at the rules, mithral costs 500 gp/lb. Heavy armor needs another 9000 gp to the base price to be made of mithral. A Fullplate weights 50 lbs. The rules state that one has to multiply the original weight with the costs to get the price. Now combining it with the price per lb this would be 25000 gp. The rules also state that an item not primarily made of metal doesn't gain any benefit from being made of mithral. So no other (cheaper) materials for the mithral fullplate could be used.

So something is odd... what is the real price of mithral per pound? Or why do the values for item creation differ so much from the "real" value?

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Do full plate made of mithral also weigh in at 50 lbs or is it lighter? – Tobias Wärre Jun 23 '14 at 10:56
There is a related quest:… – Tobias Wärre Jun 23 '14 at 11:04
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The rules for multiplying costs and weight to get the additional cost of mithral apply only to weapons and non-armor items.

It is perfectly reasonable to say that the price of raw mithral stays the same regardless of it's intended use. That said, the price of various mithral items is influenced by other factors, not only the price of raw material, which is why the disparate pricing seems to occur. Looking at it the other way, you would never use 50 lbs of mithril to make a 25 lbs of resulting armor. Maybe some small amount on top of 25 lbs would get wasted, which is unlikely as usually metals are easily recycled. Even so, the weight of a mithril armor equals to not only weight of mithril plates themselves, but also leather straps, various kinds of joinery such as wire, chains and chainmails, under-armor padding etc.

To complete your example, I would say that for an additional cost of 9000 gp you get 18 lbs of raw mithral, slightly less when you consider a masterworking fee of 150 gp included in the price. Subtracting the 18 lbs from 25 lbs of total armor weight, we are left with 7 lbs. It seems reasonable that for a full plate weighing 50 lbs, 7 lbs would be accounted to padding, joinery, decoration etc. which is not lightened by using mithral. The price of 500 gp/lb holds.

Now moving on to weapons and other non-armor items, the cost of working mithral is calculated by taking the original weight. DuckTapeAl already established that mithral is a defensive material, so maybe it is the case that effective price doubling is related to additional effort put into shaping, hardening and sharpening a slab of mithral into a weapon. Also, with weapons proper balancing is paramount, so while making a sword from mithral, you would actually have to use lighter (and probably more expensive) hilt material, additional weights (preferably also mithral) to keep it up to speed. It's even worse with blunt weapons, as a warhammer needs to be tip-heavy for sufficient momentum, forcing the smith to re-engineer hilt diameter, length and weight to account for the lighter head. On top of that mithral is traditionally said as being very hard to work, which would force the smith to use more sophisticated tools and materials, such as better furnace fuel (for more heat), different hammers (that would not break when striking), unusual tempering fluids (gentler or more volatile) and more resistant sharpening stones (perhaps diamond dust or something similar). All in all that could possibly double the price to procure a specific weapon, even if indeed you need less raw mithral, again making the 500 gp/lbs rule hold.

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The 500gp/lb figure is based on the original steel weight of the object, not the final weight. As such, we're left with mithral coming in at 1000gp/lb of finished product. For your fullplate scenario to work, it would have to 9lbs of mithral and 16lbs of buckles, straps, and padding. Chain shirt is even worse. There 1000gp nets you 12.5 lbs of mithral, without extraneous armor bits to foist weight onto. The only real (and still bad) solution is that mithral is actually pretty cheap, and somehow remarkably hard to work into any item that isn't armor. – John Rhoades Mar 3 at 18:21

The correct price of Mithral is the one of the table. The "500 gp/lb" that you're quoting is from the entry that states how much "other items", or items that aren't listed on the table, cost. You don't use the 500 gp/lb entry to price out armour, because armour has it's own prices already.

There's really only one reason that I can think of for the disparity between Mithral armour costs and the cost of other Mithral items. I don't have any citations for this, but it makes some sense to me.

Mithral is primarily a defensive material. Almost all of it's effects work exclusively on armour or shields. The only traits that a Mithral weapon gains over it's steel counterpart is a lower weight and better hardness. Thus, it makes sense that they would only list a specific cost for armour and shields, while giving a different cost for other items. Since non-armour items aren't typically made from Mithral, it costs more to make that way.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the costs on the table are the market price, not the cost of the raw material. The raw materials cost 1/3 the market price, by the crafting rules. It's possible that making armors out of Mithral requires lest wasted material, and thus is effectively less expensive.

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In Pathfinder, Mithral weapons also count as being made out of silver for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction, without the normal disadvantages of silver weapons. I think your point about it being a primarily defensive material is probably right on the money, though. – GMJoe Jun 25 '14 at 4:10

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