Some magical items, like weapons, have a bonus to-hit and possibly a special ability that is rated in terms of an enhancement bonus. Combining these two together can give an estimate of the item's power, ranging from +1 to +10.

Is there a guide for at which level characters should have items of a particular bonus?

Like "at level 3 they should get +1 items, at level X +2 items, ... ."


No, there are not express guidelines as to what kind of bonuses a character should have at a particular level.

However, this can be somewhat inferred by the suggested Wealth-by-Level guidelines, as characters are supposed to spend certain portions of their wealth on particular item types, which can be compared against the prices of the relevant items.

From the Gamemastering section of the Core rulebook:

For a balanced approach, PCs that are built after 1st level should spend no more than 25% of their wealth on weapons, 25% on armor and protective devices, 25% on other magic items, 15% on disposable items like potions, scrolls, and wands, and 10% on ordinary gear and coins. Different character types might spend their wealth differently than these percentages suggest; for example, arcane casters might spend very little on weapons but a great deal more on other magic items and disposable items.

Additionally, there are optional systems available in the Pathfinder Unchained book for removing the items entirely and simply granting the bonuses directly. While there are some criticisms of the pacing of the bonuses granted by the Automatic Bonus Progression, it could also be used as a guideline for the pacing at which some of these bonuses are expected to advance.


While everything stated by Ray of Light's answer is correct, It is also worth noting that as a DM you should be looking at the player party to help determine when is appropriate for them to get better weapons.

If you are using a pre-made campaign and the party seems to be struggling on encounters they shouldn't, it may mean it is time for an upgrade. Certain groups may enjoy different levels of difficulty and restricting or increasing the quantity of magical equipment may be a good way to scale difficulty.

Another aspect you can look at for the level at which magic weapons can be obtained, would be to look at the required caster level to craft such a weapon.

Caster Level for Weapons: The caster level of a weapon with a special ability is given in the item description. For an item with only an enhancement bonus and no other abilities, the caster level is three times the enhancement bonus. If an item has both an enhancement bonus and a special ability, the higher of the two caster level requirements must be met.

This means a level 3 character could make a +1 weapon, a level 5 could make a +1 with a weapon ability such as Cruel but would have to be level 10 to make a Flaming weapon. Which also means that by the time they can make a flaming weapon, they can also make it a +3. So use this metric with a grain of salt.


You can also look at the bestiary, and see at what CR certain creatures get specific levels of DR. A creature with DR-/Magic would need at least a +1 or other special materials. where as creatures with DR-/adamantine would need a +4, and creatures with DR-/Alignment would need a +5. Again. These DRs are also overcome by specific tools, and heavily enchanted weapons are basically swiss army knives. A non-magic tool can be just as effective as well if your afraid of overpowering your party.


+1 enhancement bonus at every 3rd or 4th level

This suggestion comes from the following.

  1. The minimum level required to craft a magic weapon is 3 caster levels per enhancement bonus.

  2. A +1 every 3 or 4 levels roughly follows the Gamemastering chapter's Wealth by Level table. The chapter recommends that 25% of a starting character's wealth go towards weapon. If this suggestion is followed, then a character can obtain a +1 weapon at 4th level, +2 weapon at 7th or 8th level, a +3 weapon at 11th or 12 level, and so on.

  3. Enhancement bonuses from the paladin's divine bond, magus's arcane pool, warpriest's sacred weapon, and the greater magic weapon spell increase at intervals of 3 or 4 levels.

Thus, if you want the PCs to have magic weapons with enhancement bonuses on par with the wealth recommendations and other abilities in the game, then you want to provide a +1 weapon at 3rd or 4th level and then a better weapon every 3 or 4 levels after. Whether you want to award them sooner or later on that spectrum depends on your preferences as a GM.


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