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I run a low magic level campaign, where magic items are legacies of the gods or heroes from past ages, very rare items, all unique (except for consumables). There are not random “+1 longswords” around; all have names and stories behind them.

With this being a low-magic-level campaign, the items I am rewarding my characters with are more “useful” than “powerful”. Not many “battle-oriented” objects have gone their way, so a few players were feeling “robbed” of these kinds of prizes.

Setting aside the issue that we seem to want different things of the game (this will be resolved in its own time), I felt like introducing a couple of magic items that wouldn’t break my campaign, and would make them happier at least for the moment. I asked my players what items they wanted to have crafted ex-profeso, tying it in the storyline to not break immersion, and tried to give them what they wanted.

Both the sorcerer and the warlock asked for something to augment the damage of spells, the to-hit chance, and that maybe had slots of other spells or that you could cast spells into it and release later, etc ...

I had never seen these kinds of items (I do not own the DMG) and tried to come up with something satisfactory. What I did was a very “meh” couple of items, too many caveats and too little power, as we found at a later date when one of them bought the DMG and found items that did exactly what they wanted and in their own words “that their characters could afford”. The items were these two:

What I need is a way to build a powered down version of staff of Magi or staff of power that better fits their level.

What I consider “level appropriate” in this case is what is defined as the “norm” for a regular game, taking away my own preconceptions.

What item would be appropriate for a level 8 character, so that when I finish the items and show them to my players I can say with confidence that what I’ve done is standard, not biased, not too much or not too little powerful. Just exactly what they should be getting in standard circumstances.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 21 '18 at 2:55
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Here is my process to achieving a useful homebrew (if I can find a good parallel).

What is level-appropriate

Page 135 of the Dungeon Master's Guide gives some insight into object rarity:

$$ \textbf{Magic Item Rarity} \\ \begin{array}{|c|c|} \hline \textbf{Rarity} & \textbf{Character level} & \textbf{Value} \\ \hline \text{Common} & \text{1st or higher} & \text{50 - 100 gp} \\ \hline \text{Uncommon} & \text{1st or higher} & \text{101-500 gp} \\ \hline \text{Rare} & \text{5th or higher} & \text{501-5,000 gp} \\ \hline \text{Very Rare} & \text{11th or higher} & \text{5,001-50,000 gp} \\ \hline \text{Legendary} & \text{17th or higher} & \text{50,001+ gp} \\ \hline \end{array} $$

However, I tend to ignore the Value section as many magic items break this rule. See Sane Magic Item Prices for more insight into this.

In any case, your magic items to an 8th level character should be in the middle subsection of the Rare magic items.

Find a Similar Item

The best item to map to this is the Staff of the Woodlands (DMG 204). This item gives the bonus to spell attacks and spell charges just like the Staves your characters brought you. Simplify modify this how you see fit for wizard and warlock respectively. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Make spells the same level
    • Whatever you replace the Spells with should be the same level as on the staff of the woodlands with the same charges cost. The free spell (if you chose to offer one to replace pass without trace) should be a utility spell. Don't use only attack spells as that shoehorns the item into a combat item which is not always the best item to create.
  2. What instead of Tree Form?
    • Make the Tree Form replacement something flavorful rather than just a mechanical boost like Power Strike or Spell Absorption. This factor is part of what makes the item Rare as opposed to higher.
  3. Retributive Strike is fine to add
    • Since Retributive Strike is a one-time use property, feel free to add it. Since you have less charges in this staff, the damage will scale appropriately.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 21 '18 at 3:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, pointed directly at my problem and offered a great solution. I based my items on this answer. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Helwar May 4 '18 at 13:28
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There are magic items that do precisely what your players are asking for without being (too) overpowered:

Something to augment the to-hit chance

(DMG p212) Wand of the War Mage: Wand, uncommon (+1), rare (+2), or very rare (+3) (requires attunement by a spellcaster). While you are holding this wand, you gain a bonus to spell attack rolls determined by the wand's rarity. In addition, you ignore half cover when making a spell attack.

Something that you could cast spells into it and release later

(DMG p192) Ring of Spell Storing: Ring, rare (requires attunement). This ring stores spells cast into it, holding them until the attuned wearer uses them. The ring can store up to 5 levels worth of spells at a time. When found, it contains 1d6 - 1 levels of stored spells chosen by the DM.

Something to augment the damage of spells, the to-hit chance, and that maybe had slots of other spells

(DMG p197) Rod of the Pact Keeper: Rod, uncommon (+1), rare (+2), or very rare (+3) (requires attunement by a warlock). While holding this rod, you gain a bonus to spell attack rolls and to the saving throw DCs of your warlock spells. The bonus is determined by the rod's rarity. In addition, you can regain one warlock spell slot as an action while holding the rod. You can't use this property again until you finish a long rest.

Technically, this is not enhancing damage, but the increased difficulty to avoid spells like Fireball would count, IMO.

There are other similar items such as a Staff of the Woodlands (for a druid), a Pearl of Power (recovers a 3rd level spell slot for a spellcaster), an Ioun Stone of Reserve (slightly weaker Ring of Spell Storing, though of the same rarity) and so on that achieve similar effects.

I recommend against giving your players a Staff of the Magi or a Staff of Power at 8th level as these items are seriously overpowered. Even without considering the spells it has, the Staff of Power gives a +2 bonus to melee attack and damage, AC, saving throws, and spell attack rolls!

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DMG Guidelines

In page 38 from DMG, we have a table that indicate what is "level appropriate", as you, yourself, in the comments mentioned you didn't exactly understand what would be level appropriate. There, I would mix the 5-10 levels with the 11-16 levels, as you are not exactly starting it from zero and these are rewards from adventures, and, as the DMG also states on p.135, level 5 characters are already worthy of Rare items. Both tables are presented below, showing only the relevant information that I mention (i.e., I didn't copy the starting gold and normal starting equipment).

$$ \textbf{Magic Item Rarity} \\ \begin{array}{|c|c|} \hline \textbf{Rarity} & \textbf{Character level} & \textbf{Value} \\ \hline \text{Common} & \text{1st or higher} & \text{50 - 100 gp} \\ \hline \text{Uncommon} & \text{1st or higher} & \text{101-500 gp} \\ \hline \text{Rare} & \text{5th or higher} & \text{501-5,000 gp} \\ \hline \text{Very Rare} & \text{11th or higher} & \text{5,001-50,000 gp} \\ \hline \text{Legendary} & \text{17th or higher} & \text{50,001+ gp} \\ \hline \end{array} $$

$$ \textbf{Starting Equipment} \\ \begin{array}{|c|c|} \hline \textbf{Character} & \textbf{Low Magic} & \textbf{Standard} & \textbf{High Magic} \\ \textbf{Level} & \textbf{Campaign} & \textbf{Campaign} & \textbf{Campaign} \\ \hline \text{5th-10th} & \text{-} & \text{-} & \text{One uncommon magic item} \\ \hline \text{11th-16th} & \text{One uncommon} & \text{Two uncommon} & \text{Three uncommon, one rare} \\ & \text{magic item} & \text{magic items} & \text{magic items} \\ \hline \end{array} $$

The point is:

Your upper bound should be 1 rare item and 3 uncommon items, while your lower bound should be no magic item at all.

You clearly stated that you wanted something far from the lower bound.

This guide is a decent guideline for how much power items on DMG have. For your 8th level characters, I would be giving at most "Blue" ranking (permanent) items.

As mentioned in other answer, some DMG options are:

Wand of the War Mage +2 (Rare) - easy effect, balanced for their level. You might want to rename it and give it some lore, but it is essentially a +2 on spell rolls.

Rod of Rulership - Useful for non-combat and role-playing, still has creative use on combat, and certainly has more flavor than a flat +2.

Mantle of Spell Resistance - just a useful defensive tool.

Necklace of Fireballs - Yes, this is light blue, but it is "consumable". It is powerful, but it is also a resource the player will have to manage.

As you see, most are kinda taking one effect from Staff of the Magi and still nerfing it. These should be your guidelines if you want to homebrew a new item that is balanced for their level. As you probably noticed, it might feel underpowered for the players, but these items are actually strong, they are just not legendary optimal choices. You might want to show the mentioned tables from DMG to your players, just so they can understand that they are not supposed to have legendary items at level 8 (either by the rulings or by your setting).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Which tables do you want? I can put them in for you. (Or you can copy the syntax from another question and just edit the text. That's the easiest way) \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 21 '18 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Yeah, I've copied the one from your answer and used the same syntax to the other. I'm just not sure how to make it not break the margin, but welp. Nice to know that it is basically the same environment as the Table/Tabular from LaTeX. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 21 '18 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint Not breaking the margin would involve reorienting it from a horizontal table into a vertical one. Make the current column headings into row headings, etc. Alternately make it a list, we don't need to make a table that simple a full table. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 21 '18 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint Is this more along the lines of what you wanted? (nitsua and I both :) did the raps manually, but it works as a rough method). \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 21 '18 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Nice one, I was wondering if there was a way to break it into another line, it seems that it is only possible by creating another line in the table itself. Thanks for the help, it's nice to learn something new haha. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 21 '18 at 15:47

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