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I'm guiding a player with making a personal magic staff and would like feedback on how to properly price the item, as there are several methods that it could be done. Note, this is for 3.5e, not Pathfinder.

The staff has the following spell abilities imbued:

  • Cure Serious Wounds (1 charge)
  • Restoration (2 charges)
  • Heal (2 charges)
  • Raise Dead (10 charges)

The question basically comes down to which price we should be comparing to determine the "most costly" effect and so on: just the base spell cost, the cost based on the charges an effect uses, or the entire cost including expensive material components. In the tables below, the portions of the cost used to order the effects is highlighted \$\require{color}\color{red}{\text{red}}\$.

Method 1: Calculate the base cost of each spell (not counting extra costs) to determine "most costly" effect, then add extra costs \$\newcommand{\gp}{\text{ gp}}\require{color}\$\begin{array}{l c r l r} \textit{Heal} &= & \tfrac{1}{2}\times( & \color{red}{6 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & & & &)\ = & 12\,375.00\gp \\ \textit{Raise Dead} &= & \tfrac{1}{10}\times( & \color{red}{5 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & \times\tfrac{3}{4} &+ & 5\,000\gp \times 50 &)\ = & 26\,546.88\gp \\ \textit{Restoration} &= & \tfrac{1}{2}\times( & \color{red}{4 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & \times \tfrac{1}{2} &+ & 100\gp \times 50 &)\ = & 6\,625.00\gp \\ \textit{Cure Serious} &= & & \color{red}{3 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & \times \tfrac{1}{2} & & & = & 6\,187.50\gp \\ \hline \textbf{Total} &&&&&&&=& 51\,734.38\gp \end{array}

Method 2: Calculate the base cost of each spell based on the number of charges the spell uses (not counting extra costs) to determine "most costly" effect, then calculate normally.

\begin{array}{l c r l r} \textit{Heal} &= & \color{red}{\tfrac{1}{2}\times(} & \color{red}{6 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & & & &)\ = & 12\,375.00\gp \\ \textit{Cure Serious} &= & & \color{red}{3 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & \times \tfrac{3}{4} & & & = & 9\,281.25\gp \\ \textit{Restoration} &= & \color{red}{\tfrac{1}{2}\times(} & \color{red}{4 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & \times \tfrac{1}{2} &+ & 100\gp \times 50 &)\ = & 6\,625.00\gp \\ \textit{Raise Dead} &= & \color{red}{\tfrac{1}{10}\times(} & \color{red}{5 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & \times \tfrac{1}{2} &+ & 5\,000\gp \times 50 &)\ = & 26\,031.25\gp \\ \hline \textbf{Total} &&&&&&&=& 54\,312.50\gp \end{array}

Method 3: Calculate the full cost of each spell (including extra costs) to determine "most costly" effect, then calculate as normal.

\begin{array}{l c r l r} \textit{Raise Dead} &= & \color{red}{\tfrac{1}{10}\times(} & \color{red}{5 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & & \color{red}{+} & \color{red}{5\,000\gp \times 50} &)\ = & 27\,062.50\gp \\ \textit{Heal} &= & \color{red}{\tfrac{1}{2}\times(} & \color{red}{6 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & \times \tfrac{3}{4} & & &)\ = & 9\,281.25\gp \\ \textit{Restoration} &= & \color{red}{\tfrac{1}{2}\times(} & \color{red}{4 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & \times \tfrac{1}{2} & \color{red}{+} & \color{red}{100\gp \times 50} &)\ = & 6\,625.00\gp \\ \textit{Cure Serious} &= & & \color{red}{3 \times 11 \times 375\gp} & \times \tfrac{1}{2} & & & = & 6\,187.50\gp \\ \hline \textbf{Total} &&&&&&&=& 49\,156.25\gp \end{array}

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour! Just to be clear, the DM has already approved the creation of this original magic item, correct? Thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 13 '18 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I have. I'm the DM. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Jun 13 '18 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ And wow SevenSidedDie, that's a lot of work to make that look fancy... heh \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Jun 13 '18 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Err.. not that it really matters, but that was me. d7 just fixed a little blunder I had. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 13 '18 at 21:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Would an examination of the ramifications of allowing such an item to set a precedent be in order, or would that just be noise, this magic staff being unique or the 10 charges thing having already been deemed a nonissue for your campaign? (That is, as this answer notes, a staff that uses 10 charges for a spell isn't a by-the-book thing.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 13 '18 at 22:11
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The correct pricing is method 1: Count the most expensive spell before reducing price for multiple-charge cost.

Benchmark: staff of fire

The staff of fire has burning hands (1 charge), fireball (1 charge) and wall of fire (2 charges). It costs 28,500 to buy, or half that, 14,250 to craft.

Before any reductions, on 375 * casterlevel * spell level alone, the most expensive in order are wall of fire (12,000 gp), fireball (9,000 gp) and burning hands (3,000 gp). Placed in that order, the cost is as follows:

  • Wall of fire: 12,000 * 0.5 (for costing two charges) = 6,000 gp
  • Fireball: 6,000 * 0.75 (for being the second spell) = 6,750 gp
  • Burning hands: 3,000 * 0.5 (for being the third spell) = 1,500 gp
  • Total: 14,250 gp (the correct craft price!)

If you applied the half-price to the two-charge spell first, it would change the order to make fireball the first spell, giving this incorrect calculation:

  • Fireball: 6,000 (first spell) = 6,000 gp
  • Wall of fire: 12,000 * 0.75 * 0.5 (for costing two charges and being the second spell) = 4,500 gp
  • Burning hands: 3,000 * 0.5 (for being the third spell) = 1,500 gp
  • Total: 12,000 gp (the wrong craft price!)

Therefore, the correct calculation must be to calculate the most expensive spell before applying the discount for multiple charges.

According to the text, you then apply any discount for charge cost, but note that rules-as-written, it doesn't say anywhere that you can make more than a two-charge cost, even though some items are found with a five-charge cost. Ten charges may be pushing it.

Then, only having determined the price in this manner can you begin crafting, whereupon you spend the material components.

Final price: 51,735 gp and 37.5 cp

All spells must be at the same level, and the minimum caster level on heal is 11. Hence our prices before spell components are:

  • Heal: 24,750 gp * 0.5 (two charges) = 12,375 gp
  • Raise dead: 20,625 gp * 0.75 (second spell) * 0.1 (ten charges) = 1,546 gp 87.5 cp
  • Restoration: 16,500 gp * 0.5 ( third spell ) * 0.5 (two charges) = 4,125 gp
  • Cure serious wounds: 12,375 gp * 0.5 (fourth spell) = 6,187 gp 50 cp
  • Subtotal: 24,234gp 37.5 cp

Next you must pay spell components equivalent to casting the spell the maximum number of times the staff can, accounting for charges: 25 * 100gp for restoration, and 5 * 5,000 gp for raise dead, total 27,500 (more expensive than the spells themselves!)

The total craft price of your staff is therefore 51,734gp and 37.5cp.

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The cost of the effects of the staff is determined before altering them for charge use or adding in material components. Your example 1 is the correct answer.

From Creating Staffs

The cost for the materials is subsumed in the cost for creating the staff—375 gp × the level of the highest-level spell × the level of the caster, plus 75% of the value of the next most costly ability (281.25 gp × the level of the spell × the level of the caster), plus one-half of the value of any other abilities (187.5 gp × the level of the spell × the level of the caster). Staffs are always fully charged (50 charges) when created.

This is its own paragraph that is placed before the modifiers to price. It then goes on to state that each of these price points can then be modified, but makes no mention of rearranging their relative worth.

Additionally, the portion on costly material components clearly separates itself from the rest of the rules, appending to the cost of making the staff regardless of the other abilities' relative worth.

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The correct answer is to first ignore the formulas, and only after following Step One listed in the crafting of custom magic items, does one then refer to the formulas.

As per this answer, your first step is to actually ignore the formulas, and check and see if there is a magic item or magic item(s) which is/are similar in function, and to use the price(s) of those item(s) as your price, or in the case of that not being sufficient, as the baseline price(s) for Step Two.

Only after Step One fails to produce a result or produces an insufficient result, does one attempt to use Step Two, ie: the formulas.

If you have reached Step Two, calculate the most expensive spell before applying any discount for multiple charges, plus material components costs. As other answers have given excellent breakdowns, I shall not repeat those parts of their answers.

Quoted in part from the referenced answer:

From the Magic Item Compendium (emphasis added):

The magic item prices ... aren’t the result of any intricate formulas or detailed equation. Instead, each price is set individually by comparing the item (and more important, its likely perceived value to player characters) to other items commonly used by PCs.

That last part bears emphasizing again:

It doesn’t do much good to say that a new item is worth about the same as a magnificent cape of divine eminence if the latter item is priced so exorbitantly that characters aren’t interested in buying or keeping it.

Instead, compare new items to those that characters are already choosing and using—magic weapons and armor, rings of protection, cloaks of resistance, rings of invisibility, boots of striding and springing, and of course, the various ability- score boosters. If you want your characters to find a newly designed magic item compelling, make sure that it can compete with the obvious choice they would have otherwise made.

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