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Answers to questions like What should the rarity rating be for this homebrew Healing Brick? are usually based on comparison of effects of an item. On the other hand, there are questions like

that make me doubt if rarity is really tied to power*.

Is there any rule or guideline that says more powerful items should have a higher rarity (or that rare items are more powerful than less rare items)? For example, if I have a legendary item can I say for sure that it is more powerful than items in the lower rarity tiers? Or can rarity also be indicative of other factors besides power?

I'm looking for general rule or guideline, or lack of it.


* If definition of item's power is needed, use the same definition that is applicable to the word on DMG p135.

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    \$\begingroup\$ <comments removed> We don’t need an operationalised definition of power to answer the question—this ain’t charop. If the asker’s problem is (in part) making an incorrect assumption, by all means correct it—in an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 30 '18 at 15:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, that isn’t directed at you. It’s directed at the comments saying the question needed changing or closing. My comment is explaining why the comments weren’t useful and were removed. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 30 '18 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh ok. English is not my first language and I tend to miss things sometimes. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Nov 30 '18 at 15:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie As I believe this question to have an XY problem, but do not have my two key reference books to hand, there either will or won't be an XY answer in a day or two. While I disagree with your point on the lack of a need for better scope - why is in part laid out here - I accept it for the usual good reasons of keeping things on track. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 30 '18 at 15:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: How is the power of a magic item measured according to the rules? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Nov 30 '18 at 20:08
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Rarity and usefulness/power are very weakly correlated, in my experience.

This has been discussed elsewhere (reddit, GitP, ENWorld), primarily when 5e was first released. I'll point you to my favorite resource, the Sane Magical Prices Index by GitP user Saidoro: I've used it for years in order to gate items in campaigns and have been very happy.

First Saidoro establishes that item rarities are obviously bunk in plenty of cases: compare (for yourself) the broom of flying/winged boots to the wings of flying or boots of levitation. We see there functionally-equivalent or even weaker items "rated" two tiers above comparands.

After dividing the items into comparable classes (consumables, combat items, utility items) Saidoro and other posters spent months discussing/debating the utility/power of each and set a scale, in gp, for almost every magical item in the DMG. Follow the threads both on GitP and on reddit/ENworld (linked in Saidoro's .pdf) if you'd like to see more of the reasoning that goes into each ranking/valuation.

The long and the short of it is that while one might argue with some of the valuations, there's no question that this list, compiled by many actual players and much more finely-graduated than the rarity tiers, is a better guide to power than is rarity.

So I threw all the prices and rarities into my statistics software and ran a regression with rarity as the explanatory variable: the R2 value is ~0.0236. That tells us roughly 2% of the power/utility of each item--as judged by users and tabulated by Saidoro--is attributable to the item's rarity.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Amazing how much work you all put into this. And I really like using regression and calculating correlation. Numbers continue to be best system... :D \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Nov 30 '18 at 15:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I already love this answer, though the XGtE take on magic items and rarity table, and distribution might be related or a useful reference. (Not everyone is as enamored of the "sane item prices" ... though I find it a nice supplement to ponder) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 30 '18 at 15:48
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There is a rule but it is very loose

The DMG says (p135) (emphasis mine):

Rarity provides a rough measure of an item's power relative to other magic items.

The emphasis is on rough here as the designers are not applying this as consistently as you would expect. Examples of this are in András' answer and nitsua60's answer and the cases as mentioned in the question

I normally play a lot in the Ebberon setting where the rarity of magic items is a bit different anyway. Therefor I spitball rarity and price a bit by looking at similar items but heavily modify it by distance to large manufacturing centers and such.

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 for being nothing but a quote with no logic presented. This isn't a rules question, so defaulting to the text isn't automatically accurate. To put it another way... just because the book makes an assertion, that doesn't make it true. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Nov 30 '18 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. this is a "weakly" rule question. That is, I was asking for a rule, but it is hard to treat it as a real rule when even designers do not follow it \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Nov 30 '18 at 13:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 Because no evidence is given to justify the claim. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Nov 30 '18 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. it is not normally my style but the question asked was what the general rule was. No request for explanation or consideration. So in my opinion keeping it to a rule location & quote was the clearest anwser \$\endgroup\$ – Dinomaster Nov 30 '18 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer needs a lot more support. According to DnDBeyond there are over 400 magic items (including +1,+2,+3 variations) just in the DMG which means that 5 examples isn't really that compelling. I'm not saying you are wrong, I'm saying you need to make your case better if you are saying that the designers aren't following their own guidelines. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Nov 30 '18 at 16:41
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Not really

Beside your examples, a Flame Tongue (rare), is much better than a Frost Brand (very rare)1, and a Ring of Invisibility (legendary) does not even deserve very rare in my opinon.

Rarity is very inconsistent.


1) Frost Brand provides 1d6 extra damage, while Flame Tongue provides 2d6. Both require attunement, and while Frost Brand provides a very nice fire resistance, your offensive items should improve your offense.
2) Turning invisible at will is great, but it takes your action, making your DPR go down in combat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @András What makes a Flame Tongue better than a Frost Brand? And why should a Ring of Invisibility not deserve 'very rare' status? These are very specific claims with nothing in the answer to back them up. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Nov 30 '18 at 16:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ According to DnDBeyond there are over 400 magic items (including +1,+2,+3 variations) just in the DMG which means that 5 examples isn't really that compelling. I'm not saying you are wrong, I'm saying you need to make your case better. And you need to explain what you are actually using these examples to say. We cannot vote on what you don't put into your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Nov 30 '18 at 16:34

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