Say one of your party members is a merchant with a wagon. The canvas on the wagon is enchanted in a way that when the flaps are closed, it creates a dark and quiet place, ideal to rest up. Though I can see some limitations here (especially regarding the use of magic and feats), I could see that this could be quite useful while traveling, to prevent fatigue for the first watch as well as offer a bonus "quiet place to rest" while on escort missions.

The issue and confusion I am having is understanding the difference between casting spells that can be attached to items (such as Darkness, Light, and Silence) and crafting magical items with permanent effects. Can only certain spells be used like Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum (that becomes permanent after daily use for a year) or do enchantments rely on different magic altogether?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I really do think you should ask separately about either Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum, or just straight-up ask the community to explain how permanent spell effects and permanent magic items are different, or ask how magic items are made. This question here is already “[are] enchanting an item and creating a magical item […] two different things[?]” focused on your wagon. Adding a question about MPS is really a new question. In general, if the answer(s) to a question clarify a larger issue a bit but prompt new questions, those new questions should be posted separately. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 11 '19 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie The problem I have been having while asking how magical items are made was cleared up by PJRZ. Everyone I asked "how are magic items made?" to replied by quoting XGE's description on crafting magical items. The confusion I was having was being under the assumption that the magic required to enchant items was directly linked and limited to the spell list, raising many complications. I wanted to delete this question and re-ask it but was scared to do so by the warning that popped up when you hit delete. All spells mentioned are examples for clarification and not focal points. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 12 '19 at 5:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Questions should be concise—the background detail here is excessive, when you could instead just say you're interested in enchanting your character's wagon. However, it is hard to understand how the question you're asking is linked back to that story, and it is thus hard to understand the practical problem you're dealing with. Is this question functionally just “how do I add/layer new enchantments onto my wagon”? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 12 '19 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener no. In short, my question was actually trying to understand the difference between casting a spell and enchanting an item. I was confused thinking that crafting magical items were based on the spell list provided, and weren't using a different kind of magic altogether. Though a bad attempt at avoiding answers like "Crafting is permanent while spells are temporary", I relied on a bad habit of using elaborate examples to try and be heard correctly. I apologize to everyone and shall try to fix it. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 13 '19 at 3:42

I think you may be getting confused by terminology. Your question is:

"What are the differences and limitations between enchanting and creating magical items"

As worded, there is no difference between "enchanting" and "creating" as far as magical items go.

What I think you may mean is: "What is the difference between casting a spell on an item to make it magical, and a permanent magical item?"

Here it is best just to realise that casting spells follow the rules in the Player's Handbook (or Basic Rules) and are generally temporary in nature.

When you cast a spell like light, even if you cast it on an object, it is only temporary and lasts only as long as the spell description says it lasts. It does not make the object itself magical (at least, not in a permanent magical way) no matter how many times you cast it.

Spells such as Mordekainen's Magic Sanctum are the exception. They have a specific rule in the description that says "if you cast this spell every day for a year it's effects become permanent". Only very few spells say this (Teleport Circle is another) and it only applies to these spells. It is not a general rule.

Having said that, the rules for creating magical items are pretty abstract and, apart from a recommendation for time and gold, pretty much up to the DM (I went into this a bit with your other question here). If your DM decrees that creating a wagon with a permanent Silence effect requires a year of casting the Silence spell (as well as other expenses), then that's what it takes, but there are no hard-and-fast recipes in the rules.

Also worth noting, as NautArch points out in the comments, that the rules for creating magical items are entirely optional (leaving it open for a DM to decide how such objects are treated in his campaign setting).

  • \$\begingroup\$ So if I'm understanding you correctly, enchanting an item and casting a spell on something are two different things that have little to do with each other, leaving the spell list pretty useless when shopping for magical items? \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 11 '19 at 9:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Correct - there is no direct correlation between the list of spells and the list of available magical items (even though a DM may happen to decide that creating a magical item requires the casting of a particular spell) \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Mar 11 '19 at 10:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah ok. Now I get it (and it feels less restrictive in a sense.) \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 12 '19 at 4:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may also help to clarify that 'enchanting items' is a purely optional thing that a DM may not allow (unless the spell specifically works on items.) And that those Xanathar rules are optional as well. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 13 '19 at 15:58

There is no difference between enchanted items and magic items. What you’re describing aren’t magic items or enchanted items, though. What you’re describing is just casting spells on things.

The difference between magic items and what you’re describing is that most spells expire after a certain amount of time, whereas enchanted magical items of the kind you’re picturing have permanent effects.

All your examples are short-term spells that don’t enchant anything, they just temporarily have an effect on things:

  • Darkness lasts 10 minutes for one casting. It wold take 6 spell slots just to cover a short rest.
  • Silence lasts 10 minutes, so it has the same high price in spell slots. Additionally it’s a concentration spell, like darkness, so one caster could not have both working at the same time: as soon as silence were cast, darkness would end, and vice versa.
  • Light lasts for 1 hour before expiring. It can be cast as often as the caster wishes though, since it’s a cantrip. It still doesn’t enchant anything.
  • Spells that make a weapon a +1 magic weapon are similarly temporary, not enduring enchantments of the sort that magical weapons like +1 longswords and the like are imbued with. The cantrip shillelagh has to be recast every minute; magic weapon expires after an hour, and like darkness, requires a 2nd-level spell slot for each casting.

To do what you’re hoping for — permanent magical effects that work by their own rules — you would need to make your wagon into a custom magic item, with all the complex, custom ingredients and rituals that involves. You can’t just toss done spells at it and have a magic wagon.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. I'm still learning about magical items and guess I am still confused on what magic is needed to create magical items. I presumed that it was one of the spells in the spell list that were constantly cast upon materials for a day until it stuck, but I might be wrong? I also didn't know a +1 dagger bought in a store was just a temporary fix. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 11 '19 at 6:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ One correction though, is that I was wanting to cast Silence, not Sleep... Something like Mordekainen's Magic Sanctum that prevents sounds from being heard, though I thought there was another one... The idea was to create a dark, silent place so one could then sleep on their own accord ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 11 '19 at 6:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Neither of those things: a +1 dagger is permanent, and magic items aren’t made just by casting spells at them repeatedly. You might want to post a question about your more general confusion about magic items, as comments can’t really address that properly. (I’ll fix the sleep/silence oversight.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 11 '19 at 6:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Comments can’t be used for new questions. If you can a question about what makes a permanent magic item a permanent magic item, or a question about how spells like Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum are or aren’t creating permanent magic items, you’ll have to post those questions. I can’t answer in comments, and more importantly, you can’t rely on one person to answer all your questions when the point is to have the whole community read and possibly answer any questions asked on the site. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 11 '19 at 6:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Please don't make fundamental edits to the question as the errors or issues may have been resolved/noted in the answers. If you the edit changes how the answers are related to it, then it's best to just post a new question if it is different enough and the current answers can't resolve the edited issue. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 11 '19 at 13:28

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