I know that Intelligent Items are considered creatures for at least some purposes, but I have heard that they don't possess skills or feats from Hit Dice, on account of having no Hit Dice. Do the rules indicate anywhere that intelligent items should, in fact, have no racial Hit Dice in the construct type? The reason I would assume that they do is because the DMG (here quoted from the SRD) says:

Intelligent items can actually be considered creatures because they have Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. Treat them as constructs.

And, while the game never tells you how many hit dice intelligent items have, creatures do always have Hit Dice, as far as I'm aware.

Please note: While it would be a nice bonus for a 'Yes' answer to provide also some way of determining how many Hit Dice an item has, that is not principally what this question is about. The question is if intelligent items have Hit Dice, not how many Hit Dice they have; you cannot assume in your answer that they do, in fact, have Hit Dice and then work from there.


3 Answers 3


Question: Do the rules indicate anywhere that intelligent magic items should, in fact, have no construct racial Hit Dice?

Answer: No, the rules do not indicate anywhere that intelligent magic items should have no construct racial Hit Dice. However, the rules also do not indicate anywhere that intelligent magic items should have construct racial Hit Dice… or any kind of Hit Dice, for that matter. Because of this, by default, intelligent magic items don't have Hit Dice.

This made more sense before the 3.5 revision

Prior to the 3.5 revision, constructs received no feats and no skill points due to Hit Dice, no matter their Intelligence scores. Further, constructs didn't receive extra hit points based on their size. (See the Monster Manual (2000) section Reading the Entries on the Size and Type construct (5) and Creature Advancement by Type on construct (13) or hunt down that information in the section Monster Overview here.)

Combined, this meant that when the Dungeon Master's Guide (2000) said, "Intelligent items can actually be considered creatures since they have Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores" (228), they could be more easily considered a construct. Even without Hit Dice, they could do what the DMG said they can do—use their powers, possibly communicate, use their hearing and sight to perceive some distance around them, and so on—, all despite possessing Constitution, Dexterity, and Strength as nonabilities and possessing no Hit Dice.

The type construct changed with the 3.5 revision, but the Dungeon Master's Guide section on Intelligent Magic Items only changed superficially (e.g. adding powers, changing prices). This left intelligent magic items in a very weird place, rules-wise: They still weren't wholly creatures that possess the construct type as they possessed no Hit Dice therefore they gained no skills and no feats, yet the game continued to say to consider them creatures, just as it had prior to the 3.5 revision.

(This reader believes a minor attempt was made to reconcile this disparity with the 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell Nybor's psychic imprint [trans] (Magic Books of Faerûn Web column "Nybor's Small Codex: Spells from a Former Zulkir"). That spell allows the caster to stick a creature's personality into a magic item to make an intelligent magic item, and, from then on, the personality is forever unchanging. Seriously, to this reader the spell seems like a 500-word excuse as to why—at least in the Forgotten Realms—intelligent magic items don't have skills and feats by default.)

And this is how things have stayed… all the way through Pathfinder. And, as Pathfinder's first edition approaches a close—over a decade after Wizards of the Coast ceased publication of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5—and seems to be transitioning toward a second edition far removed from its original material, it seems this issue—"Intelligent Magic Items: Are They Constructs and, If So, How Much Are They Constructs?"—will never be adequately addressed by the folks who worked on Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition. (James Jacobs, I'm looking at you.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Aside, if it is ever helpful to treat an intelligent magic item as if it had some number of hit dice in order to adjudicate the resolution of an effect, it probably makes the most sense to consider the item as if it had hit dice equal to its caster level, congruent with how a magic item's saving throw bonuses are determined (2 + 1/2 CL equivalent to a 2 + 1/2 HD good save). \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Jun 1, 2019 at 8:40

There is one way to give an intelligent item hit dice, by the books.

While I have in a previous answer, proposed that intelligent items can advance as constructs based on the exact DMG quote provided in the question, it is an excellent point to make regarding how many and when exactly do they get said hit dice.

Intelligent items are treated as constructs, which means that they are also considered to be creatures. They also have an intelligence score above 3.

This means that they can gain experience points and take class levels, unlike most constructs.

Here is the relevant page from the Monster Manual that allows Intelligent items to gain Construct Type hit dice:

Increased Hit Dice: Intelligent creatures that are not humanoid in shape, and nonintelligent monsters, can advance by increasing their Hit Dice. Creatures with increased Hit Dice are usually superior specimens of their race, bigger and more powerful than their run-of-the-mill fellows.

The free will issue can be resolved with the Awaken Construct spell.

For those concerned with the false game balance promoted by so many, the Savage Species rules for estimating level adjustment of creatures can cover the "cost" of the intelligent item's built in abilities.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Constructs get bonus hit points based off of size. A wooden door is medium-sized so if we extrapolate backwards like you suggest a magic 10 hp door would have -1 total hit dice, which is very weird. Also, giving an intelligent item (or a regular one for that matter) hit dice isn't super relavent; the question is whether all intelligent items have Hit Dice or not. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2019 at 7:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you show your math, I think you are off a bit. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Jun 1, 2019 at 22:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep, you are right, it's actually -2 total hit dice ^^; Forgot NPCs get average hp for the first hit die. A medium construct gets 20 bonus hit points. A wooden door has 10 hit points. An intelligent wooden door, thus, has 10-20=-10 hit points from construct HD according to your method. -10/5 = -2 so that's -2 HD. Which isn't super reasonable, I think. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 2, 2019 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that it would get the bonus hit points once it became a construct... which would still invalidate your negative hit dice theory. You are also probably not understanding my method, based on the steps you just presented? \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Jun 2, 2019 at 2:08

The "HD" of an intelligent item is linked to the "HD" of the item it is based on. Take for instance a talking simple wood door.

A simple wood door has hardness 5 and 10 hp according to the SRD. http://www.d20srd.org/srd/dungeons.htm

So a Intelligent Talking Door that is a simple wood door has DR 5/- and a single "HD" with 10 hp.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That is a really cool interpretation I have never encountered before, but you are gonna need to give some more explanation to get an upvote from me. I buy that an intelligent item totally keeps the HD it had before, if you can show it had any, but I'm not clear on how you get from a door having 10 hp to a door having a single hit die. Would a stone door also have a single 60-hp Hit Die? It seems like having a set number of hit points is sort of like not having any Hit Dice and so the items would inherit the hit points of the object they are based off of as well s not having any HD \$\endgroup\$ May 31, 2019 at 19:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Much like the size of a creature's hit die varies according to what creature it is, Intelligent items have a single hit die, as required by nature of being a creature, the size of which is determined by the base object. \$\endgroup\$ May 31, 2019 at 20:04

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