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I'm running my first ever campaign. The party of 4 are trying to unite a valley community (a kobold tribe, a human village, and a dwarven expedition) together against the incoming orc invasion. If they ever succeed, I wanted to gift them some magic items from the communities.

  • To the warrior, a gift from the dwarves: A really big, high quality two-handed sword with the reach property. If it kills a creature, it also does 1d6 damage to another enemy within 10 feet of the wielder that is adjacent to the killed creature.

  • To the dragonborn Paladin, a gift from the kobolds: A shield made from eggshells that were broken by the orcs. (The idea is that kobold eggs are really hard at first, and they become softer and softer toward the end to let the kobold get out.) The shield provides an additional +1 AC (for a total of +3) when the wielder is under half HP. When the wielder would take physical damage (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing), reduce the damage by 1.

  • To the fat Halfling Life Cleric: a magic mace. When you heal a creature, the mace becomes a +1 weapon until the end of the wielder's next turn.

  • To the Mage: an amulet from the alchemist's daughter. Once per day, you can cast a spell as if it were one level higher than the slot used to cast the spell.

Items do not require attunement for the character they are gifted to. If another character wants to use it, it needs attunement.

I want to give them "permanent" items, something they'll keep from this adventure. Not a 3 charge item they will discard after 2 sessions.

Are those items too strong for low-level characters? Is one stronger compared to the others?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 9 at 8:08
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A bit of a balance issue

I have no problem with the shield and the amulet, I feel like both are useful but not overpowered. I feel like the greatsword is pretty good but the mace is clearly not as useful as the others.

The shield: Basic but useful, a bit lower than the classic +1 shield

  • +1 when the user is "bloodied" (under 50% of their max HP)

    • Less useful than just a +1 shield

    • The player might need to be reminded that they have this ability

  • Physical damage reduced by 1

    • Most useful at lower level but still a cool small bonus later

The amulet: Pretty cool and versatile

  • Once per long rest, you can cast a spell as it was one level higher than the spell slot used

    • No limitation about what spells are concerned bring a lot of versatility. Hold Person and other "control" spell could become extremely useful (but the "once per long rest" keep it from becoming Over Powered)

The greatsword: Leaning to the OP (especially with Sentinel and some other feats)

  • Reach tag:

    • allow the fighter to stay out of reach of their opponent

    • wider range for attacks of opportunity (which can also trigger the second effect)

  • On a kill, 1d6 damage on a creature 10ft from the attacker and adjacent of the target

    • No action required so is repeatable as long as there is weak adjacent enemies

    • No attack roll against the second creature to damage it

The mace: The biggest "meh"

  • If the cleric heal somebody, the mace is +1 until the end of its next turn

    • Need to use resources to activate (either spells or other healing capacities)

    • The cleric will only have their next turn to use the weapon if they don't have a way to heal and attack during the same round (attack of opportunity or not using their action to heal).


From the comments

It's true the mace is a bit less powerfull compared to others, so I tought I could give it additional 1d4 radiant damage when it has the +1 bonus, or make the bonus last until the end of the second next turn of the wielder.

This seems a bit better but still not on the same level for another reason I just realized : which character will have the items. The 3 others items are related to something like a "primary ability" of the others classes :

  • The fighter will have enhanced weapon attacks

  • The mage will have an enhanced cast per day

  • The paladin will have an enhanced AC

I don't know how the cleric is played (maybe the player plays it as a war priest in the front line) but as a full caster class, clerics usually use weapon attacks when they are out of spells and/or can't use their cantrip. If I played a cleric and could choose between the Amulet and the Mace, the Amulet would be directly picked.

--

The sword could need to roll again to hit with the additional attack. Also, the additional attack would not cause another additional attack if it kills something.

The ability need a bit of rephrasing then. Something like

Once per turn (or round), when an attack with this weapon bring its target to 0 HP, you can make a free melee attack an enemy adjacent to the original target within reach. On hit, the target takes 1d6 slashing damage"

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    \$\begingroup\$ Reach can also have a negative effect on OAs: The enemies can maneuver in a 5x5 area instead of a 3x3 square area centered at the warrior allowing them to attack targets at a 15ft distance from the warrior after entering melee with him without provoking a OA. \$\endgroup\$ – fabian Aug 9 at 10:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's true the mace is a bit less powerfull compared to others, so I tought I could give it additional 1d4 radiant damage when it has the +1 bonus, or make the bonus last until the end of the second next turn of the wielder. \$\endgroup\$ – Matteo Devi Aug 9 at 10:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ The sword could need to roll again to hit with the additional attack. Also, the additional attack would not cause another additional attack if it kills something. \$\endgroup\$ – Matteo Devi Aug 9 at 10:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Matteodevi Edited to take your comments into account \$\endgroup\$ – Nahyn - support Monica Cellio Aug 9 at 12:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not so sure the greatsword is quite as powerful as you make it seem. A glaive is a reach weapon that does 1d10 damage. A greatsword does 2d6, only 1.5 more on average. The 1d6 bonus averages 3.5, but I'd be surprised if one in three hits killed an enemy adjacent to another enemy- call it another 1hp average damage per hit. In essence, it's a glaive with +2-3 damage per hit: nice, but I'd rank it at or below the level of a +1 glaive (since damage scales much faster than AC, the attack bonus is the better part of the normal +1 magic weapon). \$\endgroup\$ – Syric Aug 9 at 16:21
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All of these are fine

When you look at the random rewards table, there's a chance for a level 1 hoard to actually generate 4 magic items from table F, which includes +1 weapons and armor. This means that a +1 item is not considered inherently unbalanced for a character of level 1-4, and not a single one of your items reaches the power of a true +1 item.

That means they're all minor items, with very minor enhancements. None of their abilities are going to be turning any tides in battle and I would not be surprised if players will trade them in for better stuff later.

The only one that might be used for shenanigans is the Mage's amulet, because it lets you use a spell slot of higher level than you normally have. But even then, you can only use it to upcast something you could normally cast anyway, so at best you'll be able to target two creatures instead of one with a buff spell before you normally could. Fun, but not game-breaking.

The others aren't going to be doing anything anything spectacular. A few points extra damage, a few points less damage, but nothing serious. Each of these characters would be more powerful with a simple +1 weapon or armor, and since we've already seen that they can randomly get one with a bit of luck, this won't break your game in any way.

In fact, if you want these items to be permanent, they are probably too weak because the players are likely to trade them in for some other random item they find later that helps them more.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll think about limiting the amulet to certain levels (for example level 1 to 3 spells) or make the other a bit stronger. \$\endgroup\$ – Matteo Devi Aug 9 at 9:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Matteodevi I would not bother, the player is likely to replace the amulet before they hit level 7. Even then, it's not strong, just slightly better than the rest. But if the player has to wait 3 levels to get any good use out of it, that's probably warranted. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Aug 9 at 9:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Matteodevi while I appreciate the checkmark, it's generally advised to wait at least 24 hours before awarding it. Accepting an answer reduces the chance of getting more, potentially better answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Aug 9 at 9:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I removed the checkmark. Thanks for all the advices. I'll put back it again tomorrow. \$\endgroup\$ – Matteo Devi Aug 9 at 9:41
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Item Power/Balancing is Subjective

What I find to be the best way to deal with magic items is as follows:

There are two things that are relevant to consider regarding power balancing as a DM:

  1. Intra-party balance (aka - are the PCs well-balanced against each other); and,
  2. Encounter balance (aka - is an encounter challenging and rewarding for the PCs).

Intra-Party Balance

So long as your PCs are each meaningfully contributing to the party without overshadowing the other PCs, you're doing fine. This also means that magic items should not be doled out equally. It's perfectly fine to hold off on giving the Level 2 Moon Druid who's been stomping all of your encounters that Ioun Stone. Instead, maybe your Barbarian needs a new Flaming Axe of Doom to keep up.

Similarly, if your L10 Monk is feeling kind of ineffective in a party of full-casters, maybe he needs a Staff of Thunder and Lightning to make him feel unique and special.

Encounter Balance

If you find that your PCs' magic items significantly increase their power level, then all you need to do is to increase their effective levels when building an encounter. If your party has particularly powerful items, then maybe they should even count as being two levels higher when you're balancing encounters. So long as you do so conservatively and keep a good sense of your party's abilities, you should be fine.

The Items Themselves

None of the items stand out as being particularly overpowered. The Amulet and the Greatsword are the strongest items. There should have a spell level cap imposed on the amulet (maybe 1st or 2nd level) to keep its power level in line. If this were not done, I know that I for one would keep using this thing to Level 20 (if the campaign went that far). Casting Haste on two targets in that party will clearly be a strong option at Level 5, as would double Polymorph at Level 7. Also, Reach is really strong, and likely comparable to a +1 enchantment alone.

All of the other items are weaker than a +1 Weapon/Armor. The Shield is OK I guess, but it will be hard for the PC to keep track of their AC. The mace is kind of terrible, given that a Cleric is a full caster first, and that healing in-combat is rubbish. Now, if you gave the Cleric a free Inflict Wounds the turn after healing an ally...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your opening disagreement with the other answers added nothing to your answer's core points, which stand up just fine. I deleted it and provided you with a title. Please take a look and revise again as needed. (PS +1) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 12 at 20:00

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