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The suggested pricing rules for creating magic items suggests that items that are continuous or use-activated should cost 2,000 gold * the level of the spell they duplicate * the Caster level of that spell.

The text also says level zero spells should be treated as half level spells. By that formula a use activated launch item weapon should cost 1,000 gold and usable five times a day. However, many items do not follow these guidelines as the effects they give are either much stronger or much weaker than this price tag would suggest.

Assuming the purpose of this item is to create an alternative to a crossbow that can fire anything eligible for the launch item cantrip and that still requires both an attack and an attack roll to use, would 6,000 gold be a balanced price for it to work 30 times each day?

If so, would it also be balanced to allow this property to be added to an existing crossbow? Or for a separate item with this property to be enhanced like a ranged weapon?

For context, a Gnome Artificer (the 3.0 class from Magic of Faerûn) is able to make a non-magical, 50-use version of this item for 1000 gold. Their version also takes up either the belt or cloak slot unless they double the price. So for 6000 gold they could create a version that is usable 150 times before wearing out and needing to be repaired (which costs half as much as building a new one)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Where are you getting 5 times per day? A use-activated item is presumed to be at-will unless you apply some other limitation on it, but 5/day doesn’t actually save you money (and more than 5/day would actually, by the guidelines, cost more than an at-will version). \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 9, 2022 at 21:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to, write up the new magic item you're imagining (I suggest using the MIC format rather than the DMG) and ask in a new question if that new magic item you came up with is balanced. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2022 at 22:57

1 Answer 1

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It’s meaningless trying to balance “30 times per day.” That’s as good as “at will” for our purposes. (If you follow the guidelines, 30 times per day is calculated by dividing by ⁵⁄₃₀, also known as multiplying by 6. So the at-will version actually costs ⅙ what the 30/day version does, so of course you’d just buy the at-will one.)

Is 1,000 gp for at-will launch item balanced? Well, that kind of depends on what launch item does. The issue is that the spell is very underdefined—other than splash weapons, which it can explicitly attack with, it isn’t clear that launch item launches things fast enough to hurt people with them, despite its “great speed.” No definition is given for the effects of launching, say, an arrow, or a lance.

That said, I’m not sure there’s any answer to that question that would concern me overly. For the context of splash weapons, there’s already the gnomish calculus from Arms & Equipment Guide for throwing those longer distances—its range increment is 50 feet, which means taking a −4 penalty from range can easily out-distance launch item, and it only costs 50 gp. For throwing other things, again, not super-clear how it works, but even assuming you get to attack with the launched lance, that’s not stellar damage for a standard action.

The traditional abuse with launch item is using it on an item that is only Fine because of shrink item, and having it grow to its normal size after it’s launched. It isn’t really clear that the rules allow this (does casting launch item on it count as “tossing it onto any solid surface”?), or what it would do even if it is allowed (because again launch item is underdefined), but it’s a thing that comes up on message boards from time to time. How balanced at-will launch item will be will depend on the answer to that question. But since shrink item is, itself, a 3rd-level spell, it’s the more significant thing holding back this trick anyway, so the at-will launch item is less significant even in that case.

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