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We're playing Agents of Edgewatch which takes place in Absalom and we're wondering if it's okay to buy striking weapons at their price before we're level 4.

A striking weapon adds an extra damage die and seems disproportionately powerful to its price (65gp), which we can afford already at level 1 (for some characters, at least).

Is it okay to buy a striking weapon with pooled party money for some characters as early as level 1? Or is that not intended, and would likely result in a less fun game?

(Further context: I see many comments on the internet saying that a GM shouldn't hand out magic weapons to players much before their level, but I found no threads discussing purchasing of such items before level which confuses me. In Pathfinder 1e, the players' ability to purchase more powerful items would be limited by the items' cost, and the the +1 to +5 were small incremental bonuses. But I'm worried that the difference in effectiveness of a character with or without a striking weapon is large to the point that optimization would force us to expend all money on striking runes instead of buying more of lower-level items, which would be more fun.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it's strictly necessary to answer the question, but what classes and builds make up your party? The effects of a +1 striking weapon on a Greataxe wielding Barbarian are not the same as on an Investigator, for instance. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 22:13

2 Answers 2

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Sure, Depending on Location

Each settlement in the game has an associated level which broadly determines the sorts of items that a character could purchase at marketplaces there:

In a given settlement, a character can usually purchase any common item (including formulas, alchemical items, and magic items) that is of the same or lower level than the settlement’s.

Lower level characters with plenty of money in a big city could buy items beyond their own level without issue. There are special considerations that higher-level characters can usually get items up to their level even in smaller settlements:

If a character’s level is higher than the settlement’s, that character can usually use their own influence and leverage to acquire higher-level items, as they convince shops to place specialty orders or artisans to craft custom goods, though it might take a bit of time for such orders to be fulfilled.

With Agents of Edgewatch happening in the biggest city in the world during a tremendous festival, it's definitely large enough that someone could find a 4th-level striking weapon. In the titular book Absalom, City of Lost Omens, it's described as a 20th-level metropolis with a trait granting even broader access:

City at the Center of the World Absalom is the largest city in the Inner Sea region and is strategically placed to be an ideal staging point for trade. Imports from all over the world, and even from the bottom of the oceans, can be found in Absalom’s many markets and bazaars. Items that would normally be considered uncommon are instead considered common while within the city walls. Some uncommon items, such as those created by specific organizations or hailing from remote regions, might still remain uncommon at the GM’s discretion.

GM Discretion

That said, there's explicit support in the rules that the specifics of what's available to players for buying and selling is in the hands of the GM. If they want to tell a story where reputation is just as important as having enough money in the big city then that's up to them, regardless of the common rules.

Balance

Pooling all party wealth into one big item like a striking weapon is not going to break the math of the game, though it would certainly feel powerful when used.

Character's are generally unable to single-handedly take on powerful bosses and opponents, so when the fighter with the magic greatsword gets knocked down it'll be like your party is unable to use a massive portion of their shared wealth. But building a party strategy around supporting that single warrior isn't a bad thing, and really gets to the root of teamwork recommended in the game.

And the assumption in adventures is that characters are each getting stronger items over time and more character wealth rather than funneling all money into one character, so it definitely isn't necessary or expected to do so. Of particular note at low levels the 1st-level magic weapon spell duplicates the effect of a striking rune for a full minute, and would be much more reasonable to take opposed to dumping all money into one character.

Automatic Bonus Progression

It's worth mentioning that there's an entire subsystem devoted to removing the need for numerical fixer items like fundamental runes on weapons if your group feels multiple lower-level items with special effects would be fun.

In this case you wouldn't be able to buy a striking weapon because they don't exist, instead you'd receive less treasure and each character would be get appropriate "math-adjusting" item benefits when expected to in the default case.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For the balance concerns (or "making things too easy" concern, if you will), it might be worth mentioning Magic Weapon is already available to players at that level. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 22:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE I agree, if you'd like to check the last sentence there :) \$\endgroup\$
    – brandon
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 22:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ ...clearly I rolled poorly on my Decipher Writing check. Well done then :) \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 22:22
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By the rules, yes

From the CRB (emphasis mine):

Each item has an item level, which represents the item’s complexity and any magic used in its construction. Simpler items with a lower level are easier to construct, and you can’t Craft items that have a higher level than your own (page 243). If an item’s level isn’t listed, its level is 0. While characters can use items of any level, GMs should keep in mind that allowing characters access to items far above their current level may have a negative impact on the game.

So that's explicit: a lvl 1 character can use a lvl 4 item if they get one.

On top of those rules, there is an advice, targeted to GMs: the system is balanced by assuming characters have access to items of a level lower or equal to their and thus changing this in your game may have bad consequences for your game

How affordable is a striking rune?

65gp is a lot of money for lvl 1 adventurers. Unless you are lenient with player's inventories, it looks hard to me to save more than 10gp once you have bought the essentials (clothes, one melee weapon, one ranged weapon, a backpack, a few rations, a bedroll...).

Truly, to have this at lvl 1 means you have a larger group than average and your players deprived their characters from other items they may need.

Actually, if you follow the guidelines about treasure per level, by the end of lvl 3 the whole party should have gained around 120gp in spendable coins, which is enough to buy one striking rune but would still require that two members of the group put their share of the loot together

What does this rune do exactly?

It adds a damage dice. It doesn't add +1 to hit (for this you would need the +1 rune, that would add 35gp to the cost). Ok, but is that big?

Assuming you play with the higher dice possible, you would roughly jump your damages on a hit from 1d12+4 (10.5 avg) to 2d12+4 (17 avg). Not bad at all.

Assuming you play a Fighter (probably the class that will benefit the most from this rune), you usually hit most of your non-boss opponents at those levels with an 8, and crit with an 18. This makes an average damage of 16*17/20=13.6 on the first attack with the rune. (8.4 without the rune) On the second attack a 13 is needed to hit, and only a nat 20 crits. It makes for an average of 9*17/20=7.65 damages. (4.725 without the rune)

This is great, indeed, adding more than 5 damages on your first attack is huge, but a lvl 2 creature has 30hp on average, so you still usually won't finish it in one turn. On the scale of a whole encounter, even with this powerful rune, this Fighter isn't going to break the encounters on their knee: they still need the rest of the party. And if the rest of the party has no stuff at all they are not going to be able to do their part.

Worse, when this Fighter will get downed (it always happen to frontliners in this level range, and will definitely happen if they are not wearing armor as they didn't have money to buy it), the rest of the group will have lost access to their only asset.

For all these reasons, I don't think a group with early access to this item would be stronger than a normally equipped one.

How else can it have a negative impact on the game?

This is more obvious to me. Usually, players play Pathfinder as a team of equals who each bring their own talent to the party and each can have their moment to shine. Playing a useless follower of a very powerful warrior isn't a fantasy most people share, and at least around a Pathfinder table this is not the assumption.

For this reason I wouldn't allow pooling starting money before the game. Each player must be able to afford their basic stuff so that they can operate in the team without being incited to give it to someone else.

Later, once the party has earned 65gp as a group and has it available to spend, maybe it will be time for a striking rune, but by this time they should have gathered other magic items and tried them out and may have found that they need other items in priority.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the analysis of this answer a lot, but my one critique is that it's entirely possible that the players are part of the way through level 1, and thus have gotten the money to afford it from already received loot (which, if the GM is going for cash-total loot, they should be able to afford two striking weapons by pooling together). \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 0:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE the recommendation is to give around 40gp of loot as money by the end of lvl1. You would still need half the starting gold to make that enough for one rune. The "total value" of 175gp is supposed to be mainly composed of loot that won't sell for full value. A party could choose to sell everything they got for a total of 40+135/2=107.5gp, which is indeed enough for a rune and a half, but that would mean the party looses those items they sold. Unless those items are truly bad, selling them is usually a bad deal. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 0:16

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