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I was thinking of running a campaign where the party runs into a group of revolutionaries who do not have access to any arch-mages (who let’s be frank embody the power structures they like to see toppled) try to MacGuyver their way to overthrow the powerful by using RAW magical items available on the black market.

Like the lower end might be the DND equivalent of sticking gasoline in a beer bottle with a cloth cap to burn out any Gnomish war chariot.

But the higher end might be straight up WMDs like the legendary Arrow of Total Destruction.

What is the biggest bomb you can make tinkering with official 5e magical items, anyway? If you have the budget of a small nation-state which might want their deeds to be untraceable to, say, the very small number of extremely high-level people in the land?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the stack! Take the tour when you have a moment, and visit the help center for more, well, help! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 10 at 14:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I were GMing this, I would consider trying to hack the long term project and flashback mechanics from Blades in the Dark (which is really trying to hit this "underdogs chucking molotovs" aesthetic)--the D&D crafting rules are not really suited for "gang of revolutionaries scrounge stuff together"--they assume you have days and GP to spend for the items from scratch (and are generally balanced so that crafting an item is more expensive than adventuring to find it) \$\endgroup\$
    – Kaia
    Commented Jan 15 at 0:18

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This is up to the DM

The DMG gives this guidance for the availability of magic items (p. 135):

Magic items are gleaned from the hoards of conquered monsters or discovered in long-lost vaults

and

Unless you decide your campaign works otherwise, most magic items are so rare that they aren't available for purchase.

That is, it is up to you how available you want to make magic items. Normally, the only magic item common enough to make the equipment list for normal purchase is the potion of healing. Alchemist fire flasks (the game's equivalent to Molotov cocktails) are nonmagical, and under the rules of Xanathar's Guide to Everything are crafted using the Alchemist supplies tool proficiency.

The Arrow of Total Destruction consists at the minimum rarity of two bags of holding, both of which are uncommon items with a recommended value range of 101-500 gp (p. 135, DMG). As an uncommon item, bag of holding by the rules for crafting magic items (p. 129, DMG) would require a 3rd level spellcaster and has a crafting cost of 500 gp. And yes, under these constraints it does not make economic sense to craft items, as you cannot make any profit selling them. (Maybe that is the reason nobody is doing it? Just kidding, the real reason of course is that the game wants you to go adventuring, not sitting around in downtime to make money from crafting and selling magic items).

If it was still possible to craft such bags, and if they were priced in the range recommended by the DMG, then with the "budget of a small nation state", and the formula to create bags of holding and a number of 3rd level wizards to do so, you could create a very large number of such arrows. At 1000 gp of cost per arrow for the bags, and 25 gp progress per day of crafting, you could create the magic item component of one arrow every 40 days for each wizard who is working on it. But such an operation is not in the spirit of the default game. (If you like gonzo campaigns that do it, that's of course fine).

As an aside, using Sane Magic Item Prices, while not perfect either and also having some blind spots has a much better read on how powerful and valuable various items are for a typical group of adventurers, the value of a bag of holding would be 4,000 gp.

How common are Wizards?

As a second aside, even 3rd level spellcasters are probably exceedingly rare in a typical medieval culture RPG campaign. Ed Greenwood estimates for the Forgotten Realms wizards as part of the overall population:

1 in 40,000 can cast a cantrip or two, and perhaps 1 in 70,000 have and can cast 1st level spells, and perhaps 1 in 90,000 can cast 2nd level spells.

Compare this to the size of medieval populations. All of Faerun has a population of about 66 million sentient beings.

That would mean there are only a bit more than 700 such wizards in all of Faerun. Now, I think that is too low, given organizations such as the Red Wizards of Thay, but it is clear that your terrorist operation would probably be lucky to get more than a dozen of those to manufacture magical weapons.

These would be more concentrated in cities of course, and the PHB tells us that (p. 159, Spellcasting Services):

Hiring someone to cast a relatively common spell of 1st or 2nd level, such as cure wounds or identify, is easy enough in a city or town, and might cost 10 to 50 gold pieces (plus the cost of any expensive material components).

So each city or town should have a 3rd level wizard or two, somewhere.

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