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Final Version

Ok, thanks everyone, I've decided to scrape the '+1 natural thread range', he will just have to do without (or, as pointed out by just about all of you, pick a rapier instead). I've chosen to create 3 editions of the magic weapon, so I can (maybe) put it to good use against the players (a classic case of 'be careful of what you which for'). These editions pick a bit of flavour from each answer, so praise and thanks to all of you.

Vampiric dagger (Night blade, lesser)
This plain looking +2 dagger is crafted from a dark metal which barely reflects any non-magical light. Upon scoring a successful critical hit against any living creature, it deals 1 point of Constitution damage and the sword wielder gains 1d6 temporary hit points. These temporary hit points last for 1 hour.
Moderate necromancy; CL 6th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Vampiric touch; Price 18,302; Cost 9,302 gp + 880 XP.


Vampiric short sword (Night blade)
This plain looking +2 short sword is crafted from a dark metal which barely reflects any non-magical light. Upon scoring a successful critical hit against any living creature, it deals 1 point of Constitution damage or 2 points of Constitution damage in case of a natural 20. The sword wielder gains 1d6 temporary hit points for each point of Constitution damage inflicted this way. These temporary hit points last for 1 hour.
Moderate necromancy; CL 6th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Vampiric touch; Price 22,310; Cost 10,310 gp + 880 XP.


Vampiric longsword (Night blade, elder)
This plain looking +3 longsword is crafted from a dark metal which barely reflects any non-magical light. Upon scoring a successful critical hit against any living creature, it deals 1d4 point of Constitution damage and sword wielder gains 1d6 temporary hit points for each point of Constitution damage inflicted this way. These temporary hit points last for 1 hour.
Moderate necromancy; CL 9th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Vampiric touch; Price 50,315; Cost 25,315 gp + 2000 XP.



Original questions

One of my friends came up with an interesting weapon:

Night Blade
This plain looking +3 short sword has a remarkably sharp blade which results in a natural +1 improved threat range (18-20/x2). The sword's blade is a dark metal which barely reflects any non-magical light. Upon inflicting a successful critical hit, the victim is dealt 1 point of Constitution damage or 2 points of Constitution damage in case of a natural 20. The sword wielder gains 1d6 temporary hit points for each point of Constitution damage inflicted this way, but only up to the wielder's total hit points of damage. Creatures immune to critical hits are immune to the Constitution damage dealt by this weapon.

However, we are undecided on what would the cost and requirements for creating the weapon would be and what aura it would have. Basically, the question mark is about the information line: [Aura]; [CL|WZ] [level]; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, [some spell]; Price [some price]; Cost [gp cost] gp + [xp cost] XP.

I'm also not sure if this weapon should not be considered too strange, especially the restriction that temporary hit points can not be greater than his wounds (and what would happen if the wielder is healed after having gained the temporary hit points)? Other than that, I've never seen any other magic weapon that 'naturally' has a +1 critical range?

My questions are:
does this weapon fit within the rules?
what do you guys think should be the aura and creation cost/price for a weapon like this?
what be a realistic price for this weapon, compared to other magical weapons of the same powerfulness?

thanks for your thoughts!

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't have a full answer, but this is clearly a necromantic aura. Vampiric healing and constitution damage - both necromantic effects. Question: Why bother with some sort of limited temporary hit points instead of just healing? And how long do the temporary hit points last? \$\endgroup\$ – Wolfman Joe Aug 18 '14 at 12:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ This thing isn't exactly illegal, but it is not conventional. Different effects on critical hits depending on whether the threat was due to a nat 20 or not is unusual. Modifying a weapon's "natural threat range" through an enhancement is unusual. Granting a number of temp HP limited by the character's HP is unusual. The Magic Item Compendium should have lots of examples for you to study if you want to improve your rule consistency. \$\endgroup\$ – Ernir Aug 18 '14 at 13:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Wolfman Joe, Thanks! If the sword would heal, the effect would be permanent, where the temporary hit points don't last. I'm not sure how long the temporary hit points would last (I think it defaults to 1 hour). \$\endgroup\$ – Mark B. Aug 18 '14 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ernir, the 'Modifying a weapon's "natural threat range" through an enhancement is unusual.' is the one that I'm least certain about so to say. It kinda feels like it is designed to bypass the 'normal' rules (which prevent stacking). On the other hand, a 18-20 crit range is not that special. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark B. Aug 18 '14 at 16:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Keen effect doubles the threat-range (from 19-20 to 17-20), which is how all improvements to threat-range work: in multiples of the existing threat-range. Therefore it seems to me that this is closer to a Rapier than a Short Sword, and the Rapier does not really pay for this (+10gp?); it just is -- if anything, the Rapier being a One-Handed weapon is better than the Short Sword being a Light weapon for Disarm purposes. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Aug 20 '14 at 13:09
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I can see some rogues being very happy with something like this. But I would not allow such a weapon for any good aligned characters (I mean, draining somebodies vitality and use it for a temporary egoistic gain, it sounds pretty evil if you ask me)! Having said that, let answer your 3 questions:


does this weapon fit within the rules?

Well, Ernir worded it most appropriate in one of the comments: "it isn't illegal, but it isn't exactly conventional either."


So, let's identify the non-conventional parts first:

  • 'a natural +1 improved threat range',
  • an extra improved result in case of a natural 20.

The first one is the very unusual; as far as I know (my knowledge is rather not complete by a long shot), there is no published weapon or effect that adds a stackable improvement to thread range (=critical range). There are improvements to the thread range of weapons (keen is in the core rules), but all of these carefully stipulate the non-stackabity. So, quite unusual indeed... Yet, this is a short sword, so -as many have pointed out- improving its thread range basically gives you a rapier at -10 gp, which is not that special; sure, it is nice, but it could also just be a rapier instead.


The second non-conventional idea is also unheard of... or is it?

The Vorpal magic weapon special ability, from the core rules, only functions on a natural 20. While it does toy with the 'natural 20' dice roll to trigger a special effect, it differs from what you propose: in the case of the Night blade, it exceeds the effect of a critical hit, while in the case of a Vorpal-weapon, it convines the effect to a natural-20 critical-hit. Yet, the 'natural-20' is a common term and what you propose seems to be a balanced method for differentiating the might of the magic in question, without rolling any extra dice. I would say this is an interesting method of differentiating and would not mind seeing it used at more instances (just sharing my opinion).


Let's take a look at the more conventional part next:

  • a +3 enhancement,
  • it deals constitution damage (upon a critical hit)

    • it gives temporary hit points based on this constitution damge,
    • creatures normally immune to critical hits are not affected by the special ability.

The +3 enhancement is pretty straight forward, so I'll just skip this one.

The Constitution damage + temporary hit points is a classical 'vampiric' weapon effect, translated into 3.5 edition rules. In AD&D 2nd edition, vampiric weapons healed the wielder when dealing damage to the victim (exchange rates varied). In 3.5 the vampiric healing was replaced with vampiric temporary hitpoints. In your case the exchange rate has been set to 1 point of damaged Constitution to 1d6 temporary hitpoints. This is not outside the ordinary (again, in my opinion).
Note: as done by both the other answers, I skipped the 'only up to the wound hit points part, it is just silly and contrary to how temporary hit points normally work.
The exclusion of creatures normally immune to critical hits from the special ability is not unusually either (in fact, it is worded almost exactly as worded in the core rules). Yet, I would advise adhering the wording as used in the Magic Item Compendium, which would be "... against any living creature.", because I think it better reflects common sense.

You could invent a new sorcerer/wizard spell for this: It sounds a lot like a Vampiric touch spell, only a bit more like what a vampire does. Let's make a spell effect that does what is asked for:

Vampiric Touch, Greater
Necromancy
Level: Sor/Wiz 4
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Touch
Target: Living creature touched
Duration: Instantaneous/1 hour; see text
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: Yes

You must succeed on a melee touch attack. Your touch deals 1 points of Constitution damage per two caster levels. You gain 1d6 temporary hit points for each point of Constitution damage you deal. When the subjects Constitution is reduced to 0, it is killed. The temporary hit points last for 1 hour.

(It could do with a better name)


The only thing left to pick apart is the part which reads: barely reflects any non-magical light:

I interpreted this as 'fluff text' -just as G0BLiN did- and I would like to quote:
"(...) I gave it no price or mechanical consideration - in my game I might occasionally use something like this as a description for a PC's successful save against an illusion, but I wouldn't give him any bonus to the roll."

If you would want this to be an actual special ability which may help in, for example, identifying illusions (as suggested by Scott), you should award a value to this feature. I would not rate this as mighty enough to warant a +1 equivalent (see costs below), so instead, you could maybe invent some sort of special material and add some fixed cost to the magic weapon price (which I did not):

Deep iron
This rare dark metal, which is thought to have once fallen from the stars, barely reflects any non-magical light. Runes or symbols forged into magical items upon creation can be made to faintly glow in magical light, but leave no trace otherwise; a property highly priced in some cultures. Items made of Deep iron cost four times as much to make as their normal counterparts and any magical enhancements cost an additional 2,000 gp.

(I put a bit more fluff into it than needed, pick the parts which you like)


So, that leaves us with the question of appraising this weapon and determining its aura:

For creating a magic weapon like this, the creator need the feat Craft Magic Arms and Armor and access to the spells needed to imbue this particular special effect; I came up with 'Greater vampiric touch' for this (see above). In addition, we need to determine the creators minimal caster level for creating this weapon. The magic item creation rules say that the caster needs at least three times the level of the base enhancement or the level of the spell required, whichever is higher. In this case that means we need a caster level of 9.

To figure out which type of aura is present, you pick the most prominent aura affecting the weapon. In this case, both Ability damage and Temporary hit point are both necromantic effects. So, the Aura would be 'necromancy'. To figure out how strong it is, you consult the table in the spell Detect Magic, in this case the magic item's caster level is between 6th-11th, so you get a 'Moderate' Aura, giving you 'Moderate necromancy' final result.

The price of the weapon is based on the +X total enhancement number. This is a combination of both its enhancement and any special abilities it may have...
In my opinion, the ability you describe would be rated as +2 equivalent (compared to other abilities of more or less the same potency), but since it only kicks in upon a critical hit, I would rate it as +1 equivalent.
So, the weapon has a total value of +4 equivalent enhancement. Consulting the table on Magic Weapons tells us that a +4 equals a base price of 32,000 gp. For the total price you need to add the cost of a short sword (10 gp) and the cost for a masterworks weapon (300 gp), so total cost is 50,310 gp.

The monetary cost of the weapon is 50% of the base price of the weapon + the cost of the masterwork weapon itself, so in this case that amounts to: 16,310 gp. In addition to this, there is a XP cost, which is 1/25th of the weapons base price, which is 1,280 XP in this case.

So, that would give us:

Night blade
This plain looking +3 short sword has a remarkably sharp blade which results in a natural +1 improved threat range (18-20/x2). The sword's blade is a dark metal which barely reflects any non-magical light. Upon scoring a successful critical hit against any living creature, it deals 1 point of Constitution damage. The sword wielder gains 1d6 temporary hit points. These temporary hit points last for 1 hour.
Moderate necromancy; CL 9; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Greater vampiric touch; Price 32,310; Cost 16,310 gp + 1,280 XP.


The realistic price for this weapon

The rules as detailed by the magic weapon creation result in rapidly increasing prices for magic weapons, many times unrealistically so. This is also recognized by the Magic Item Compendium, which has lowered the prices for many items previously detailed in core books.
However, above all else, I think (as also mention by others) that the +2 enhancement and the special ability as described don't match nicely; how about:

Night blade
This plain looking +2 short sword has a remarkably sharp blade which results in a natural +1 improved threat range (18-20/x2). The sword's blade is a dark metal which barely reflects any non-magical light. Upon scoring a successful critical hit against any living creature, it deals 1 point of Constitution damage and the wielder gains 1d6 temporary hit points. These temporary hit points last for 1 hour.
Moderate necromancy; CL 6; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Vampiric touch; Price 18,310; Cost 9,310 gp + 720 XP.

and

Night blade (greater)
This plain looking +3 short sword has a remarkably sharp blade which results in a natural +1 improved threat range (18-20/x2). The sword's blade is a dark metal which barely reflects any non-magical light. Upon scoring a successful critical hit against any living creature, it deals 1d4 point of Constitution damage. The sword wielder gains 1d6 temporary hit points for each point of Constitution damage inflicted this way. These temporary hit points last for 1 hour.
Moderate necromancy; CL 9; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Greater vampiric touch; Price 50,310; Cost 25,310 gp + 2,000 XP.

with a realistic cost included.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If you've not been welcomed already, welcome. Take the tour. The help buttons are, unlike most, actually helpful and address some of your formatting complaints. Further, there's no reason to signal the edits to your answer; the system saves the previous answer automatically for those interested in its history. Thanks for helping strangers. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 19 '14 at 23:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ While this is the accepted answer, I feel the answer written @G0BLiN is better. I've rewritten mine to incorporate his views. \$\endgroup\$ – Monika Aug 23 '14 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Kudos to you for the credits. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Sep 27 '14 at 14:15
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Usually, if the rules already have a way to achieve something, it is better to start from there rather than build something from scratch - DnD 3.5 has many elements and effects with their (sometime complex) interactions already defined and play-tested, using them can save you some headaches down the road.

So, with that in mind, let's see how we can build something similar to your description, using already-written game elements:

Ingredients

You described the Night Blade with the following characteristics:

  • Base: +3 short sword.
    (adds 310 gp to cost for masterwork short sword, adds CL 9th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor ; Price +3 bonus)
  • Critical Range 18-20/x2: two ways to achieve this:
    1. Use a rapier instead of a short sword - this option is the cheapest, and least complicated - the critical range will stack with effects such as Keen, Keen Edge or Improved Critical. All classes proficient with the short sword are also proficient with the rapier, and they are mechanically similar in many aspects.
      (adds another 10 gp to cost, I'll assume you went for this option)
    2. Add Keen special ability - more expensive, and won't stack with other critical improving spells/feats/abilities. It will give the sword a 17-20/x2 critical range, though.
      (adds: Moderate transmutation; CL 10th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, keen edge; Price +1 bonus)
  • Critical hit Con damage & temp hp: This one is a bit unusual - normally the rules differentiate between hits, misses, critical hits etc. Having a greater effect on a natural 20, above and beyond the critical effect is not something magic weapons (or attacks in general) normally do. Also, since temporary hp disappear after an hour, it is usually not that overpowering to allow a character to gain more then her maximum health, since in this case, the effect only happens on a critical hit and yields 1d6 (or 2d6) temporary hp, I'd wave that limit - or change this into an actual healing effect.
    I'd suggest using the spell Vampiric Touch as the baseline, changing its damage from [1d6 / 2 caster levels] to [1 Con damage / 3 caster levels] instead. Such ability would usually be a +2 bonus, but since this effect is limited to critical hits only, I'd use a +1 instead (compare abilities such as Wounding and Vicious).
    (add Moderate necromancy; CL 9th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, vampiric touch; Price +1 bonus)
  • Final point for consideration: The vampiric Con damage on critical is a bit of a minor effect for a magical weapon, especially one with a +3 modifier. It may be better to use a +2 modifier for a more affordable weapon, or use a more powerful version of the vampiric effect.

Price & XP Calculations

So, for the standard version you get the following:
- 320 gp for masterwork rapier - +3 magical enhancement to attack/damage - +1 price modifier for vampiric touch For a result of 32,320 gp market price (see this table for translating weapon's modifier to price). Creation cost is half of market price, XP cost is 1/25 of market price.

Final Result

(Not an actual quote from anywhere)

Night Blade

This +3 rapier is crafted from a dark metal which barely reflects any non-magical light. Upon inflicting a successful critical hit, the victim is dealt 1 points of Constitution damage or 2 points if the attack roll was a natural 20. The sword wielder heals 1d6 hit points for each point of Constitution damage inflicted this way.
Moderate necromancy; CL 10th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, vampiric touch; Price 32,320 gp; Cost 16,320 gp + 1280 XP.

Night Blade (minor)

This +2 rapier is crafted from a dark metal which barely reflects any non-magical light. Upon inflicting a successful critical hit, the victim is dealt 1 points of Constitution damage. The sword wielder gains 1d6 temporary hit points for each point of Constitution damage inflicted this way. The temporary hit points disappear 1 hour later.
Moderate necromancy; CL 9th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, vampiric touch; Price 18,320 gp; Cost 9,320 gp + 720 XP.

Hope this helps,
Please comment if this needs more tweaking to suit your needs, or if you have any questions, doubts or improvements to the process or result.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Very helpful, thanks! It is interesting to see the differences between you and @Jack Lesnie approach. Why have you left out the restriction on 'immune to critical hits' creatures? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark B. Aug 18 '14 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the +3 version, would it be considered overly powerful (for the expected/intended +3 weapon wielder's level) to cause 1 point of constitution damage on a hit and 2 points of con. damage on a crit? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark B. Aug 18 '14 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer, but this doesn't include any price for: The ability to instantly know whether a source of light is magical or not - gets you a will save against a lot of cool illusions, stops players getting distracted by dancing lights etc. I believe weaponblack is an item somewhere in DnD, and this weapon has permanent weaponblack (in non magical light). As those abilities are very situational, they don't make up a +1 bonus. I would say a flat cost of a few hundred GP would be fair for these. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Aug 18 '14 at 22:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Scott - I assumed the "barely reflects non-magical light" bit was there for fluff only (just as the color of the metal is) so I gave it no price or mechanical consideration - in my game I might occasionally use something like this as a description for a PC's successful save against an illusion, but I wouldn't give him any bonus to the roll. I'll edit in a comment about this, but unless the OP asks for it I don't see the point of adding such an ability (I'll also add it if your comment get 3+ upvotes) \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Aug 18 '14 at 23:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ For what it's worth, Vorpal does special things only on a natural 20, not just any crit. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson Aug 20 '14 at 14:19
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Night Sword

Wounding is a magical weapon special property from the DMG (also in the SRD), that is a +2 bonus. Keen is a magical effect that doubles the crit rating (there are few and obscure non-multiplicative effects on critical threat range in DnD - and most of the ways to increase crit range specify that they don't stack. This is to stop effects that are powerful on a critical strike from being overpowered if you managed to get a crit range of 1-20 or something - like always, though, this depends on what power level your game is at).

This weapon is therefore sounding a lot like a +3 Wounding Keen Shortsword. 'Creating Magic Items' has some rules for creating 'Custom' magic items (although it allows things like a 2000gp 'ring of infinite cure light wounds'), but as this doesn't significantly differ from regular Magic Weapons, you can create it using the table in the magic weapon section here.

So, using just Keen and Wounding, it would look like this.

Night Sword

This is a +3 Keen (crit range 17-20, doesn't stack with other sources of crit range increase) Wounding (1 pt of constitution damage on it) Shortsword with a midnight black blade that seems to devour the light.

Strong evocation; CL 12th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Keen Edge, Poison; Price 72,310 gp; Cost to craft 36,155 gp + 1,440 XP.

This doesn't have the 'immune to constitution damage' bit though, and doesn't naturally increase the crit range to that of a rapier. Considering this could just be enchanted on a rapier, the crit range increase is a wash. I might apply an ad-hoc -1 to the Wounding ability, due to it not affecting crit-immune creatures at all, but it also does 2 damage on a crit so eh.

So in that case i'd price it as a total +5 weapon (+3 improved shortsword, +2 for modified wounding);

Night Blade

This is a +3 Improved (18-20 crit range) Shortsword with a midnight black blade that seems to devour the light. When it strikes it deals 1 pt of Constitution damage, like a wounding weapon, and if it crits, it deals 2 pts of Constitution damage instead. Creatures immune to Critical Hits are immune to all the constitution damage it deals.

Strong evocation; CL 12th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Keen Edge, Poison; Price 50,310 gp; Cost to craft 25,155 gp + 1,000 XP.

Gaining Temporary Hitpoints

Missed this part. There's a few weapons that do something vaguely similar, but usually limited. As part of a large, powerful magic item like this i'd price it lower than if you wanted a +1 sword that did it - at higher levels, a few dozen temporary HP are not a big deal but at low levels they definitely are.

Also to keep in mind would be that this is a sword for a melee rogue, and those guys generally need a bit of help regardless.

But i'd price at roughly +10,000 gp on the base price of the weapon. So the Night Blade I presented above would cost 60,000gp with the vampiric ability.


This still doesn't look like a great deal of 'bang for your buck', but it's how the rules would price the object. In my games, i'd price it as roughly 30,000, as I think magic swords and armour are too expensive in general and cut their prices by roughly half.

Keep in mind that the guidelines in the DMG are just that - guidelines. Ultimately you must decide how advantageous an item will be to a PC and work from there.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting analysis. Between the lines I seem to read that you think the special ability is a bit limited for a +3 weapon? The vampiric ability (once upon a time) used to be a 'standard' magical effect, but apparently it no longer is. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark B. Aug 18 '14 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkB. - It's more that the '+X' weapons scale very fast in terms of price, and you end up with not-great weapons that only a 15th level character can afford. This sword might not be suitable for a 3rd level character, but it definitely is for a 7+. \$\endgroup\$ – user2754 Aug 18 '14 at 17:49

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