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I recently downloaded a document from RPGNow, and inside I found a custom magical item. I am not good at calculating costs and such, so I decided to list the item here, and hear the thoughts of the experts. Is this item possible, within the rules of D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder systems, and is the cost calculated correctly? To me it seems a bit powerful for its cost. The thing that bugs me most is it can cast all its spells at will, as many times a day as it likes, except for the healing spell:

Andoril’s Helpful Turret

This simple hat holds a watchful spirit, dedicated to watching over and protecting its owner. It will spontaneously cast its spells to aid him or her.
Rank 5 Sentient: Int 14, Wis 22, Chr 15.
120 Ft Vision, Darkvision, and Hearing.
Speaks common and elven.
Telepathic with wearer.
Skills: Spot +13, Listen +13, Sense Motive +11 and Spellcraft +7.
Feats: Material Link, Alertness
Powers:

  • Magic Missile (At caster level 9, at will)
  • Cure Moderate Wounds (At caster level 3, 3 times per day. Cures 2d8+3)
  • Mage Armor (At caster level 1, at will, only to protect the wearer, x.7)
  • Shield (At caster level 1, at will)
  • Unseen Servant (At caster level 1, at will)

Strong Evocation, CL 9'th, Enchantment, Magic Missile, Ensoulment, Cure Moderate Wounds, Mage Armor, Shield, and Unseen Servant. Price: 40,860 GP or 20,430 GP and 1634 XP to make.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To clarify something, is this item from a document that provides alternate item-creation rules? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 5 '15 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I got this from a PDF (The Practical Enchanter). I just scanned through the PDF (not read it in any detail yet) and saw this. I am not good at designing new items, but this looked under priced, which is why I asked the experts. Thanks for all the great answers! It not only answered the question, but was very educational as well! \$\endgroup\$ – Sam Feb 26 '15 at 9:21
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Disclaimer: I will look only at what the rules (Pathfinder, mostly) say about pricing this item.
For an approach that takes the item's actual power into account, see KRyan's answer.


It's severely underpriced

The custom item creation rules for both D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder state that the item pricing tables are fallback solutions to be used when there is no precedent for pricing in the existing magic items. From the PFSRD, emphasis mine:

Many factors must be considered when determining the price of new magic items. The easiest way to come up with a price is to compare the new item to an item that is already priced, using that price as a guide. Otherwise, use the guidelines summarized on Table: Estimating Magic Item Gold Piece Values.

The correct way to price an item is by comparing its abilities to similar items (see Magic Item Gold Piece Values), and only if there are no similar items should you use the pricing formulas to determine an approximate price for the item. If you discover a loophole that allows an item to have an ability for a much lower price than is given for a comparable item, the GM should require using the price of the item, as that is the standard cost for such an effect. Most of these loopholes stem from trying to get unlimited uses per day of a spell effect from the "command word" or "use-activated or continuous" lines of Table: Estimating Magic Item Gold Piece Values.

The first paragraph is present also on the 3.5 SRD, but the second paragraph is PF only.

Looking at the item you posted, it is comparable to the following items (using PF now). Note that at will spells with a decent duration and no action cost are effectively continuous.

  • Bracers of Armor +4 (16000 gp)
  • Ring of Force Shield, but at +4, and without occupying a hand when in use.
    I'd price it at least at 32500 gp (500 gp overhead, then standard quadratic progresssion).
  • An Intelligent Magic Item with
    • High stats (18500 gp, progression continued beyond table for Wis)
    • 4 skills, each with 5 ranks (10000 gp)
    • A 2nd level spell 3/day (7200 gp)
    • 120 ft. senses and darkvision and telepathy (2500 gp)
    • 2 more 1st level spells at will that can't be reproduced as easily as mage armor or shield. These are not covered by the rules.
      Using the price for 3/day (1200 gp) and using the estimation table backwards to turn 3/day into at will/continuous yields 2000 gp each. Increasing magic missile to CL 9 makes that one 18000 gp.

Shield and Armor Bonuses are different, and they would normally take up an item slot each, which means we multiply the lower cost by 1.5 according to the stacking rules for multiple different abilities. The intelligent item cost (42200 gp) is simply added on top.

The total price for this item would then be:

32500 + (1.5 * 16000) + 58200 = 114700 gp


Beyond mere gold prices: Personality and Ego

It is noteworthy that this intelligent item seems to have no alignment, which is not covered by Pathfinder rules. In any case, an intelligent item of this power has an Ego score of 24 (6 base price, 10 abilities, 4 skills, 1 telepathy, 3 spells).

Similarly, any item with an Ego score of 20 or higher always considers itself superior to any character, and a personality conflict results if the possessor does not always agree with the item.

which means it will never be

[a] simple hat holds a watchful spirit, dedicated to watching over and protecting its owner [which] will spontaneously cast its spells to aid him or her.

Overpowering the item's personality requires a DC 24 will save, lest the wearer of the item is dominated by it.

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The cost you have is actually quite reasonable.

Yes, by very-generic guidelines and in comparison to over-priced items, this item is very expensive.

In reality? Eh. It’s definitely got a few useful-ish things, but nothing amazing. If it weren’t intelligent (i.e. using its own actions), it’d be pretty terrible.

The item’s own stats, skills, and feats are close to irrelevant. It’s another pair of eyes and ears, which is nice for another chance to roll, and its senses are pretty solid, so that’s pretty good. At around level 5, it might have better senses than anyone in the party; that’s clearly too early for this to show up.

By level 10, its senses are probably good, but the scouts and such should be doing better. By level 15, it’s mostly just another die you get to roll; the bonuses aren’t impressive at all.

Then we get what it actually does:

  • Magic missile at will. A minor damage ping; reliable, decent range, but the damage is quite small. Magic missile is not a good spell at 9th level, and not a wise use of your actions; if it weren’t for the fact that the item is activating itself, this would likely never be used. We’ve already established that 5th level would be too low to get this item, so the time when this damage would be considerable is long since passed.

  • Cure moderate wounds 3/day. Meh? Cure moderate wounds is an overpriced spell and the CL here is low to boot. 2d8+3 is an average of 12 HP; i.e. this heals even less than the damage it deals with magic missile. This is emergency protection only, really. And for emergency healing 3/day, a belt of healing can be gotten for a paltry 750 gp.

  • Mage armor at will, self-only. With the exception of the monk, a +4 armor bonus is trivial to come by in the form of a chain shirt; even arcanists can pick up mithral feycraft chain shirts for penalty-free armor. Or just cast mage armor themselves, since it’s a 1st-level spell that lasts hours. And since monks are among the weakest classes in the game, allowing them to get +4 exceedingly acceptable. Therefore, the bracers of armor +4 are ridiculously overpriced, and comparing this to that is absurd. Compare this to a mithral chain shirt: around 1200 gp. Chump change at the levels we’re discussing.

  • Shield at will. A little more significant, since arcanists cannot just cast shield with its small duration, and the penalty-free sort of shield anyone can wear is only a +1 shield bonus. Plus, hands-free, which is maybe relevant to someone. OK, so this is a +2 animated mithral heavy shield, so 26,000 gp. That’s something at least. An overpriced something and not nearly worth that if you don’t need both hands, but whatever.

    • It should be noted at this point that both mage armor and shield are very poor substitutes for real armor. They cannot receive special armor and shield properties, which are way more valuable than AC. I’m not accounting for this drawback in my calculations, but in a game a PC definitely should – and it’s a very good reason to just sell this toy and get real equipment.
  • Unseen servant at will. This is a fluff ability that doesn’t mean much.

Thus, we’re talking about a minor auto-damage ping, emergency-only healing, and some large-ish AC bonuses that don’t stack with mundane items. Some time between 10th and 15th level is appropriate for this. If we assume someone saves up for a while or cashes in a lot of gear to get this, roughly 40,000 gp is probably approximately what you could manage to pull off between 10 and 11, while being something you can just spend the money you get between 14th and 15th on. That sounds about right.

Wait, its stated cost is 40,860 gp? Wow, that sounds... completely reasonable.

Assuming that the hat is completely loyal and obedient to the wearer. With its ego score, it’s much more likely to have its own plans, have its own desires, and to butt heads with the wearer more often than not. At which point this stops being a good idea at all, and should be sold off at the first opportunity, as an expensive curiosity.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not surprised you came at this from the "What does it actually do?" perspective when the rest of us came at it from "What do the rules say about it". +1 \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson Feb 5 '15 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or, when PCs buy their own business (say inn/tavern) & give it to barkeep to take care of any shenanigans! \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 5 '15 at 21:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ It sounds to me like it can cast it's spells on it's own. That magic missile is generally going off every round on the hat's enemies. \$\endgroup\$ – Loren Pechtel Feb 7 '15 at 5:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LorenPechtel That’s correct. It’s a pitiful amount of damage; adding 10-25 damage to your round’s damage output isn’t worth that much. It is pretty reliable damage, so that’s something, but at these levels its total output for an entire combat is probably would be similar to the damage someone does with a single attack. Spread out across a few rounds, that’s not much to be worried about. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 7 '15 at 5:09
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I actually found the source for this, based on searching for "Rank 5 Sentient", which is not a standard part of the intelligent item rules. In fact, this is part of a new version of those rules based on an 8th level spell (2d4 day casting time) which imbues an item with an intelligent spirit. Also, it turns out, this is an example of what not to allow:

In general, the game master should keep an eye on sentient devices. Since they get their own actions, it's fairly easy to make items like...

and then it shows this item.


That said, I'll break down the costs for this in the new sub-system as well as the traditional intelligent item rules (in italics).

Rank 5 Sentient: Int 14, Wis 22, Chr 15.
120 Ft Vision, Darkvision, and Hearing.
Speaks common and elven.
Telepathic with wearer.

A Rank 5 spirit grants the item ability of 3d6 each, +11 points to distribute as desired, (2+Int)x5 skill points, Material Link (new custom feat) and one bonus feat, the ability to speak common & telepathically communicate, vision, darkvision and hearing out to 120', 4 Primary powers and 1 Extraordinary power. Base Ego is 13. Base cost: 4500 gp

In 3.5, intelligent magic items have two stats between 12-19, and one at 10. Given this item is also capable of speaking, telepathy, 120' darkvision, but not blindsense or read magic, the closest match on this table is rolling a 98 on d%, which grants two stats at 17 and one at 10, three lesser powers, one greater power, and also the ability to read. Base cost: 9000 gp

In Pathfinder, each score is independent, but the table stops at 20 and doesn't have a clear progression. A 14/20/15 item would cost 10400, so lets go with Mr Lemon's number of 18500. Adding Speech, Telepathy, 120' senses and Darkvision (but not the ability to read) adds 3000 which bumps this up to Base cost: 21500 gp

Skills: Spot +13, Listen +13, Sense Motive +11 and Spellcraft +7.
Feats: Material Link, Alertness

Once you remove the +6 Wisdom mod and Alertness, skill points are distributed 5/5/5/5, which is a reasonable distribution with this rule system. No cost

3.5 intelligent items don't have skills or feats, unless they use a Lesser Power to get 10 ranks in one skill. Assuming 20 points distributed at-will is equivalent to two lesser powers for 10 points to two skills (which is questionable): +10,000 gp

Pathfinder intelligent items can get 5 ranks for 2500 or 10 ranks for 10000. They still can't get feats, but I'm just writing off Alertness at this point. That's +10,000 gp

Powers:

Magic Missile (At caster level 9, at will)
Cure Moderate Wounds (At caster level 3, 3 times per day. Cures 2d8+3)
Mage Armor (At caster level 1, at will, only to protect the wearer, x.7)
Shield (At caster level 1, at will)
Unseen Servant (At caster level 1, at will)

It's very unusual to have multiple abilities at different caster levels. Items (under all rule systems) typically have the item's CL, which it then uses for all spells. I don't see where the listings of powers is, but this looks like the specified 4 Primary powers and one Extraordinary one. I don't know how much this adds to the cost.

*In 3.5, there's only a set list of possible powers, most of which are 1/day or 3/day. Magic missile, mage armor, shield, and unseen servant are not on the list. Cure moderate wounds (3rd level) adds 6500 to the price. Assuming that the at-will powers are at least as expensive as detect magic at will (which is a 0th level spell), that adds +3600 each. Going further, if we treat magic missile as a special-purpose dedicated power, it would be between 50000 and 60000 in cost to use at-will. Lower bound: +57,300 gp

Pathfinder's more flexible here. However, the only at-will spells it supports are 0th level. If we treat these as 3/day instead of at-will, that gives us a lower bound of +3600. Adding the cure spell 3/day adds +7200. Adding a 4th level spell at-will as a special purpose ability adds +56000. Lower bound: +74,000 gp


Final results

This is more an issue with the new system relative to the standard ones than an issue with this item specifically.

3.5 cost: At least 76,300 gp

Pathfinder cost: At least 105,500 gp

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    \$\begingroup\$ So you're saying that the problem with the OP's magic item is that it was deliberately designed to be an example of a bad magic item, to warn away the reader (the OP) from the more obvious ways of abusing the document's magic-item system to get too-cheap powerful items? Well then, that's a different bag of cats. It's a rare answer that persuades me to -1 the question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 5 '15 at 18:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie - Some of both. It's deliberately designed to be an abuse of the system, but the system itself is far more powerful for the price than the standard rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson Feb 5 '15 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Right... So asking "Is this price correct?" is just not reading what's in front of them, and further asking "Is this possible in 3.5 / PF?" is weirdly missing the point of the PDF they just downloaded. Bizarre. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 5 '15 at 18:40

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