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My fighter is about to get its archetype and I was wondering about enchanting weapons.

The Battle Master archetype's Student of War class feature grants proficiency in an artisan tool. If I was to take calligraphy or wood crafting, could I potentially inscribe the shaft of a spear with runes I found on a magic weapon I found and have it gain the same magical properties?

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It's a neat idea... but it probably wouldn't, and shouldn't, work, for a couple of reasons:

1. That's just not how magic item creation works in D&D.

As the rules quoted by Red Wullf say, you have to be a spellcaster to create a magic item in D&D. So unless your group is willing to introduce their own custom house rules for magic item creation, it just won't work. Your fighter can scribble anything they want on their sword, but at the end, without a spellcaster to help them, they won't have a magic sword, but just an ordinary sword with scribbles on it.

2. If it was that easy, everybody would do it.

Even if I were to introduce a house rule to allow enchanting items like this, I wouldn't let simply copying the runes on another item accomplish anything but the most minor enchantments.

Why not? Well, if you could enchant items like this, so could anyone else with a reasonably steady hand. If a fighter can carve runes on their weapon to enchant it, so could the blacksmith that forged it in the first place. So if enchanting items was this simple, everybody should be walking around with runes on their weapons (and probably everything else they own).

Conversely, if you want powerful enchantments to remain rare (and I presume you do; it would just be silly to have every random NPC walking around with a Flaming Ethereal Armor-Piercing Impervious Returning Holy Stunning Keen Extensible Soul-Sucking +11 sword of Triple Damage vs. Everything), there has to be some reason why not just anybody can create them by copying another enchantment. The two obvious explanations are that either:

  • it's difficult to copy advanced enchantments — so difficult that only people with extensive practice (i.e. high level in a suitable class) can hope to accomplish it reliably, or

  • it takes something more than just the right runes to enchant an item — perhaps the runes only serve to bind whatever being or force is powering the enchantment to the item, but do nothing else on their own.

Thus, sure, I'd be happy to house-rule that something like, say, a minor enchantment against rust could be applied to a weapon just by copying the runes off another weapon; this would then be a standard feature of any weapons of decent quality. Or I could easily see anyone with a bit of skill being able to inscribe the correct runes on a clay amulet to protect its wearer from evil spirits — you know, those ubiquitous evil spirits that will surely get you if you go out without a protective charm, which is why everybody has at least half a dozen such trinkets on them at all times. In short, the kinds of things that make for neat setting detail, but which don't really have a massive effect on game balance.

But if you just tried to copy the runes on a powerful magic sword onto a lesser blade, without any special understanding of what you were doing, then the only reasonable outcomes I can see would be either that they just wouldn't work (because you did them wrong, or because some other essential component is missing), or possibly that they would work, but not quite the way you intended... probably leaving you with a cursed weapon, and an object lesson in why mere laypeople should not dabble in magic. ;-)

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 "Flaming Ethereal Armor-Piercing Impervious Returning Holy Stunning Keen Extensible Soul-Sucking +11 sword of Triple Damage vs. Everything", seems legit! \$\endgroup\$ – IEatBagels Oct 27 '15 at 18:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TopinFrassi That's because it's a red light saber. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 27 '15 at 18:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Conversely, you could take the "if it was that easy, everybody would do it" principle and run with it! You can actually come up with some really awesome stories by playing munchkinism completely straight. For example, Brandon Sanderson's best-selling Mistborn series can be succinctly described as being about what happens in a fantasy world when people find exploits in the rules of the magic system. (Particularly the first book, but the theme persists throughout the series.) It may not be the right direction for your particular gaming group, but it's not "inherently wrong." \$\endgroup\$ – Mason Wheeler Oct 27 '15 at 18:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think if I were making house rules on this, I would make it so it would require a trained eye to see the entirety of the rune. Basically, your average blacksmith would maybe be able to see a tenth of the rune, but the OP could see all of it and transcribe it accordingly. Sure, that's not how it would work, but that's a lore-based justification at least. \$\endgroup\$ – Seiyria Oct 28 '15 at 13:43
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Pg. 128 of the DMG describes the basic requirements to craft magic items.

The creation of a magic item is a lengthy, expensive task. To start, a character must have a formula that describes the construction of the item. The character must also be a spellcaster with spell slots and must be able to cast any spells that the item can produce.

It is entirely up to the DM how magic items can be created, but the rule suggest that at a minimum one must be a spellcaster.

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You cannot enchant weapons without spellcasting, in general. So, unless she has spellcasting from some other source, the Battle Master cannot enchant weapons.

One option, though, is to have a spellcaster enchant the weapon. You will have to work with your DM if he will allow that enchanter to incorporate the runes that the Battle Master draws into the enchanting process. As DM, I would allow it, but at an extra cost because the enchanting process may require other sorts of runes. :)

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