The Magic Item Compendium introduced the possibility of adding common item effects, like ability bonusses, AC bonusses, energy resistance or resistance bonuses to saving throws, to other magic items.

The table at page 234 shows prerequisites and costs. Most prerequisites are single low-level spells, but not caster level. Only resistance bonuses list "CL 3 x bonus" as prerequisite.

My PC has only caster level 3 and just picked up "Craft Wondrous Item".

Is it correct that the only limit to common effects he could add to a magic item (with the notable exception of resistance bonuses) are his funds and the x.p. he is willing to spend?

That is what I read from this table, but I find it hard to believe (and my DM will not believe) that a CL 3 caster could add +6 intelligence bonuses or energy resistance 30 to an existing magic item, given enough gold. And as my PC is character level 11 he could spend about 20.000 on this task.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "And as my PC is a multiclass character he has some money to spend." What do you mean by this? Why does being multiclass affect the amount of gold you have? It would be helpful to say what your character was in total, just so we have an idea of what level you are in general. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Jun 5, 2016 at 9:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited for specification. I did not specify at first, because the general question remains the same no matter how many levels or funds my PC has. \$\endgroup\$
    – Giorin
    Jun 5, 2016 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


Caster level is rarely a prerequisite for a magic item's creation

That is, a creator usually need not meet a magic item's listed caster level as a prerequisite for the magic item's creation. Instead, a magic item's caster level is the magic item's caster level for determining effects it creates (such as with a cape of the mountebank) and, for example, used to determine if the magic item's rendered inoperable for 1d4 rounds because of an effect like the spell dispel magic. A magic item's creator can, in fact, set an item's caster level to anywhere between the minimum caster level needed to cast the highest-level prerequisite spell for creating the item and the creator's own caster level. (Of course, this being D&D 3.5, exceptions exist—armor, shields, and weapons bearing magical enhancement bonuses, for example, do have caster levels as prerequisites as do a fair number of other items.)

So, while "[a]dding one of these [common item] effects to an existing item works much like creating an item from scratch[, t]he crafting character must [among other things] meet the given prerequisites" (emphasis mine) (Magic Item Compendium 234). And those given prerequisites are the prerequisites listed under the heading Prerequisites on Table 6–11: Adding/Improving Common Item Effects, and, of those, only the resistance bonus on saving throws has a caster level prerequisite. The other effects simply don't.

But there are two reasons it's kind of okay there are largely no caster level prerequisites for even high-powered common item effects:

  1. The core rules were kind of random on whether a magic item equivalent to a common magic item effect should have a caster level prerequisite in the first place. For example, a ring of protection +1 has a prerequisite caster level, but an amulet of health +6 doesn't; an amulet of natural armor +1 has a prerequisite caster level, but while the magic armor special abilities greater, improved, and regular ol' acid resistance probably should, they don't. With this in mind, the Magic Item Compendium's Table 6–11 is more regular than the core rules.

  2. High prices prevent most low-level characters from making game-breaking magic items. For example, to add to whatever face or head slot magic item the creator already has the common item effect +6 enhancement bonus to Intelligence has a price of 36,000 gp (not the 20,000 gp the chart implies—the game assumes the creator's going from a +4 enhancement bonus to a +6 enhancement bonus, not adding to an existing item an enhancement bonus between +4 and +6). That means it's 18,000 gp to add that effect to another item, so it'll consume just about all of a level 7 PC's gp. Using DMG guidelines (199), it's not until level 12 that a PC's wealth by level allows even a constructed character (i.e. one that enters the campaign at a level above 1) to spend at least 18,000 gp on single magic item the PC himself creates.

This means, if a caster level 3 level 11 character took the feat Craft Wondrous Item in a campaign I were DMing, I would let the character add to his cape of the mountebank the common item effect +5 deflection bonus to AC for a retail price of 50,000 gp or a creation cost of 25,000 gp if he could meet the other (admittedly, really lax) prerequisites, despite the character not meeting, for example, the caster level 15 prerequisite of a ring of protection +5. (I have some bias here, though: that adding such an effect takes nearly two months is usually a much bigger deal in campaigns I DM than either the XP cost or the gp cost!)

By the way, this isn't a question

Remember that the whole point of the Adding Common Item Effects to Existing Items rules are to make the game more fun:

One of the most frustrating roadblocks to using interesting, unusual magic items is that they take up body slots that you need for an ability-boosting item… or another must-have item. (233)

But if this was not one of the game's frustrations before, and, now, because of these rules, the game is less fun, then these rules just shouldn't be used. If, for example, the DM wants PCs to seek out high-level casters and have the PCs commission those casters to make high-powered magic item on the PCs' behalves instead of having the PCs make such items themselves, that's perfectly reasonable in the right campaign. Like most rules, the Adding Common Item Effects to Existing Items rules aren't for every table.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much for another answer based on your profound knowledge of the whole body of rules. I think I have to reread but I will get back to it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Giorin
    Jun 6, 2016 at 22:00

While you can create Wondrous Items as soon as you have the feat, each specific Wondrous Item; and many of the specific bonus types, e.g. ability/AC bonuses; have specific Caster Level requirements. For example, to make Gauntlets of Ogre Power (+2 STR bonus) requires CL 6 and access to the Bull's Strength spell. To create the Belt of Giant Strength (+4 or +6 STR) requires CL 10 and access to the Bull's Strength spell. This theme runs throughout the various bonus types. In the case of Amulet's of Natural Armor, it specifically states "creator’s caster level must be at least three times the amulet’s bonus" so to create an amulet that provides a +3 Natural Armor bonus to AC requires CL 9.

So, while there isn't a hard and fast rule about what CL you need to add what bonus, in general expect to need at least twice the CL to the bonus you want to create/add to an existing magic item.

Support, from Comments (quotes extended now that I'm not length limited): From Magic Item Compendium, pg. 233:

"You can add new magical abilities to a magic item with virtually no restrictions. The cost and prerequisites to do this are the same as if the item was not magical. Thus, a +1 longsword can be made into a +2 vorpal longsword, with the cost to create it being equal to that of a +2 vorpal longsword minus the cost of a +1 longsword (98,315 – 2,315 = 96,000 gp). The character improving the magic item must meet the same prerequisites as if he were creating the item from scratch." [emphasis added]

Later, we see the same nearly the exact same verbage when describing adding common item effects; on page 234:

Table 6–11: Adding/Improving Common Item Effects... Adding one of these effects to an existing item works much like creating an item from scratch. The crafting character must meet the given prerequisites...

After re-reading this (and the further example) I have slightly revised my opinion. I think you only need to meet the prerequisites for the effect you are adding, not necessarily those of any other effect already on the item. This is based on the sentence "The cost and prerequisites to do this are the same as if the item was not magical. [emphasis added].

  • \$\begingroup\$ I am sorry, but that is not the point. I know very well that creating a magic item from the scratch requires a caster level. But the question is about adding common item effects to existing items. Maybe my last sentence was confusing in this regard. I have edited it to prevent misunderstandings. Your last paragraph just chooses to ignore the table in the Magic Item Compendium: Why would they list a CL with only one property if the other properties require minimum caster levels as well? No, that does not convince me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Giorin
    Jun 6, 2016 at 14:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ From Magic Item Compendium, pg. 233 "The character improving the magic item must meet the same prerequisites as if he were creating the item from scratch." In context of that statement, they mean the entire finished product; so if you want to enhance a +2 Amulet of Natural Armor to give an additional +2 DEX, you would need to meet all the Prerequisites of creating a +2 Amulet of Natural Armor +2 DEX (which, as a GM, would be the aggregate max of the Requirements for each of those separately, i.e. Reqs for Amulet: CL 6, access to Barkskin, Reqs for Dex: CL8 access to Cat's Grace). \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6, 2016 at 15:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Further, on pg. 234 "Adding one of these effects to an existing item works much like creating an item from scratch. The crafting character must meet the given prerequisites..." \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6, 2016 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, that does convince me - partially. Maybe you should edit that crucial quote into your answer. I am still not happy about extrapolating more prerequsites than given in the table - but this at least sounds reasonable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Giorin
    Jun 6, 2016 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ See my revised answer. I now agree that you only need to meet the specific minimum requirements for the effect to be added. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 7, 2016 at 11:59

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