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I've been playing 5e for about a year now and recently started my own campaign DMing for a group of people that have never played before. They took to it immediately! Things have been going pretty well so far and we've been having a great time.

Our group's warlock recently found a Wand of the War Mage +1. He'd like to find a high level wizard who can help him inlay it into a dagger (or, for those more flavour text oriented, a black kris blade). The goal being to then have a functioning dagger that gives a +1 to spell attack rolls. It would still be primarily a spellcasting focus, but would additionally give him a little bit of melee should he be caught in close range and not able to escape (he is a pure caster and not a bladelock so will be doing his best to avoid direct combat most of the time).

I asked my former DM (a very much RAW kind of guy) and he said NO. He didn't really have a good explanation as to why though. I am, however, leaning in the opposite direction, If he's willing to part with his gold I see no reason not to let this happen. Still, is there support for or against this decision?

I don't yet have all the materials myself and was wondering if there is anything outright stated about this type of crafting (inlaying) in RAW. That being said, I would love to hear more opinions, either for or against, from some more experienced DMs.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a copy of the DMG? If so, in what sections did you look to research the making of items, and the making of magic items? Lastly, why is it important to you to have RAW support in 5e in Your Campaign that You DM? What informs this preference? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 2 '16 at 17:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Thanks so much for the welcome! I do NOT have a copy of the DMG, only the PHB. I think this is partially why I wanted to know if there is any RAW that outright speaks against something like this (and why). Before I go ahead and OK this, I was hoping to get some feedback from those who are more familiar with material, and get some opinions both for and against. I'll try to edit the post in order to make this more clear. Thanks again for your help! \$\endgroup\$ – Xav Aug 3 '16 at 0:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Glad you are joining us. Please consider buying or borrowing a copy of the DMG as it is a superb resource for the role you have assumed: Dungeon Master. I won't run a game without one. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 3 '16 at 0:26
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Yes. And oh my the role playing options you are going to experience with creative player's like this!

One of the great things about 5e is how little information they decided to put into the Player's Handbook about crafting. This leaves it entirely in your lap as DM, and more importantly, for your player to discuss with you. Your player has stated that what they want is to:

  1. Create a magical item
  2. Use the wand as a component
  3. Use a Kris as a component
  4. Have the item function as basically a Dagger of the War Mage.

So, we have a couple of handy tools to help you with this. For starters, we'll take the components for this spell as your player detailed them.

DMG pg. 212 - Wand of the War Mage

Wand, uncommon (+1), rare (+2), or very rare (+3)

(requires attunement by spellcaster)

While holding this wand, you gain a bonus to spell attack rolls determined by the wand's rarity. In addition, you ignore half cover when making a spell attack.

PHB. pg 149 - Dagger (Kris)

1d4 piercing, finesse, light, thrown (20/60).

Then we'll take the two items and consider the "weight" of adding the ability to do melee damage would be to this. To do so, we'll take another magical weapon with similar benefits and compare it's capabilities. You'll find that in the DMG, the general rule of thumb for magical items and rarities is: 1 magic effect = uncommon, 2 = rare, 3 = very rare, 4+ = legendary.

DMG pg. 166 - Dragon Slayer

Weapon (any sword), rare

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. When you hit a dragon with this weapon, the dragon takes an extra 3d6 damage of the weapon's type.

So, we have a sword capable of dealing damage, that also has a bonus to attack rolls and damage, and also deals additional damage in specific circumstances. The DMG lists this item as rare, and as I said before, you will find that it is often the case that when a magical item has 2 properties it will fall in the rare category.

So, we can go to the DMG pg. 135 and see the Magic Item Rarity table which lists Rare items as targeting 5th level or higher for the character, and costing between 501 to 5,000 GP.

Since a Wand of the War Mage requires an attunement slot (which you are limited to 3 of), I would personally make this a less valuable item, and drop it down into the 501 to 1,000 GP range. In fact, I may even make it uncommon considering the attunement requirement (but that's a personal choice). However, since your player is commissioning somebody else to use it as a material in an attempt to craft a Kris of the War Mage, I would personally double whatever price you set as the price the Wizard is charging for creating the item.

Bottom line, to craft this using the information I provided, I would do the following:

  1. 2,000 to 2,500 GP cost to the Wizard crafting it
  2. Wand of the War Mage +1.
  3. Kris
  4. Onyx Gemstone (or other black gem) worth at least 100 GP (you said he wanted it to be a black Kris right? What better way to be magical about this than making a gem part of the material component cost or even a part of the final design as the focal point for the arcane energy?)
  5. 1d4 weeks to complete it

And that's it. At the end, you've given the player a rare item that has an additional function, but at the cost of an attunement slot. It's also opened the door to creative crafting options at your table.

Have fun!

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As Written

The listing under the Arcane Focus heading in the equipment chapter reads:

An arcane focus is a special item -- an orb, a crystal, a rod, a specially constructed staff, a wand-like length of wood, or some similar item designed to channel the power of arcane spells. A sorcerer, warlock, or wizard can use such an item as a spellcasting focus, as described in chapter 10.

Chapter 10 goes on to describe how a focus can be used in substitution for a material component -- and doing so also lets that hand count as free (but oddly only if if there is a material component -- most DMs don't enforce this particular nuance).

So, rules as written, a dagger is not on the list; and strict reading wouldn't be allowed.

Your game

That said, it is your world and your campaign. The staff has been ruled to be able to be used a quarter staff; so I don't see why a dagger would cause a problem to home brew.

Unless a staff's description says otherwise, a staff can be used as a quarterstaff. DMG 140

The quarter staff does 1d6 (or 1d8 2 handed) and a dagger does 1d4. I suppose daggers can be thrown, so there might be something to consider there -- but I don't think it is game breaking.

Previous rulings

Jeremy Crawford has answered questions about this type of thing before:

John Rhyne ‏@jrhyne1976 · 8 May 2015
@mikemearls @JeremyECrawford @ChrisPerkinsDnD does an Eldritch Knight's bonded weapon count as an arcane focus?

Jeremy Crawford
‏@JeremyECrawford
@jrhyne1976 It doesn't, but it wouldn't be unreasonable for a DM to allow it. @mikemearls @ChrisPerkinsDnD
1:48 PM - 3 Jun 2015

The answer to this question is particularly about an Eldritch Knights bonded weapon, but the answer suggests martial/basic weapons can't be foci but raw (except quarter staff) -- but even the creator see no issue with that house rule.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure you're being 5e minded with this reply. or some similar item is close enough to cover a knife or a dagger. The "strict reading" point has to account for how strict the paragraph isn't. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 2 '16 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ tbh I allow a dagger as a focus anyway and a bowl depending on the situation because actual practitioners of Witchcraft in the real world use both to symbolize the male and female aspects of the powers. Dated a "witch" when I was younger :) \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 2 '16 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it tradition in witchcraft to use a dagger? I thought it was typically a knife of the tool variety, not an engineered weapon. \$\endgroup\$ – JAMalcolmson Aug 2 '16 at 23:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JAMalcolmson This is the kind of nitpicking that, although we all have become forced to engage in it over the years, 5e is trying to get away from. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 3 '16 at 0:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Did you intend to end your answer with "-- but"? It looks like an incomplete sentence. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Neely Aug 3 '16 at 1:08
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RAW for:

Magic items are the DM's purview, so you decide how they fall into the party's posession. As an option you can allow player characters to craft magic items. (DMG p.129, emphasis mine)

Now we all know that everything's at the DM's option, so just citing "Rule 0" is a pointless argument. But magic items are more-explicitly a part of the game that the DMG expects you to tinker with. The DMG at pp.135-143 will give you some guidance on the different properties that magic items often have; see also "Artifacts" starting at DMG p.219

RAW against:

While holding this wand, you gain.... (DMG p.212, emphasis mine)

You're not holding the wand, you're holding the dagger. So you can inlay the wand, but you won't gain any of the wand's benefits.

The middle way:

Think about the ways that this might "break the game":

  • Your warlock effectively has 3 "hands", as he can hold his wand, a dagger, and something else; if your table routinely runs into people not having enough things at hand, you've tipped things;
  • your warlock's wand is now, arguably, subject to "disarm" maneuvers (cf. DMG at 271 or 242)
  • the designers did consider the possibility of combining magical and martial elements in this way, and rejected it as evidenced by the explicit ability to incorporate a holy symbol onto a shield (PHB p.152).
  • Even if you allow it, there are superior options for warlocks:
    • Eldritch Blast + Agonizing Invocation does way more damage (1d10+Cha ranged, even more on higher levels). In addition, the Wand of the War Mage +1 bonus only applies to spell attacks and negates some cover (making Eldritch Blast even better compared to a dagger melee attack)
    • A blade pact warlock can conjure up higher-damage weapons, can merge a magical weapon into that (that gives a bonus to the melee attack) and has options to get multiple attacks on higher levels
    • A tome warlock can take the druid cantrip 'Thorn Whip', which is a melee spell attack that doesn't need a weapon, has a range of 30 feet and an additional pull effect (and profits from the wand's bonus)
    • A warlock in melee range is often better advised to get away ( e.g.Misty Step) than do very minor damage with its dagger melee attack, especially since only Blade Pact warlocks likely have a high AC and Dex or Str higher than Cha.
    • The War Caster feat also gives them Opportunity Attacks and a bonus to Con saves (important for Concentration checks)
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  • \$\begingroup\$ @J.A.Streich I'm not following as to why that's relevant. IMO OP's not asking about using a wand as a stiff piece of wood (and possibly making it sharp enough to use as a dagger), they're asking about setting it into a different object. I don't see the DMG general rule on staves as having any bearing. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 2 '16 at 19:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe you could discuss the mechanical benefits in more detail ? Yes, he gets melee (and Opportunity Attacks if he doesn't already have the feat) , but it doesn't really give him a lot since his melee attacks are going to be suboptimal - a damage optimized warlock most likely has Eldritch Blast + the Agonizing Invocation which is way better... Also, it's dependent on Blade Pact vs others... \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Aug 2 '16 at 19:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mala I'm not entirely sure I follow your comment. Perhaps you could make the sort of edit you imagine improving this? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 3 '16 at 1:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited it in, please check (and/or delete it if you don't like it). \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Aug 3 '16 at 19:24
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Technically, the rules imply that a spellcasting focus is "special" but it doesn't say why or how- the items listed appear to be mundane, not magical. (That's an opinion) If you interpret that to mean spellcasting foci are mundane, then using a wand as a spellcasting focus is right out. Clearly, you have already ruled that a spellcasting focus is more broad than that, and that a magic item can be used as one. OK.

Next, about crafting a spellcasting focus into a weapon. If you're already interpreting spellcasting foci to be a broad category that even includes magic items, why not just let him use a dagger as a spellcasting focus? Otherwise, as long as the weapon/focus is a mundane object, if you price it they can craft it, using the crafting downtime activity. (If you let them)

However, if you're trying to take a magic item, (in this case, a wand) and weaponize it, now you're into a whole different ball game. What do you consider to be core rules? If you include variant and optional rules from the DMG as "core" then a PC could use the craft a magic item downtime activity to do it. Again, you'd have to decide its rarity and value first. Otherwise, it can not be done by a PC. (NPCS are another story, see below.)

If it is a magic item that you're letting him use as a spellcasting focus because you have deemed it "special" enough, AND he wants it to be a weapon, you need to stop and consider what that means for balance. In a single hand, he would effectively by holding the full effects of three items. That's a balance issue if I've ever seen one... But what's the difference between crafting a single item, or just tying a wand, focus, and dagger together in such a way that they can be held as one and do not interfere with the pointy bit? Nothing in the rules denies that possibility.

Now, you said that the player wants to hire someone else to make it for them. This also makes a very big difference. Obviously, someone in your world can make daggers, or they wouldn't exist. Same for casting foci and (probably) that magic wand. If that is the case, you could rule any way you like, depending on the nature of your setting! Maybe they need to spend some time researching to find out where they can find a craftsman who could create such an item? Maybe after that they need to go on a quest to find him? Maybe he needs special materials and sends the players on a quest to get those? You could role-play out the the entire thing instead of using a mechanic to make it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that the rules are silent on whether or not the wand of the war mage is actually an arcane focus. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Aug 2 '16 at 22:55

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