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What is the baseline distribution of magical treasure and at what level should a given character expect to have received or have a potential of getting a specific rarity of item?

Example: Rare lvl 10+

Also Does this take into account general non-combat magic items?

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There is this table (DMG p.135):

\begin{array}{lll} \rlap{\textbf{MAGIC ITEM RARITY}} \\ \textbf{Rarity} & \textbf{Character Level} & \textbf{Value} \\ \hline \text{Common} & \text{1st or higher} & \text{50-100 gp} \\ \text{Uncommon} & \text{1st or higher} & \text{101-500 gp} \\ \text{Rare} & \text{5th or higher} & \text{501-5,000 gp} \\ \text{Very rare} & \text{11th or higher} & \text{5,001-50,000 gp} \\ \text{Legendary} & \text{17th or higher} & \text{50,001+ gp} \\ \end{array}

In addition, there is the table on Starting Equipment on p. 38. which suggests a 10th level character should have no magic items in a Low and Standard Campaign and one uncommon item in a High Magic Campaign. Rare items kick in at levels 17 & 11 for a Standard and High Magic Campaign respectively; never for a Low Magic Campaign.

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About a year and a half ago there was a thread on EN World about Analysis of "Typical" Magic Item Distribution, looking at the treasure generation tables in the DMG.

The rough result is as follows (numbers are per-character):

\begin{array}{ll} \rlap{\textbf{Consumable Items}} \\ \textbf{Level} & \textbf{Every Level} \\ \hline \text{1-5} & \text{1 common} \\ \text{6-10} & \text{1 uncommon} \\ \text{11-15} & \text{1 rare} \\ \text{16-19} & \text{1 very rare} \\ \text{20} & \text{1 legendary} \\ \end{array}

\begin{array}{ll} \rlap{\textbf{Permanent Items}} \\ \textbf{Level} & \textbf{During this range} \\ \hline \text{1-4} & \text{1st uncommon} \\ \text{5-7} & \text{2nd uncommon} \\ \text{8-10} & \text{1st rare} \\ \text{11-13} & \text{2nd rare} \\ \text{14-16} & \text{1st very rare} \\ \text{17-19} & \text{1st legendary} \\ \end{array}

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The recently released supplement, Xanathar's Guide to Everything (XGtE), includes a section on Awarding Magic Items. It's quite detailed, and obviously I can't reproduce it here, but it can be summarised with the following table, where the numbers represent the number of items of each rarity that the party should receive in each tier:

\begin{array}{c} \rlap{\textbf{Magic Items Awarded by Rarity}} \\ \textbf{Character Level} & \textbf{Common} & \textbf{Uncommon} & \textbf{Rare} & \textbf{Very Rare} & \textbf{Legendary} \\ \hline \text{1-4} & \text{6} & \text{4} & \text{1} & \text{0} & \text{0} \\ \text{5-10} & \text{10} & \text{17} & \text{6} & \text{1} & \text{0} \\ \text{11-16} & \text{3} & \text{7} & \text{11} & \text{7} & \text{2} \\ \text{17+} & \text{0} & \text{0} & \text{5} & \text{11} & \text{9} \\ \text{Total} & \text{19} & \text{28} & \text{23} & \text{19} & \text{11} \\ \end{array}

Note that XGtE uses a major/minor item distinction that the DMG doesn't, so if you want to use these guidelines it's probably worth buying the book.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not sure if you want to add Crawford's tweet from 12:20 PM of 6 January 2018 "The treasure rules assume a typical campaign (levels 1–20) generates 100 magic items—a mix of consumables and permanent items" which totals your table reflects. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 3 '18 at 19:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ The DMG does have the major/minor distinction (XGtE explicitly provides how it does this on the same page as the table you used). Minor items are those in tables A-E in the DMG and Major items are those in tables F-I in the DMG magic item tables. \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Apr 5 '18 at 14:38
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Most DMs use the chart from DMG p135 to determine at what point a character should have a given rarity of item. However, I believe that this is just an estimate of when they would be expected to have actually procured one based on odds. Looking at DMG p133 you will see the following expectation of hoard payouts over a typical campaign and includes all types of magical items combat, consumable or otherwise:

  • CR 0-4 7 rolls
  • CR 5-10 18 rolls
  • CR 11-16 12 rolls
  • CR 17+ 8 rolls

Starting at Table G on the hoard generation charts starting at p137 it is possible to get a “Rare” item. Obviously the odds are against you but in any of those 7 low level hoards it is a possibility. Further “Very Rare” consumables are possible on Table D which starts being found with CR 5-10 hoards and Table I has “Legendary” items and is starting to be a possibility by CR 11 hoards. Keep in mind that a typical challenging encounter is about the same or a bit higher than the party’s level.

I won’t go into all the extrapolations or odds, but maybe someone with more time and a math degree can generate your odds of getting these things at given levels. Or use the chart on DMG p135 as the ballpark.

I actually used these guidelines when we rolled up level 15 characters and I simply rolled potential hoards, they ended up with much more magic items than the chart on p38 starts you at by a large margin. Even with items they would have had to sell or donate they were still sitting pretty.

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As a DM I look at the campaign I am running. I hand pick magic items that make sense in my dungeon. There is also the feat of why have magic items in a hoard. I believe, if I am a hobgoblin warlord and I have magic items, they will be used by myself and my legion during the battle with the player characters. Healing potions will be drunk, scrolls will be used, magic armor will be worn, and magic weapons will be used against the players. Having magic lay in a treasure room makes zero sense. In this manner, player characters have earned the piece of armor, weapon, wand or whatever it is.

Second, is that magic items don't need to look magical. I have found that a player character will take the ornamental sword that looks pretty but is useless in battle rather than a sword that looks battle used and worn but is a +1. Unless they have detect magic and identify handy, they grab what they can before reinforcements or something else comes along. Carrying capacity limits how much they can take with them and the time doesnt have to be unlimited to choose. Most magic items in my campaign are overlooked and left behind.

This is just how I use the magic in my campaign. It gives the players the ability to find and use a great magic item, but also limits their ability to access the said item. Current campaign, I have 6 players, each player has one permanent item, with three of them having two. They have one scroll and five potions as party magic items. It hasn't offset the balance of the game as a +1 anything doesn't really help when you have 15 Bugbears using military tatics or 3 cockatrice attacking from the shadows.

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