I'm playing D&D 5e, and I'm wondering if I can safely make changes to magical items. What does making alterations to magical items do to them? Examples are silver plating a magical weapon, applying dye to magical clothing, and recutting/sewing an enchanted robe into a cloak, and the like.

Can alterations like these be done without ruining the magical attributes? Does doing it safely require a specialist, or does the item retain its magical qualities regardless of who does it?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Here, I can demonstrate how to write the question so it will receive answers that will solve your problem (as I understand it). I have made an edit. This question should help. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 19 '16 at 20:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since the site belongs to the community, vandalising your own contributions is unwelcome. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 19 '16 at 20:59

The DM is allowed to make any alterations to the game rules that they wish, which includes defining how Magic Items behave. That being said there are the following trends:

The mending cantrip states that it cannot restore magic to a broken magic item. This suggests that destroyed magic items lose their magical powers. So, cutting up a robe or cloak to resize it, is likely to just destroy it.

Magic items like the bag of holding or chime of opening become mundane if they are broken or torn, again suggesting that a destroyed item is always non-magical.

Silver plating an item is usually unnecessary, since magic weapons can hit through almost all resistances, but the weapon isn't necessarily being destroyed, so this is up to DM rule more than anything.

Also, keep in mind that sentient items may not like being modified, and will actively resist attempt to do so. Page 143 of the DMG also lists several minor properties which may impact an item's ability to be dyed or modified.

As far as something simplistic like a dye is concerned, there is nothing in the rules to suggest that painting a +1 shield or dying a Cloak of Protection will cause the magic to become mundane. There is only an implication that breaking, tearing, or destroying the items will make them non-magical. There is some nuance that your DM will have to make the calls on. For example, dying a Cloak of Elvenkind would be a DM call since there is no rule about the matter in the object description.

In most cases, if you aren't destroying an item, you can probably get away with something like paints or dyes or potentially silvering without any effect on the magical properties of the item. The grey area would be somewhere where the change stands in opposition to the properties of the item, and then your DM will need to make the call.

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Generally speaking, magic items may have additional materials, components, or what-have-you added onto them without damaging the magic item, but the magic of the item would not extend to these new additions.

A magic item is, simplistically, some object into which has been embedded a somewhat permanent spell that's range is the magic item. A longsword +1 is a longsword with a spell on it that makes it better at being a longsword. The implication of this is that you could dip this longsword in molten silver without damaging the sword or the enchantment. However, the silver coating is not in the range of the spell which provides the sword its magical properties. Essentially, you've just covered the sword in a permanent sheath.

Let's look at the other examples you mentioned in this vein. Applying dye to magical clothing and cutting a robe into a cloak would fundamentally change some aspect of the original object which the spell cast upon them affects. Those spells were cast to affect a piece of clothing with specific properties, including shape and color, so changing them would render the spell invalid. If, however, you as the GM wanted to create a profession which specializes in altering preexisting enchantments to affect new targets with different parameters - and I would recommend not making it viable for your player characters to learn this technique, given the implications it could have on all of their future interactions with magic - that would certainly be your prerogative.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide some backup to your claim that the magic of an item only extends to the (original) form of the item which your answer is based off? You say "generally speaking" but I'm not sure I've ever read anything that lends itself to that conclusion. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Nov 22 '16 at 0:51

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