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If a player crafts a sword with only a +1 enhancement bonus but +9 worth of other bonuses, can that weapon receive the benefit of Greater Magic Weapon to increase its enhancement bonus to +5?

I am of the opinion that this will not work because of this line (from Magic Weapons):

A single weapon cannot have a modified bonus (enhancement bonus plus special ability bonus equivalents) higher than +10.

But I am also unsure if this rule actually applies to this situation, or if it only refers to what is allowed to exist on a specific item's permanent enchantments. Greater Magic Weapon does not require a masterwork weapon to be cast upon, so it could be that none of the rules regarding magic weapons apply.

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When the Dungeon Master's Guide says, "A single weapon cannot have a modified bonus (enhancement bonus plus special ability bonus equivalents) higher than +10" (221), the Guide's discussing a magic weapon that's created with a modified bonus higher than +10, not limiting an already magic weapon's capacity to be further temporarily magicked beyond an effective +10 bonus.

The Magic Item Compendium clarifies that

A single weapon cannot have a modified bonus (enhancement bonus plus property bonus equivalents) higher than +10, nor can it have a market price (not counting special materials or the price of the masterwork weapon itself) of greater than 200,000 gp (or 200,000 gp for each end of a double weapon). For weapons that exceed these limits, see Epic Level Handbook. (221)

(Emphasis mine.) This forces the reader to the Epic Level Handbook, which says

There is no limit to an epic magic weapon’s enhancement bonus, to the market price modifier of an epic magic weapon special ability, or to the total of an epic magic weapon’s enhancement bonus and market price modifier. (129)

So a magic weapon can even be created to have an astronomical effective bonus if a creator is willing to pay an astronomical cost, and, by extension, temporary magics pretty much don't count at all for any of this because temporary magics don't increase a weapon's gp value. (Disregarding the possibility of a con artist duping a mark into thinking a temporarily magicked weapon is an epic weapon, of course—that's not a game mechanic but a plot.)

Admittedly, the Dungeon Master's Guide should've been more up front that it's all about creating weapons not casting spells on weapons rather than making the reader bounce from book to book to confirm.

For example, this means a +1 briliant energy vorpal longsword (hence possessing a modified bonus of +10) can benefit from a Wizard 20 casting on the weapon the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell greater magic weapon [trans] (PH 251-2) so as to grant the weapon instead a +5 magical enhancement bonus, and the weapon can also benefit (although not much) from a level 20 cleric casting on it the 4th-level Clr spell undead bane weapon [trans] (Spell Compendium 226), even though, combined, these spells would make the +1 briliant energy vorpal longsword effectively a +5 undeadbane briliant energy vorpal longsword (a weapon with an effective bonus of +15).

Looking at things from another angle

One of the game's centerpieces is that a specific rule can override a general rule. This allows the rules of the specific spell greater magic weapon to override the broader, general rules about magic weapons presented in the Dungeon Master's Guide, essentially allowing the spell greater magic weapon to function as per the Player's Handbook on weapons that already possess a magical enhancement bonus, magic weapon special abilities, or both so long as one keeps in mind the rules for stacking bonuses.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, so one other angle to consider, and I wanted to be sure this works before I accept your answer: Does the +10 combined bonus on the item count as an enhancement bonus? Because in that case, I could also see the rules about same-type bonuses not stacking. If that were the case, then I could see this scenario: +1 longsword, +5 greater magic weapon cast on it, now a +5 longsword for duration ; +1 flaming longsword, +5 GMW cast on it, now is a non-flaming +5 longsword I guess that wouldn't be much fun, so I think your answer is correct, but I want verification :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2017 at 19:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WannabeWarlock I'm trying to avoid being glib, but only enhancement bonuses are enhancement bonuses. As the example shows, a greater magic weapon spell cast by a Wiz20 on a +1 flaming longsword makes the weapon effectively a +5 flaming longsword, the higher enhancement bonus of the greater magic weapon spell superseding temporarily the weapon's normal enhancement bonus. This typically has no impact on the weapon's other special abilities. For example, a greater magic weapon spell cannot be used offensively to remove magic weapon special abilities from a foe's weapon! \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2017 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's pretty easy to avoid being glib. The question is legitimate because of magic weapons having language that explicitly combines enhancement bonuses with other types of bonuses. I'm actually still not convinced that, outside of an epic level campaign, a weapon can receive over a +10 combined enhancement + enchantment. The more I read, actually, the more I think it is not allowed. The reason? Because there is not an "enhancement bonus for creation" or an "enhancement bonus for buffing" -- there is just an enhancement bonus, and the rule in black-and-white in the DMG says it doesn't work. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2017 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WannabeWarlock The site doesn't handle back-and-forth very well so the best way to test that notion here is to self-answer the question—that way it can be subjected to the hivemind and if the answer isn't well received you can still accept it as the answer that works best for you. That's legit and encouraged. However, I must point out that such an answer would run afoul of the game's specific versus general metarule: the specific rules for the greater magic weapon spell versus the general rules for magic weapons , and that metarule allows the former rule to break the latter. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2017 at 21:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WannabeWarlock As a general comment, specific-vs-general is literally the fundamental meta-foundation of the rule system (which is known as an “exception-based ruleset” as a nod to this underpinning), and you will greatly improve your ability to understand the rules if you think of it first with respect to literally every rules interaction you ever consider. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 22:01

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