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Skip Navigation LinksHigh Fantasy HERO>Content>Magic>Magic Items>Magic Item Design
Magic Item Guidelines

Magic Items

Artificing Guidelines Creating Permanent Magic Items Creating Ephemeral Magic Items Artificing Skill List
Points or Currency Permanent vs. Ephemeral Magic Items as Commodities Altering Magic Items
The creation and proliferation of Magic Items has a very large effect on any Fantasy setting, as it enables non-Magic Users access to Magical powers. Because of it's powerful ramifications, this subject garners a lot of close attention by GM's in any game system.
Following are some considerations for handling Magic Items, with a focus on my particular approach. After a high level coverage of how I handle Magic Items from an accounting point of view, there is a lengthy section on how I handle the creation of Magic Items.
The classic dichotomy for Fantasy HERO revolves around whether Magic Items are treated as Equipment and cost money or are treated as Power constructs and cost Character Points. My approach is simple: they can be either depending upon their permanency.
As a Campaign Rule, in my Campaigns all Magic Items must be bought as either "Permanent" Independent Foci or as "Ephemeral" effects on Foci with Nonrecoverable Charges.
Thus, if Independent the points contained in an item can be lost or gained as the vagaries of adventuring dictate. If on Nonrecoverable Charges, the Item eventually just ceases to work when it's Charges are expended.
Permanent Magic Items
Magic Items that last until destroyed should be designed using the Foci and Independent Limitations.  Such items are considered Permanent and cost Character points to create, but not to acquire.
Most Weapons and Armor, "Misc Magic Items", Rods, Staves, Wands, Rings, and the like fall into this category.
Ephemeral Magic Items
Some Magic Items are of limited use; the number of uses are finite. When modeling such items in the HERO System Nonrecoverable Charges should be applied as a Limitation to the Powers in the Item instead of Independent. Such items are considered to be "Ephemeral Magic Items" and do not have to be paid for with Character Points at any time. They are treated as a commodity.
Most Scrolls, Potions, Salves, and other such items generally fall into this category.
To prevent abuse or over-proliferation, the GM should assess some penalty of time or money or both to crafting such items based largely on how common they want them to be in their campaign.
As stated Permanent Items cost Character Points when created, but thereafter can be bought, sold, stolen, found, or otherwise acquired without any further ado as is typical of  Independent Powers.
One exception to this general rule is that Permanent Magic Items are paid for with Character Points if started with at Character creation (since this is indistinguishable from "creating" the items in a real sense).
Magic Items gained during the course of play do not cost any Character Points to the new owner.
Obviously the GM controls what items are given out as treasure, and what the GM alloweth the GM can taketh away; thus wise players should not bank too heavily upon their Magic Items or abuse them too often or else the GM should take steps to divest the Characters of the abused items.
Starting with Magic Items via Character Creation
If a Character starts the game with a Permanent Magic Item, then they must pay Character Points for it as noted above. However, to reiterate, Permanent Magic Items stolen, taken as booty, given as payment in-game, traded for, or discovered in the course of an adventure are not paid for in Character Points.
Further if a Character starts play with Permanent Magic Items, and any of those Items are taken from them then the Character simply looses whatever points they invested in the Items. The only way to regain the points is to reacquire the Items via in game events, or acquire other Items.
Creating Items In Game
If a PC with the appropriate skills crafts a Permanent Magic Item using the Artificing rules during the course of play, then that Character must pay the Real Cost in Character Points for that Magic Item. 
Alternately if the Magic Item is made specifically for another Character (and with that Character's consent), in which case the commissioning Character pays the Real Cost of the item in Character Points instead
With GM's permission two or more players could even pool Experience Points together to gather enough Character points to pay the Real Cost of a newly created Magic Item.
All that really matters is that one or more Characters willingly contribute a number of unspent Character Points equal to the Real Cost of the new Magic Item.
NOTE: This accounting of where the Character Points necessary to pay the Real Cost comes from is assumed to be part of the enchanting Magic and handled "behind the fourth wall" -- i.e., not mentioned or referenced in-game. In the game, it is simply known that the creation of Magic Items is a process that exacts a cost on the essences of those involved in their creation.
Generally speaking it is assumed that Magic Items can be bought and sold as a commodity in High Fantasy campaigns. The following section suggests some guidelines for determining the monetary value of Magic Items.
Suggested Monetary Rates
As a basic guideline, the following baseline formulas for Magic Item costs are recommended:
Concern Formula
Ephemeral Item Base Value Real Cost * Active Points in xc
Ephemeral Item Creation Cost 75% Base Value
Permanent Item Base Value (Real Cost * Active Points) * 5 in xc
Permanent Item Creation Cost 75% Base Value
xc = base currency of economy; gold coins in a gold based economy, silver coins in a silver based economy, etc.
Figuring Active Points of Framework-based Items
Some multi-purpose Magic Items are built using a Power Framework, particularly a Multipower or an EC. The following modifications to the above process apply in such a case:
  • Multipower: Consider a MP as a single Power Construct with Active Points equal to the Pool, +10 Active Point for every slot in the Multipower
  • EC: Consider it a single Power Construct with Active Points equal to the largest Power in the EC, +5 Active Points for each additional Power in the EC
  • VPP: Consider it a single Power Construct with Active Points equal to the Pool plus the Control Cost
Actual sales prices should be heavily modified by economic forces such as supply and demand, availability, and of course game mechanics like Trading Skill Rolls. Also, some Items should always sell at a premium such as "Rings of Power", mighty Staves, or basically any beneficial item with 200 or more Active Points in it.
Items of high magnitude should generally sell at top dollar in a big enough market pulling in at least 200% to 300% the base monetary value of the item. Still more powerful items such as Artifacts, some intelligent weapons (whether built with Artificial Intelligences or by some other means), and the like are effectively priceless and generally sell for whatever the market can bear. Some metropolitan cities might even have one or more consignment agents and/or auction houses where Magic Items can be brokered or bought as well.
It is not permissible to alter an existing Magic Item's abilities, however it is possible with GM's permission for a Character with the appropriate Artificing Skills to add abilities to an existing Permanent Magic Item, or to improve abilities already in a Permanent Magic Item by adding more effect. Ephemeral Items cannot be altered whatsoever.