View Full Version : Alternative Equipment in Low Magic Games

mabriss lethe
2006-12-31, 02:57 AM
Grenade-like weapons will play a greater role in a low magic campaign. Flasks of Acid and Alchemist's fire can wind up being a PC's best friend.

Greater Masterwork Items: Advances in Metallurgy
Without the crutch of magic hindering the development of metallurgy, Levels of quality beyond masterwork would start appearing. These items would function in a near identical manner to magical items with a few exceptions.

+5 enhancement cap on equipment: Advances in material sciences can only take things so far.
Limited enhancement options: Weapons and armor would be limited to the more subtle of enhancements. Keen weapons could be the result of a better tempering process. Defending weapons would be balanced to fight on the defensive and be built with oversized guards or quillions. Sorry, but there just wouldn't be a place for a flaming sword in this world.
Immune to magic supression: In areas or conditions that would render magic inoperable, these items would continue to function normally. This shouldn't be much of an issue in a low magic setting,where anti-magic fields and the like aren't of much use, but you never know.
Price considerations: In a low magic setting, you can use the exact same prices as a comparable magic item from the core books. If you incorporate this idea into a higher magic setting, then you might want to think about increasing the price by at least 50%, if not doubling it outright. Because of their immunity to magic supression, they'd be a far more valuable commodity.
Enchantment of Greater Masterwork Items in High Magic Settings: This could go either way. Personally, I'd let it all stack and just charge the Bu-Jeezus out of my PCs to have a Greater item enchanted. In this case, identical qualities could stack 1)if it makes sense and 2) if the DM allows it, since they'd be coming from different sources. Forging a single weapon of this quality could bankrupt a small kingdom. Feel free to gouge your players to your little black heart's content.

2006-12-31, 03:42 AM
Nice thoughts. Couple of points, if I may?

First up, sure you could do flaming swords! Trick is, they'd be charged and have to be refilled. See, flamethrowers have existed in basic forms since the good old Persian empire (ever hear of Greek Fire?) and a smart machinist might work out a basic system for affixing to your standard broadsword.

Fire Spitter: This curious device consists of a mechanical rig with a thin blower running up the fuller of the blade, a sparker or lit flame at the tip and an attachment point for an alchemist's fire flask at the very bottom. The flask can hold up to 10 oz of alchemist's fire, providing sufficient fuel for 10 swings. Refilling the flask is a full-round action that provokes an attack of opportunity and requires up to 10oz of alchemist's fire. The fire spitter device adds 1d6 fire damage to all strikes made with it. The fire spitter comes in two forms, standard and deluxe. The standard version allows a very small amount of vaporous alchemist's fire through the blower, which must be lit prior to combat (requires a standard action with a tinderbox, a move-equivalent action with tindertwigs). In the deluxe version, for just 50gp extra, the machinist attaches a rather splendid mechanical sparker which activates whenever the sword makes heavy contact with a target and results in the flame being spit. Market Price: 100gp for the standard device, 150gp for the deluxe device. Alchemist's fire is not included. Can be constructed with a successful Craft (machinist) check.

Alchemist's fire already has stats for its production - 20gp market price per oz, dealing 1d6 fire damage when thrown. Stacked up to 100oz, this results in a 2000gp value, the same value as a base +1 mod on a magical weapon.

But the system doesn't work to simply let you add on modifiers like that! A +2 modifier total is 8000gp, and a +3 modifier is 18000gp! Simple enough. Make adding 'modifications' like this onto existing values require a successful Craft (machinist) check on the same level as trap values (1 week per 1000gp) with the amount equal to the difference in gp as costs incurred in materials and labour actually affixing the mod to the item in such a way as to not destroy it.

Hence, our superwork mettallurgical broadsword with an effective +1 modifier costs 2,315gp. The fire-spitter device on its own only costs 150gp (with the assumption that 2000gp's worth of fuel will eventually follow in its lifetime), but to bring us up to that wonderful +8000gp mark, let it be assumed that 3,850gp's worth of materials and work must be expended in attaching the device in such a way as to not ruin the fine metalwork that made this blade in the first place.

2006-12-31, 03:57 AM
Second point is in construction. Should one use the Craft rules for making these non-magical items, or the magic item construction rules? Craft rules take more time, but less gp (only a 3rd of market price) and no XP, whereas magic item construction rules need 1/2 market price and XP, but generally produce the item somewhat faster.

For a craftsman with 10 ranks in his Craft skill, he would average a result of 20 and, with an assumed DC of 20 on making magic items, would progress as 20x20sp a week, or 40gp a week in work. If our magic item is worth 2000gp, this will require 51 weeks to complete, or almost a year, with 667gp in raw materials. If a mage does it, it will require 2 days and 40xp, with 1000gp in raw materials. On the other hand, rules for crafting traps in the DMG can be extrapolated to provide a time of 1 week per 1000gp of value for extensive mundane creations, so our 2000gp item now takes 2 weeks to complete and 667gp in raw materials, with no xp cost.

It might make sense to rule that this method of creation only applies for items in excess of 1000gp in value.

mabriss lethe
2006-12-31, 04:37 AM
Personally, if a character wants to make a flaming sword that way, I'd be more than happy to let him. I just pity the poor fool for running around in such a flammable fashion. (actually, I saw something of this a while back in one of the WotC D20 books. Don't remember which one. It mentioned that it could be used with any number of alchemical substances, Fire was the ammo of choice, because things like acid and a few others quickly corroded the blade to uselessness.)

You can Jerry-rig whatever solution makes you happy if you want a burning sword that badly. Rig up crude batteries full of peach juice and gold flakes and wear it like a back pack wired to the sword if you want a weapon to deal shock damage. ideas like that is limitless but of less practical consideration than others In terms of strict smithing, I'd say stick to things like sharper edges or better guards. Things like that.

As for time and method of production, I'd do it based on the type of setting.

If used in a low magic setting, buying it as a feat would work without a hitch. You'd just be replacing standard magic weapons for these. If an item requires being imbued with a certain spell to gain an enhancement... the best mechanic I can figure at 4am is to use a variant of the warlock/artificer ability to mimic the spells using a Use Magic Device check. In this case, I'd replace Use Magic Device with an appropriate Craft check or whatever other appropriate skill floats your boat.

If incorporated into a higher magic setting, I'd probably use craftsmans rules. don't ask me why, I just arbitrarily think it would work better that way.

I don't see waiting a year for a master craftsman's work of art to be all that bad. In the real world, Japanese swordsmiths could spend about as long working a single piece of bar stock until it was folded into literally millions of layers. (yes, this is an exception rather than a rule. The average katana took a couple of months from start to finish.) In this case, it makes finding existing examples of greater masterwork a more viable option than having a piece made to order. These aren't your run of the mill masterwork weapons. These are the finest examples of human craftsmanship and art. The names of these smiths would be whispered reverentially as one would talk about a saint. They would be remembered by their work for generations afterward. Think about names like Masamune and Muramasa. That's what I'm talking about.

For ease, use the magic rules. for a touch more realism, use craftsman rules. That's my 2 cents anyway.

That being said. If you use it, it's your game do with it what you will. Keep what you like, change what you don't and have a blast.

Good questions all around though. Thanks for the reply

2006-12-31, 05:11 AM
Maybe +5 enhancement is a bit hefty, since the usual(nonepic) magic rules also allow for it and magic IS better than craftsmanship. I'd take the cap downt to +3 enhancement bonus.

What do You do with special material, like mithril, adamantium, dragonskin etc.? For my home campaign settings, I've made some special crafting rules to make more out of such materials without using magic. Here's the essence(already posted this on an older thread about alternative material rules, hence the quote):

Every special material can, by a master craftsman, be used to craft armors that are better than their standard counterparts. The craft DC is:

20 - masterwork basis

+ 5 for every 1 point of magical enhancement( maximum 5)

+ 10 for every 1 point of mundane armor bonus

+ 10 for every 1 point of additional DEX bonus

+ 5 for every 1 point less check penalty

Special materials make special upgrades available:

+ 15 to count as one category lighter (Mithril only, maximum 1)

+ 5 for every 1 point of damage reduction (Adamantium only)

+ X for improvement Y of Your choice (Add You favorite limitation)I don't see why this one could not be applied to other materials as well. To make it fit Your purposes You'd have to take out the magical enhancement bonus and special property rules and maybe add a

+ 5 for every point of nonmagical attack enhancement

+ 5 for every nonmagical damage enhancement

to make it fit for weapons as well(didn't have weapons in mind when I made it). Use the craft rules to build with it, this way a character wanting to be a master armorsmith doesn't need to spend XP on it, but needs time - the only ressource a DM has complete control of.

This version would make a +3 weapon a task with a DC of 50, very hard but manageable for a 21st level character - and in a low magic world, making something like a +3 longsword really SHOULD be considered an epic task. It also would make magic enhancement possible, allowing for the odd magic weapon or armor made out of special materials: "You want a magic sword? Kill a Dragon first, and bring me his fangs!"

2006-12-31, 05:47 AM
Hm. I would suggest allowing for some -ves to those DCs for special materials, such as expensive alloys and unique materials (such as actually making a dagger from the dragon's fang) to make it posible for someone less than level 21 to make a +3 weapon, and to make +5 weapons actually possible at all. (If you are in a no/very low magic campaign, you probably still want to have the possibility of a +5 enhancement.)

2006-12-31, 06:06 AM
Hm. I would suggest allowing for some -ves to those DCs for special materials, such as expensive alloys and unique materials (such as actually making a dagger from the dragon's fang) to make it posible for someone less than level 21 to make a +3 weapon, and to make +5 weapons actually possible at all. (If you are in a no/very low magic campaign, you probably still want to have the possibility of a +5 enhancement.)

If You keep in my enhancement rules...

... oops, forget to enter magical weapon enhancement bonus to the original weapon options list:

+ 5 for every 1 point of magical enhancement bonus(maximum 5, special materials only)

If You add this one, the +5(+3) magic dragonfang dagger You proposed will have a craft DC of 45(35), difficult, but still possible for nonepic craftsmen.
Note that this dagger has a magical enhancement bonus, so every antimagic effect still works against it.

This way, a magical item is actually easier to produce than a mundane one with the same bonus, reflecting the difficulties one has reproducing magic effects with nonmagic means.
Also note that even in a campaign setting without casting characters magic weapons can be made via these rules. Since spellcasters are more disturbing on a low magic world than the odd magic weapon, this option should still be viable for You.

mabriss lethe
2006-12-31, 05:08 PM
it all sounds groovy to me. I was going with a +5 cap because it's half the max enhancement that a magical weapon can have. (assuming all those nifty special abilities and all that.)

Special materials would probably best go as prerequisite materials for certain enhancement qualities. Still recovering from work so I'll have to put my noodle to it later.

2007-01-01, 01:14 PM
Special materials would probably best go as prerequisite materials for certain enhancement qualities.

That's the plan. If Your character wants to built an armor with, say, fire resistance, he needs the hide of a magical beast with fire resistance, for example. In low magic campaigns, magical beasts, dragons and other special material providers might be extremely rare, so You won't find equipment with special enhancements very often.

2007-01-01, 02:28 PM
You mean using non-magic effects on equipment? Could work. You dont need to make that many rules. Just try the following:

Greater Masterwork Weapon/armors:
First, make the enhancement bonuses the same prices as the enchanced ones.
You can let the weapon have +1 (just a +1 for damage, if compared to normal masterworks), and everything else being for powers, with a total cap of +5. You can allow it to go up to +5 if you want. Not a problem really.
You'd need new feats. Maybe [Metalurgy] to make these enhanced stuff.
For special effects, you could use these:
*Defender: The weapon can be made with defensive bonuses. It's easier to block, etc.
*Flaming, Icy, Shocking: These would need to be fuelled with alchemical stuff.
*Keen: A special build would make them sharper.
*Mercyful: The weapon can be made to cause only subdual.
*Throwing: It can be made with a good balance to be thrown
* Distance: Better balance to reach longer places.
* Mercyful: Like the Melee's version.
*Flaming, Icy, Shocking: Would have to be applied only to arrows/bolts.

You can get several potions into alchemical version too. Make an [Alchemy] feat, to make them.

The interesting thing here, is that you could mix these with normal magical equipment, to have an idea on the limitations of each kind.

And can't forget that Advanced Weapons can't defeat magic damage resistance, but you could make them with special material to defeat others kinds of damage reduction.

mabriss lethe
2007-01-01, 07:19 PM
I see alchemically fuelled elemental damage weapons falling into exotic proficiency weapons or taking some penalties to wield them, something of that nature. When I picture them in my head, they seem ungainly. I get an image of a short sword with an IV drip of napalm attached or a crossbow bolt with a wobbly fired clay bulb for a head.

As for magic damage resistance, In a low magic setting that wouldn't be an issue. It really shouldn't be cropping up. But yeah, if incorporating it into a higher magic campaign, then by all means, yes. There will be situations where high class mundane equipment will be more effective just as there will be times when you'd prefer the classic magic sword.

2007-01-01, 11:32 PM
Greater Masterwork Items: Advances in Metallurgy

Not meaning to advertise my own thread, but a while back I posted just such a list of advancements (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10517). It should be noted that these were designed to coexist with and be balanced with ordinary magic weapons, so you won't see anything that duplicates (and therefore replaces) a magical enhancement exactly -- which may be the sort of thing you're angling for. But there are some ideas there, so feel free to pillage them if you want. :smallsmile:

(It was posted before the Great Forum Move, so the tables are now broken. I might go back and fix them, if you want to see them properly.)

2007-01-02, 04:57 AM
Peregrine: looked at Your ideas and found them quite helpful. Asking permission to remodel them to fit into my home rpg system. :)

2007-01-02, 10:16 AM
Peregrine: looked at Your ideas and found them quite helpful. Asking permission to remodel them to fit into my home rpg system. :)

Absolutely. :smallsmile: When I say 'feel free to pillage', I mean everybody feel free.

mabriss lethe
2007-01-03, 03:15 AM
Excellent! My work here is finished....for now *ominous look*
Thanks for everyone's input.

2007-01-03, 04:41 AM
*raised eyebrow* Ye are welcome.