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Old 06-09-2018, 12:13 PM   #1
Dalin
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Default Value of Casting Items

One of my players, relatively new to RPGs, came up with a fun character concept that stretches a few boundaries and I'd like to double-check that I'm not misunderstanding the balance issues at stake. He wants to play a young cleric who hasn't learned very many spells yet. But, since the other characters are worth over 250 points, he came up with a backstory whereby he has a holy artifact of his religion—a spear called the Spine of Yssa—that lets the user cast a bunch of spells. So instead of spending 20 points on personal spells, he put 15 spells into the magic item and the other five points for a few basic spells that he figures he would have learned in his first year.

In principle, I love the idea. He came up with a fun story for the character that fits the tone of the campaign. But, using the rules for casting items in Magic Items (pp. 10-14), the item rapidly gets prohibitively expensive. We're talking over $200,000... so not something he can just convert some quirk points into.

In terms of game balance, though, are spells in a casting item significantly more valuable than those that a character knows? The item knows them all at skill 15. The spells never benefit from reduced FP or casting time due to high skill (even if his power investiture goes way up). The item is not powered, so the character needs to spend the FP to cast from his own reserves. Even with Signature Gear, there will likely be times when he is temporarily without the item (no weapons allowed in town, pretending to be a beggar, etc.). These all make the item less useful than a regular spell.

The two main benefits that I see are that the item can be handed to someone else, giving them 15 spells. And, for healing spells, it will allow the cleric to have two sources of independent healing magic (once he learns some healing spells himself). For the former situation, I might just suggest a limitation: can only be used by devotees of Yssa, or maybe just by this particular character. (The backstory has him marked as pretty special, so this fits.) The healing issue doesn't worry me.

Any other wrinkles anyone can foresee? Note that the player is emphatically not a wily munchkin trying to pull a fast one.

If I give him the green light, are there any other mechanics I should require on the character sheet? He's getting Signature Gear, of course. Should I just convert the 15 spell points into an Unusual Background or something and call it a day?
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Old 06-09-2018, 04:42 PM   #2
ArchonShiva
 
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Location: Montréal, Québec
Default Re: Value of Casting Items

So, he wants to spend [15] on an item knowing 15 spells at 15 instead of learning those at 15?

The worst thing I can really think of is him trying to sell it for cash, or leveraging its worth such as offering it as collateral, which seems like not an actual risk here.

It might mean everyone can cast spells from it, which allows everyone to, e.g., buff themselves with their own FP, but requiring PI or whatever per the spells list is probably sufficient. It will allow different tactics and approaches, but I wouldn’t worry.
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Old 06-09-2018, 10:00 PM   #3
Anthony
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Default Re: Value of Casting Items

The obvious option is to not create it as a magic item, created it as a Gadget. Unfortunately, that involves rules that aren't part of DFRPG. It's also not a lot of points saved, it's can be stolen (probably half cost because the item only works people with the relevant PI; quick contest, so -15%) on 15 points of skills, resulting in a cost of [13].

Your other option is to just give a quirk or two for "needs a special holy item" (possibly two levels; 1 quirk for needing a holy item at all, 1 for needing a specific one).
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Old 06-10-2018, 02:25 AM   #4
evileeyore
 
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Default Re: Value of Casting Items

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
... it's can be stolen (probably half cost because the item only works people with the relevant PI; quick contest, so -15%)...
"Only Works for 'Good' Power Investiture" isn't relevant for Can be Stolen.

My take on this 'item':

Spine of Yssa 15 points
This spear is an artifact of the Divine being Yssa, it can only be destroy [insert very special circumstance]. The item has a will, and seeks to return to the devotee it has bonded with, so long as that devotee is worthy of Yssa's favor (so even if somehow lost, it tends to find it's way back to it's devotee's hands, or the nearest temple of Yssa).

It holds 15 spells which are cast from it at skill 15 (usable only by those with Power Investiture Holy or Holy Might). While it is priceless, it acts as a Power Item with only 20 FP. Lastly, it counts as a magic staff with 2 hex reach.

(I'm leaving it to you to set it's weapon stats... if you're worried about "how much to 'spend' on it as a cool spear", you can shave 700$ from the Points for Cash spent on it purely as a 'Power Item' to make it a cool spear. Or just make it a humdrum spear the Player will eventually want to trade out once he's got better gear and has purchased all the spells it contains anyway.)



You can safely ignore the 'under the hood'. If you want it to have a few more spells, give it more spells (I'd say no more than 5 or 10), but then correspondingly lower it as a Power Item. If you think 20 points is too much as a Power Item, set it where you feel comfortable. This is just a 'good balance' range for that amount of points.

Under the hood:
Spoiler:  
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Last edited by evileeyore; 06-10-2018 at 02:29 AM.
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Old 06-11-2018, 07:17 AM   #5
Kromm
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Default Re: Value of Casting Items

The primary reason for the high cost of magic items is the "can be handed to anybody" factor. In many ways, a party of four to six delvers with an item like that becomes a group of four to six casters who "know" the spells on the item. Sure, there are constraints on how many can use it at once, but portability is the origin of the price tag. Plus there's the whole ". . . and when we decide it isn't useful, we can sell it for cash without losing any points" angle. So it's also portable wealth.

If you take that away from an item and say the artifact works only for that one character, and as a result has essentially no resale value, then I agree with the other opinions here: Charge at most the point cost to know the spell(s), and if you feel brave and want to venture into GURPS, charge a little less because the spells have gadget limitations.
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Old 06-12-2018, 08:22 AM   #6
Dalin
 
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Default Re: Value of Casting Items

Thanks, all, for your responses. Very helpful.

I'm not worried about delving into GURPS territory (I played 3e for many years), but I don't know 4e very well. I don't worry too much about getting the exact points right as long as I'm not opening up a can of worms that will plague me later in the campaign.
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Old 06-12-2018, 02:23 PM   #7
DouglasCole
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Default Re: Value of Casting Items

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
The primary reason for the high cost of magic items is the "can be handed to anybody" factor. In many ways, a party of four to six delvers with an item like that becomes a group of four to six casters who "know" the spells on the item. Sure, there are constraints on how many can use it at once, but portability is the origin of the price tag. Plus there's the whole ". . . and when we decide it isn't useful, we can sell it for cash without losing any points" angle. So it's also portable wealth.

If you take that away from an item and say the artifact works only for that one character, and as a result has essentially no resale value, then I agree with the other opinions here: Charge at most the point cost to know the spell(s), and if you feel brave and want to venture into GURPS, charge a little less because the spells have gadget limitations.
For what it's worth, Fifth Edition DnD basically solved the first problem ("let's pass around the ring of regeneration!") with their attunement mechanic. The second problem (money money money) is not a solved problem in that system.
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Old 06-12-2018, 11:23 AM   #8
Anthony
 
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Default Re: Value of Casting Items

Quote:
Originally Posted by evileeyore View Post
"Only Works for 'Good' Power Investiture" isn't relevant for Can be Stolen.
"Halve the value of the limitation if the gadget will not immediately work for the thief" does not have any limitations on why you halve the value. In general, anything that prevents the item from working well for your enemies requires that half value, and "requires 'good' holy investiture" most certainly has that effect.
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Under the hood:
Spoiler:  
Spoiler:  
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Old 06-12-2018, 01:36 PM   #9
evileeyore
 
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Default Re: Value of Casting Items

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Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
"Halve the value of the limitation if the gadget will not immediately work for the thief" does not have any limitations on why you halve the value.
Dang it! When I checked earlier I didn't see the last line.

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