Oops They’re Creating Magic Items

Last Updated: 240616

Of the many rules one would expect to be complex and incomplete, those for creating (and recharging) items are surprisingly thorough, if a bit scattered. Here they are, integrated, including clarifications from Dragon magazine and Wilderness Survival Guide. See Potion Creation and Alchemy  for  specifics on potion creation.

A character must be at least an 11th level high priest, a 13th level druid, a 12th level wizard or an 11th level illusionist in order to manufacture magic items (except with respect to potions and scrolls).

Potions may be made by any magic-user of 7th level or above, if he or she enlists the aid of an alchemist (q.v.). At levels above the 11th, such assistance is no longer mandatory, although it will reduce the amount of money and time the player character must spend making the potion by 50% of the compounding/infusing time normally required, as the alchemist will be so employed instead.

Scrolls may be inscribed only by characters of 7th or higher level, and the spells placed upon the scroll must be of a level which the inscribing character is able to employ, i.e. a 9th level magic-user could not place a 7th level spell on a scroll.


When creating a magic item, all spells must be cast from memory—scrolls or magic devices can never be used to enchant an item or cast magic upon an object so prepared.

Magic Users

Most magic items that are not potions or scrolls can be created by a magic user of 12th level and above. Specifics for the item, the spells, and the material components must be determined, either by research, consulting a sage or discovering instructions in a long-forgotten tome.

The item: 1) must be in sound and undamaged condition; 2) must be crafted of the highest quality material with the finest workmanship; and 3) must cost or reflect a value reflecting the second test, and in most cases the item must have a raw materials cost in excess of 100 gp (*typically at least 24% of the sale value listed in the DMG).

Except for clerical items (created by clerics), potions, scrolls, magic items require the spell enchant an item to prepare the item for further enchantment. The material component(s) for enchant an item vary according to the nature of the item being magicked and the successive magicks. For example, a cloak of displacement might also require the hides of 1 or more displacer beasts, a sword meant to slay dragons could require the blood and some other part of the appropriate type(s) of dragon(s), and a ring of shooting stars might require pieces of meteorites and the horn of a ki-rin. (*Again, typically the spell components will be at least 24% of the sale value listed in the DMG).

Once the process, item, and material components are acquired, the casting of enchant an item can begin. All work must be uninterrupted. The item must be continually touched by the spell caster during the casting of enchant an item, a casting time of 2 + 1-8 (d8) days. During rest periods absolutely no other form of magic may be performed, and the magic-user must remain quiet and in isolation. Even during rest periods the item must never be more than 1’ distant from the magic-user, for if it is, the whole process is spoiled and must be begun again.

The magic-user will “know” when the casting of enchant an item is complete and the item is ready for further enchantment. They then pronounce the final magical syllable, and, if the item makes a saving throw versus magic (the same as the magic-user, including any saving throw bonuses, not exceeding +3), the enchant an item spell succeeds. A result of 1 on the die (d20) always results in failure, regardless of modifications.

The magic-user then casts the required spell(s) upon the item. The first spell must be cast within 24 hours of the completion of enchant an item, or enchant an item fades, although the item can be reenchanted. Any additional spell subsequently cast upon an item bearing an enchant an item spell requires (4 hours) + (4-8 additional hours per spell level) of the magic being cast (where the magic-user can only accomplish work 8 hours / day). Again, during casting, the item must be touched by the magic user, and during rest periods the item must always be within 1’ of his or her person. This procedure holds true for any additional spells placed upon the item, and each successive dweomer must be begun within 24 hours of the last, even if any prior spell failed. While it is possible to tell when the enchant an item spell succeeds, it is not possible to tell if these subsequent spells actually take, and each spell cast requires the same saving throw as the item itself.

No magic placed on the item is permanent without a permanency spell as a finishing touch. When casting the permanency spell on an item, the magic-user need roll 2 or better with d20 to avoid loss of a constitution point. Items with a permanent dweomer (such as weapons, armor, most rings and miscellaneous magic items) require a permanency spell to be made operational. The above-mentioned ring of spell storing could be made without the benefit of a permanency spell, and spells could be stored within, but they could only be called forth once, and then the ring would be useless.

Items that are charged—rods, staves, wands, javelins of lightning, ring of wishes, etc.—can never be made permanent.  The exact spell required to recharge an item will vary. For a wand that can create multiple effects, the spell required for a single charge is typically that which is the highest level spell effect the wand (staff, rod) can produce. *The material components for enchant an item when merely recharging will at a minimum cost the sale value of the item divided by the maximum number of possible charges.


At 11th level an illusionist may create one-shot or charged magic items. The requirements for the Illusionist are generally the same as the magic user, except the illusionist would use major creation instead of enchant an item. During the 16 hours after casting major creation, the illusionist instills the required spells into the item. If their concentration is interrupted even once, the item fades and forever disappears.

Beginning at 14th level an illusionist may attempt permanent items, using a similar process. After major creation has been cast on the item, an alter reality must fix the enchantment permanently in place. Thus, with a great expense in time, money and preparation, major creation, alter reality and true sight spells, and an unflawed gem worth not less than 10,000 gp, an illusionist might be able to create a gem of seeing. For any details in question (e.g., saving throws), what applies to magic-users applies to illusionists as well.

Clerics & Druids

A cleric of at least 11th level (or druids of at least 13th level) can create magic items applicable to their profession. Otherwise, demi-human clerics are sometimes capable of making items with permanent dweomers if they have reached their highest possible level, generally those oriented to the needs and capabilities of the race.

Clerics and druids make items by spending two weeks in retreat, meditating in complete isolation. Thereafter, they must spend a week fasting. Finally, they must pray over and purify the item to become magical for a day (i.e., three weeks and a day).

Of course, the item must be of the finest quality as detailed in enchant an item. Thereafter the cleric or druid must place the item upon their altar and invoke the direct favor of their deity to instill each special power into the item. There is then a 1% per day cumulative chance that the item will be empowered as desired, providing the cleric or druid has been absolutely exemplary in his or her faith and alignment requirements. If the item would not have charges, the item need only be sanctified to the appropriate deity in order to complete its manufacture. Furthermore, if the item would have charges, the cleric or druid must then cast the requisite spell(s) upon it, doing so within 24 hours of its being favored by the deity.

Tolerance Levels for Lack of Food
Combined Strength and Constitution Tolerance Level
15 or less 4 days
16 to 19 5 days
20 to 24 6 days
25 to 30 7 days
31 to 35 8 days
36 or more 10 days

If during fasting the character exceeds their tolerance level for lack of food, they must make a successful Strength or Constitution check (whichever is higher) once every 12 hours to remain unaffected by the fasting. Every check after the first has a cumulative +1 modifier. When a character first fails a check, they are weakened, and all subsequent checks have a cumulative +2 modifier. If a character fails a second check, they are distressed. A distressed character continues to incur the penalties for being weakened. If they fail a third check they are incapacitated (and in immediate danger of starving to death). An incapacitated character is incapable of performing any voluntary physical activity, thus ending the creation process.


The process described in the Dragon article “Charging isn’t cheap” suggests that researching an item without a sage cost 2,000 gp per week for a base number of weeks corresponding to the level of magic user required to cast all required spells (e.g., 12th level for the 6th level enchant an item), providing a base chance of success of 10%. Each additional 2,000 gp /week increases that base chance by 10% (to a maximum of 10,000 gp per week and 50% chance of success). After the base period of research is complete, the chance of success is checked each week, calculated as: the base chance, plus 1% per level of the character, plus 1% per intelligence point of the magic user (use wisdom for clerics), minus twice the minimum level required to make the item.

Example: Mae, an 18th-level magic-user, decides to make a staff of the magi. Her intelligence is 18, and she spends 2,000 gp per week. Her chance of success after the initial period is 10% + 18% + 18% – 36% = 10% per week, non-cumulative, for discovering the proper materials and procedures for making the magic item.

The Dragon article also has some useful suggestions for required spell components for some rods, staves, and wands.



TSR 2011, Dungeon Masters Guide [1e], 1979.
TSR 2010, Players Handbook [1e], 1978.
TSR 2020, Wilderness Survival Guide [1e], 1986 (pp. 50-51).
Dragon Magazine, Issue 66, “Sage Advice” October 1982.
Dragon Magazine, Issue 101, “Charging isn’t cheap” September 1985.
Dragon Magazine, Issue 146, “Sage Advice” June 1989.
Dragon Magazine, Issue 147, “Sage Advice” July 1989.