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From crafting fearsome weapons to brewing life-saving potions, creating magic items in your Dungeons and Dragons campaign is a gratifying pastime and exciting yet rarely used aspect of the game.
In this article, we will explore official rules and non-canonical ideas for crafting magic items, weapons, and potions. We will also provide a table of examples at the end of the article of crafting requirements for homebrew magic items to players and Dungeon Masters alike.
Note first that the DMG’s rules are more strict than Xanathar’s rules and are quite limiting. We’ll analyze Xanathar’s next, and you, as the DM, can determine which set of rules, or a combination, you would like to enforce.
According to pages 128 and 129 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, a Dungeon Master can allow a player to craft magic items, though it is an expensive and lengthy task. Remember: all aspects of crafting magic items are under the purview of the Dungeon Master, who has the final say on rules.
- A Formula. Characters need a formula that describes the construction of the item. This can be something characters have developed in-game (with the DM’s approval) or an established formula from a reputable (or not) source.
- Spellcasting Abilities. A character must have the spell slots and be able to cast a spell that an item will produce in order to imbue an item with that magic. This includes having and expending material components the spell requires. Magical items that do not produce spells still require spellcasters to create the item (such as a +1 weapon).
- Character Level Requirements. Depending on the item’s rarity, a character must meet a minimum level to craft that item. A table showing this is provided below.
- Materials, Tools, and Location. A Dungeon Master can decide if a character needs particular tools or supplies, or if an item can only be created at a certain location. Example: Flame tongue requires forging with lava. This should be outlined in the formula.
Crafting Magic Items Requirements, DMG pg. 129
|2,000 (~5.5 Years)
|20,000 (~55 Years)
A player crafting a magic item makes progress in increments of spending 25 gp of the Creation Cost per day, assuming they work for 8 hours each of those days.
If the item produces a spell, the creator must expend one spell slot of the spell’s level each day of creation. This includes having or expending (if required by the spell) material components once each day, unless the item has a one-time use (like a spell scroll), in which case, the components are only consumed once.
Note: It can be assumed that the 25 gp per day covers the cost of components that don’t have a cost associated with them. It is up to the DM’s discretion how easily these components are acquired. Finding components can make for a fun side quest.
“Many hands make work light.”
If multiple characters meet the level requirements, they can work together to create a magic item. Each character can contribute spells, spell slots, and components, and all characters must participate during the entire crafting process each crafting day.
Each character can contribute 25gp worth of effort per day crafting the item. This means that the time required can be divided by the number of contributing characters. Note that the DMG does not say each character must have spell slots or the spell to contribute. Only one of the characters needs the spell requirements. Thus, any character can contribute to creating the magic item if they meet the level prerequisites.
Example: Four characters crafting a Very Rare item can create it in 500 days instead of 2,000.
Crafting a magic item won’t break the bank. A character can live off of 1 gp per day modestly.
Developing formulas for a magic item is less complicated based on DMG rules, as usually only a spell and associated components are required unless the DM decided otherwise.
Only a magic user can create magic items, and this requires a hefty price in time and money. Also, homebrew items that don’t have specific spells tied to them will be more difficult to formulate.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything Rules for Crafting Magic Items
“Creating a magic item is a long-term process that involves one or more adventures to track down rare materials and the lore needed to create the item.”
Xanathar focuses on gaining materials/components through adventuring, and a non-magic user can create an item just as easily.
(Not applicable to creating spell scrolls or brewing healing potions. See below):
- Formula. Just like in the DMG, a formula is needed.
- Materials. Exotic materials are required, like skin of a Yeti or a vial of water from a whirlpool in the Elemental Plane of Water. Finding these materials should take place as part of the adventure and in thematically-congruent locations. A Challenge Rating table for encounters where a character can acquire these materials is provided below.
- Gold Cost and Time Required. Just like in the DMG, there is a cost and time required associated with item rarity. However, this table differs significantly from the DMG because players are gathering materials by encountering creatures.
- Tool and Skills Proficiencies. Characters need to be proficient in any tools or skills appropriate for creating the item, such as Jeweler’s Tools and Arcana, for instance.
BIG DIFFERENCE FROM DMG: Note that in Xanathar’s rules, a character does not need to be a spellcaster to create a magic item (except spell scrolls). Thus, no material components are consumed or spell slots expended. Gaining materials is a one-time deal according to Xanathar, which should be acquired through the adventure.
See our ideas for creating formulas in our article 5e Magic Item Crafting Formulas.
|Material CR Range
Any magic item that is consumable may halve the cost and creation time required (such as a potion).
Note that a “workweek” means you are working 5 days a week, 8 hours per day. These days don’t need to be consecutive.
Costs associated with creating the item cover other materials and tools required.
For Dungeon Masters, Xanathar’s Guide also provides a table for possible complications that could arise while crafting an item. Check it out:
D6 Table for Crafting Challenges
- Rumors swirl that what you’re working on is unstable and a threat to the community.
- Your tools are stolen, forcing you to buy new ones.
- A local wizard shows keen interest in your work and insists on observing you.
- A powerful noble offers a hefty price for your work and is not interested in hearing no for an answer.
- A dwarf clan accuses you of stealing its secret lore to fuel your work.
- A competitor spreads rumors that your work is shoddy and prone to failure.
These challenges might involve a rival.
A spell may be transferred by a spellcaster onto a scroll, creating a spell scroll. Pg. 133 of XGtE.
- Resources. Time and money are required for crafting a spell scroll. See the table below.
- Arcana Skill. Characters crafting spell scrolls must be proficient in the Arcana skill.
- Material Components. Material components required by the spell must be provided and potentially consumed (according to the spell) in order to create a spell scroll.
- Prepared Spell. The spell being transferred to the spell scroll must be prepared or among the character’s known spells in order to be scribed.
Spell Scroll Costs
Flutes wrote an entire article about spell scrolls if you’re interested in learning more (their rules are all over the place, so you’ll want to bookmark this resource).
Healing potion brewing has a separate set of requirements.
A character who is proficient with the herbalism kit can brew potions. Here are the other requirements:
In the event that a player wants to sell magic items they create, finding a buyer may be difficult and should be up to the discretion of the DM. Page 133 of XGtE includes some brief instructions:
A character can find a buyer for a single magic item by spreading the word and paying 25 gp for 1 workweek. Only one item at a time can be sold. After finding a buyer, the character must make a Charisma (Persuasion) check to determine what kind of an offer they receive. A character can decide to not sell the item after receiving an offer, but another workweek and 25 gp must be expended to find another buyer.
Persuasion Check Results
In the following table, a player can see the gold value his item sells for based on his Charisma roll.
Note: These values are halved for one-time use items such as potions or scrolls.
Thieves and unwanted buyers may be attracted to a character’s magic item. Every workweek spent trying to sell the item brings a 10% chance of complications.
- Your enemy secretly arranges to buy the item to use it against you.
- A thieves’ guild, alerted to the sale, attempts to steal your item.
- A foe circulates rumors that your item is a fake.
- A sorcerer claims your item as a birthright and demands you hand it over.
- Your item’s previous owner, or surviving allies of the owner, vow to retake the item by force.
- The buyer is murdered before the sale is finalized.
These challenges might involve a rival.
While the formula examples you give your players are simplified for their convenience, players should be aware that the formulas their characters receive are more like elaborate manuscripts with sketched diagrams, complex measurements, detailed calculations, and precise instructions that take time to analyze and comprehend. Certain skill proficiencies are important in understanding how a formula works, as a formula will be technical, can be coded, or may be written in an uncommon language.
Because there are no canonical book-derived formulas, players have a chance to compose their own formulas based on components they have harvested throughout their adventuring. To do this, a player will need to be familiar with magic item crafting requirements and readily communicate their plans with their Dungeon Master.
Keep inventory of what component you’ve gathered and ask your Dungeon Master to estimate what CR can be associated with the component, whether from slaying a creature or completing a social encounter like shopping, bartering, or stealing. To estimate a CR for social encounters, see our guide here. Also, estimate how much in-game time you have spent gathering each component.
When you think you have a few components that could be used to craft a specific magic item based on the item description and function, tally up the CR and time spent, then talk to your Dungeon Master and see what would be required to finish the magic item based on the tables above and additional DM-provided guidelines. Keep in mind that you may need to either have skills and proficiencies or find someone who does have these skills to help complete the item.
Though neither manual mentioned above includes guidelines for selling formulas, this mechanic can be easily implemented into a campaign. A player should have the option to outright sell the formula or reproduce the formula for sale.
Finding a Buyer
Xanathar’s Guide (pg. 133) describes the process for finding buyers for magic items. Following these rules, by spending one workweek and 25 gp marketing their product (either by word of mouth, posters, hiring a manager of sorts and so forth), a player can find a legitimate buyer.
A player must then make a Charisma (Persuasion) check to determine the price the buyer is willing to pay. A player may also decide to not go through with the sale, forfeiting the workweek searching for a buyer. Depending on the Magic Item formula rarity, use the base price and Persuasion check to determine how much a buyer will offer. Note: these base prices below are equal to 1/4 of the base price of a magic item.
Formula Base Prices
- Common: 25 gp
- Uncommon: 100 gp
- Rare: 1,000 gp
- Very Rare: 10,000 gp
- Legendary: 50,000 gp
Formula Price Offer (Persuasion check)
- 1-10: 50% of base price
- 11-20: 100% of base price
- 21+: 150% of base price
Because formulas are more like complex manuscripts, similar to a Wizard’s spellbook, players should have the option to reproduce a formula to distribute in bulk, if they can find the right buyers.
For copying a formula, follow the same logic as duplicating a spellbook: a player would need to spend a certain number of hours and gold, and have proficiencies in Arcana, Nature, or whichever skills fit best for that particular formula.
To calculate the time and gold required, use the table above from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and divide the values by 10. For example, a Very Rare magic item formula would require 2,000 gp and 2.5 workweeks to reproduce. A character with proficiencies in Calligraphy may roll a 1d10 and reduce the amount of time and gold by that percent (up to a 10% reduction of time and cost).
- Gold required: (1/10) x (Cost to craft a magic item by rarity)
- Time required: (1/10) x (Workweeks to craft a magic item by rarity)
In addition to the DMG and UA rules above, here are some additional guidelines a DM may consider.
Players need not always defeat a monster to gain components. Here are some non-creature encounters with potentially high CRs:
- Illegal Ingredients: One or more of the required ingredients must be obtained through criminal means (smuggling, stealing, black market, etc).
- A Prince’s Grace: Players must discover a way to acquire an item of a high-ranking prince or nobility (in large or small quantities).
- Trading: Trade for an item by fulfilling requests or bribing. High Charisma is needed!
- Nature Skills: Players must use herbalist skills to harvest components without destroying the plant.
- Gather Non-Lethal Creature Components: Players can sneak past a giant troll to find a toenail of his that he peeled off. Or maybe they need to ask a Deva for a feather from his wing.
- Dangerous Mining: In the ridge of an active volcano, players must mine precious ore under the pressure of a ticking molten clock.
Provided below are some examples of how tools may be used in creating magic items. For instance, a player who wishes to brew a potion may need proficiencies in Alchemist’s Tools.
- Smith’s tools: Armor, weapons, ammunition, metal gear and accessories
- Weaver’s tools: Cloaks, capes, robes, cloth gear, bags, and accessories
- Tinkerer’s tools: Trinkets, ammunition, clockwork
- Leatherworker’s tools: Leather armor, leather gear, bags, boots
- Jeweler’s tools: Rings, necklaces, gems, jeweled gear, amulets, gemcutting
- Alchemist’s tools: Potions, elixers
- Cobbler’s tools: Boots
- Glassblower’s tools: Glasswork
- Herbalism kit: Antitoxin, potions
- Poisoner’s kit: Poison
- Potter’s tools: Pottery, ceramics
If a party is interested in roleplaying their item creation, a DM may decide to throw in some additional challenges players must overcome. Taking inspiration from Pathfinder, here is a list of challenges a DM could throw at players.
- Construction Challenge: One or more elements of an item’s design are particularly difficult to execute. Using wit, players can decide how to fix or work around the construction challenge.
- Contradictory/Incomplete Instructions: The formula is either incomplete or notes that two sources disagree on a step in the process. Doing an Arcana check, a player can decide which option is best. This can result in a perk, quirk, or flaw in the item.
- Cryptic Cross-Reference: A shoddy formula references outside sources. Players must find these sources (book, person, history knowledge) in order to create the item.
- Emotional Requirements: The formula for a rare item requires raw emotion to be harnessed during the creation of an item. Players can role play how this emotion emerges.
- Enticing Offer: Knowledge of players’ creation of the item has spread across the city. An NPC approaches the player, offering a shortcut (in materials, better tools, etc) for a price. This can either work or create unexpected effects in the items.
- Historic Stumbling Block: This formula notes that creators often stumble at a particular step and they don’t really have tips on how to overcome the problem. Research can help a player overcome this challenge.
- Intrusive Spirit: A formula requires an item be crafted in a catacombs. A wandering spirit possesses the item. Players can either accept the item’s new sentience and the associated effects or try to dispel the spirit.
- Eclipse of Moons: An item can only be completed during an Eclipse. Players have to find a location where the eclipse shows for the longest amount of time.
- Planar Peculiarity: Players realize that their item’s creation is influenced by planar convergences. The item randomly blips in and out of the material plane. This can produce a perk, flaw, or quirk, or players can figure out how to avoid these planar issues.
- Reference Rumors: Rumors have graced players’ ears that a reference book has the key to speed up the process of creating this particular item. Players can locate and acquire the book by whatever means they can think of.
- Regal Requisite: Hearing about the creation of this item, a king requires that he possess this item due to its unsafe power. Players have to figure out how to change the King’s mind or hide the item from him.
- Language Barrier: Formula is encrypted or written partially in unknown runes. Players must decipher the formula.
- Crisis of Faith (Cleric, Paladin, Warlock): A player believes his patron or deity has been sending ill omens as a result of creating the magic item.
- Internal Instability (Sorcerer): A Sorcerer’s source of power comes from within. However, due to a personal crisis (loss of loved one, moral dilemma, etc), his powers become unstable and imbuing this item with magic becomes difficult or dangerous.
- Natural Wonder (Druid, Ranger): At one point during the item’s creation, a natural wonder reveals itself to a player, showing the harm the item could do if created.
- Otherworldly Influence (Warlock): Otherworldly beings tamper with the item’s creation.
Based on using shoddy or superior tools, formulas, materials, or additional resources, an item can gain a perk, a quirk, or a flaw.
- Lightweight: The item’s weight is reduced by half.
- Durable: The item is less resistant to breaking.
- Resistance: The item gains a damage resistance.
- Inscribed with an unexpected spell: A secondary low-level spell can be cast.
- Favored Enemy: The item deals extra damage to a particular enemy type.
- Lucky: Reroll to hit three times per day with this item.
- Lunar: Item manifests additional power when used in the moonlight.
- Solar: Item manifests additional power when used in full sunlight.
- Potent: Item’s spell is one level higher than intended.
- Shielding: The item absorbs some of the damage occasionally.
- Unusually colored: Item takes on an unexpected color.
- Color-Altering: Color of item changes based on users’ mood.
- Magnificent Appearance: The item looks more valuable than it is.
- Noisy: The item makes an odd noise each time it’s used (such as a squeak, the sound of a spring, etc.).
- Bloodthirsty: Item vibrates when it touches blood.
- Levitating: Item floats two inches above ground when unattended.
- Molting: Item now has a scaly skin and occasionally sheds it to reveal a new one.
- Loyal: Item only works for the one who created it.
- Slimy: Item is covered in a thin layer of slime.
- Glittering: Item leaves a trail of sparkles when it’s used.
- Heavy: Item becomes twice as heavy.
- Fragile: Item has twice as much chance to break.
- Vulnerable: Item is vulnerable to one type of damage.
- Addictive: Owner does not want to give up the item under any circumstances (Think the One Ring in LOTR).
- Impotent: Item spells are one level lower than intended.
- Backlashing: The user of the item takes 1d6 in damage from magical energy backlash.
- Enticing: Others covet the item and try to take it at all costs.
- Pacifistic: Weapon deals non-lethal damage only.
- Allergic: Item ceases magical abilities while within 30 feet of a particular type of creature.
- Cursed: Item gains a curse.
Players may wish to develop their own homebrew magic item that doesn’t fit in with a spell or magical effect.
While there is no magic formula to fulfill this request, you as a DM can use the knowledge above and some creativity in determining how the player may create their item. Here are the things you need to consider:
- Rarity. Is the item extremely powerful? Make it a legendary item that requires more time and gold to create.
- Components. If a specific spell is not associated with the magic item, you as the DM can determine what components would be required to create the desired effect. Recall that the character must expend or have these components every working day.
- Effect and Damage Output. Your player may ask for certain abilities, but it it up to the DM to decide how powerful the item should be. Matthew Mercer tweeted a tip suggesting looking at existing items and their rarity to determine how the new item should function.
We put together a table of 10 examples of homebrewed magic items and their rarity; ability; and required cost, time, and components.
|Smith’s Tools, Leatherworkers Tools
|2 steel bars, Blink dog hide for grip
|+1 bonus to attack and damage rolls. May cast 2nd level spell Misty Step once per long rest. Requires attunement.
|Coin must be forged to a Halfling’s song.
|Dlarun (halfling material)
|A bone-white coin that shimmers green. When a player rolls initiative, she may flip a coin and call a side. If she is correct, she gains one luck point to use in that battle.
|Belt of Returning
|3 ruby shards, snake-like skin of a Marilith
|A snakeskin belt with encrusted rubies, this weapon-holding belt allows the user to attune three weapons to it. At the end of each combat turn, any of the attuned weapons away from the belt returns to it.
|Boots of Prudence
|Vial of essence of an Invisible Stalker to be worked into the leather.
|These boots allow a user to sense danger. Add 1d8 to an initiative roll once per longrest.
|Hide of a Werewolf Lord in hybrid form
|Crafted from the hide of a lycanthrope, this hide armor gives AC 12 + Dex in humanoid form and transforms with the user in Wild Shape, providing an additional +2 AC in animal form.
|Starmetal (mined from a meteorite), ten gallons of Unholy Water to quench the metal
|When attuned by a non-lawfully-aligned character, a spectral chain of darkness binds this weapon to the user’s hand. This +3 warhammer has a thrown range of 120 feet and deals an extra 3d10 damage against Celestial creatures. Using his bonus action, the user can yank the warhammer back to his hand via the spectral chain. Once per short rest, the warhammer can cast Protection from Evil and Good on the user without requiring components.
|Wand’s core made from the lock of hair from a Bheur; rod of Cold Iron to form the wand
|This wand has 5 charges. While attuned, a user can cast Ice Storm at 4th level for one charge as an action. Each higher level expends one charge. Every dawn, the wand regains its charges. If the last charge is used, roll a d20. On a 1, the wand withers into dusty snow and is destroyed.
|Ring of Haste
|Jeweler’s Tools, Glassblower’s Tools
|A feather barb from a Solar’s wing encased in glass encrusted in silver.
|While attuned to this ring, a user can cast Haste on himself as an action once per long rest.
|Stormowl Feather encased in copper
|A small copper feather that negates the first 20 feet of falling damage.
|20 Bluewood Arrows
|Woodcarver’s Tools, Alchemists’ Tools, Successful history skillcheck (DC 16) of Treefolk or Volodni (3.5e)
|Blueleaf wood, sliver of (any type of) Giant’s fingernail dissolved in Gray Ooze residue
|This shimmering blue arrow is hard as steel but light as wood, +1 to attack and damage rolls, and deals an additional 1d6 blue fire damage
While no canonical source exists for developing formulas, Dungeon Masters have liberty to utilize their in-world resources to develop their own. These formulas can be as simple or complex as is appropriate for a campaign setting. We’ve developed our own series of formulas for popular magic items in this article, where you’ll find DM notes, developed formulas, and more crafting magic item inspiration.
Here is an example of what you will read:
Arrow of Slaying
Weapon (arrow), very rare
An arrow of slaying is a magic weapon meant to slay a particular kind of creature. Some are more focused than others; for example, there are both arrows of dragon slaying and arrows of blue dragon slaying. If a creature belonging to the type, race, or group associated with an arrow of slaying takes damage from the arrow, the creature must make a DC 17 Constitution saving throw, taking an extra 6d10 piercing damage on a failed save, or half as much extra damage on a successful one.
Once an arrow of slaying deals its extra damage to a creature, it becomes a nonmagical arrow.
Other types of magic ammunition of this kind exist, such as bolts of slaying meant for a crossbow, though arrows are most common.
Materials: One bucket of blood or essence of the creature specific to the arrow type; steel (for the head); Calantra wood (for the shafts); 50 feathers of a Peryton (for the fletching).
Instructions: Forge and temper steel arrowheads, quenched in the blood or essence. Assemble the shafts and fletchlings and attach to the arrowheads. Produces 100 arrows.
Proficiencies: Smithing Tools, Nature Skill
Dungeon Master Notes: This formula is dependent on the type of creature specific to the arrow. Players will need to harvest blood from creatures, which means defeating multiple monsters, helping us reach the CR 13-18 requirement. We are drawing our inspiration from the special material Arandur, a Gnome metal mixed with the blood of a dragon. Furthermore, we will require Calantra, the heartwood of the hardy tree Calan of Faerûn, which is significantly durable and safe as a spell component…
We’ve also released a spreadsheet containing nearly 500 plant and animal components and their special effects in our Artificer’s Field Guide. Download it today for free! See our guide to Herbalism for more resources and information.
- You can find Magic Items in the Dungeon Master’s Guide Chapter 7 (Treasure) as well as Magic Items using Guidelines in Chapter 9 (Dungeon Master’s Workshop)
- See a spreadsheet of spells and their components here
- Crafting Magic Items: A Guide to Artifice, Dungeon Masters Guild
- 3.5e Table for Spell Component Costs
- List of “Special Materials” in the D&D universe
- 3.5e Special Materials
- List of “Exotic Crafting Materials” found in this subreddit.
- List of 100 Slightly Magical Trinkets on Reddit
- Homebrew arrows on Tribality