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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Talking About Magic Items - How Do You Handle Charged Magic Items?

Do you tell the player the number of charges when they find the magic item?

How do you determine the number of charges?

Can a totally spent charged item be recharged?

How do you handle recharging charged magic items?

Inquiring minds want to know, as new charged items are popping up in the OSR Superstar Competition ;)


  1. - I tell my players the number of charges when a magic item has been properly studied and identified.
    - Number of charges is determined randomly
    - Staves can be recharged, many wondrous items recharge over time, wands do not.
    - To recharge a staff, the wizard must invest a number of spell slots to recharged.


  2. Unless the characters have some means of identifying the item I only give them descriptions of it and potential clues or sources of information. If they are able to expend charges before fully learning about the item then I like to leave them guessing just how many bullets they have left.

    As for the other questions I make things up as I go along. I like to craft magic items rather than roll them out on an assembly line where they will all function the same. I like have a staff of Insect Plague that can absorbs the insects first before expelling them at the command of the wielder. It would need to be recharged by putting in contact with an ant or wasps nest or somewhere infested with insects. I keep the possibility of it being overcharged in mind. Sometimes I will allow indicators to appear such as carvings on the staff that represent enough absorbed insects to cast the spell. Normally I like each magic item to be special, something to show that it was a journeyman's masterpiece or the skilled product of a master, each item unique with something of the crafter still within it.

  3. When your magic items lose their charge you have to take them to the dragons graveyard and dodge tiamat to recharge them. Didn't anybody else see the documentary on this?

  4. Depends on the item; charges are usually not told about up-front, but the number of charges can usually be inferred from something (sometimes just how many times it works before it doesn't, sometimes a relative thing like a glow or the size of the object). Recharging is something you have to jump through hoops to do and has a downside of some kind. Amount of charges is random, usually a d8 or less. Staves and wands I don't usually do charges with, in my games they act as conduits, not magical batteries.

  5. Players can get an idea of the number of charges (quite a few, not very many) with a successful Arcane Lore skill check. The number of charges is random based on item type. I generally don't allow items to be recharged, but occasionally have something absurd that allows it (secret the wand in the flesh of a living Yeti for one day) in case they are feeling like a crazy adventure.

    1. What the hell is an Arcane Lore Skill Check?

    2. Presumably a check for your arcane lore... skill?

  6. First: It depends. In the event that we're in a campaign where we, as a group, have decided to take on a more engaged gaming style, my answers will apply. If, however, this is a one off, or a short campaign that is mostly focused on being an excuse for copious consumption of high calorie/low nutrition food, then I just hand out the info.

    However, when that is not the case...

    1. No. A magic user with an intelligence greater than 16 can cast "Detect Magic" and make an intelligence check at a -4 penalty to learn: Full (100% - 90%), Mostly Full (75% +/- 15%), Half Full (50% +/- 10%), Almost Empty (25% +/- 15%), and Empty (10% - 0% charge remaining). I never give the percentages.

    2. I determine the number of charges randomly. If I had to create a rule, I'd do something like: Roll (1d6) times 10%, rounded down, for the number of charges remaining.

    3. Yes. I'm always happy to drain resources from a party!

    4. Depends on the item. Something that heals, for example, would require potions of healing to be somehow used. A wand of fireballs might require exposure to a huge quantity of fire (like a fire elemental, or a red dragon's breath weapon).

    That's just me though!

  7. On Tekumel, Eyes are small handheld, techno-magical devices which have from 1-100 charges. So I randomly roll them (usually d100/2). The only time the character knows how many charges are left is if they are lucky enough to have found an Eye with a charge counter in a language they can read.

  8. I don't track charges, life's too short. Roll an appropriate die and if it comes up "1" your item crumbles to dust. For example, with wands you roll a d%; with staves you roll a d20.

  9. 1. No, I wouldn't tell players the number of charges or what an item does. They might use spells (such as identify) to find out what an item does, or in-game research (going to libraries, talking to sages, etc), but that wouldn't tell them the number of charges left.

    2. I would do this randomly. Either by a method in the game rules (B/X, DMG, etc) or more likely by just coming up with a number of dice to roll myself.

    3. This would vary by item, but generally, I would want there to be a way to recharge a charged item, at least if it has charges left. Some items might fizzle out completely when drained, but I'd want most of them to be rechargeable too. I am also not so keen on items being technically rechargeable but really not by using virtual impossibilities or one time only methods as their means of recharging (such as via bathing them in the hearts' blood of the freshly killed dragon Vermiwhassidude or other traditional artifact destruction style methods).

    4. I don't like mechanistic recharging methods (such as expending spell slots or uses of a particular spell) to recharge an item, even wands. so I like each item to have its own, discoverable recharging method. Jason's example above about the insect plague staff would be the kind of thing that I'd think would be acceptable. Alternately, an item that regains its charges slowly over time (usually only when in certain circumstances, such as while buried, in direct sunlight, etc) might be another good option.

  10. I've been noting the range of charges possible on magic items that I've written up recently (ie, 3d10+20), varying it depending on the power of the item. I've also been noting what spells, if any, can be cast on the item to recharge it. I lean towards higher level spells if possible, so 1st-level M-U's aren't spending all their off-days recharging their wands. If a DM wants to ignore it or change it, it's fine, but I always thought barring PCs from recharging items was harsh. Not everything needs to be forgotten lore.

  11. In my campaigns, I like to reserve "charged items" for the category of "slaying weapons". The "charge" generally draws a character towards the location of the enemy type. Upon encounter, the "Charge", which is in fact some sort of bacterial or viral coating on the weapon, is expended as the bacteria or viruses (viri?) prepare to enter the second stage of their life cycle(s) which can only be completed within the digestive track of the chosen monster type (so no, won't work with small or human sized monsters unless the weapon is something very small and unassuming). When it works, this method is brutal, just brutal.