Mages, monster parts, formulae, and making magic items

I have a couple questions/suggestions about the magic item/magical research/ritual rules.

  1. I understand how monster parts figure in to making magic items and casting rituals, and I think it’s very cool. What I’m not clear on is how the abstract “monster parts” trade good interacts with those rules. For example, imagine that a mage wants to make a sword +1 for her fighter bodyguard retainer, and the GM uses the sample components from the book: in order to make a sword +1, the mage will need the skulls from 25 ogres or heroes. She has 4 ogre skulls already in her collection, and she digs up the corpses of some of her deceased adventuring companions (4th level+ fighters, each) to get another three, but that leaves her needing another 18 skulls. No problem, she says, I’m going to go on a trade expedition. She comes back with 4 loads of monster parts. How do those loads translate into the requirements? I know that we’re supposed to consult the relevant monster encounter tables to figure out what specific monsters those parts are from (although that neglects longer distance trade, but maybe that’s minor). Let’s say the GM determines that 1 load of the 4 is ogre parts. How many skulls is that? Is one load enough? I recognize that some GM discretion may be necessary here, but some guidelines that help answer these questions would be really useful. It’s desirable to start wizards down the path of butchering dead monsters for parts for sale early, and buying parts before they reach the levels where they farm them. But I’m not sure how to go from three dead ogres lying in a dungeon into “loads of monster parts,” or vice versa.
    And are those monster parts counted into the cost of making the magic items, or are they an additional cost? Does making the sword +1 cost a mage 25 ogre skulls and 5000 gp, or does it cost 5000 gp worth of components, including 25 ogre skulls as the rare part?
    If this section could be clarified, it would be much more useful.
  2. Formulae versus samples. It seems like a sample is just as good as a formula–it lets a spellcaster enjoy the reduced cost, reduced target for the throw, ability to not develop intermediate spells, and ability to have an apprentice follow the formula. I love the idea of formulae and samples, but it seems weird to me that a sample is just as good. I’d rather see formulae providing the full bonuses, with samples providing maybe half the bonus. That means that a sample lets a spellcaster take a shortcut to a formula, but a formula is still better, which matches my intuitions from genre norms better.

Great feedback. I’ll add some further detail into the game mechanics to clarify how this works. Here’s the questions you asked.
1a. A load of monster parts is worth 300gp on the Merchandise tables. Monster parts are worth 1gp per xp of the monster. Therefore you can find out how many monster parts are in the shipment by taking (300 x # of Loads) / (XP value of monster). For instance three loads of monster parts (900gp) consisting of ogre parts (215xp) is 4 ogre parts. The specific part of the ogre is basically flavor…
1b.The cost of monster parts is in addition to the cost of making the magical items. I’ll add a sentence to that effect under the Special Components rules.
2. The intent of having samples be valuable is that it forces the adventurers to choose between using the item or leaving it behind as a sample. Reducing the value of samples would make this a non-choice. Does that make sense?

  1. Great, that’s exactly the clarification that I needed. It’s a little odd if ogres can be used for multiple things–like if an ogre’s biceps are part of the recipe for gauntlets of ogre power, and an ogre’s skull is part of the recipe for sword +1, then the same 215 xp ogre might contribute to making two different magic items, presumably with full credit for each? Perhaps there should be an explicit “magical rendering process” that means that you can’t use both the biceps and the skull from the same ogre? Otherwise, efficient PCs (waste not, want not) will try to use every last scrap of the monsters. :slight_smile:
  2. That makes sense, but I’m not sure it matches my assumptions. I would expect that typical magic item manufacturing is done by another PC, and that the idea is “let’s all take a breather while the mage makes some magic items.” Sure, you could have your barony invaded or something where leaving the sword in the mage’s hands is a pain… but my guess is that most of the time, the rest of the party won’t keep on adventuring while the mage dupes the magic items. If the assumption is that the PCs are hiring an NPC (or the PCs from party 1 are hiring the (probably higher level) mage from party 2), then the idea of giving up the item while a copy is made has real costs (and, of course, real value to the mage, who gets a formula from the process–which might reduce the cost of what is after all very time consuming work). Anyway, I completely agree that a sample should be valuable. I’m just not sure it should have the same value as a formula.

Really liking the rare parts portion of item creation.
Instead of a rendering process that limits the items per creature - why punish efficiency, especially if it’s already in addition to the given cost? - simply build a strong tendency for each type of creature to only have one “useful” part of their body into any lists. This provides the basis for what I think is one of the key elements of the mage (and possibly the world! [I’m biased.]).
If I’m creating powerful items that will require 50 ogre skulls and 100 roc wings each, I can hunt the beasties down, build dungeons… or create a Roc-Ogre crossbreed army to send against my enemies, making sure the skulls and wings of the fallen get back to me. In fact, I’d probably present myself as the all-powerful shaman to my new simple friends, use the skull-and-wings as their battle flag, and make returning their fallen comrades to me (or at least the skulls and wings) an important death rite. If the army gets too big or they breed particularly well, I’d probably have to cross-breed a somewhat smarter version - hey, I could give it two heads, bonus skull! - to fill the tribal shaman role. There is nothing that could go wrong with this plan.
Somewhere, there’s a magic item that needed owl beaks and bear skins.

@Undercrypt: I love the idea of a mage creating a crossbreed as part of an effort to make a more efficient sources of magic item components. That’s hilarious, and does indeed go a long way towards explaining the existence of various critters. :slight_smile:

Undercrypt: That’s genius. I love emergent gameplay.

While the players may want to just ‘let the mage get on with it’ if you are using the cost of living table (pg 39) and the monthly hireling fees…I think you’ll find the other PCs not so forgiving all of a sudden. I just had this occur in my game for the first time where they had to pay the hirelings twice and do ‘upkeep’ expenses twice without any dungeon delving in between. Suddenly, their monetary resources were looking quite low and they were desperate to get back to the dungeons!

So as long as you are keeping track of time and wages, and your players like to max out their hirelings like mine do, I think you’ll find that the rest of the party may be forced by circumstance to leave the mage behind (allowing that player to play one of their hirelings or a secondary).

There could be other reasons characters need downtime. Mortally wounded or newly raised (Restore life and limb) characters and henchmen might require at least some time to recover from their ordeals. Casters could want to research spells, swap-out spells, or craft. Sneaky types could want to do some hijinks for to get more cash (and future adventures). Anyone with the cash could invest in mercantile endeavors. Then there is also commissioning new items. You also need to spend 1~3 weeks to look for henchmen. Heck, even a perform, craft, or profession can be a way to supplement your income during the interim and pass some time. With all these options, there is a good chance more than half the party will find something to occupy their time. And yes, there is the possibility of a small side-adventure (possibly related to a hijink) for a reduced party to play around with (be warned however, adventuring without a mage back-up can be the difference between shooting fish in a barrel and losing party-members).

Monster parts are valued by XP. If an ogre provides more than one kind of body part, then each part would be worth less XP, and you would need more of them. Though, if you’re cross-breedig, and the new monster is worth twice the XP, then that’s useful.