Making magic items: Starting from the monster part?

In my non-ACKS D&D experience, characters will sometimes kill a big monster and then want to turn it into a magic item, rather than wanting to make a specific magic item and needing to get the right monster part. The most obvious example is when the party has killed a dragon or something similar–questions like “can I turn its hide into armor?” or “can I make a sword out of its fangs?” can come up naturally then. In ACKS, I don’t think there’s any (mechanically supported) way to answer that question–it’s more “drag the carcass home, try to make some things, you might get lucky” (i.e. the DM might help you out). It would be nice to have a means to go from monster part to magic item, presumably by developing a new formula. I could picture something like expend X amount of time and make a magic research throw (modified by something based on the xp of the monster involved, perhaps)? If successful, the mage develops a new formula that uses the appropriate part. The mage may or may not want to then make the item–but they have the option.

Definitely a cool idea…

Has anyone ever come across Ars Magica?
As a game almost purely focused around Magi there are extensive rules for spells and creating magical items. Specifically it includes what are called ‘Form and Effect’ bonuses, which mean that certain Shapes and Materials (Form) are attuned to certain types of magical effect.
For example:
Things in the shape of an Axe provide a bonus to effects that destroy wood.
Things made of Iron provide a bonus to effects that harm or repel Fairies.
Crowns provide bonuses to Wisdom, Controlling people and gaining respect or authority.
Amethyst is useful for effects that resist poison or drunkenness
and so on.
The bonuses add to the effective strength of magical effects that item may use (so a rubbish example might be that a magical Crown enchanted with some sort of Charm Person effect might give a penalty to the saving throw to resist it).
Anyway - perhaps it’s something that could provide some additional inspiration for magical item creation in ACKS.
I very much like the idea of developing a new formula to go from Monster → Magic Item.

Alternately, could a M-U / Dwarven CraftPriest have a chance given enough of a magical creature’s remains (or key bits) be able to infuse an item with that quality. I expect the odds are pretty low of this working at all, but for each HD of the monster, increases the chance of success. The ritual would cost more or less (more? less?) then normal enchanting…? But there is a chance if it is successful it has an ability inherited by the monster, or if a weapon maybe is especially good at attacking that monster type.
I like the idea that it dosen’t offer a +1/+2/+3 but only is a specific power or characteristic that can be gained by the weapon. Also I like the idea that they could stack. (but of course there is also a not minor chance that the item is destroyed each time, so at a certain point the risk will out weigh the reward.)
Just thinking out loud here…

I really like the original idea. A successful magical research throw (with appropriate lab/library bonuses) studying the body of a monster with a special ability gives the mage a formula to create a magic item with that special ability using that particular body - you get one chance at the item. One week plus 1,000 gp times 2d6 for research time. (You could tie that to monster HD rather than 2d6, but there are some low level monsters with powerful abilities, like invisible pixies). Once you’ve successfully created the item, you’ve got a more generalized formula.
Improved research throw might be workable too. Anyone can make a Shield of Fire Resistance with the right formula, but starting out with the skin of a flame salamander makes it easier. So maybe, if the item is crafted from a single monster possessing a special ability that will be included in the item, that qualifies as precious materials worth 10x the monster’s XP. That’s a significant incentive for big monsters (+2 for the 8 HD flame salamander), but it doesn’t alter the base gp/time cost of the item, and the mage still needs the spell or sample or formula.

Thread Necro!

I have actually pondered this subject myself: Consider a mage who finds, to his disappointment, that his dungeon has become completely filled with skeletons, a monster useless to all of his current formulas. “Well, if life gives you lemons…” he thought. He puts a small bounty on animated skeleton remains (making sure to emphasize that he can tell the difference), and in no time he has a few sacks of bones with which to experiment. He starts experimenting to find all the magical properties of these bones, hoping to find a use for them. This sort of story could repeat whenever there is a surplus of some variety of monster or a particular reason to kill one type of creature (like a beastman incursion/invasion).

I can think of a number of possible in-game benefits to such research, though I don’t know how I’d balance it:

  1. Pure Research: An increase in library value due to research notes, similar to spell research

  2. Research Credit: Gain credit to researching/creating one of a group of magical items, undead, constructs, etc. chosen by the Judge which are guarenteed to use parts from the given creature (for example, the Judge rules that the skeleton bones research will give an Xgp discount on creating a scroll of warding vs. undead, a magic sword +1 (+2 vs undead), a bone golem design, an oil of animate dead, or the deathless minion spell). I’m not sure how many options should be given (maybe a random roll) or if the caster should be able to apply the research to more than one thing or need to choose one.

  3. Suggest a path of research: The experimentation, while not directly aiding in the development of a specific item, does tell the mage an item (or group of items) that can be made with parts of the monster (chosen by the judge). If the mage chooses to research an item in said group, he can choose to have the material requirement be part of the researched monster (otherwise, the monster part is selected as normal either randomly or by the judge).

  4. Prove the null hypothesis: If the Judge decides that the monster should not have any real magical properties (for example, if he doesn’t want to pigs to be a magical ingredient), then the research might reveal as much.

I’m not sure exactly sure how I’d do this. I’m thinking I’d set a specific xp-worth of corpses per research attempt (1,000gp?) and a fixed research period (say a month), and have a research roll at the end of that time. On a success, the mage would roll on a table (possibly modified by margin of success, or other factors such as creature rarity, power, or magical properties) which gives one or more of the above results (often modified by the Judge’s discretion). It shouldn’t be nearly as easy as just researching the item or spell you want, but it should teach you something worthwhile.

Another (simpler) option would be to allow the researcher to try and create a formula for an item with an eye towards a specific component.
So if the group has got spare ogre parts and nothing to do with them the mage could try and create a magic sword from ogre parts.
This is obviously better then the standard procedure and should be balanced as such.

Researching a specific magic item/creature combo:

  1. penalty on the magic research roll
  2. possibly countered by a bonus if the monster is particularly fitting for the type of item ( say: red dragon and armor of fire resistance ) *
  3. If the roll fails the corpse(s) are unusable for further research.
In all I think I will go with a combination of those:
  1. Create formula for specific item/corpse combo
  2. research which kind of items could be created with a certain creature type (safe for the corpses but costs money, say 1000gp/hd)
  3. additional library value (xp = gp added, once per monster type) with bonuses for particularly interesting specimen and living samples ;)
  • on a sidenote one could allow that for standard receipes too.
    Some receipes my group found actually have several possible monster sources. So maybe some ingredients are more “pure” then others and allow for a small bonus. With many ACKS creatures beeing crossbreeds I thinks there is fun to be had there.
    Like: Sure you can make that magic sword with Ogre skulls, alas the strength they confer is but a diluted form of the strength a giant skull would offer.

I figured that you could only make items out of monster parts that really sort of fit (or at least are super-magical like dragons and not completely counter to the item). You couldn’t make a frost-brand out of fire-breathing red dragon parts. I would figure that the normal time and cost assumed you were working with more or less ideal monster parts (which is why you learn what you need instead of choosing normally); if you want to use non-ideal monster parts, it either won’t work or cost significantly more (at least as far as the monster-part cost is concerned).

The ogre vs. giant thing could be modeled by the fact that giants are worth more xp so an equivalent cost item would need fewer skulls if giant skulls were used.

I don’t think that every monster should be useable in every item. Maybe every TYPE of item, however. Fire dragons might not have the correct properties for a frost-brand, but would be perfect for a flame-tongue. So “I want to make a sword from the bones of this dragon” would be okay, but “I’m going to make a +1 sword, +2 vs beastmen,” might not be. If we’re doing it this way, then the character would use normal crafting rules for the unknown item but only figure out the item’s exact properties half way through construction. The problem with this is that items tend to take many specimens to complete and the mage might run out of resources.

For those who are harvesting monster parts in the field, do you discount at all the cost of the magical research related to making the items/formulas? I’m curious because I always thought part of the cost was securing the various monster bits necessary for the research at hand.

According to the rulebook, pg. 118, the costs of special components is in addition to the base cost.

My first thought was to have the caster just research a formula with the monster parts in mind, ending up with a formula with the monster parts in mind, and then figure out what he was designing 50% of the way through, but since you don’t know what you’re creating, the cost and time isn’t available, so that doesn’t work. Plus, it sounds kind of silly.

So, if I were to allow this, I think I’d just do your standard 2 weeks + 1,000 GP to allow the caster to learn what single magic item the thing could be used for. Actually creating the formula would be a separate task.

The gamble here is that if I can’t think of something right now that I’d allow the parts to be used for, then that research is wasted, and the parts are forever useless.

What if they could declare the type of item but not it’s full effects? For example: The player declares “I want to make a magical sword out of these dragon corpses.” The Judge thinks for a moment and declares that “Dragon bones, teeth and claws could be carved into a sword, so yes you are sure you can make, such a blade.”

The player is then presented with the choice: make the blade “blind” and figure out the exact nature of the item about half way through (though hints might be dropped along the way and the player could cut his losses quit half-way through), or run through some preliminary research to figure out what the parts make spending extra time and money. The “blind” attempt does risk a project going over budget and depleting funds or going down an alley for an item that is less than ideal (what if you get a +1/+3 vs. dragons sword when you wanted a fire-tongue?), but it will get you the same item cheaper than if you researched first.

Alternatively, the first 50% of magic item creation could be thought of as the research portion of creation as that is when you traditionally learn about the requisite monster parts in normal item construction. Additionally, note that after one has a sample or formula, construction time and cost is cut in half, as if you didn’t have to do the initial research (the part cost being cut in half comes from a few refining the prototype in the last half of initial construction). This sort of mirrors construct design.