If ever one needed proof of the influence of J.R.R. Tolkien in modern fantasy gaming, Mithral is the smoking gun.
In the Legendarium (the name for the Mythology of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings universe), Mithral was an incredibly rare mineral found in only a few very deep dwarven mines. Mithral was harder than steel, and incredibly light in weight, making amazing armor and weapons.
The name “Mirthril” came from the Elvish (specifically SIndarin) “Mith” meaning grey and “ril” meaning glitter.
By the time of the Lord of the Rings, the only place Mithral could be found was the Mines of Moria. Considering the resident Balrog and the overabundance of Goblins, this made it priceless!
Of course, as is the way of all things in popular fantasy, this metal would quickly make the jump to Fantasy Gaming. Filing off those serial numbers we have Mithral:
“Mithral is a very rare silvery, glistening metal that is lighter than steel but just as hard.
Cost: Weapons or armors fashioned from Mithral are always masterwork items as well; the masterwork cost is included in the prices given below.
Weight: An item made from Mithral weighs half as much as the same item made from other metals. In the case of weapons, this lighter weight does not change a weapon’s size category or the ease with which it can be wielded (whether it is light, one-handed, or two-handed).”
So what can you do with this wonderful silvery metal? Almost anything, but below are some of the common ways Mithral is used in Pathfinder:
Advantages to Mithral Weaponry:
- Counts as a Masterwork Weapon.
- Considered Silver for Damage Reduction.
- Half the weight of regular weapons.
Advantages to Mithral Armor:
- Counts as Masterwork Armor.
- One Category Lighter for the purposes of Class Abilities and Movement.
- Arcane Spell Failure decreased by 10 percent.
- Armor Check Penalty reduced by 3.
- Max Dexterity Bonus increased by 2
Let’s get a little more in-depth to see how all this works:
Weapons of Mithral are very light and easy to use. They fit easily in the hand, and weigh half as much as their non-Mithral counterparts. Mithral is known for being bright silver, so these weapons glitter and shine in most light.
To use two examples: a regular Rapier weighs 2 pounds, but a Mithral Rapier would weigh only 1 pound. Likewise, a regular Warhammer weighs 5 pounds. A Mithral Warhammer would weigh half of that, rounded up to 3 pounds.
All weapons made from Mithral are considered Masterwork Weapons. Mechanically this means a +1 enhancement bonus on all attack rolls with that weapon. In the case of Masterwork Ammunition, the ammo (arrows, darts, bullets) is typically unsalvageable after use.
However, that Ammo would still confer the +1 enhancement bonus when being used. Note the bonus from a Masterwork Projectile Weapon and the bonus from Masterwork Ammunition DOES NOT stack.
DM ProTip: While Masterwork or Mithral Ammunition might be a net loss for players to invest their own gold into, it might be entertaining for lower level adventurers to find some in a dungeon to swing the odds in their favor and add some flavor to the adventure.
Mithral also counts as silver for the purposes of any Damage Reduction.
It might go without saying, but for an item to be considered a Mithral Weapon it needs to be a metal weapon made of Mithral. A Mithral Greatsword would have the blade made from Mithral with some possible fittings of other material, whereas a Quarterstaff of wood with some minor Mithral embellishments would NOT confer the same bonuses as a Mithral Weapon.
The extra cost of a Mithral Weapon is defined by its weight. In order to find the cost in gold for a Mithral, take the normal non-Mithral weight of a weapon and multiply that by 500, then add the base cost of the item. Note: the added cost for an item being Masterwork has already been factored into this formula.
Expressed more mathematically (base weapon weight x 500) + base weapon cost = total cost for a Mithral weapon.
Example 1 – Mithral Rapier
A normal rapier weighs 2 pounds. We take the 2 lbs and multiply it by 500 for a total of 1000. Then we add the 20 gold from the base weapon cost. This means a Mithral Rapier would be 1020 gold on the market. (2 x 500) + 20 = 1020.
Example 2 – Mithral Warhammer
A normal Warhammer weighs 5 pounds. So 5 lbs multiplied by 500 gives us 2500. Add the normal cost of a warhammer: 12 gold. So a Mithral Warhammer comes to 2512 gold. (5 x 500) + 12 = 2512. This tracks current market costs, as it does take a bank loan to start a new Warhammer Army.
Mithral Armor and Shields
While Mithral weapons don’t sound like much, it is in Armor that Mithral really shines, both mechanically and literally.
Mithral Armor is often shiny and glittering like Mithral Weapons. Also like Mithral Weapons, Mithral Armor is always considered to be Masterwork Armor. Masterwork Armor has its Armor Check penalty reduced by 1.
Mithral Armor allows several benefits, the most useful of which is that Mithral Armor is considered one category lighter for the purposes of movement and class abilities.
So Heavy Armor would be considered Medium, and Medium Armor would be considered Light. Unfortunately, Light armor is still considered Light Armor for the purposes of this rule.
What this means is that almost any limitation brought on by heavier armor is lessened when it is made from Mithral. A Barbarian’s Fast Movement ability is lost when they are wearing Medium or Heavy Armor, but Mithral Armor would lower the category of Medium armor down to Light.
So A Barbarian can wear a Mithral set of Chainmail, and still get their Fast Movement ability. This also applies to other classes, such as the Rogue’s Evasion ability and Ranger’s Fighting Styles.
This benefit however does not help with any proficiency issues though. Let’s say the Barbarian from above finds or purchases a set of Mithral Full Plate.
They would still need to take the Armor Proficiency, Heavy (Combat) Feat, or be forced to take the non-proficiency penalty for the Full Plate, despite the armor now being considered Medium for movement and class abilities.
In addition to that, Mithral Armor offers some other powerful and useful benefits.
Mithral Armor and Shields have their Arcane Spell Failure Chance reduced by 10 percent, their armor check penalties reduced by 3 to a minimum of 0, and finally they have their maximum dexterity bonus increased by 2.
The lightness of the armor offers increased mobility and maneuverability, making finesse fighters and spell casters be prime beneficiaries of using Mithral.
Like Weapons, the weight of the armor is also reduced by half, rounded up.
Also like Weapons, Mithral does have an added cost in Gold. In the case of Armor and Shields, the cost is going to depend on the type of armor in question.
|Type of Armor||Item Cost Modifier|
|Light Armor||+1000 Gold|
|Medium Armor||+4000 Gold|
|Heavy Armor||+9000 Gold|
All of this can be quite confusing, so to that end it might be easier to create a table to visualize the changes to Armor and Shields that Mithral brings. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a good start to go off of.
First Standard Array of items from the SRD on Armor and Shields:
Now we look at what Mithral can do!
Alright now we put it together and get:
Similar to the weapons above, Mithral armor really only counts if the armor itself is metal. It would be rather difficult to create Mithral Armor out of a wooden shield. There are other materials that might apply to wooden or other alternative materials.
Does polyurethane exist in the fantasy world? Could it? Mordenkainen’s Polyester Disco Suit? I’m sure that spell is somewhere…
The Alloy of It All
While it can be a steep monetary investment early in an adventurer’s career, Mithral is a super metal that can make the difference in survival for several parties.
It can augment almost any finesse/dexterity fighter build to give them more survivability, or provide some more armor for a Spell Caster that finds themselves on the front line a few too many times.
Mithral can also be a stop gap or stepping stone to getting more powerful magical items later.
While waiting for the fat loot of a new magical set of full plate, a Mithral set can be all a front line Paladin needs to tank until the party can afford an upgrade or the odds come into the party’s favor and they can find a magical suit of armor.
Then again, who wouldn’t want to look like a Knight in Shining Silver Plate mail armor that everyone can see from miles away?
Happy Hunting Pathfinder!