Players and their characters may have many reasons to take up the life of an adventurer. Some may wish to regain their honor, some may want to bring glory to their God, and others might want to take revenge on the bandits who destroyed their tiny village.
There is one thing that unites them all: Obese Stringed Musical Instruments, aka Phat Loot!
Loot comes in many forms though: Gold, Art, Jewels, but the most valued and highly prized of all are Magic Items.
Magic Items, whether enhanced for a one-time use or granted with world-shaking powers, have come to define Fantasy Roleplaying and Pathfinder is no different from any other game in that regard.
Here we are going to take a look at Magical Items for both the players and the DM. We are going to look at where to find them, where to buy them (and in the darkness bind them), and then take a detailed look at some iconic items from Pathfinder.
Types of Magical Items
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of a magical item economy, it is important to look at how items are classified.
The easiest way to start is to break it down between one-time use items, items with charges, and items with permanent enchantments.
One-time use items are items such as Potions, Oils, and Scrolls. They are consumed for a one-time effect and are either gone or useless afterward.
Items with Charges, such as Wands or Staves, have a limited number of charges contained within them to fuel their magical abilities. Typically when those charges are spent, the magic of the item is gone, but there are variant rules for Recharging Magical Items.
Items with Permanent Enchantments are somewhat self-explanatory and encompass things like Magic Armor, Magic Weapons, Magic Rings, Rods, Wondrous Items, Artifacts, Intelligent Items, Cursed Items, and Relics. Some of these items can also have charges like Wands or Staves, but those are typically secondary to the power of their permanent abilities.
When pricing these items out, typically one-time use items are the least expensive with the top expenses going to permanently enchanted items.
Items are also broken down into average power levels i.e. Minor, Medium, and Major.
Minor Magical Items are lower-powered items around the +1 or +2 range with maybe 1 extra special ability.
Medium Magical Items are a step above, with items somewhere between +3 and +4 with one or two extra special abilities.
Major Magical Items are the top tier for most items. These items are at a +5 with one or more special abilities on them.
Where to Find Magical Items
In all of Pathfinder, the most common way to acquire magical items from potions to artifacts is through looting spoils of an adventure.
Monster Hoards are the most common place players are going to find stacks of magical items in addition to the normal bed of Gold and Jewels. A DM can have a trove of items waiting in a Dragon’s Cave or a Troll’s hideout.
Wizard’s Towers are remote and protected far away from the prying eyes of the masses and act as great places for the Lone NPC Wizards to do research and store their vast amounts of treasures. Surely a Wizard won’t miss if just a few magic items go missing, will they?
Mad King/Evil Merchant are individuals who need to be taken down a peg. What better way to do that than to raid their treasure troves and take several bags of treasure. While it is more likely for these villains to have treasure rooms full of jewels and coins, there is of course always a chance for a magical item or two to show up!
Lost Dungeons, buried cities, and ancient ruins. These are places of old power and people long disappeared. These places are full of old treasures left behind, and they are ripe for plunder by adventurers willing to brave the dangers!
Forgotten Crypts and Tombs are of course always full of what are commonly called “Grave Goods” or items given to those entombed for use in the afterlife. These can be powerful and grand items from bygone eras. Just take care where you sell or display these items. Some people are a little squeamish about grave robbing.
It is worth noting that Pathfinder has an easy way to generate Random Magical Items using a suite of tables that take into account the average power level of an item, as well as the item type.
Random Item Generation Table
|01-04||01-10||01-10||Armor and Shields|
Using this table as a starting point, a DM can decide the power level of the items they want to reward their players with, then roll a d100 or d% to determine what those items are.
Under each item type, there are more tables (linked above under each item name) to further narrow it down, building on the Minor, Medium, and Major categories until an item is fully defined with all it’s benefits and abilities.
Special Items of Note
It’s worth bringing up here the subject of Artifacts, Relics, Cursed Items, and Intelligent Items that these types of items are rarely going to be randomly rolled on the above table because they are more suited to longer story arcs devised by the DM.
While they might show up as rewarded loot or for sale by various people, they are more suited to be the hook for a longer adventure, series of adventures, or whole campaign (i.e. the Ring of Power from the The Lord of the Rings or Stormbringer from Elric of Melniboné).
But sometimes getting an item as a reward might not work well, and a player or character might just want to fork over some gold for something more bespoke.
Availability and Scarcity of Magical Items For Purchase
It is a sad fact in the basic Pathfinder Fantasy setting that not every town or hamlet has their own resident enchanter. Magic is by design rather rare.
It would therefore mean that the less populated areas of the world would be less likely to have magical items. If they do at all, it would be less powerful magical items, such as potions or maybe wands.
Mechanically, this reinforces the setting as well as operates as an easy way for a DM to limit the ability of characters to acquire magical items.
Pathfinder classifies Settlements by the general average population. This ranges from “Thorp” (under 20 people) to “Metropolis” (over 25000 people). Obviously, Populations can fluctuate depending on time of year or external pressures, so it’s up to the DM to nail in a general size and population density.
Through using this as a guide we can look at a handy table to figure out the general availability of most magical items.
Available Magic Items Table
|Community Size (Population Range)||Base Value||Minor||Medium||Major|
|Thorp (Under 20 people)||50 gold||1d4 items||—||—|
|Hamlet (21 – 60 people)||200 gold||1d6 items||—||—|
|Village (61 – 200 people)||500 gold||2d4 items||1d4 items||—|
|Small Town (201 – 2000 people)||1000 gold||3d4 items||1d6 items||—|
|Large Town(2001 – 5000 people)||2000 gold||3d4 items||2d4 items||1d4 items|
|Small City (5001 – 10000 people)||4000 gold||4d4 items||3d4 items||1d6 items|
|Large City(10001 – 25000 people)||8000 gold||4d4 items||3d4 items||2d4 items|
|Metropolis (Over 25000 people)||16000 gold||*||4d4 items||3d4 items|
To read this table, decide how big the settlement is based on a rough population. There is a 75 percent chance that any item at or below the Base Value for the settlement can be obtained easily without much work.
In addition to the Base Value, most settlements will have a number of magical items for sale to the players broken down into the Minor, Medium, and Major categories.
Using this table above with the Random Item Generation Table, we can randomly roll what items might possibly be available given the population of a city.
Note the * under Minor Items for a Metropolis. In a Metropolis sized city almost any kind of minor magical item could be found, so there is no need to roll for it.
The DM can also change these above values at their discretion based on what type of world a campaign is taking place in. If the world the game is taking place in is “low magic,” the DM can reduce the settlement base value or not have any magic items at all available for Purchase.
Conversely, if the game is taking place in a “high magic” setting, the DM can double or triple any of the values on the table or consider the community value a size larger for item availability, making magic items more ubiquitous.
Non-Magical gear that is perhaps made of an exotic material (Mithral, Darkwood, Adamantine) would fall under the Base Value guidelines for the purposes of determining their availability.
Where To Buy or Sell Magic Gear
While it is sometimes easy to just handwave away the process of purchasing gear as just “Yeah you get it…” it gives a great deal more life and interest into a campaign to narrow down just where in a settlement the PCs can deal in magical gear.
Magic Shops are the most common, especially in the larger and more developed settlements. These would be dedicated Echanters, Alchemists, Runesmiths, or Crafters who have started their own businesses using their skills at magic.
While it is rare for these shops to create truly world-shattering powerful magical gear, they can definitely specialize specific enchantments and may be available to help with more bespoke enchantments.
Divine Temples would be the main providers of magical items blessed with divine magic. Paladin gear or Cleric powers might be provided to the Player Characters in exchange for tithes or donations to the church (or straight up payments depending on the deity in question), or maybe even in exchange for duties performed for the church in question.
Fences are a bit like the Magical Shops, but these are less lawful than other shops. They will deal in stolen goods they might have the opportunity to resell. This can be easier for more chaotic parties to deal with, especially if the party is taking magical items from a ruling monarch or perhaps “grave robbing” from old tombs.
Fences can also deal in the bartered goods rather than simply gold. They would be more amicable in trading a used magical item for something that might be better suited for a character.
Variation in Prices
Prices can vary by a great deal depending on the situation.
Players can flex their Charisma checks for Haggling, attempting to shave off the gold price on something they want to buy, or perhaps tell more of a story about the items they are attempting to sell.
No magical item exists in a vacuum, and a good story can really sell an item.
Example: “It’s just a +1 Shield, but a Shield that protected your life from a Minotaur!” Some shop owners may eat that up!
Players can also barter items as well, offering a +1 Longsword they don’t need anymore to compensate for the cost of a set of +3 Full Plate.
Finally, availability can also affect cost. A town with a very devout population might have shop owners with less expensive holy weapons and armor. Perhaps a town with a local Wizard school might offer less expensive prices on wands and staves. The DM is the final arbiter of prices though.
Wealth and Gear At Higher Levels
In the event a DM wishes to start their game at a higher level, or perhaps have a new character joining a game already in motion, there is a handy table Pathfinder provides for Players and the DM to track how much Wealth a character of that level would have.
Character Wealth Per Level Table
|1st||Starting Wealth by Class|
DMs can also use the above table as a guide for how much gold their PCs should have at a given level. Think of it as a budget for how much a character should have to correctly balance the magic items per level.
The Cost of Magic
In Pathfinder, the power of a magic item is directly proportional to its cost in gold. However, costs are different depending on the item type, the enchantment, and the item in question.
Below is a list of items considered Essential in the Pathfinder game, organized by their cost and classification (Minor, Medium, and Major).
This arsenal should provide an excellent start for any Pathfinder!