On Magic Item Creation, Problems
Magic item creation falls into two camps in early play.
The first camp consists of making it so difficult that it is never intended to be used, finding itself included simply for verisimilitude.
The second camp consists of making it a trade-off in character power. Instead of increasing your personal power by continuing to ascend up a chain of special abilities (feats), you are allowed to be more efficient with your money, if have the time, allowing you to eek more value out of your wealth by level.
Neither of these are very enticing methods of item creation.
The first is too difficult to use for the players. Before they can even consider creating items, they must talk to their Dungeon Master, who will tell them who to talk to in game. And then that person will give them a long and difficult list of demands, and in all likelihood it will take entirely too long jumping through hoops and preparing what is needed to produce a potion of healing for it to be worthwhile to the players.
The second, although more straight forward, requires a lot of work on the player to give themselves a small improvement. All too often though, in play, this comes at a much higher cost to the player, because then he becomes the funnel through which the entire party gains a benefit for his choice. Then he finds himself making more efficient use of party funds, to improve the benefit of cost per level for every member of the party at no personal cost to the other members of the party. He, in effect, becomes a discount magical items store. ("Hey Wizard! Is my belt done yet?!")
But obviously there is a subsection of players that likes to create items. Why are these systems always so difficult and hard to work into play?
1) Fear of overpowered characters. If we allow them free wherewithal to create items, the campaign will be inundated with a massive influx of overpowered items.
2) Fear of the snowball effect. If a character is constantly creating items soon they will be overwhelmed by options and powers. Eventually they will be able to dominate the countryside, either by selling the items and becoming super-rich, or by using them to control the populace.
3) Fear of loss of control. If the character is allowed to create any item he wants, he will be dictating what can happen in the game, not the DM!
These fears are unlikely occurrences that will rarely occur, even in a poorly run game. It is important to maintain perspective on these things - perhaps someone could create an item that would neutralize an encounter - this does not mean that the item is overpowered. After all clerics can turn undead, that doesn't mean that clerics are ruining the game. As long as the cost is reasonable, then being able to bypass or control a specific encounter is fine.
So how can we address these issues to make magic item creation something that's useable in our games? Check back tomorrow when we take a closer look on how item creation will work in the new Alchemy & Poisons supplement - and how it addresses some of these fears, and attempts to put a workable system in place.