Blackball’s Treasure

In 5th edition D&D, there is a big list of magic items – I’ve not counted, but it looks as though there’s as big a list as in most other editions of the game. This isn’t surprising, since magic items are always fun for players to get hold of. Sure, the 5e books go out of their way to say that magic items are optional and that the game will work without them, but then they say the same about feats and multi-classing. While it’s technically correct that they’re not necessary, most people will use them and the DMG provides prices for them, treasure tables in which you can find them, guidelines about when characters should start finding them, and “optional” rules for selling, crafting, and buying them.

For the most part, these rules work fine. Items are grouped into a number of categories, each of which has a consistent price in the buying/selling/crafting sections of the books.

However, there is a huge flaw with the magic items in 5e – and that is in how the items are assigned to the categories.

The five categories of item in the game are “Common”, “Uncommon”, “Rare”, “Very Rare”, and “Legendary”. With these names, you’d think that they’re based on how frequently items are found; but a quick perusal of the treasure tables shows this not to be the case. The frequency with which any individual item is found bears little relationship to the category it is in, and it is readily apparent that although the names of the categories sound like they’re related to scarcity they’re actually just related to power and price.

For many items this is obvious. A simple Potion of Healing is far cheaper and less powerful than a Vorpal Sword, and consequently is in a category with a much lower price tag.

And this brings us to the flaw. Many of the items seem to be very badly placed in the categories that the writers have put them into. For example a Broom of Flying is an astonishingly useful and powerful item. It can be used all day to fly great distances, skipping long treks through wilderness and letting characters spy on terrain and locations from the air. It completely trivialises overland travel. Yet in the book it’s categorised as “Uncommon” and is priced at a mere 500gp – cheaper than a non-magical breastplate! It doesn’t even require attunement to use one.

At the other extreme, we have a Potion of Invisibility. Sure, being able to go invisible is useful, but it’s only a second level spell. The average adventuring party will have someone who can cast it by the time they reach third level, and at higher levels where they have many surplus low level spell slots going invisible is pretty trivial. Yet a potion that lets you do it once and is then used up is classed as “Legendary” and is priced at a whopping 250,000gp. It’s ridiculous.

And that’s where Blackball’s Treasure comes in. Arising from a discussion thread over on RPG.Net, it is a complete re-do of the magic item pricing system. It takes three hundred and eighty items from the DMG and XgtE (I lied, I have counted) – that’s all of them except the six cursed items – and splits them into a new set of categories – ten of them rather than the DMG’s five.

Items are categorised purely on their usefulness, and there’s an explanation for why each item is placed where it is. The prices of each of the new categories has been carefully calculated to fit in with the existing economy of the game.

But that’s not all!

Blackball’s Treasure also contains:

  • Item tables for each category, with random generation numbers.
  • Replacement hoard tables for generating magic items from the new categories (which will each give a similar spread and the same average wealth as the old hoard tables).
  • A optional conversion of 4e’s Treasure Parcel system, balanced to match the average treasure found when using the old hoard tables, and with guidelines on how to use it to emulate XP-for-GP.
  • A Wealth-By-Level system, again matching the average treasure found using the old hoard tables.
  • An optional conversion of 4e’s Residuum system for groups who prefer to have magic items crafted rather than bought and sold (again, designed to fit with the new item categories).

Since Blackball’s Treasure is so heavily tied to the existing text of the game books, it isn’t suitable for putting on DriveThruRPG as a “product”, so instead it’s downloadable directly from here as a simple PDF of house rules: Blackball’s Treasure