When the Magic Rules Fail

What do you do when certain magic stuff isn’t in your core rules?

Wizard of Adventure Arvindh posed this question on Discord (note that Arvindh runs D&D 5E):

Let’s say your PCs wanna build a magic airship or craft a magic light bulb – both of which exist in the world.

There are magical processes (akin to manufacturing) that make these magitech things possible.

How would you handle that situation?

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Another Wizard of Adventure, Loz, offers this advice:

I’d let them try, but NOT handwave production difficulties. SO many role-playing opportunities (cough, problems, cough) with workers, rivals, experts, politicians, merchants, crew-members of all kinds they need to hire….

Let the players come up with answers to the “How” for you.

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And RPT GM Kell responds:

Agree with LozN here, but there’s also some rules for this spelled out in the Kibbles Compendium of Crafts & Creation that could give you some bones for this type of stuff!

I have 2 players playing inventors in my campaign that ask me crazy stuff every other session, and it’s saved my life.

For example, with your Magic Light Bulb, I would first start with an associated rarity of the item. Lets say it’s rare. I would say they would need tinker’s tools, some raw materials (you could make these up or just give a gold value), and a lab or base of operations to make it.

The next thing I would do is set a general DC for the check. If it’s rare, I would probably do anywhere from 15 – 20 based on the complexity of what your player is trying to accomplish.

After that, pick an amount of time needed to make the item (maybe anywhere from 8 – 24 hours I would think to make a light bulb) and the amount of successful checks needed to create it.

Let’s say 3 successful checks makes the item. And every failed check is 4 hours of unsuccessful work (you can set a failure condition if you want, but I generally try to avoid that unless the experiment is volatile).

And then you can just parse out your narration over the 3 successful skill checks, dividing the process into three parts. Maybe part 1 is making the filament, part 2 is making the bulb, and part 3 is inscribing the magic rune and putting it all together.

The fun part about this is you can actually do different checks depending on the task. Maybe part three requires rune carvers tools and another PC or NPC can help out complete the work project so you can force some collaboration.

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And last, I threw my Four cents in:

You mentioned the items exist in the world today. Are they being freshly created or desperately maintained because the lore is lost?

If freshly created, you could use clocks and rituals. Magic light bulbs take 10,000 rituals to work though. 🙂

If it’s lost tech, you could homebrew spells or rituals, put them in an ancient spell book that has been split into pieces over the ages, and the PCs can quest for all the pages to make their thing fly.

Alternatively, such power would be coveted. So this is ripe for a guild or similar faction to control the means of production and its secrets. Now you’ve got a heist adventure or intrigue.

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I hope these ideas bright ideas help, Arvindh!

I’d love to hear what you decide for your mechanics. Share them on the Discord if you get a chance.

I’d also like to hear from anyone who can tell me how many GMs it takes to replace a magic light bulb…. ?

Have more fun at every game!

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