In past posts, I've provided:
- A tool for calibrating the CR system to your player characters
- A table of types and subtypes to help streamline monster knowledge smoother for your spell caster players
- A method for prepping social encounters so you can use Pathfinder's disparate social rules more smoothly
Here's the problem: D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder are very heavy on magic items. The base system for disbursing treasure generates quite a lot of totally random magic items. Modules also produce quite a lot of magic items. Unfortunately, 3.5 and especially Pathfinder characters tend to become very focused. A 9th level Barbarian will be so invested in a specific weapon that other weapons -- even similar ones -- won't be very useful to her. A 7th level wizard will focus on attack spells, save-or-die spells, buffs, or illusions, generally; and items and scrolls that support one wizard focus will not support every one. There are some generally useful items, but most results off a treasure table and most loot in modules will wind up missing the mark. Heck, even a well-intentioned DM can miss the mark. You might think the barbarian wants a +1 keen falchion, but he was planning on taking the Improved Criticals feat; and now he doesn't know whether or not he should still take the feat (what if the next falchion he finds is a +3 ghost touch falchion?).
When that happens, the player characters have a bunch of magic items they don't care about. This is problematic because as the GM, you want the world to feel special and magical. But collecting junk magic items to sell later feels more like Diablo or Skyrim. It also sends the players off looking for buyers for these items, so they can get gold to spend on new magic items. Now they're looking for Ye Olde Magick Item Shoppe, carrying around junk magic items worth enough to buy a fiefdom. If they can't find anyone to sell them items, they're going to start taking item crafting feats and making the items they want with the gold they can get for their junk items. Naturally the wizard and cleric, who take those crafting feats, will get the first and best stuff; so your party balance starts to slip.
It's a mess. It's a nasty mess. So here's what you can do for a home game of Pathfinder to fix this problem.
Making Magic Magical
This system is designed for a long Pathfinder campaign covering levels 1-10 (give or take a few), starting at level 1. It gives the PCs all the items they want; only the items the want; plus a lot of restorative items. This eliminates the magic item shop problem and lets them be a little more resilient (so you can safely throw the occasional oops-way-too-hard encounter at them and all it should do is burn through some of their restorative items if it turns out they can't handle it).
First, ban item crafting feats except for the ones that can make expendable items, such as Scribe Scroll, Brew Potion and Craft Wand.
Second, let the players pick out the five or six pieces of equipment they want to have at tenth level. Let them fill a budget of 62,000gp with five or six items worth no more than 31,000gp for any individual item (meaning they can get up to +3 weapons, for instance). If there are particular scrolls they want (for a wizard's spellbook, for instance, or a witch's familiar or alchemist's formula book), they can put all the scrolls together as a single item. They should not use their wish list spots on expendable restorative magic items - those will still appear in loot.
Third, don't give out any magic items other than expendable, restorative magic items or the items on the PCs' wish lists. For their wish list items, design plot around them. Give them to major villains to carry into combat. That Lesser Quicken metamagic rod is going to be brutal in the hands of the Marauding Fire Wizard of Westwatch, and that +3 adamantine falchion is going to do some serious damage in the hands of Thag the high orc warleader. As a rule if thumb, try to give the PCs their offensive magic items (like the aforementioned rod and falchion) first, then their defensive items second. Make sure they get all their wish-list items before 10th level. That means giving out something like 20-30 items in 9 levels, which is still a lot slower than the default, but it requires a little forethought.
Fourth, when determining loot other than their wish-list items, you can give out mundane treasure (mundane items, alchemical items, coins, gems, jewelry, and art objects) as normal, and use the following table for magic items. Roll 1d6 per CR of the encounter and look the total up on the "Result" column. If the total was an odd number, there is another item. Take 1d6 away and roll again, if there are any dice left. Repeat until you stop rolling odd results or run out of d6'es.
Table: Expendable Restorative Magic Items
|1||Scroll||Scroll of Cure Light Wounds||25|
|4||Potion||Cure Light Wounds||50|
|7||Scroll||Scroll of Cure Moderate Wounds||150|
|12||Potion||Cure Moderate Wounds||300|
|16||Scroll||Scroll of Cure Serious Wounds||375|
|21||Potion||Cure Serious Wounds||700|
|22||Scroll||Cure Critical Wounds||700|
|24||Scroll||Freedom of Movement||700|
|30||Wand||Cure Light Wounds||750|
|33||Scroll||Breath of Life||1125|
|34||Scroll||Mass Cure Light Wounds||1125|
|35||Scroll||Mass Cure Moderate Wounds||1650|
|36||Scroll||Greater Dispel Magic||1650|
|39||Scroll||Mass Cure Serious Wounds||2275|
|41||Scroll||Mass Cure Critical Wounds||3000|
|43||Other||Restorative Ointment (Keoghtom's Ointment)||4000|
|44||Wand||Cure Moderate Wounds||4500|
|47||Staff||Staff of Blessed Relief||7200|
|50||Wand||Cure Serious Wounds||11250|
|52||Wand||Cure Critical Wounds||21000|
|54||Staff||Staff of Healing||29600|
|55||Staff||Staff of Life||109400|
|NA||Diamond worth 25,000gp, take away 1d6, and roll again.||NA|
(A diamond worth 25,000gp is needed for Miracle, Wish, or True Resurrection, and can be cut with jeweler's tools into multiple smaller diamonds for Raise Dead and several other spells.)
If you use this table for Pathfinder levels 11+, you might want to add more to the table. Say, "two scrolls of raise dead" and "10 potions of cure serious wounds." For every level past 10 you intend to run the game, insert two more rows before the "higher" row, and get a lot more d6es.
Are you interested in a general nonmagical items (including gems, valuable mundane items, etc.) treasure table for Pathfinder that's based on inspiration and fun? Let me know in comments and I'll see about putting together a post next month with that information.