Variant Forge Ring Abilities

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Forge Ring is the redheaded stepchild of the item creation feats in the PH. Any item property you could put in a ring you could put in a different item with Craft Wondrous Item, and Forge Ring has a higher caster level prerequisite. So why ever take it? Forge Ring needs something extra to make it worthwhile, just as Craft Staff has extra advantages compared to Craft Wand.

So what can we do to make Forge Ring worthwhile? Let's take a look at the 3.5 differences between Craft Wand and Craft Staff: higher-level spell capacity, uses the wielder's ability score for the DC, uses the wielder's Spell Focus feat. That doesn't exactly work with rings because many ring effects have nothing to do with DCs or caster levels, but letting the user's feats work for free is a precedent for making rings cooler.

Of course, the best-known precedent for ring powers in the modern era is the One Ring from Lord of the Rings, a ring that not only was sentient and desired to return to its owner, its powers were greatest in the hands of its wielder. The first power is nice but often irrelevant, the second only useful if you lose the ring ... the third is where it gets interesting, and actually works the closest to the Craft Staff feat's effect. In effect, you can pay for the lowest caster level possible and still use your own full caster level for free.

We shouldn't make Forge Ring exactly like Craft Staff, though, because that's boring (and doesn't really make Forge Ring unique, which is what we're aiming for). What other stuff can we give the ring-maker that rewards them for taking this feat? Well, we already have a metamagic system in the game, and although it has its flaws, people understand it and know how to implement it. So, proposed variant:

Variant #1: If you include a metamagic effect in a ring, you price that effect as if the metamagic feat's level adjustment were one level lower than normal (minimum modifier +0 levels). You (or another person participating in the item creation) must still know the metamagic feat in question. You may discount one metamagic effect per property of the ring (for example, if a ring has two properties, you may add two "discounted" metamagic feats, one per property).
   Example: Vox, a wizard with Forge Ring, is crafting a ring that lets him use fireball and dimension door once per day. He enlists the help of his cleric friend who knows the Empower Spell and Quicken Spell feats. With the cleric's feats and the Forge Ring discount for metamagic feats, Vox can build the item as if the fireball was a 4th-level spell (3rd level + 2 levels for empower -1 discount) and dimension door was a 7th-level spell (4th-level +4 levels for quicken -1 discount).

Unfortunately, this doesn't help a lot of the standard rings presented in the DMG. Protection, energy resistance, and counterspells don't have anything that's metamagic-able, and even things like invisibility don't benefit from Extend Spell (it's useable at will, so extending the duration is irrelevant). We need to find something else to make the existing rings cool (the above variant lets you make cool rings, but doesn't do anything for most of the rings in the DMG).

Well, in LotR, the rings are always described as "rings of power." How about we do something to make the big rings more significant? That's easy: just discount the more powerful abilities. How do we define "powerful"? Well, 5th-level abilities and above are certainly powerful (it's also above the highest level a wand can do, so it's nice to be consistent with that break-point), so if we offer a 10% discount on any 5th-level or higher ability, that would have a significant impact on the powerful-item costs. So:

Variant #2: Any ring property based on a 5th- or higher-level spell has a 10% discount on its price (gp and XP). This discount also applies to crafting the item with intelligence.
   Example: Vox wants to craft a ring that lets him use teleport once per day at caster level 9. Because of the 10% discount, what normally costs 8,100 gp and 648 XP (spell level 5 x caster level 9 x 1800 command-word / 5 for one use per day = 16,200 gp) to create instead costs 7,290 gp and 583 XP. If he added another ability (such as invisibility), it is only discounted if it is based on a 5th-level or higher ability.

That's pretty simple. Unfortunately, it still doesn't solve all of our DMG ring problems because many of those rings have properties that aren't based directly on spells. So let's turn to LotR again and review the origin and power of the One Ring:

"And into this Ring he poured his cruelty, his malice and his will to dominate all life."

Sauron poured his own power into the Ring, and when it was destroyed, he was destroyed. It's hard to model that in D&D, and it would suck to have your character die because a wimpy item you made fell into the wrong hands and was destroyed far away from you, and destruction of items is pretty rare in D&D despite the option to do so), but the 3rd edition method of item-crafting (spending XP to create the item) sets a precedent for investing your personal power. So how about we crank that up? Invest more XP so you don't have to invest as much of something else?

Variant #3: When you craft a ring, instead of spending gp, you may spend additional XP to reduce the gp cost to create. Every 1 XP you spend beyond the minimum decreases the gp cost to create by 5 gp. Keep note of this extra XP spent; if the item is ever destroyed, the magical backlash deals you damage equal to extra XP divided by 100. This damage cannot be negated or avoided. These extra XP must come from your own XP, not from an item or another character.
   Example: Vox is creating a ring of regeneration, which normally has a price of 90,000 gp, and costs 45,000gp and 3,600 XP to create. Vox is running low on cash and decides to spend 5,000 gp, and pay the difference in converted XP (40,000 / 5 = 8,000 XP), for a total of 5,000 gp and 11,600 XP (the 3,600 XP plus the extra 8,000 XP). If the item is ever destroyed, Vox immediately takes 80 points of damage (8,000 / 100) and probably dies.

It really depends on what you want to do with the system. All three options make Forge Ring a little different than the other item creation feats (though the third one could just as easily be added to any of them, because the core designers assume that 1 XP = 5 gp), and you can mix and match to find something you're comfortable with. Personally, I like Variant #1 and Variant #2, they give you neat options and don't affect the pricing of your most common (weak) rings but make the powerful ones stand out a little more.