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Scaling Items

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 160
Typically, player characters find themselves buying and selling magic items as they gain levels to keep up with the increasing threats they face. Items come and go from each character’s inventory with such frequency that they hardly have the chance to impact the game’s story. Scaling items, however, increase in power along with the characters who carry them, allowing an old and cherished item to develop and retain its utility rather than being sold and forgotten.

Scaling items work like normal magic items, but they gain new powers as their wielders gain levels, and their existing powers sometimes also improve. Additional item powers appear in a scaling magic item’s entry with a header indicating the character level at which they unlock.

The caster level of the item scales up as well. A scaling item’s effective caster level is its listed caster level or the character level of its wielder, whichever is higher, to a maximum of the item’s highest-level ability. For instance, if an item has a base caster level of 5th and additional abilities at 7th and 9th levels, it’s treated as caster level 8th in the hands of an 8th-level character, but is treated as only caster level 9th in the hands of a 10th-level character.

Each scaling item has a base price that represents its value to a character whose level is equal to or less than the item’s caster level. As the item’s caster level increases in the hands of a more powerful character, the item’s value increases as well. The values of such items fall into three categories (baubles, prizes, and wonders), which indicate the rough percentage of the character’s wealth a scaling item represents.

The weakest items, baubles, represent 5% of a PC’s character wealth at her level and can be compared to consumable magic items (even though baubles aren’t destroyed by use). Items in the middle category, prizes, represent 15% of a PC’s suggested wealth and correspond to magic items of moderate power. An item of the most valuable category, wonders, represents 30% of a PC’s suggested wealth and corresponds to a major magic item, such as a fighter’s most beloved and powerful sword. Wonders exceed the normal cost assumptions of the game at their highest level. Such items approach the power of minor artifacts, though they’re not indestructible and can still be created normally.

Adjusting Treasure

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 160
Since scaling items improve as characters level up, they effectively add wealth to their owners over time. To balance this out, the Game Master should reduce treasure awards in proportion to how many scaling items the party has. This can be done per character or for the whole group, as described below. Note that the original level and price of a scaling item don’t matter once the character’s level exceeds the minimum caster level of the item, since the item accrues value based on its category (bauble, prize, or wonder), not on its original price. The adjustments to treasure awards are the same for all items in a category.

Table 4-13: Value of Scaling Items

LevelBauble (5%)Prize (15%)Wonder (30%)
1st15 gp45 gp90 gp
2nd50 gp150 gp300 gp
3rd150 gp450 gp900 gp
4th300 gp900 gp1,800 gp
5th525 gp1,575 gp3,150 gp
6th80 gp2,400 gp4,800 gp
7th1,750 gp3,525 gp7,050 gp
8th1,650 gp4,950 gp9,900 gp
9th2,300 gp6,900 gp13,800 gp
10th3,100 gp9,300 gp18,600 gp
11th4,100 gp12,300 gp24,600 gp
12th5,400 gp16,200 gp32,400 gp
13th7,000 gp21,000 gp42,000 gp
14th9,250 gp27,750 gp55,500 gp
15th12,000 gp36,000 gp72,000 gp
16th15,750 gp47,250 gp94,500 gp
17th20,500 gp61,500 gp129,000 gp
18th26,500 gp79,500 gp159,000 gp
19th34,250 gp102,750 gp205,500 gp
20th44,000 gp132,000 gp264,000 gp


Per Character: If you apply the scaling item treasure reduction for each character, do so after dividing up shares of treasure for the characters. Reduce the treasure received by a character with a scaling item by the percentage listed for the item’s category (5% for baubles, 15% for prizes, and 30% for wonders). If the character has multiple scaling items, combine the percentages before adjusting the amount of treasure.

For example, a PC with a wonder and a prize would receive 45% less treasure, because the PC has effectively already received that amount of treasure in the form of the items’ increased values. Since the value of a scaling item is based on wealth for an entire level, apply this adjustment to every treasure allotment the character receives. If you’d prefer to keep the adjustments more tied to the game world, you can instead replace the character’s lost treasure share with a magical substance that must be used to increase the power of scaling items. This might be magical residue, vibrant crystals, or spellbook-style pages of magical phrases that increase the item’s power. In any case, this substance should be treated as almost worthless to sell, and therefore useful only for upgrading scaling items.

Group Basis: You can use the scaling items of the whole party to adjust treasure. This implementation works best if all or most of the characters possess scaling items, and no character possesses a far higher number than the others. This method has the advantage of hiding behind the scenes, requiring no in-game justification. Add up the percentages of all scaling items owned by all PCs. Divide this percentage by the number of PCs, and reduce the total value of treasure the party finds by that percentage before dividing it among the characters. For example, if a group of four PCs have between them one bauble, three prizes, and a wonder, their treasure is reduced by 20% (80% divided by 4).

Buying and Selling Scaling Items

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 161
Selling a scaling item presents a tricky balance proposition. Such an item is worth more to a higher-level buyer, and a high-level seller has spent more effective wealth acquiring and keeping the item. The maximum amount a PC can get for a scaling item is half the value (as normal for selling magic items) listed on Table 4–13 for the item’s category and the PC’s current level. To get this amount, the PC must find a motivated buyer of her level or higher, which may involve considerable time and effort. If the PC must sell in a hurry, she might get 25% of the listed value, or even less. A PC can’t sell a scaling item for more than 50% of the item’s value for her current level, even if she sells it to a higher-level NPC.

Crafting Scaling Items

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 161
Scaling items must be crafted at their highest level of power, with a cost determined by referencing Table 4–13. Start with the value listed on the table for the item’s category and its highest-level ability. Divide this by 2 to get the crafting cost, and add the value of any nonmagical armor or weapon component. The crafting cost is always much higher than the market price of a scaling item, since the crafting cost is based on the full set of abilities but the market price is based on the minimum caster level. When a PC crafts a scaling item, he doesn’t need to pay any further cost in reduced treasure for keeping the item, because the full value of the item has already been accounted for. When setting the DC for crafting a scaling item, use the item’s highest-level ability instead of its base caster level.

Pricing New Scaling Items

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 161
To determine the price when creating a new scaling item, determine the cost of the base item without any of the level-based upgrades, and increase that price based on each additional ability as described below.

Pricing the Base Item: First, decide whether the new item is a wonder (best for major items), a prize (best for utility items), or a bauble (suitable for items that are interesting but not significant). Price the base item according to the normal rules for creating magic items. Then, using the column on Table 4–13 that corresponds to the item’s category, find the lowest gp value that includes that initial price. Use that value to determine the item’s starting caster level.

Adding Scaling Abilities: Use the following steps to assign additional abilities and spells, and the levels at which those abilities unlock.

Adding Unlockable Abilities: Determine the first unlockable ability or increase in power. Price the item again, using the new ability plus all the abilities of the base item; you will use this price to determine the level at which the ability unlocks (see below). However, because many scaling items have a large range of limited-use abilities, following the standard rules can result in items that are too expensive for their actual utility. Therefore, on worn items, you should typically waive the 50% increase in price for an additional power unless it’s a particularly useful ability or has a strong synergy with the item’s other abilities. For instance, if you create a set of gloves with a burning hands effect, you wouldn’t need to pay the extra cost for a higher-level ability that grants you fire resistance, but you would for an ability that grants fire resistance to all allies within 10 feet of you since that ability complements burning hands so well.

Adding Spells: Assign a price for any spells the item allows its owner to use. Table 4–14: Spell Prices includes the typical prices of one daily use of spells at different caster levels. Because the price of spells varies based on the item’s caster level, it’s usually best to price other abilities first, then estimate the finished caster level, then price the spell at that caster level. If a spell doesn’t improve significantly at higher caster levels, price it using the item’s minimum caster level. If the spell becomes more powerful with level increases (as does fireball), use the caster level of the level at which it’s unlocked to determine its price. Cap a spell’s caster level at the highest level that makes a significant difference, such as 10th level for fireball. Generally, if only the spell’s duration changes with caster level, spells with a duration of 1 minute per level or 1 round per level should use the full caster level, but those with longer durations (10 minutes per level or more) should use the minimum caster level.

Remember to readjust the price at each further power unlock level, since the caster level of the item will match the owner’s level. On a worn item, waive the standard 50% price increase on the additional spells.

Assigning an Unlock Level: Now that you have a cost for the next scaling ability, assign a level at which that ability unlocks. This follows the same process as the Pricing the Base Item step, but using the new cost. You should usually round down, but if you’re almost at the higher-level price, bump up the level. For example, a prize that priced out at 8,000 gp at a given set of powers would unlock those powers at 9th level (6,900 gp), but if the price hits 9,000 gp, the abilities should instead unlock at 10th level (9,300 gp).

Completing the Item: Repeat this process for each set of new powers. Try to add a new unlockable ability every 2 to 4 levels. It’s not necessary to scale every item all the way to 20th level, however—stop when the set of abilities feels complete.

Table :

Spell Level
CL0123456789
1st180 gp360 gp--------
2nd360 gp720 gp--------
3rd540 gp1,080 gp2,160 gp-------
4th720 gp1,440 gp2,880 gp-------
5th900 gp1,800 gp3,600 gp5,400 gp------
6th1,080 gp2,160 gp4,320 gp6,480 gp------
7th1,260 gp2,520 gp5,040 gp7,560 gp10,080 gp-----
8th1,440 gp2,800 gp5,760 gp8,640 gp11,520 gp-----
9th1,620 gp3,240 gp6,480 gp9,720 gp12,960 gp16,200 gp----
10th1,800 gp3,600 gp7,200 gp10,800 gp14,400 gp18,000 gp----
11th1,980 gp3,960 gp7,920 gp11,880 gp15,840 gp19,800 gp23,760 gp---
12th2,160 gp4,320 gp8,640 gp12,960 gp17,280 gp21,600 gp25,920 gp---
13th2,340 gp4,680 gp9,360 gp14,040 gp18,720 gp23,400 gp28,080 gp32,760 gp--
14th2,520 gp5,040 gp10,080 gp15,120 gp20,160 gp25,200 gp30,240 gp35,280 gp--
15th2,700 gp5,400 gp10,800 gp16,200 gp21,600 gp27,000 gp32,400 gp37,800 gp43,200 gp-
16th2,880 gp5,760 gp11,520 gp17,280 gp23,040 gp28,800 gp34,560 gp40,320 gp46,080 gp-
17th3,060 gp6,120 gp12,240 gp18,360 gp24,480 gp30,600 gp36,720 gp42,840 gp48,960 gp55,080 gp
18th3,240 gp6,480 gp12,960 gp19,440 gp25,920 gp32,400 gp38,880 gp45,360 gp51,840 gp58,320 gp
19th3,420 gp6,840 gp13,680 gp20,520 gp27,360 gp34,200 gp41,040 gp47,880 gp54,720 gp61,560 gp
20th3,600 gp7,200 gp14,400 gp21,600 gp28,800 gp36,000 gp43,200 gp50,400 gp57,600 gp64,800 gp


Standalone New Scaling Items

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 163
A GM can include specific scaling items as individual pieces of treasure even if she isn’t using the scaling items system in her game. The base item can be used without any of the higher-level upgrades, or the GM can pick a higher level and create an individual item that has the base abilities plus one or more unlocked levels. She should use the standard price for that level of scaling item, as described on Table 4–13

For example, a GM could give out a spear of the huntmaster as a CL 6th item worth 3,202 gp with just the base abilities, a CL 8th item worth 4,950 gp with the base abilities plus the 8th-level unlockable ability, a CL 10th item worth 9,300 gp with the base abilities plus the 8th- and 10th-level unlockable abilities, and so on.

Scaling Item Examples

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 162
The following scaling items include several examples of wonders, prizes, and baubles.