While some adventurers hunger for glory, others are after something more tangible: treasure.
And there’s hardly anything more rewarding than finding a magic item.
In this guide, we’ll consider how DMs should handle buying and selling magic items.
Unlike normal items and equipment, magic items harbor hidden potential. Players equipped with magic items can cast spells or use special abilities.
While the value of magic items is ultimately up to the DM, there are some general guidelines that apply.
In addition to our Detailed Pricing Table below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about buying and selling magic items. We’ll consider both common and unusual cases so that you can craft a fair economy in your game, and quickly price the loot you’re handing out to players.
Different Types of Magic Items in DnD
Adventurers can find all sorts of magic items during an adventure. Whether it’s a glowing bow, a suit of dragon scale armor, or a haunted instrument, magic times are inherently magical, and hold these magic properties within themselves.
Some items, such as spell scrolls and potions are consumable. Items like this disappear after they are used. For example, drinking a potion consumes the item, but a magic longsword could be around for centuries.
Some magic items are merely useful, while others hold enormous power, granting their holders superhuman abilities. These items have legendary status. Such an item is usually one-of-a-kind, and extremely valuable.
And while most magic items can be used to enhance a player’s abilities, they also have a monetary value in the game world.
What’s more, the individual prices of these items aren’t, by any means, set in stone. They’re basically up to the DM. So how does this work? How do you come up with the prices of hundreds of magic items?
Well, the answer is rarity. The DMG provides a very basic solution for pricing magic items based on an item’s rarity level.
A Pricing Guide for Magic Item Rarity
Magic items are usually priced by rarity, with common items in the price range of 50-100 gold pieces. Rare items may be worth as much as 5,000 or more. Legendary items could be worth more than 50,000 gp.
Pricing items based on their rarity ensures that characters don’t have access to high-level items before they’re ready. Using item rarity as a general guideline for the value of weapons, armor, and other magic items will ensure players don’t become too powerful in the early game.
Valuing items on rarity alone, however, is hardly enough. Prices can range dramatically by hundreds or even thousands of gold pieces. How can DM’s accurately price magic items and give their games an economy that makes sense for the players?
Where Can Players Buy and Sell Magic Items?
Magic items are extremely rare in most DnD campaigns. Powerful items pilfered from far off vaults will be extremely valuable, but it won’t always be easy to find a buyer.
Players may find it difficult to purchase magic items with coins alone. An alchemist may be unwilling to part with a magic potion for anything short of a personal favor.
Because magic items are usually very expensive, finding someone to buy them is hard. Your party might have a stash of powerful items for sale, but most shops don’t have 80,000 gold pieces just lying around.
As the DM, if you’d like for players to be able to buy and sell magical loot, there are some likely venues. Depending one what they are looking for, they might be able to find it with a little effort.
Players looking for healing or cures are likely to find help at a temple. These services are often expensive, requirening rare components that must be replenished. Instead of gold, temple associates may ask for help from the players, presenting an excellent opportunity for a quest.
Certain shops might buy and trade magic items, especially in wealthy cities or provinces where such goods are likely to surface. It’s up to the DM to determine what a shop may or may not have. Keep in mind that most shops will only rarely come across magical goods.
It’s extremely unlikely that any shop would have a legendary sword just lying around, no matter how much gold the players may have. Likewise, selling magic armor might be easy, but not many people will have enough money to afford it’s true value.
Magical items may appear at auction. Players could find themselves in a bidding war with other adventurers, or wealthy collectors. And auctions are a great chance to sell loot as well. Who knows, someone out there might be willing to pay an arm and a leg for your collection of magic fish hooks.
Some traders move from town to town, trading for this and that. Players can usually find these traders on the outskirts of town, selling strange and exotic items. A lucky adventurer might be able to find magic items from such a person, for a price.
Any wandering trader is likely to have a bodyguard, however, so tread lightly if you’re thinking about skipping the part where you have to pay.
If legality isn’t an issue, players might seek less than honorable means of selling or buying treasure. Thieves can be found in most cities. Locating them isn’t easy, however. And of course, there are no refunds.
Where Do Players Find Magic Items?
It takes a lot of time, gold, and powerful magic to create a magic item. Because of this, most folks never even see such a thing. Adventurers, however, are not ordinary people.
Most magic items are ancient relics from past civilizations, or the works of powerful mages living in far away lands. It’s extremely rare to find someone with the ability to produce a new magic item.
A Dragon’s Lair
Dragon’s are notorious for collecting treasure, especially magic items. Wherever there’s a dragon’s lair, you can be sure to find plenty of good loot. Getting to it—and getting out alive—is another matter.
A Wizard’s Tower
Powerful wizards often scour the world looking for items that enhance their powers. More often than not, they stash these treasures at the top of a tall tower. Unless you can fly, you’re not going to get to them.
Rotten Crypts and Tombs
Old crypts are a great place to go looking for treasure, granted someone else hasn’t gotten there first. Maybe there’s even a chest full of magical goodies down there in the dark, but you can bet it’s either cursed, or guarded by something really unfriendly.
A Deep Dungeon
Probably the most common location for finding magic items, a dungeon is sure to have great treasures. Mad kings and evil wizards of all varieties are fond of stashing powerful magic items in dungeons. What better way to lure adventurers to their doom. Bwahahahaha!
How to Price Magic Items
DnD has a lot of magic items in the game. How do you, the DM, put a price on all of these items? You’re not a database, after all.
Pricing magic items based on their rarity is a good place to start. Making sure that powerful items are kept behind an expensive paywall prevents low level characters from obtaining them.
Just like items in a real economy, items in DnD may have a price that varies depending on the situation. The price of a magic staff may change if the seller learns the players desperately need it to save the townsfolk.
Pricing Cursed Items
Cursed magic items usually have undesirable properties attached to them. Depending on the curse, the value of such an item may decrease significantly. For example, a shop probably won’t buy a magic amulet that unleashes an annoying ghost every night, even if it does increase the wearer’s intelligence.
Trading for Magic Items
If players are in a place where many adventurers, explorers, and traders gather, they may be able to trade for magic items. In such a location, there may be many magic items available, providing the players have enough gold.
In these cases, it’s a good idea to prepare a list of available items—and their prices—ahead of time. Make sure to choose items appropriate for the player’s levels.
If the players get powerful items too early, they may find the monsters and other encounters in the game less challenging.
Creating and Pricing Custom Magic Items
Creating a new magic item can be as easy as tweaking an existing item, or changing its item type. The new item would probably have the same value as the one it was derived from.
Custom magic items may also have a value based on their power level. A wand that allows its holder to cast a level 6 spell, for example, would be a rare find, and could be worth several thousand gold pieces.
Selling Unidentified Magic Items
Some DM’s choose to make identifying magic items more challenging than simply letting a player pick up a glowing sword and going “Oh, yeah! A rare magic sword that gives +2 to charisma. Sweet!”
Players have to either experiment to learn the magic properties of items, or else use the identify spell. So how should you go about pricing items that haven’t been identified?
Buying an unidentified item might simply be a gamble. I doubt many shops or traders would be interested in buying items that they couldn’t identify, but some adventurers might.
Varying the Price of Items
Just because two items are identical, doesn’t mean they have to carry the same value. Other elements can factor into the price of an item. For instance, an item’s previous owner might have an effect on its value.
That isn’t just any +1 longsword. That’s the +1 longsword the mighty Deric used to defeat the skull king.
Likewise, items might have different values in different situations. A ring of protection might be worth one price at a shop, and another on the eve of a dangerous battle. A dealer of stolen goods might add a finder’s fee.
And don’t forget sentimental value. You might have a hard time getting a wizard to part with a magic ring anyway, but what if it was a gift from her grandmother? Good luck!
Pricing Legendary Magic Items
Some magic items are incredibly powerful. These items may be beyond normal concepts of value. Afterall, exactly how much do you charge for a scroll that releases an ancient and powerful monster? Who would buy it?
As the DM, these questions could be the beginning of new adventures. When such items come up in a campaign, they are likely to draw attention from players and NPCs alike.
As such, legendary items are unlikely to trade hands without much consideration. Even possessing such an item could be extremely dangerous.
Gearing Up Higher Level Characters
Sometimes players will either start a campaign at a higher level. Other times your character will tragically die, and you’ll need another to replace them with.
In cases like this what a DM and Player can do is determine some starting gold to approximate what this new character has acquired.
With that gold, the player can then “buy” some magic items to equip. By using the pricing guide below, ideally, these items won’t be too unbalanced.
A Detailed Pricing Guide to Magic Items
The following table lists the prices and descriptions for many popular magic items in DnD 5e.
Prices are derived from the rarity of the item as listed in the source books, as well as from popular opinion based on real game sessions.
Use this table as a baseline for pricing the magic items in your games. Remember, the value of goods in any DnD game is up to the DM.
Feel free to alter the price of goods as you see fit.