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Rough Draft: Signature Items (4e Houserule)

by Ethan on October 17th, 2010

Inpired by a Chatty DM post.  Any criticism/suggestions are welcome.

(EDIT: there’s a great discussion on this subject going on right now at

This is a separate idea from a low-magic campaign, although it would be well-suited for one.  DMs seeking a low-magic campaign should strongly consider using Inherent Bonuses (DMG p.138).  This rule automatically provides PCs with bonuses necessary for scaling with monsters, without requiring item allocation.

Signature items

The player should work with the DM throughout the creation process.  This rule has the potential to unbalance the campaign, and the DM may choose to disallow an attribute or power.

Player gets one item of their choice at the start of the campaign.

  • Because enhancement bonus is derived from the PC level +2, items should be chosen for other properties, such as Crit Effect, Daily Power, etc.
  • This item is limited to L+2 and can be from chosen from any approved source (character builder, campaign setting, Dragon article, etc).
  • The item must be a signature item for the character, based on the PC’s class, background or theme.  For example, an archer’s bow, a wizard’s staff, a rogue’s pouch, a paladin’s shield.
  • The item must have a proper name (ex. Excalibur, Sting, Frostmourne) and a history that is part of the PC’s backstory.
  • The enhancement bonus of the item is based on the character’s level and scales automatically:
    • Levels 1-3:  +1
    • Levels 4-8:  +2
    • Levels 9-13:  +3
    • Levels 14-18:  +4
    • Levels 19-23:  +5
    • Levels 24-30: +6
  • The item begins with the default damage (base & crit), properties, (e.g., Brutal, Versitile), and powers (At-Will, Encounter, Daily) of the item chosen.
  • From time to time, the player my upgrade the item through study and discovery.
    • Can only be done once per level, and only between sessions.
    • Requires two days of Extended Rest.
    • Requires a material component of a cost determined by the DM (ex.: 100 gp per character level).
  • Through discovery, the player may choose to:
    • Option 1.  Swap the base item for a different base item, of Level+2 or lower.  For example, the player may choose a wholesale swap of a Echosing Songblade (L4) for a (L7) Bloodclaw Weapon.
    • Option 2.  Upgrade the item.  The player chooses ONE power from another item of the same class (e.g, longsword, greatbow, etc) and appropriate level (L+2 or less).  This power is added to the Signature item, up to the power limits set for Signature items:  two powers of each type (At-Will, Encounter, Daily).  If nercessary, a new power can replace an existing one (e.g., adding a Daily to a SI that already has two requires that one pre-existing Daily be discarded).
    • If the PC chooses to Swap a Signtaure Item rather than upgrade, the SI is reset to the new base item.  Any additional powers are lost.
    • For an additional material cost (DM’s discretion) an item may be changed to another subclass within its broad class.  For instance, Magic Chain Armor can become Plate; a Magic Longsword can become a Bastard Sword.

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