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Offline MoonHunter

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Orbs.... ***
« on: May 08, 2003, 03:38:35 AM »
<rant/>
Magik items should always have a catch.  In many cases, magik items are just tools, nothing special at all.  You might as well have a technological explanation for them, as they produce all the awe and wonder of a q-tip.  Magik items should not be free "power ups". Magik items should enhance the campaign. They should be something special.  

In all fantasy books, the source material for fantasy games, magik items are not just tools.  They are plot points, major dramatic obsticles to be overcome, or are require to overcome a major dramatic obsticle.  In most fantasy games, they are just... well for lack of better terms... power ups.  They just improve the character's ability to do just what it is doing.

In a story, raw power without complication is boring.  Think about how interesting/ boring the "all powerful wizard" in the story is.  Magik... zap... solves the problem.  Now if the wizard was an apprentice, or requires something special to work magik, or was the Evil Magik users kind of doing good, think about how much more interesting the story will be.  Power without restrictions in undramatic, and therefore uninteresting.

Games should be dramatic.  In the process of play, the troupe creates a story.  Now hopefully the story is intersting. (If it isn't why are you playing?)  One way to add drama is to add complications to something you need.  (Can you say "Phenomenal Cosmic Power. Itty bitty living space"?)

This brings us to Corvus and the Orbs.  These items are all fairly powerful (except for the library balls). Yet each one has its own agenda (a complication), its own limitations (the other orbs.. another complication), and its own restrictions (there are a few... and they are minor complications).  Do you see where I am going with this?  They have great power. They also have a catch.  Without some opposition, there is no drama.  Things should always bring their opposition with them.  

</rant>
« Last Edit: December 04, 2005, 12:11:05 AM by MoonHunter »
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Offline Strolen

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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2003, 06:24:25 AM »
I will disagree with Moonhunter a little bit on this point. While I am by no means a monty haul player and no magic is over powering in the games I have played in, but they all have some sort of magic.

I do agree that the items, in many many cases, are just tools, but when you are in a tech low environment then magic makes up for technology and that is the purpose. So you have the 'tool' magic items, the low powered plus to hit whatever resistant and then you have the true magic that have that something special like intelligence or cool powers. The fun that magic brings to the game is a major draw and the biggest excitement is usually when you find these things. Having a low magic world with a +1 sword being powerful might be amusing to do for a game to try, but I would rather go back to the magic weapons that are much more fun. Yes, the game is fun, the plot is fun, good group, da da da, but magic helps make the game as much as the rest and is just another facet of it, but a unique and exciting one that I love.

So I disagree that all magic items need to push the plot or mean something great in the game. There is a place for that in every game of course, and there usually is one even in high magic games, but not at the sacrifice of the smaller more mundane magic that we know and love and do use as tools.

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Offline ephemeralstability

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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2003, 07:11:55 AM »
I'd fall somewhere between the two poles: I think Moonhunter has a point. When someone refers to their weapon as a "sword +1" then something has gone wrong. Every magical item should be special. Take LOTR for example. Each magical item has its own very unique and well-thought-out history: right from the Ring to the daggers recovered from the wight's barrow. Sting, Bilbo's dagger from the Hobbit, is even given a name. I think all magic items should be treated with this kind of respect.

The PCs come across a hoard of dragon's treasure. Does it contain 1d6 "swords, +1, resistance vs fire"? No, it contains find the swords wielded by the six courageous knights who tried to withstand the dragon at Meleskan which were forged by the frightened dwarf-smiths of Damor specifically to defeat the dragon. The swords were given the power to resist fire so that the knights would stand a chance against the dragon's notorious searing breath. The enchantments were sadly not sufficiently powerful...

Though this takes more work, it adds depth to the campaign world, and limits the amount of magical items which can be reaped, slowing down the munchkins. On the subject of which...10 million goblins would take up an area of about 1,500,000 sq km so some of them would be about 700 miles away from the PC they were attacking. Makes melée a little difficult.

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Offline CaptainPenguin

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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2003, 07:33:38 AM »
I have my characters name their weapons. It gives them a more personalized feel, so that they don't succumb to "weapon-swapping", where they pick up a weapon and then just abandon it when they find something better.
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Offline MoonHunter

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Oh. I started another thread...
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2003, 04:05:47 AM »
oops, not my intent, but since we are here let me address...

Strolen:  I do agree that the items, in many many cases, are just tools, but when you are in a tech low environment then magic makes up for technology and that is the purpose.

So answer me some questions.  So people can't live in these low tech environments and thrive?  Are your heroic characters not up to the challange of living like someone's ancestors did?  Even though the game is probably based roughly on an earlier historical period?  And the one that gets most players, "So you are not skilled enough to defeat threats without the edge of magik?"  

These take a little bit of an extreme points (and I do that for contrast, not to antagonize). However, the points are valid.  Most fantasy games postulate a European Mid age technology.  And except for threats that require magik to defeat (usually magikal creatures), every threat should be met and defeatable with that same level of tech, if the players play well enough.  If they can't defeat it because they are playing at a less than optimum level (i.e. stupid) then they can create a new set and see if they can improve on the learning curve.  

Now I know gaming is supposed to be fun.  Part of the fun is "the crunchy bits", the powers and abilities beyond the norm... the part of gaming that is the infantile power fantasy. Even the most ardent storyteller and genre field likes their crunchy bits.  Magik items are crunchy bits in some campaigns.  
However, gamers tend to inflate the need for crunchy bits. This occurs in campaigns where the crunchy bits are the only player reward, rather than the weave of the campaign or any other achievement.  However, bland tasteless crunchy bits are like poor cereal.  The only way you can be satisfied is by eat way, way too many, and being full... rather than enjoying the taste or texture.  As we all know, the only way to continue satisfaction in such cases is by adding more and more amount.  Quantity replaces quality.  

Now magik is a technology for a culture.  It is always a skewed technology as magik is all around them, yet not.  It is very strange and something I would address in another post.  

I am not against magik items per say.  I am against the bland tasteless variety.  I am against those that do not forward the campaign except as a "power up". You might as well have glowing red crosses and floating icons to run into then.  I am against campaigns that use them as the only player reward besides experience points.  

I am finished ranting for the moment.
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Offline Strolen

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« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2003, 05:46:50 AM »
Quote from: "Moonhunter"

So answer me some questions. So people can't live in these low tech environments and thrive? Are your heroic characters not up to the challange of living like someone's ancestors did? Even though the game is probably based roughly on an earlier historical period? And the one that gets most players, "So you are not skilled enough to defeat threats without the edge of magik?"


I like these conversations because I am very much interested on how others play. Realistically I have a pretty confined perspective on different game plays. Have probably only played with three separate groups and they were all very good friends so we know what we like.

The answer to the questions may help. Yes, they thrive. The magic doesn't really change the perspective of the game for us from that viewpoint. We will have the cities that the wizard has cast continual light as streetlamps and the generic stuff like that, but the absence of those things really wouldn't change much on the grand scale of things. It would just be dark. Same with the + weapons. If we didn't have them then nobody else would either. Since the small + weapons are a little more common (not given away by any means but any adventurer would be able to afford one or earn one at some point after the first couple levels) then they are more common for the enemies as well and so they really don't change much in the grand scale. They are not throw away items by any means and it is not like every enemy is swinging one but they do show up when you get closer to the baddies.

The heroic characters are heroic, therefore we want and get cool stuff. If we were normal, the game would be boring, but because we are heroic we should have heroic stuff. The heroic ancestors didn't rough it either really, times change but heroes do and live in their own hero style.

Not a matter of not being skilled enough to wield it. The adventure is scaled in most of the games to require some kind of magic to defeat the enemy to make it fun. Like a puzzle. You meet him, get whipped, figure out the weakness, gather the necessities, whip him back. When you play in a higher magic game everything is notched up a level. Yes, some can still be defeated without magic, but that just comes to having better dice rolls and that is not as fun to us as having a wicked cool magic item and fight some bad ass that has other magic items which creates the occasion of an cool epic battle that includes the necessity of using your head to get the most of your available magic. With no magic it is simply a matter of hack and slash and brute strength...when it comes down to it anyway....from my perspective.

What we don't like is no magic weapons. We like having fairly easy access to low magic weapons that give the simple pluses. And when everybody has them (at least most of the ones we fight) they do become sort of mundane.  But the point of them is, "I have a + weapon" I think that is the part where we have differing opinions. I am more then happy to do all the negative things you list because we like to play that way. We don't play low magic worlds really and we like the fun and other challenges that magic brings with it.

I probably could ramble on a bit and have some better arguments but my son is bugging me about painting a Mother's Day gift and I have been asking him to wait this whole time. Looking forward to more discussion though and other opinions. Never know, may give it a go and see for myself.

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Offline manfred

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« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2003, 06:12:21 AM »
People with + swords seem often to forget, there IS quality and quantity, and it's two different things.

Say you meet your old friend, an average swordsman, and have a training-fight one more time. But this time, he defeats you easily. While his tactics did not change, his sword did. And it's not magical. So allow me to present:

Masterwork weapons
Used and valued before the stupid magical +X weapons could be widely employed, it takes an expert smith to create.

 - expensive steel alloys, rare metals, careful removing of bits of unnecessary material, all can make a weapon lighter, giving a + to initiative
 - good weighting makes for a stable swordsman's position, along with improved design can give a + to attack
 - a finely sharpened blade gives a + to damage
- good material and forging means it won't break easily

Of course, it takes at least an average sword-user to make use of the bonuses. This and the high cost of produce makes people value magical swords more. Any moron can swing a +1 sword, with better results than a +0 sword.

Conan had no magical sword either.
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2003, 01:39:13 PM »
Y'know, I usually use the D&D Magic Attitude (i.e., magic tools to be used and then replaced) but I'm gonna start making changes, dammit!
Things are gonna be different from now on!
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Offline Ria Hawk

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« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2003, 09:12:43 PM »
The way I look at magic items is this:  an item worth the trouble of enchanting is an item worth being named.  Named items are much more intriguing, and have backstories of their own (which are very interesting to create).  If something's just a stat booster, then it shouldn't exist.  But if it's something famed in legend and myth, then getting it is so much neater.  I mean, which would you rather have?  An anonymous +1 broadsword, or Excalibur?  And we're not exactly sure what Excalibur did to justify representing kingship...
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Offline Adel

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« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2003, 10:57:34 PM »
I must agree with Ria here.  I find weapons with at least a breif history are more coveted, as are they rare, the character gains respevt for that weapon and it becomes more of a partner in arms than a mere tool to be used.  having this also creates the opppritunity to set up hidden levels where one can gain such a weapon.  the major downfall that I see is the balance of power;  each weapon has to have a weakness and a strength if the weapon does not and is some how over the other weapons then the challenge is lost and the game becomes boring!
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Offline MoonHunter

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The economic ecology of magik items
« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2003, 05:15:16 AM »
The ecology of something shows the thing and how it fits into the systems of the world. So we have magik items in the world, lots of items. I can accept that, if magik has no mystery and is just another craft like baking, smithing, or farming.  However, I have to ask... Who is making them and why?

How many NPC magik users are in their little workshops cranking out items?  First how many MUs are there in the population (rather than the adventuring population)?  1-100, 1-1000, 1-100,000?   Given your average large medival tech city has a few (1-3) thousand people, supported by a near equal number of people out in the fields, (assuming an excessive 1 in 1000 people have magikal talents outside the adventuring population) means you will have 6 magik users in a good sized city.  How many of those people are working for a specific patron (who may or may not have them busy making items... or are they doing magikal work for the patron)?  How many of those people are working for the city as laborers (magikal lamp lighters... how many of those spells can they cast a day?) or as magikal guardsmen (We will take the orcs, you take the shaman)?  How many does that leave toiling away churning out items and potions and other mystic nicknacks that D&D GMs like giving away or allow you to buy?  Lets figure 2-3.  How many large cities should a country have? Normally it would be 2-4.  So we will consider a country will have 8 people in cities cranking out items.  Those living in other places probably have their own concerns, but they might contribute a few things.  

How long does it take to make some of these things?  Potions used to take 4-weeks to make (healing), Swords 1-3 years depending on the plus, wands 1-2 years, Wizard's Staff 10 years. Someone can correct my times, but lets work with those.  

So you are making potions in a hope that some fool adventurer will buy them.  You can make 12 a year. Cost of living that you want to have (upper middle class) divided by 12, plus the cost of ingredients (shaving a little of market price because you are buying in bulk), plus 10-20% profit is how much a potion should cost.    Insert the various costs for your campaign world.  Say owm at the cost.    

Now that is if you sell 100% of your wares over the year.  If there are not that many fool adventurers, figure you will sell 2/3 normally, so you will be taking your total costs (lifestyle + costs of ingredients +profit) and instead of dividing by 12, divide by 8.  It is a good thing these things are found in dungeons because they get pretty darn expensive to buy.  

Note: This was not supposed to be a lesson in economics, but it shows the effort that people will have to go to make items.  If there is no money in an item, nobody will make it.   For example, a mage spends two years making a ring of spider climbing.  So that is the cost of 2 years of their life, plus the cost of the ring plus all those spiders.  If nobody buys that ring, the magik user is out all that money.  You might make the item as a personal challange, but that means you had to make all that money before hand.  If you are not adventuring, that is a lot of potions, notions, and lotions.  


If all your free magik users, in all your cities, in your country all made potions that took 4 weeks to make for a year you would have approximately 96 potions.  Note: That is if making healing potions was all they did. If they were doing other things, or took vacations, the number should be around half that for potions or 48.  

How many potions did your adventurers swill down in the last year of play?  The last D20 group I interacted with, quaffed about 66 over their last year.  Your numbers will vary, but you get the idea.  A group of adventurers or an elite  unit of an army will polish off most of a countries stock of potions in a given year.  So most of these free magik uses are probably making potions/ lotions/ and notions, rather than items to keep up with demand. So figure 3/4 of them are making consumable items.

How many party of adventurers are there out there?  Is it just you guys?  In all the world? In your country? (and if it is, why is anyone making things for adventurers?)   Given the number of high level people (requires adventuring to do that last time I checked) there must be a lot more than just you guys. Especially if there is a trade in armor and weapons for non military types.  

Another aside: Who is dedicating weeks/ months/ years into the creation of items that they can't use? The Magik sword is a great example of this.  (There are non magikal plus swords, as listed above). All it does is make the fighter a more important part of the party, instead of the magik users who should be.   Magikal items usable by mages/ wizards make sense, they are "tools of the trade" so to speak.  Commissioned items makes less sense, unless the character makes enough to buy the components, make the item and make a profit (figure 2x the cost of the time to live and component costs since it is commission item after all).  Who has that kind of cash? Governments, Royal Nobles, and a few Merchants. The theives guild would be doing quite well if it could support an MU to make one magik item.  (of course blackmail and other things could be applicable).   That is unless MUs don't like to live in any kind of lifestyle.  If you have magikal powers would you live in total sqallor?  I didn't think so.

As discussed above, Nobles, Governments, and some Merchant houses will have the cash to get magikal toys for their employees.  So how do these things get lost and put in dungeons/ places to adventure?  If I spent that much money on something, I would keep track of it.  Imagine the US army not knowing where all its multimillion dollar tanks are?  They know generally where they all are. Let credit the governments of your worlds that much creditm "Okay, so He died in the swamp. It must be in there. " (magikal weapons and equipment existing in treasure taken off dead adventurers seem okay).  Do you not think they will put their mark or measure on the items being made (the local equivalent of "Property of US Army stencil)?  If you were found walking around with such an item, do you not think they would not ask for it back?  

Of course some of these items get eaten, disenchanted by anti-magik monsters, thrown into pits of doom, and so on. Figure a small percentage (1%) are destroyed or made unuable by circumstance.

So lets put it together. Taking into consideration that not everyone is as mad as Corvus, you will have a handful of low level, non adventuring magik user types cranking out potions and mystic nicknacks that people will want to buy (or that they as magik users might need).  Most of the ingestable items will be eliminated in the year or so of their creation.  Permanent items will last nearly forever, figure that every year a dedicated group of magik users will make half a generic +1 sword or 1/6 of generic +3 sword (given my times), if there is enough money floating around to warrent its cost.  So over 100 years a country will produce 50 or so generic +1 swords. Of course if they generate all those swords, there won't be all those other cool mystic nicknacks.

The point of this little tyrade is to illustrate that these things don't "grow on threes" that there needs to be a reason that these things are being made. That only so many can be made at a time. That over time, the number of items can add up, but that people will still want to own their magikal item.
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Offline manfred

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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2003, 06:12:56 AM »
Good post.

Much depends on your system, or your world, and exact numbers and times can vary, but it is clear: there should not be too many items out there. Seems I have thought of
another path
to limit their number... :roll:  But doesn't matter.

In my system, it is slightly easier to create magical weapons (and MUCH harder to create permanent weaponry), but it is easier to create potions. I think (most) potions should be relatively easy to make, for if there is any item fit to be made on an endless band, it should be potions. Potions can be used by anyone, by the way, and in good ole traditional dungeons crawls, potions ARE in fact power-ups or 'red crosses'. :wink:
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Offline Strolen

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« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2003, 05:08:49 PM »
Quote from: "manfred"
Much depends on your system, or your world, and exact numbers and times can vary, but it is clear: there should not be too many items out there.


The system or your homebrewed world is what defines the amount of weapons in it. Worlds I played a priest could ask their god to enchant a weapon and bam, done deal. Have a holy war? God would hook you up, then say that this god is a one time shooter, he makes it, it is permanant until destroyed. Have a couple hundred years of holy wars, which is very plausible, and you have a stockpile set for ya. Bam.

Doesn't even take into account the possible ease of wizards creating them. Perhaps it just takes a specialization where all efforts are focused on the creation and they have gotten to the point where they can make one a month, but the wizards are good for little else, basically specialized labor.

My homebrew I PBeM in is low, restricted magic even for the magic users. They are forced to have a physical, limited, product of varying degrees of power to cast a spell in the first place, and they can only hold so much at a time. The stuff is VERY hard to get.

I like low magic as well and the system you propose would work well for it. But for other campaigns I have played in you can justify just about anything, so the argument isn't really the feasibility, but the overall feeling of possible abuse of magic items and how many is too many depending on personal preference.

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Offline MoonHunter

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System issues
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2003, 01:17:29 AM »
Certain game systems have better controls over these things.  

For example in RuneQuest, you have to permantly sacrifice part of your power stat (the stat spell casting is based on).  You can very slowly increase your power stat, but if you make too many items too quickly, you can't cast spells or power the items you have.

The Fantasy Trip and Gurps requires physical fatigue to be expended when activating and running most magik items.  So you could be invisable, but only for 4-8 turns.  In TFT, You can also only have five items with you at a time, less then become dysfunctional.  

Hero is the best at this.  Magik items are created out of player points (100-to 150 per character), just like your skills and attributes. With experience you can get more.   You want to create a magik sword, you will need 15 or so hard earned experience/ player points (figure 3 per scenario).  If that sword is lost or stolen, you are out those 15 points (10% of your essance).  

These elements of game balance make for a very different outlook on magik and magik items.
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Offline manfred

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Re: System issues
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2003, 09:29:33 AM »
Quote from: "MoonHunter"
Hero is the best at this.  Magik items are created out of player points (100-to 150 per character), just like your skills and attributes. With experience you can get more.   You want to create a magik sword, you will need 15 or so hard earned experience/ player points (figure 3 per scenario).  If that sword is lost or stolen, you are out those 15 points (10% of your essance).


Now, guess what way magical items might be created in our Labyrinth of Evil (tm), where most of the advancing is done through XP...
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Offline MoonHunter

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If your world has a perfectly good rational for magik items.
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2003, 03:18:07 AM »
If your world has a perfectly good rational for items, then for all means have items. The world where the Clerics make the magik swords to fight the bad things, is a good idea.  

Default DnD seems to promote items and magik, yet the default setting has no mechanism for the volume of these items being created. See my rant about the ecology of magik items.  Nobody has that many people working that hard to make all these things.  And magik talent is worth one in a thousand in the general population, is a huge and silly number unless magik users are as common as vinters or silversmiths.  

While I like my fantasy with low powered and infrequent magik, if the world has a rational support for the items, then go for it.
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Magic Item Usage in Games
« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2003, 02:05:59 AM »
Just wanted to bring this back into the limelight. It was buried on page two. We have some new blood on the site and wondering if they have any thoughts on the topic.

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« Reply #17 on: December 13, 2003, 07:52:42 PM »
Personally, I'm starting to heartily dislike the D&D outlook on magic. I mean, magic is supposed to be...Magical, right? So why can EVERY SINGLE BLOODY PERSON IN THE FORGOTTEN REALMS CAST A SPELL?! OR HAVE A MAGIC ITEM?!
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« Reply #18 on: September 24, 2004, 07:56:00 AM »
Now look at what I digged out this time!

 I have this weird idea, and it fits into this thread, I think:

 What if, what if all magical items that shall be permanent, must have small black square thingies on/in them. These come originally from an ancient civilisation, their production is not possible anymore.

 Black what you ask? The original idea were solar cells; the ancients were a technological race and used solar power for many things. The old race dies. The young race develops their magic, and finds those black thingies can work with, and even power magical items, so an enchantment can last forever. Easy.

(Of course, it does not have to black colour, and it does not have to be solar power. If it is powered by neutrinos, or whatever, doesn't matter. But having to recharge the items on sun can be a fun quirk.)


So what's the point? There is a limited supply of these power sources, and most of them is already in use. So if you want a new item, you either find a new power source in the ruins of aforementioned civilisation (should be a hard thing), or break an existing magical item, which is most probably valuable and potent, so also hard to get, and persuade the actual owner.

Sounds like a limit on the number of items. What do you think?
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