Minimum level (ML), when listed on an item, is the level at which a character can equip an item (given the character meets any other conditions). Before reaching that level, there is no way a character can wear this piece of equipment. Nothing can overcome it, not even Use Magic Device. This was set in place to avoid low level characters possessing items which are too powerful for their level.
Characters that end up wearing an over-level item (either as a result of retroactive increase of an item's minimum level, or as a result of a game bug) suffer from Over-level Item Encumbrance.
Randomly generated items
The rest of this section only applies to legacy loot created before Update 29.
The minimum level of a randomly generated item is calculated by adding the minimum level on its enchantments. Then, it is calculated by using one of the two following formula:
- For weapons, armors and shields: ML = (Base price modifier x 2) - 2
- Clothing and jewelry: ML = (Base price modifier x 2) - 1
These formulas are valid for items until ML:20. After level 20, a +1 increase of base price modifier results in a +1 increase to minimum level. For ML20+ items, the following formula applies:
- weapons: BPM + 8
- armor/shields: BPM + 9
- clothing/jewelry= BPM + 10
Reduced minimum level - Some random items are more powerful than usual for their level:
- Cursed items bestow a -1 penalty to one of the ability scores, but their minimum level is lower (-2 on items of ML19 or less, -1 on ML20 or higher)
- Masterful Craftsmanship items: +1 total enhancement value
- Wondrous Craftsmanship items: +2 total enhancement value
- Race restriction items (history) - these no longer drop since Update 19
The minimum level of any named item is determined by the game developer and has no distinct pattern.
In recent years, for heroic items, item ML usually matches the quest level on normal difficulty. For legendary items, item level is usually lower than quest level (because often, quest level is higher than the character level cap).
Absolute minimum level
Update 14 introduced high-level variants of randomly generated armor have (see Armor by Proficiency). When you strip the enchantments from these items via Cannith Crafting deconstruction, the resulting blanks are not reduced to ML:1, but rather to their absolute minimum level.
Weapon dice multiplier: Originally, similar mechanics existed for epic weapons; when you stripped enchantments from an epic weapon, the resulting blank had 2[W] and was ML:20. This was changed later; amount of W is now dynamically calculated according to the total level of enchantments on a crafted weapon. For example, a +5 Keen weapon (with 6 levels of enchantments) gains +0.5W; a +5 Holy Burst Weapon of Greater Outsider Bane and Red slot (11 levels of enchantments) gains +1W.
- Race restricted items can have their minimum level 2 levels lower than the Absolute Minimum Level.
- Shard of Masterful Craftsmanship can not reduce a crafted item below the Absolute Minimum Level.
Augments and Sentient Jewels
In the case an item contains an Augment of a higher minimum level, the item's minimum level is temporarily raised to that of the augment. Characters of the right level to use the item but not the augment cannot equip the item until the augment is either replaced or removed with a Jeweler's Tool Kit.
A few heroic items in the past have had the capacity to have a Sentient Jewel slotted into them despite not meeting the normal criteria of being minimum level 20 or above. Since a patch in Update 56, the three current examples, (Bone Crusher, Copper Dwarven War Axe and Squid Smasher were changed so that new drops or existing items with no Jewel no longer included sentient slots; however, any such item which had a Sentient Jewel installed in it prior to the patch had its minimum level changed to 20 retroactively.