EDIT - Original post below in quotes, re-writing post for more detail and ideas of Masterwork concept.
I propose a new loot drop type called Masterwork. Masterwork items are modless with a large initial Forging Potential, a range of about 60-100 feels about right with Empowered monoliths more likely to drop closer to 100. From here, they could have additional mechanics or be provided additional benefits and bonuses for sake of player crafting through multiple uses. This would open up lots of player choice and serve to create additional chase in end game. I imagine they’d be about twice as rare as a unique drop, if not rarer.
In addition to Masterwork at base having a high starting FP, in order to facilitate these additional options and benefits, they could become associated to an existing dungeon reward mechanic (like Timeless Sanctum) or associated with a brand new dungeon. Through that mechanic (let’s called it Masterwork Forge), Masterworks could be used in multiple ways. Players could choose a bonus for sake of their crafting intention or sacrifice the Masterwork for a different purpose. The sacrifice or bonus option they choose would be based off the Rune they choose, and they could apply more of the same Rune up to a cap for an increased benefit. However, using this Masterwork forge to apply a type of Rune (if it isn’t the sacrificial kind) prevents Glyphs from being used on the Masterwork. This creates choice and risk/reward. Does the player simply craft the Masterwork (if it’s a base they like) and try for a strong T20, potentially a T20+5th? Or, do they opt for the bonus knowing they can’t use a Glyph of Hope or Despair afterwards? Or perhaps they choose the sacrifice for another purpose? Other than Runes of Removal, the Masterwork item MUST NOT have ANY mods in order to be used this way. For applicable runes, the Masterwork item gains that Rune as part of its tag, like Refined Masterwork, Discoverer’s Masterwork, Shaped Masterwork, or Creator’s Masterwork.
The Masterwork Forge would have 5 tiers at hardest difficulty, each tier costing more runes for more effect, with Tier 5 representing a significant increase in Runes needed over 4 for that extra bit of min-max. Here are my ideas for what each Rune would do at the Masterwork Forge:
Shattering: Apply multiple Shattering runes per Masterwork Forge tier to shatter the Masterwork and create a Divine Smithing Hammer that can add FP to a 0 FP item. I imagine a Tier 5 forge would be able to create a hammer that saves as much as 20% of the Masterwork’s FP. Applying a Hammer to an item, likewise, prevents use of Glyphs, and of course would consume the hammer. This would give those “nearly there” rares and exalteds a second chance at perfection. The max Tier would likely cost as much as 100 shattering runes in total and the max of 20% retained FP isn’t guaranteed. A perfect roll on Shatter applied to a 100 FP Masterwork would be a 20 FP hammer. You can only use a hammer on an item once.
Refinement: Apply multiple Refinement runes per Masterwork Forge tier to increase the minimum range of affixes applied to the Masterwork item, with higher tiers adding a chance to increase the maximum range. For example, Chance to Ignite on Hits on a staff at T5 has a range of 77%-96%. A perfect roll Refined Masterwork’s staff would gain a Chance to Ignite range of, say, 90-120%, and those increases to minimum and maximum affix range would apply to all four affix slots. I see the max tier requiring as many as 60 runes
Removal: Runes of Removal are unique in that you can add mods to the Masterwork and still use the Removal option, even if Glyphs of Hope were used. What using Removal will do is return shards of affixes applied to the Masterwork at an increased amount based on Forge tier. So, if you have a T20 Masterwork, Tier 1 Removal would return 5+1 of each affix in shards and max tier would return 5+5, effectively returning double the shards used (meaning better returns if you crit when initially crafting), a potentially useful way to gain rare shards. I see the max tier requiring as many as 30-40 runes.
Discovery: I have three ideas for how Discovery could work: Either, a) Each tier applies a significantly increasing chance to apply rare affixes and at a higher mod tier (potentially giving you a T8 item to start or even a very VERY rare T12), OR b) You choose an affix shard to apply that has an increasing chance of applying per forge tier at a higher tier plus higher chance of rare T1 affixes for the remaining three slots, OR c) You choose an affix shard that applies as a 5th Affix with higher forge tiers increasing the chance it applies as a 5th at a higher mod tier (maybe VERY rare T4 at best?) with the remaining slots simply using Discovery’s base mechanic. I imagine highest forge costing 30-40 runes.
Shaped: Similar to Refinement runes, a Shaped Masterwork would instead apply to the implicits of the item. This would take a lot more individually balanced benefits. Flat Melee and Spell damage on weapons, for example, might at best increase by 50% at highest forge tier. Other implicits could potentially double. +1 to skills could become +2 to skills plus the other implicits being improved. Potentially, a good way to balance would be for lower “level” gear to gain the highest potential increase in implicits. So, a silver ring might as much as triple implicit range for move speed, but a Coral ring would only double to up to 12 vitality and regen, and an Opal ring only 50% more leading to a range max of 15% cooldown and 3 all attributes. I imagine highest forge tier requiring around 30 runes.
Ascendance: Using these runes will convert the Masterwork into a unique item like-for-like as they currently do (i.e. mw dagger becomes unique dagger, etc), but guaranteeing at least one Legendary Potential. Higher tiers give a chance of higher LP, with the highest tier costing I’m thinking around 15 runes for a small (5% or lower) chance of 4LP. Higher tiers would also make the item more likely to be a higher level world unique drop.
Creation: Creates a mirror of the Masterwork item. While this still prevents using Glyphs, this will add crit chance with crafting, up to let’s say +10% from current base. Max forge tier for that +10% I’m thinking 5 runes?
I think this could be an awesome new mechanic to supplement current crafting and add more chase for players. Masterworks should feel very good to get but not necessarily guarantee a BiS. The more options available to players in end game the better for longevity IMO, especially with choice and risk/reward baked in because that will help drive engagement.
I propose an additional crafting mechanic called Masterwork. The basic idea is that uncommonly (say, unique/set drop rates) you get a standard item that drops with zero mods but with the Masterwork tag. Masterwork items are special in that they give you a massive amount of Forging Potential, starting as low as 60 and as high as 100 or more. Masterwork items have a few additional special properties, in that they are prone towards rolling high for affix and implicit ranges, have a notably higher chance to craft crit than normal gear, maybe enhance glyphs and runes used on them somehow, and maybe even can hit T6 and T7 through crafting.
Plenty more could be done with these, such as a dungeon mechanic or new rune allowing you convert items into Masterwork, destroying existing mods in the process, or similar mechanic to burn them as a means to re-roll affixes on uniques and set items with a high change for higher ranges (like for like, so only a one handed masterwork sword can be used for a one handed sword unique/set). Of course, the Rune of Ascendance could also play well into this with plenty of room to get creative and crazy with it, such as creating a unique with legendary potential through use of a Masterwork base.
The idea here is to introduce more means of getting the kinds of affixes desired, especially with exalteds, but also to introduce multiple points of use for the Masterwork mechanic that can integrate with or expand upon existing systems.