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Magic Items
By James Wyatt

H ow many magic items should player characters wield as they make their way through their adventuring careers?



Scant Advice

The original Dungeon Master's Guide gave little advice on how much magic treasure to award players, except to caution in colorful language against a "Monty Haul" campaign:

Just as it is important to use forethought and consideration in placing valuable metals and other substances with monsters or otherwise hiding them in dungeon or wilderness, the placement of magic items is a serious matter. Thoughtless placement of powerful magic items has been the ruination of many a campaign. Not only does this cheapen what should be rare and precious, it gives player characters undeserved advancement and empowers them to become virtual rulers of all they survey. This is in part the fault of this writer, who deeply regrets not taking the time and space in D&D to stress repeatedly the importance of moderation. Powerful magic items were shown, after all, on the tables, and a chance for random discovery of these items was given, so the uninitiated DM cannot be severely faulted for merely following what was set before him or her in the rules. Had the whole been prefaced with an admonition to use care and logic in placement or random discovery of magic items, had the intent, meaning, and spirit of the game been more fully explained, much of the give-away aspect of such campaigns would have willingly been squelched by the DMs. The sad fact is, however, that this was not done, so many campaigns are little more than a joke, something that better DMs jape at and ridicule—rightly so on the surface—because of the foolishness of player characters with astronomically high levels of experience and no real playing skill. These god-like characters boast and strut about with retinues of ultra-powerful servants and scores of mighty magic items, artifacts, relics adorning them as if they were Christmas trees decked out with tinsel and ornaments. Not only are such "Monty Haul" games a crashing bore for most participants, they are a headache for their DMs as well, for the rules of the game do not provide anything for such play—no reasonable opponents, no rewards, nothing! The creative DM can, of course, develop a game which extrapolates from the original to allow such play, but this is a monumental task to accomplish with even passable results, and those attempts I have seen have been uniformly dismal.

The text goes on to suggest what careful placement of magic items in the first level of a dungeon might look like: several potions (with minor effects), a scroll of 1 spell (1st or 2nd level), a wand (with only a few charges left), a pair of boots of elvenkind, several +1 magic arrows, and a +1 magic dagger.

A "revised edition" of the first DMG, released four months after the original, added an appendix allowing for the random creation of a party of adventurers "on the spur of the moment," including determining whether higher-level characters might have magic items. Here we see advice in action. Each character class had a percentage chance per level of owning a magic item of a particular type: a cleric had a 12 percent chance per level of owning a magic mace, for example. (It was typically +1, but at higher levels there was an increasing chance that it would be +2.) Each character would roll for some combination (depending on class) of shields, armor, defensive rings and bracers, weapons, scrolls, and potions. And, at the DM's option, the party as a whole might have 1 to 4 miscellaneous magic items.

Playing around with the math of this system leads me to the conclusion that a party of four adventurers (cleric, fighter, thief, magic-user) might acquire about 28 permanent magic items, on average, over the course of 20 levels of adventuring. So each character averages 7 items.

Rigid Guidelines

As with many other things, 3rd Edition replaced loosey-goosey guidelines with very clear ones—clear almost to the point of being rules. There was an expected progression of treasure for characters, expressed as gold piece value but translating directly to magic item value. A 20th-level character was expected to have 760,000 gp to his or her name. That could easily mean that the character had found or purchased 30 permanent magic items over the course of a 20-level career, or 120 items for a party of four.

With 4th Edition, those rigid guidelines didn't change much. Expressed as treasure guidelines, the game expected a party of five characters to acquire 4 permanent magic items per level, plus enough money to buy 2 more items of the party's level. Over 20 levels, then, a party would find or buy 120 items, and each individual would end up with 24 items.

Where We're Heading

We've stressed the idea that D&D Next doesn't assume any particular rate of treasure or magic item acquisition for characters. The math of the game makes no assumptions that characters will have such items. But DMs still need guidelines, and hopefully guidelines that aren't quite as vague as the ones in the earliest editions of the game. And by "DMs," I also mean the professionals who write adventures for publication and organized play.

Our current guidelines suggest that, for a baseline, middle-of-the-road campaign, a party of any size will find about 23 items over the course of 20 levels. So the characters in a party of four will end up with about 6 permanent items each by the time they hit level 20.

But we also want to include guidelines for DMs who want to vary that pace. In a low-magic campaign, we'd aim for about 14 items for the party, and in a high-magic campaign about 40 items. Of course, a no-magic campaign is also an option. Our hope is to discuss each of these options, giving the DM some guidance as to what each of those campaigns might look like.

These guidelines assume that characters can't use their hard-won gold pieces to buy magic items. If they can, the picture changes, depending on how much those items cost. That's another campaign option the DM can introduce, with its own set of repercussions.

What Do You Think?

How does that sound to you? Too many items? Too few?

Previous Poll Results

What cosmology do you use in your campaign?
The Great Wheel 726 27%
I play in the Forgotten Realms and use its 3rd edition cosmology 226 8%
I play in Eberron and use its 3rd edition cosmology 115 4%
The default 4th edition cosmology 547 20%
One of the cosmologies from Deities & Demigods 25 1%
One of the variant cosmologies from the 3rd edition Manual of the Planes 34 1%
A cosmology of my own creation 554 21%
I never really think about it, since my players never leave the Material Plane 304 11%
Something else 118 4%
Total 2649 100%

What cosmology should the game present as the default?
The Great Wheel 1029 38%
The 4th edition cosmology 315 12%
The Forgotten Realms cosmology from 3rd edition 149 6%
A puzzle-piece approach that describes planes and lets DMs assemble them however they like 771 29%
Something else 57 2%
There should be no default 304 11%
Total 2625 100%

Is it important for the game to offer alternatives to the default cosmology?
Yes, to make sure players used to other cosmologies feel included 244 9%
Yes, to inspire DMs to create their own cosmologies 500 19%
Yes, for both those (and perhaps other) reasons 1457 54%
No, it doesn’t matter that much 271 10%
No, the game should enforce a single model so we all speak the same language 170 6%
Total 2642 100%
James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
Comments
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Hello! I think we should take DnD a very flexible system for magic items. Sorry to say, but I did not like the magic items in the 3rd edition system. It was a very mandatory system! I think there should be a balance between 1st and 2nd edition with 3rd and 4th editions. Each DM, each campaign is different ... and the system as shown in the 3rd edition (plus 4th Edition) forced on players and DMs to follow only the canon. I and many in my gaming group prefer a system of magic items such as the 1st and 2nd Editions. Please do not return to the system of the 3rd and 4th editions ... only if it is optional.
  
Posted By: R.A.S (2/28/2014 2:29:48 PM)
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@ RealGlowface (because Reply is broken)
I love magic items that give you new abilities without affecting the math, but I want to explain why we also have math ones.

Magic item numbers are supposed to affect the math without being assumed by the math, thus magic items are rewards or game-spice that alter the characters instead of being a required adjustment for the game to work properly.

Handing out a, say, an accuracy ax is SUPPOSED to make that PC more accurate, but since different campaigns hand things out differently, the system should never assume you do it one way or another, and if all AC challenges to the ax-bearer grow difficult to match the PC's item (the game assuming magic items), then the you've canceled out the effect of the item, why even have it?

I hope that makes sense.
  
Posted By: Dreamstryder (1/27/2014 4:43:10 AM)
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I use the inherent bonus system for 4th with some modifications. Each weapon, implement, and suit of armor can mount a pommelstone, a badge, and a jewel. Generally, only weapons and melee or ranged attacks are affected by pommelstones, only implements and close or area attacks are affected by jewels, and only armor is affected by badges. However, many items gain bonuses by having the others locked in (and it makes for something to do with an old item you don't need anymore). Generally, a pommelstone has a power like "Attacks made with this weapon that do not have an energy type now deal fire instead. While ready, this weapon sheds light in a close burst 5." Other items have a power of their own, like "Ghostly Form: Encounter Power; Minor Action; Effect: This armor grants you phasing and the insubstantial trait until the end of your next turn. You may not end your move inside a solid object." Some items might include a bonus to to their base enhancement (so if th... (see all)
  
Posted By: throneworld (1/26/2014 3:37:37 AM)
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What I don't fully get is the 'system math does not assume any magic item progression' bit. I mean, I would be all for that goal. I.e. that the magic items would only color the character and campaign, or maybe make them more flexible, but would not primarily impact of their (combat) efficiency.

But if you do have +3 weapons and +3 armors, and you do have STR 24 giant strength belts, than magic items do effect the math seriously. These seriously impact on the damage-dealing and damage-taking/resisting capabilities of characters. If I hand them out thinly, the characters will be combat-weaker; if I hand them out generously, the characters will be tougher. So this effect encounter difficulty, and encounter design (number/level of monsters). The system IS effected by magic item frequency.
If the standard encounter design guidelines assume a certain power-level of characters for a certain level, than they do take into account some kind of standard magic item a acquisition r... (see all)
  
Posted By: RealGlowface (1/26/2014 3:11:31 AM)
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I don't have strong expectations regarding frequency by itself, but I think guidance on the ways magic items can be treated in a campaign is more big-picture helpful. Are they heirlooms that gain powers as PCs progress in the campaign (in which case how do you handle their loss)? Are they rare, capture-the-flag resources that guilds and kingdoms commit intrigue to have. (What if there are multiple, expendable such items? Would they be hoarded or used when one can?) Are they merely useful tools scattered about the world? Do the PCs depend on their magic items to survive stacked odds? (In which case, how do you handle the times they can't use their magic items, so as to avoid frustration?) None of these possibilities require much guidance on their own so much as tipping the DM on how to reap the pros while avoiding the cons of each method (and of course you can mix methods).
  
Posted By: Dreamstryder (1/26/2014 1:08:19 AM)
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What if a magic item is very powerful, like a +5, and was found at low level? The character will be able to use the weapon, but not be able to totally bring forth all the magic in the item. Make a standard of only being able to use +1 of magic per every 4 levels of experience. By level 20, all the magic in a +5 item could be accessed. This would allow a magic item to become part of the makeup of the character as he/she advances through their career without outgrowing the magic item. This would create an affect like Thor with his hammer, Captain America with his shield, or King Arthur with Excalibur.
  
Posted By: oblivionfan (1/24/2014 8:10:37 PM)
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First off, if you're one of the over 40% that selected 6-8; you failed! Hang your head in shame. :) High five.

Anywho, I think the main thing to consider w/ magic items is stacking issues.

In 4E, I had over a 60 AC, Bahamut; the most powerful being / monster with stats in the game technically needed a 22 on a d20 to hit me. Hahaha.

And similar shenanigans in 3E.

As long as there's never a situation where with the right magic combinations a character becomes immune to all challenges and damages; no "God Mode," so to speak as there was in the past 2 editions.

PC AC's are already jacked up pretty high compared to monster attack bonuses. Well, except for the non-dwarf spellcasters who are still extra squishy. But I digress.

  
Posted By: awogaman (1/23/2014 1:50:56 PM)
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I think this article avoids PCs creating or buying magical items. Please do not build into the game that this is impossible. Part of the fun of being a wizard is being able to do magical experiments and create items and the idea that someone at once time knew how to make these items means the players are also going to want to know how and it should be possible to learn.

I also think there should be a caveat that just because the PCs find an item they won't necessarily use it. And that item should not be part of the assumed amount. It should then just be considered loot. I also think that the less magic items in a campaign the more powerful they should be. For example, If some Boots of Elven kind helped with stealth in a high magic campaign, then in a low magic campaign they should also increase movement speed. I think it should be this way because those boots might be the only magic item that PC gets for a long period and they should be pretty special. Also if magic ... (see all)
  
Posted By: ZaranBlack (1/23/2014 9:16:35 AM)
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I think they have mentioned they will be covering such things in the 'Downtime' section(s) of their products. I seem to remember their logic being that, since not all people want to utilize crafting in their games, they've left it an optional element of the downtime system they are working on. Personally, I don't mind this approach, so long as it is there, and I would guess, hope even, that it focuses on creating expendable items a la alchemy, bushcraft, etc. with the ability to craft say, wondrous items, or magical weapons/armour/implements, is would take substantially more time and have more narrative requirements, such as quests for materials or the like.
  
Posted By: OskarOisinson (1/23/2014 2:21:29 PM)
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The way I'd like to do it in my next campaign is to do away with the idea that magical items are somehow standardized to the point where anyone can pick one up and immediately use it. If you have to learn how to use the +1 sword (perhaps do a quest to figure out how to activate it) otherwise it's just a normal sword. Why do wands have to be obvious how to activate the spells stored within? A wizard might want to protect his personal cache of extra power. If (perhaps only for permanent) magical items are useless unless the party spends some time "attuning" themselves to them, then they don't have to overbalance a campaign, and can still be given to enemies. Merchants are also unlikely to buy an item for a good price that they have to risk their lives to figure out how to use. Large cities could have merchants selling "magic" swords that they have no idea how to use or how to even figure out how to use.
Clearly this doesn't work out for every D&D campaign, bu... (see all)
  
Posted By: Noirsoft (1/23/2014 4:17:34 AM)
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I have always hated the idea of a party with hundreds of magic items. When I first started playing in 2nd Ed if a character got a +2 mace at say 5th level and only knew how to use a sword, that character would learn how to use the mace at the first opportunity. They would also keep said magic mace until they were level 14 or so, when a new magic item could replace it.
Magic items were recycled throughout the party and several items gained at 2nd level remained in use at level 20. Everything else was sold off.
There were no wish lists as the DM gave items as a bonus or for plot reasons. The party needed to save their coin to buy their desired stuff.
This is how it should be and I like the direction this is heading.
  
Posted By: Rartemass (1/22/2014 9:48:24 PM)
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I'm fine with most part of the article, but one of the last phrases puzzles me:

"These guidelines assume that characters can't use their hard-won gold pieces to buy magic items."

Ok, but why do the PCs need to risk their lives for gold pieces, one time they have enough of it to buy every piece of mundane equipment they need?
No magic item market, no incentive to hunt treasures too.
Older editions had no magic item market too, but every gp was worth 1 XP.
  
Posted By: EmmeDiEmme (1/22/2014 6:39:39 PM)
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The progressive rate/qty of magic items is flawed. The system should work with or without magic items...or magic at all for that matter. I have magic and magic items in my campaign. I have the item progress by teirs so if they decide to keep it it levels with them gaining power. That way they don't need to feel burdened to swap out something they just used in an epic battle(story) for some mundane item just because its a +3. Story plays just as much as mechanics and power progression. Every aspect of the game needs to be addressed using all options like story, power progression, and mechanics.
  
Posted By: Valkrim (1/22/2014 5:44:28 PM)
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I do love guidelines and probable charts. As guides not hard mechanics dm and player build a campaign that fits their needs and playstyle. Options are what make dnd fun and timeless. It can be built in any possible combination and function as the worlds best.
  
Posted By: Valkrim (1/22/2014 5:48:10 PM)
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I love this approach to magic items. I like that high level characters can be strong and have lots to do without having to have a slew of magic items. It makes that ring of protection +1 or +2 vicious dagger that much more special and iconic to a character instead of the "all characters of level x should have y number of magic items or the math breaks down."

I also am a fan of damage reduction with normal weapons for some special monsters, and even damage immunity in some special and rare cases (like, the tarasque or golems having magic immunity). The use of both enchanted items (e.g. needing a +3 weapon to do full damage against a pit fiend) as well as using special materials (such as silvered weapons to negate a werewolf's regeneration) are fun aspects to the game. I miss 3.x's DR 10/+2 type mechanic.
  
Posted By: moes1980 (1/22/2014 5:20:46 PM)
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I am perfectly happy about playing a non-magical item game as long as the monsters (living, undead, demonic and otherwise) do not require a magical weapon or a magical spell to score full damage. I find it to be extremely frustrating to be constantly beset with monsters that are immune to non-magical weapons and then to be told that I will never be able to find, or acquire, magical weaponry. That would be a Very Serious Case of UnFun!
  
Posted By: arnvid2008 (1/22/2014 4:57:38 PM)
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What if in your stated case a weapon blessed by a cleric of Blah-blah, or one forged from cold iron would work just the same as a 'magical' weapon? There are greater Role-Play possibilities than upping the magic bonus.

That being said, this is a game for everyone, so those that prefer to shoot first and ask questions later, just have the DM overlook the "needs X to hit Y" part of the monsters description, because what does that matter really anyway?
  
Posted By: LameGamer (1/22/2014 8:39:00 PM)
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When I said 'non-magical weapon', I was including the silvered weapons, the 'cold iron' weapons (and the definition of a 'cold iron' weapon changes with the phases of the moons of Jupiter!), the 'cold forged' weapons (same slippery definition as 'cold iron'), the weapons that are blessed by the temples of Lathander, Sune, Tempus, Torm, Tymora and so on.

When I said 'non-magical' weapon, I meant a run-of-the-mill weapon scooped up from the battlefield or bought from the local weaponsmith.
  
Posted By: arnvid2008 (1/24/2014 6:49:14 AM)
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I think admitting to guidelines is problematic, if magic items are, indeed, to make the PC who gets one 'just better.' If there are to be expected items, they need to be balanced. I was actually pretty sanguine with the no default assumption idea, as it implied the game would have to be functional without items, and low- and no-item campaigns have always been problematic in the past.

In 1e, BTW, the advice was also to just trust the tables, because they were weighted to give out more fighter-usable items, like weapons and armor, /that the fighter needed to remain viable at higher levels/. So magic items were baked into balance (such as it was), even then.

In 4e, the 24 items a character might find over his 30 level career is deceptive, since 18 of those would most likely be cycling through enhancement bonuses, with only 3 of them being used at any given level.

  
Posted By: Tony_Vargas (1/22/2014 4:34:03 PM)
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Is number of items the right question? In 3E, having 10 +1 magic items isn't much power at all if you are 20th level, but just 2 very strong items can have a huge impact on balance. In general, I expect to find several items each level of play, but for many of those to be sold, used up, or discarded as the PCs rise in level. In the end, the number of useful items a PC carries around should be low. Realistically, players will try to fill slots: head/hat/helm, gloves, armor, boots, necklace, bracers/arms, 1-3 weapons, implements, and a few wondrous items. So, 6-12 seems right.
I really liked the 4E guidelines for higher level play, where a PC would get a magic item of their level, one above their level, and one above their level, plus some gold (enough for consumable magic or a couple of very low level items). That system really worked because it controlled the relative item power. It was excellent in organized play, even if weaker than the actual magic a PC would have at that leve... (see all)
  
Posted By: Alphastream1 (1/22/2014 4:25:25 PM)
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I share your concerns: Number of items is definitely not the right question. These numbers have no meaning without a discussion and analysis of the impact that magic items have on the system. If the 5e challenge system makes no assumptions about the effective impact of magic items then for what use are these guidelines actually for?
  
Posted By: Reinhart (1/22/2014 5:00:00 PM)
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20-25 items possessed in your whole career for a party at lvl 20, means like 6-7 items possessed in the party at lvl 10. That's pretty low. I would expect a 10th lvl character to have a good weapon and an "advanced material" (like dragon leather or mithril) +1 armor at the very least and to have already traded a simple +1 weapon.

So a 10th lvl party should have encountered IMO AT LEAST 10 items, which means like 30-40 by lvl 20.
  
Posted By: alhoon2 (1/22/2014 3:37:45 PM)
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You provided an alternative in your comment. Having an item made from rare material should replace the need for magic items. If the party wants stronger armour and can't find a magical piece, they can hunt down a fierce beast. After slaying it they take it to an armourer to make items for them. Dragonscale is an obvious choice, but Minotaur hide, Roc down and Bullette plate are certainly others. Weapons can be made from claws and bone such as Pit Fiend tusks, unicorn horns or even whips from succubus tails.
Each type should have different properties based on the beast it came from (red dragon has fire protection, white dragon has cold protection etc) and removes reliance on magic items. Doing it this way would mean magic items should be quite powerful and better than a non magical hydra scale, but also enchanting a bone golem-rib wand should be better than a normal magical wand.
  
Posted By: Rartemass (1/22/2014 10:09:03 PM)
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8 items till 20th lvl is one item / 2 lvls from lvl 6 to level 20.
That is fine... if you don't take into account items the NPCs will have.

Assuming that at 14th lvl you will kill the drow matron, her 4 bodyguards, her 2 daughters and the master mage husband and you'll get like 3 permanent items is kinda... low. I would expect each of the bodyguards to have at least a magic weapon and magic armor, the priestess and the mage to have wands, staves and wondrous etc. That's like 15 items in 1-2 adventures.

Also: in 3rd edition 760K doesn't mean that you've found 35 items. It means you have equipment worth 760K and that probably you've found and sold over 50 items in your career, starting with those lowly +1 swords up to the +4 intellect crowns when you found a +6 one in 15th lvl etc.
  
Posted By: alhoon2 (1/22/2014 3:28:42 PM)
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I think one of the broad criticisms I'm seeing here is of what I would call 'Magic Item Consumerism.' People don't want to constantly be trading in their magic items based on planned obsolescence (in effect, leasing a magic sword the way one might a BMW irl). People want character-defining items that grow with the PC's. Rarely do we hear stories (if at all) wherein the character quests episodically to continually upgrade essentially the same item. This is the paradigm used for video games, like Diablo, but that is to keep people interested because of the rapid turn over of items. To make a narrative engaging however (as it should be in DnD), one needs to grow with their signature items.
  
Posted By: OskarOisinson (1/22/2014 3:06:46 PM)
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I agree. I would prefer to have a single weapon that, instead of having a bonus to hit/damage, has an effect, and as I gain experience using the weapon, and become more intuned to it (aka gain levels) it manifests more effects. So, for example, maybe it starts out being a flaming weapon. Then it adds cold. Then it adds lightening, etc. (In the video game Baldur's Gate II there was a flail that you could find extra heads for and have the weapon reforged to include them. Each head did a different type of damage.) This would not be extra damage, but additional damage types. That way, it's more likely to be able to hit a creature's vulnerabilities. In this way, the item becomes more valuable to me and doesn't feel like something I need or would want to trade in for a higher level item.

The early discussions of magic items seemed like it was going to go in this direction.

  
Posted By: TheGimper (1/22/2014 3:42:08 PM)
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I prefer magic items of limited utility, but giving weapons wielder-linked abilities should be a supported option. Even more so with foci–theming orbs, staves and so forth would be a lot more flavorful and really make them different from component-based casting.
  
Posted By: RadperT (1/22/2014 10:19:44 PM)
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I agree whole-heartedly, in my campaign, I made, for example, a 'Dragonslayer' sword (for a version of Dark Sun). Since it was for 4e, it essentially added utility powers (languages, wards, senses, etc.) and a daily bonus specialty attack when you were bloodied (it was called a 'limit break'). It also scaled for damage, attack, and crit. (since those were obligatory in 4e). At the upper end, you could get a capstone ability if you had maximum concordance and completed a quest based on the item in question. There were also progressive concordance caps based on character level (so that you can get a little ahead of the curve if you're playing in line with the item's goals, but not so far ahead that it becomes broken). Honestly, I've had excellent response from players from this system because it makes it much easier to keep track of for me and them, incentivizes character development along the lines I would like for the narrative but without railroading people into playing the way I want... (see all)
  
Posted By: OskarOisinson (1/22/2014 4:28:03 PM)
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I want to echo what others said about items that grow with characters. If we are going to have fewer magic items, weapons that maybe start with a small mod when level 4 fighter wields them, but have many more bonuses when a character is level 20 would be great! Sane with an implement, a wand, a banjo for the bard, etc.
  
Posted By: Tiger_Dwarf (1/22/2014 2:13:23 PM)
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I just hope the magical item creation rules (whether or not PCs are using them in a campaign) provide justification for the world having so many potions and scrolls compared to permanent items.

I *really* liked the mage class features a few packets back because they provided a crunch explanation that fit perfectly with the settings (and random item tables). There are so many potions and scrolls because you end up with them almost incidentally due to a class feature.

In 3e, by contrast, nobody made potions, and scrolls were found a lot more often than they were made. It just didn't make any sense.

Please help it make sense this time around.
  
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (1/22/2014 1:56:40 PM)
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I always prefer items that have a purpose over those that just apply a static benefit. I'd much rather find a Handy Haversack, for example, than a +1 Longsword. I also like weapons that grow with the players or whose benefits are such that the player wants to keep them over a longer haul, rather than trading out a +1 for a +2, and so on, every 3-4 levels.

Because of this thinking, I usually have doled out a magic weapon, magic armor, one magic clothing (cloak, ring, necklace, boots, etc.), and one miscellaneous magic item to a person and implemented ways that it could grow with a character. Some players have always like fewer permanent items and more consumable items for their characters (notably, mages have often prefered to get more scrolls to put in their spell books and some warriors have preferred fewer perm items and more potions), which I am happy to oblige. I don't often like to go above that number (4) for any one character, though, because it makes the magic items ... (see all)
  
Posted By: jcheraz (1/22/2014 12:54:04 PM)
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I'd like to say that I've had great success in both designing and implementing a magic item system like so:

Each character get roughly 1 what I call, 'Signature Item' per 'tier' (whatever that will mean in DDN. These signature items are often a weapon, armour, or (un)holy symbol/focus/totem/implement but I've occasionally made an animal companion or follower a character's 'signature item,' anyway, that levels with the character and acts like an artifact, in that it 'levels up' with the character, assuming a certain amount of concordance between the PC and the item's 'goals'. These items often have synergies between each other but tend to work at cross-purposes with regard to their 'goals' (though not so much that they can't be reconciled by a thoughtful player). Anyway, I use that as the baseline for 'low-magic' which presents a graduated use of artifact level items and saves me a huge headache in terms of handing out magic items throughout the campaign. Essentially, their m... (see all)
  
Posted By: OskarOisinson (1/22/2014 12:44:39 PM)
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If you look at the actual mods published in play written by Gygax, it wouldn't be uncommon to find at least a magic item per party member per level...sometimes even more so...
Using a spontaneous party generation system to judge how many items a typical character played from 1-20 might have is not likely to get good results.
  
Posted By: Mommy_was_an_Orc (1/22/2014 12:42:39 PM)
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The most important thing to me is that magic items shouldn't be sold and they shouldn't become obsolete. Whether that means that the bonuses scale with the user's level, or that the bonuses are "perks" that don't scale, or whatever, I'm fairly flexible...but if the fighter finds a magic sword, I expect him to bond with it, not just hold onto it until he finds or buys the inevitable upgrade. Personally, I favor fewer, more potent magic items. Good, elegant design can make those items more than just static pluses.

As for monsters, absolutely. Just have spells like magic weapon or bless exist, and boom, you've got a new set of solutions for a new set of challenges. Doesn't seem tricky to me.
  
Posted By: mordicai (1/22/2014 10:47:34 AM)
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This would almost require that permanent magic items be found only at fairly high level encounters. If you design adventures that feature 5th level, or lower, characters finding iconic, scaling magic items then what do you do at higher levels? No more magic items are found after that?

For example, the character defeats an ogre or troll at around 5th level and finds a magic sword. Several sessions later - at 10th or 11th level, the character encounters a mid-range Red Dragon and defeats it. What happens when the Dragon's horde also contains one or more magic weapons, as well it might? Where to they wind up?

Most of the stories that feature these signature type magic items also feature heroes that are already at Paragon or Epic levels. Elric of Melnibone had his magic sword, but he didn't start out at level 1. Neither did Thor or Perseus.
  
Posted By: Kazadvorn (1/22/2014 4:19:38 PM)
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There are magic items and MAGIC ITEMS. You have to consider that a character's carried magic items should improve over time. So a character might indeed acquire well over 20 items in a 20 level career, but many of these will represent 'upgrades'. So, by the time a Fighter type has reached 20th level, the player might have found 5 or 6 different magic weapons, but they will be 'upgrades'. At level 2 or 3 maybe he finds a basic +1 sword. Then a little later a +1 ranged weapon with some low level additional magic effect. By level 7 or 8 perhaps a +2 flaming sword has come along. By level 12 - a little better ranged weapon or a quiver of magic arrows. After 15 another couple of items that are improvements on the items already carried.
What I'm saying is that there's a difference between how many magic items a player FINDS versus how many items a character carries and uses.
As to what happens to the old +1 sword when the new +2 Flaming Sword comes along? These lower level magic ... (see all)
  
Posted By: Kazadvorn (1/22/2014 10:05:46 AM)
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My biggest concern is whether the system is broken mechanically with or with out magic items. I LOVED 4th Edition's mathematical balance of characters with each other and even with monsters of their level. However, I played in several games where someone new to the campaign rolled up a character in a hurry and neglected to obtain their magic items. This was noticeable in the game when they couldn't quite pull the weight of their role in the party.

My hope for DnD Next is that we can get by with a possible party with no magic items at all, and we can see benefits of a party with more magic items than average, while at the same time it is not a cake walk for them. In the same way that DnD Next has made attempts and improving on the 4E system for players of various levels in the same party, I hope to see the ability for players to have various amounts of magic items without someone getting bored by being too powerful, or too weak compared to the group.
  
Posted By: Nachofan (1/22/2014 9:26:21 AM)
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The real problem comes when WotC tries to publish adventures without considering the magic level of the individual group. How do you build scenarios that work equally well with a group of 5th level characters with NO magic items or a group where every 5th level character already has 4 or 5 different items?
So there has to be some sort of 'baseline', and DM's will have to know that they'll need to adjust the standard encounters up or down to fit their variation.
  
Posted By: Kazadvorn (1/22/2014 10:19:17 AM)
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Seriously, no group, DM, or player should need rules about giving out magic items. the DM does that at his or her whim; according to the specific campaign everyone has agreed to play. This idea of 'ok, a party of 4 PCs of level 10 need 20 magic items between them' (or whatever; I hope you readers get my point) is stupid.

To WotC: if you print it, even if you say it's a guideline, most of your customers will take it to be LAW. So...Watch out for that. If all these comments over the years are to be believed; a lot of supposedly creative DnD players are shockingly myopic and incapable of functioning without following your publications word for word. Even then, the debates (ie: rules lawyering and min-maxing) rage on.

If you don't want magic items to seem necessary to have a long running successful and survivable campaign; then don't give monsters crazy high ACs and other super powers that PCs cannot match without magic items or rolling anything less than 17-20 on a ... (see all)
  
Posted By: seti (1/22/2014 8:27:08 AM)
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BTW, I even let non-magic weapons hit a ghost. You use your CHA. My rationale is that if you convince (through force of will) that the ghost can be hurt by you; it IS hurt by you.
  
Posted By: seti (1/22/2014 8:40:18 AM)
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It is amusing that 3rd and 4th edition strongly resemble the exact thing that the original DMG warned against. Couldn't agree with it more!
  
Posted By: 5Shilling (1/22/2014 3:52:47 AM)
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You should probably read the article a little more closely. While the first DMG does warn against giving too much magic treasure, you are reading too much into it. As the article points out, the suggested guidelines for the first level of a dungeon is two permanent items and about half a dozen lesser ones. That's the first level of a Dungeon, not the first level of experience.

You think it warns against the excesses of 3e and 4e? It doesn't. It had far more treasure than either of those. The notion of the random party generator is a bit of a smoke screen because that method gives less items than you'd normally find when going through official modules, because you hadn't earned them yet. In comparison to old school DnD, modern day PCs are practically starved of magic items!
  
Posted By: Belphanior (1/22/2014 6:29:54 AM)
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Something else to be aware of, though is the size of a dungeon level in Advanced D and D versus newer editions. Most dungeon levels around the time the original DMG were publish had around 100 rooms.
  
Posted By: jdarksong (1/23/2014 7:48:52 AM)
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5 "Special" magic items are likely quite enough. However...

In 3e and 4e, magic items are frequently a substitute for build choices. They're not so much items with their own stories, they are part of the PC's ability set. Removing magic items means that the PC building options need to fleshed out more to help give the same customization range.
  
Posted By: kilpatds (1/22/2014 2:09:20 AM)
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In low level, low-magic or non-magic campaigns that feature monsters that can only be hit or normally damaged by magic weapons, Monks are extreamly unbalanced
  
Posted By: Spykes (1/22/2014 1:38:07 AM)
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Magic Items should be rare, special quality Items can replace those that people are craving.

As for the Monsters immune to lesser weapons, running away to get those items should be an enlightened consideration.
  
Posted By: LameGamer (1/22/2014 1:19:16 AM)
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Running away is all fine and good, but "to get those items"? If the party knew where to find a magic sword before they ran into a ghost (or whatever), then why didn't they pick it up already? What kind of mercenary adventurer knows where to pick up a magic sword and then just continues on his merry way, risking life and limb with a mundane one instead?
  
Posted By: Belphanior (1/22/2014 6:22:25 AM)
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I think what the original poster has in mind is a situation where finding the magic item becomes part of the story (a quest). The party has to face a certain monster at some point, and in order to be successful a certain magic item will be required. So, "running away to get those items" would mean going on the quest to find them rather than rushing headlong into combat with a monster they can't hope to defeat at this point.
  
Posted By: TheGimper (1/22/2014 3:25:17 PM)
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Looks like the 5ed guidelines suggest 1 magic item for the entire party each level. That seems pretty low.
  
Posted By: Alter_Boy (1/22/2014 1:01:30 AM)
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I think it is about right but needs some minor adjustment.
By level 5 I would expect a party of five to have a magic item each, however they shouldn't get any magic items until level 3.
By level 10 I would expect the same party to have 2 or 3 magic items each.
By level 15 I would expect 3 or 4 magic items each, two of which are upgrades to the lower level ones.
By level 20 each character should have the option to either fill every magic item slot albeit most would be much lower level (around 12), or have 3 high powered items (level 18+). There may also be 4 shared spare items for the party to swap out based on the situation (ice damage instead of fire for example).
  
Posted By: Rartemass (1/22/2014 10:18:02 PM)
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Higher level campaigns should deal out magic items more freely. If a single character makes it from level 1 to level twenty, he is likely to see as many magic items in levels 16 to 20 as he did in the first fifteen.
  
Posted By: Fallen_Star_02 (1/22/2014 12:29:00 AM)
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