Welcome to Design & Development, your primary source of D&D 4th Edition insights and revelations! While you're here, keep in mind that the game is still in a state of flux, as refinements are made by our design and development staff. You’re getting a look behind the curtain at game design in progress, so enjoy, and feel free to send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of our goals in 4th Edition was to reduce characters’ reliance on magic items. The most important portion of this goal involved removing a lot of the magic items that were essential just so your character could feel effective, like stat-boosting items, amulets of natural armor, and the like. We also felt like these items weren't as exciting as magic items should be, yet characters depended on them heavily to feel adequate in proportion to their level. We felt that the cool stuff a character can do should come from that character’s abilities, not his gear.
Items are divided by item slot, much like they were in D&D 3.5 (though it took until Magic Item Compendium for the system to be quantified clearly). As before, you can only wear one item in each slot. The number of slots has been reduced (by combining slots that were similar), to keep the number of items manageable and easy to remem-ber. You still have a ton of choices for items in the game, and when we were still using more slots, our playtesters reported that it caused information overload.
We've preserved a number of items that have traditional “plusses.” These are the items we expect everybody to care about, and the ones that are factored into the math behind the game. If you’re 9th level, we expect you to have a set of +2 armor, and the challenges in the game at that level are balanced accordingly. Here are the primary item slots:
Weapon/Implement: Whether you’re swinging a mace or blasting with a magic wand, you have an item that adds to your attack and damage. These weapons also set your critical hit dice (the extra dice you roll when you score a critical hit, see the Design & Development article, "Critical Hits"). Even though this is called an item slot, that doesn’t mean you can’t wield more than one weapon, because that would make the ranger cry. 3.5 Equivalents: Weapons, holy symbols, rods, staffs, wands.
Armor: This category now includes cloth armor, so the wizard in robes has magic armor just like the rest of the group. Magic armor adds an enhancement bonus to your Armor Class. 3.5 Equivalents: Body, torso.
Neck: An item in the neck slot increases your Fortitude, Reflex, and Will defenses, as well as usually doing something else snappy. The most common items are amulets and cloaks. 3.5 Equivalents: Shoulders, throat.
These items don’t have enhancement bonuses. That makes them essentially optional. You could adventure with no items in your secondary item slots and not see a huge decrease in your overall power. Take what looks cool, but don’t worry about having empty slots.
Arms: These are bulky items that fit over your arms, such as bracers, vambraces, and shields. You’ll notice that shields no longer have an enhancement bonus. Instead, shields have special defensive effects and items you wear instead of shields, like bracers, are more offensive. 3.5 Equivalents: Arms, shields.
Feet: Focused on mobility and special movement modes, you can be pretty sure what you’re getting when you look at magic boots, greaves, or sandals. 3.5 Equivalent: Feet.
Hands: Thinner items that fit on your hands fall into this category. This includes gauntlets and gloves. They usu-ally help out your attacks or help your manual dexterity. 3.5 Equivalent: Hands.
Head: These items increase your mental skills or enhance your senses. Helmets, circlets, and goggles all fall in this category. Another major subcategory here includes orbitals, such as ioun stones. If you see someone with an orbital, it’s a good bet you’re dealing with an epic character. 3.5 Equivalents: Face, head.
Rings: This slot has changed quite a bit. A starting character isn’t powerful enough to unleash the power of a ring. You can use one ring when you reach paragon tier (11th level) and two when you’re epic (21st level). And before you get started about how Frodo sure as hell wasn’t epic, let's be clear: the One Ring was an artifact, not a magic item any old spellcaster could make. Artifacts follow their own rules. 3.5 Equivalent: Rings.
Waist: Items you wear around your waist are usually about protection, healing, or increasing your Strength tem-porarily. 3.5 Equivalent: Waist.
Some items don’t use item slots. Some of them aren’t useful in combat. Others can be useful in a fight, but only once in a while.
Potions: Potions are consumable items, and they're mostly focused on healing effects.
Wondrous Items: This category no longer includes wearable items. These are utility items that don’t take up space on your body or act as weapons.
Here’s what my 11th-level gnome warlock, Dessin, is wearing right now:
Implement: +3 rod of dark reward
Armor: +3 leather armor
Neck: +2 cloak of survival
Arms: Bracers of the perfect shot
Feet: Wavestrider boots
Hands: Shadowfell gloves
Head: Diadem of acuity
Rings: None right now, sadly
Waist: Belt of battle
Wondrous Items: Bag of holding