Dragging this conversation kicking and screaming back onto topic...
I do agree that the magic item system needed a bit of a reworking. All the different types of bonuses combined with and an increasingly large range of items meant that, for me, the magic items were kinda losing the 'arcane objects of wonder' aura that they should have. Expecially when the most common items are bog standard +whatever amulets and swords that are everywhere.
As usual, I will have to see the system in action before I pass final judgement.
Dragging this conversation kicking and screaming back onto topic....
Anyway, I never thought of it in terms of needing a rework, but I have had the idea for some time now that the math was off somehow. IMC I dealt with it simply by reducing the power of the items I doled out and by strictly enforcing the rules for creating magic items. All in all it's working brilliantly.
When I DMed the AoW AP, the problem was somewhat greater. Due to the pacing of the adventures I was practically forced to use the "magic Wal-Mart" method of bringing magic items into the campaign, and I found it very unsatisfactory. The players loved it, and the game was a lot of fun, but I didn't care for it.
Ok, in D&D we have body slots which though they have been in the game for many years are drawing some attention in the 4th edition rules. I however, have had some different ideas which I have considered over the past several years and would like to take the opportunity to present them for discussion.
In the basic D&D system, magic items are fairly plentiful. Just open up any module and you'll find quite a bit. Now I have never gotten hung up on the idea that you have to have "x" amount of magic by this level or at this level, you need this much magic wealth. If anything, I have taken the approach that I don't want PCs getting more magic than I want distributed within the campaign. So with this in mind, here's my discussion.
Has anyone ever toyed with the idea of making most magical items unique? I'm not talking about potions or scrolls, but I am talking about magical armor or weapons with special effects, or misc. magic, that sort of thing. I haven't done this, but I have considered it over the past several years. I certainly don't have a sound idea of how this work and the overall impact it would have on the game. But here's what I'm thinking at this point in time. The reason behind this concept isn't because there is anything wrong with magic items in the game, it would be to strictly give the game world a unique flavor.
1. Magic items being unique are going to much rarer. Does everything have a magic property in order to be different? What would we do with +1 weapon for example, give each weapon a special bonus so it is unique? Allow simple +1 weapons in the game, and anything greater such as a +2 weapon has a special property of some kind, thus making these items unique.
2. Would we have to keep track of these magic items so as to avoid duplication? Eventually, the PCs and NPCs would have their "x" amount of magic items most or all being unique. One would have to keep some kind of running guide as to which items have been discovered throughout a lengthy campaign.
3. One would most likely have to have some sort of strong guidline as to how much magic the DM would want to issue by various levels.
4. Treasure lairs would have to be greatly modified in order to reflect the changes in magic.
5. Justifying the change in my campaign would be easy, I have so many prophecies floating around that need to come true, this would easily solve one of them. Kinda like killing two birds with one stone. For others though, making a change of this magnitude may become more problematic if they wanted to explain the difference in mid campaign.
6. What about magic item creation and ensuring items are unique? The magical research involved before hand could reveal what magic item does or does not exist. I would suggest allow some flexibility in saying "that item doesn't exist yet, so yes you can make it". On the other hand, you don't want PCs cranking out magic items left and right because the rules changed.
7. Magic Transferance: Another thing I have considered is the idea of magic items consuming magic from another item in order to increase it's magical capabilities. In my game, the players are motivated more by roleplaying than game mechanics. Thus if one of them finds a +3 sword with "whatever" kind of properties and they already have a +2 sword which they have been using for the past few levels, they often don't want to upgrade because they look at it from the "emotional investment" of the character. "This sword has save my life more times than I can count, I am not going to trade it up for some flash in the pan snazzy new magic item that I just stumbled across." On the other hand, from a mechanic point of view there is the obvious advantage of setting aside the old blade and picking up the new one and even from the character point of view, one could have the idea of "This item is more powerful than what I have, perhaps I should be using it".
This concept has made me consider that when two magic items come into close proxiemty of one another, and some sort of magical ritual is preformed, the magic of one item is transferred into the other item. Thus the character's original magic weapon could also take on the properties of the new one found. The drained magic item becomes little more than an empty shell of a weapon.
Now this idea would be applied to most magic items, not including potions and scrolls. So for example, that cloak of elvinkind could become a +1 cloak of elvinkind.
Some rules would have to be established which would perhaps allow saving throws for the item in order for the magic transferrance to work. Perhaps it doesn't always work, maybe on occasion, both items suffer, one becomes tainted, or some other interesting gaming effect. What items are compatable with one another, which are not?
Feed back please...... _________________ Eileen of Greyhawk, Prophet of Istus, Messenger of the Gods
Personally I tend to think that D&D 3.x relies a little too heavily on magic items. And I detest the concept of the magic item shop. I was initially very pleased to see that 3e included a definitive system for determining how much magic a PC “should” have based on the gp value of his equipment, but I soon discovered that the system provides for far more magic than I like to include. To compensate for this I adjusted the values on table 5-1 in the DMG (I find an adjustment of -20% works best for me).
Unfortunately, this doesn’t completely fix the problem. While 3.x’s systems are helpful, they don’t remove the need for me to evaluate magic items based on my sense of game balance. This is part of the “art of DMing” I so often preach about, and an example of my primary complaint about every version of the game since 2e – for some reason WotC decided to start teaching game design as a science rather than an art (and they’re wrong to do so, IMO).
I’ve never gone so far as to make each magic item unique, but I have toyed with trying to make each magic item appear that way. When creating treasures I usually try to pick items that are rarely used or that have been altered in some way. For example, instead of throwing a standard +2 longsword into the pile I might use a masterwork longsword with the keen and flaming burst magical properties and a continual flame spell for effect. Much of this approach revolves around presentation rather than mechanics: The aforementioned sword was introduced to my players as “the Sword of Eleros, whose ability to suss out his opponents’ weaknesses was drawn into the blade along with his fiery temper”. My players generally react more strongly to such descriptions, only noting down the mechanics as an afterthought. Though I’m loathe to admit it on these boards, I frequently take inspiration from the Forgotten Realms products, since they tend to use a similar method of magic item design.
I’ve even experimented with this to see if I could gauge how the players react to the differing approaches to magic items. I’ve found that when using the approach described above, players tend to react to each item with far more awe than they would otherwise. Each item takes on a life of its own, and players tend to value them far more as a result. OTOH, if you present items based on their mechanical properties players tend to start using min-max thinking. Magic items become little more than tools, and a new item only has value if it has a bigger bonus attached.
But there are drawbacks to using this approach. Much more creativity is required, and for DMs who like a high degree of detail there’s some record-keeping involved. Also, if every item has a backstory the approach eventually falters. Players get bored trying to keep up with all the stories and revert to thinking of items in terms of their mechanical properties whether you want them to or not – sometimes a +2 longsword should be just a +2 longsword, apparently.
Another difficulty arises when it comes to characters creating magic items. If you take the approach described in the 3.5e DMG and simply tell the player, “It costs xxxx gp and xxx XP to make the item. It’ll also require 2 weeks’ time,” then inserting any element of story becomes difficult. I generally remedy this by telling the player what his money and time are going for: he needs to find and procure several items and/or creatures, as well as find and bind certain spirits, as well as find and prepare a suitable place, etc. I then compose a short (usually off-the-cuff – it needn’t be anything too elaborate) series of encounters in which he accomplishes his required tasks, and voila, a story is born.
On the good side, changing from the standard approach to my approach is relatively easy. The DM just needs to start by inserting the occasional “unique” item, eventually inserting more as the campaign progresses. If the party currently has a spellcaster who is active in the crafting of magic items, it’s probably better to wait until that character dies or is replaced with another spellcaster. That way the player doesn’t wonder why suddenly his mean old DM is making him jump through extra hoops. Of course, starting a whole new campaign makes it even easier – you can just do it.
I must admit, Eileen, that I’m fascinated by your idea of transference. I know it’s a relatively common concept in fantasy fiction, but I’d never thought of importing it to D&D. Just off the top of my head I think it might be a good way for PCs to offset the XP cost of crafting magic items. Perhaps a spell (or feat, maybe?) could be developed by which a character could transfer the properties of one item to another. There would still need to be a significant cost, since you wouldn’t want players just stealing the properties of every item they come across. Perhaps you could calculate the cost of the final result, deduct the value of the item to receive new properties as it currently is and the value of the item to be drained, and the crafter could just pay the difference in gp. Since the investment in XP has already been made by those who crafted the original items, no additional XP cost (or at least a reduced one) is needed. You could justify a further reduction in costs by having the item to be drained make a saving throw – maybe even one saving throw per property (or +) to be drained. A save that fails by 10 or more could result in the property being lost or the item being destroyed altogether.
I’d love to hear what the rest of the community has to say about this. We have some pretty good designers on here…
Warning....another long post by Eileen....continuing the conversation of transferrance as a alternative method to magic.
The transferance idea of what I was considering is sketchy at best. As mentioned, the types of players I have would rather keep their original magic weapon or other item rather than upgrade when something with a better bonus comes along. It would also serve to reduce the number of magic items characters have. The biggest problem I see is making sure that the lesser amount of items would not become to powerful. I am picturing a method of transferance (for my world) which would be something everyone has access to. Since religion plays a big role in my campaign I would first opt to use that. As the campaign progresses however, more and more arcane people are taking a stand against this strong force of relgion, thus I would opt for them to use a different method which achieves the same goal.
The basic idea is that when an adventurer discovers a new magic item, say a +3 weapon and they already have a magic weapon of their own, they could transfer the magic from one item to another, choosing which one drains into the other. The exact ritual, magic spell, or whatever, is undetermined at this time. It is the rules I am concerned about.
I was also considering the idea that a lesser magic item could be transferred to a stronger one. Say for example, the character has a +2 sword and now finds a +1 sword. I wouldn't transfer the +1 weapon to the +2 sword and say "You now have a +3 weapon". To much for to little. I was considering an idea which requires mutiple lesser items to accumulate before the next +1 is attained. For example, maybe five +1 items will increase the +2 weapon to a +3 weapon. One could also use a combination of lower plusses to achieve the same effect. For example, if a party member already has a +4 weapon, they would have to find a +2 and three +1 weapons, or any appropriate comibination thereof. One could also say the higher the bonus your going for, the more it takes, thus attaining a +4 or +5 from magic transferance would require say +8 or +10 total bonuses.
I thought about giving the drained item a saving throw, but now as I think about it, it seems counter productive to the idea. The idea IS to get the magic to drain into the other. By giving it a saving throw and the item succeeded, thus not draining, seems odd because from the game point of view, one wants to make saves, not fail them. The idea is TO transfer, thus it seems backwards. It might be possible to have the transferance occur on a sucessful save and if failed, the magic kinda disappears and is lost forever. This might work better. It allows the desired effect to happen on a successful save and if it fails, all is lost, which is a less desireable effect. Also a failed save indicates one less magic item in the game which is good since part of the idea is to also have a unique way of reducing the overall number of magic items available.
I would expect there would have to be a cap put on the item as well. For example, using the Armor and Shields and Weapons magic item rules, items can have up to the equivelant of a +10 when considering all of the special effects put into a weapon. I see this as a good starting point for these items. For consistency, I would consider doing this for other items as well.
Using rings as an example, it is easy to picture a +1 Ring of Protection becoming a +2 Ring of Protection. But let's say one already has a +1 ring and now finds a ring of invisibility. When transfering the magic, the end result would be a +1 ring of protection which also grants invisibility. I guess I would start by making the cap a specific overall gold piece value like they did with armor/shields/weapons. Using say 100,000 gp as a cut off (just a number for the discusssion), the +1 ring of protection and invisibility would be worth 22,000 gp, leaving a remaining 78,000 gp worth of magic which could eventually be dumped into it. For rings that already have a 100,000+ gp cost, I'd say transferance cannot occur. Now one would have to decide if 100,000 is a good cap or if it should be higher or lower.
Using magic items which have little relation to one another could be harder to deal with. Let's say we have a +1 ring of protection and the adventurer finds boots of speed. Now what? Do we say "No, the items are to different and thus it doesn't work"? Do we say "It could work but will be harder to achieve because the items are very different from one another."? Do we require the basic item to be the same, such as two cloaks, two rings, two sets of footwear? Do we pick and choose if a combination of magic items is feasible? Do we modify the saving throw if the items are different yet deamed compatible?
Finally, do we give the magic item a name....that is Greyhawkish in nature. Such as "character so and so's ever acting ring" or "the Tome of Boccob's Divine Word", etc.
Also, what happens when the item is lost or gone? Does it remain the same? Does the added magic eventaully disappear and return to it's original form? It may have little consequence in the game at the time if this concept is recently introduced to the Flanaess. If a DM opted to start a new campaign and say it has always been this way, all of the sudden it does require consideration.
What about aligned magic items, how would they be affected? If an item with no alignment is drained into a LG item for example, it could take on the new magic effects with little difficulty, providing the new ability does not promote an opposed view (such as a LG sword taking on magical properties of poison for example). This becomes an issue to deal with.
As a side note, here is something I have been doing for several years already in my campaign. I like it and it works well for us. Taking the discussion above, I would want to allow the ideas to work together.
In my campaign, I have introduced the idea of divine abilities for magic items and have been using it for several years now. Essentially, the individual finds a magic item and is required by religious law (the deities) to have it dedicated and purified. Dedication is simple and ususally done on the spot providing ample time is allowed. One merely takes an oath to use the magic item in service of their god or goddess and promises to have it purified at the first available opportunity. Purification requires the character to take the item to their temple and have a cleric perform a ritual which essentially creates a magical tie to the item with the deity. After the ceremony is complete, the item makes a saving throw, if successful, it is granted a divine ability useable once per day. The specific ability is dependent upon the character level of the owner (to insure game balance) as well an ability which relates to the areas of concern of the god or goddess. For example, Eileen has a Belt of many Pouches which automatically provides the necessary components to cast a Divination spell 1/day, and she worships Istus. Currently, I allow the player to pick the divine ability desired and I as the DM approve or disapprove of the selection making sure it fits the two requirements of level and the overall focus of the deity. Other rules exist as well, such as cost, what happens when you attempt to use a non-dedicated or purified item, or what happens when you use one that is already dedicated or purified to another deity.
Would you please consider the ideas and give me some feedback. Thanks much! _________________ Eileen of Greyhawk, Prophet of Istus, Messenger of the Gods
I discussed this idea with one of my gaming groups earlier tonight and we came up with a variety of thoughts on the subject:
It would seem necessary at this point to define the purpose(s) of this method of magic item enhancement in-game as well as out of game, as well as the game design principles that come into play. The primary purpose in-game, I think, would be that such a method is simply easier and cheaper than the normal way. This ease of use should come at a cost, though, else one risks “breaking” the system and thereby producing a glut of powerful magic items. To address this, my players and I have come up with the idea of using the gp value of the items involved as a gauge. In essence, the player would add up the values of all the items involved in his “magic transfusion”, not including the base material value of the items. This value would be compared to the gp value of the item the PC is trying to make. When the value of the newly-enhanced item equals or exceeds the value of the target item, then the new property is successfully transferred to the original item.
For example, let’s say a PC wants his +2 longsword to become a +3 longsword. The value of his original sword is 8,000 gp. The value of his target item (the +3 longsword) is 18,000 gp. The PC must therefore drain at least 10,000 gp worth of magic items into his +2 sword in order to produce the +3 sword. The cost of this process lies in finding and procuring the items to be drained, as well as any costs the DM assigns to the ritual itself (which, I think, should be minimal). The items drained, of course, become useless and without value. I would further rule that the properties of the items to be drained should be at least compatible with the desired properties of the final item. For example, if the PC wants his sword to have the flaming burst property, he could not drain a frost brand to gain that property. He could, however, drain a ring of invisibility to gain the extra plus, since invisibility does not contradict the additional weapon enhancement. I would also rule that this is an all-or-nothing deal. One could not drain a single “plus” from a +4 sword, for example, nor could one drain only the keen property from a +2 keen rapier of speed – any excess gp value added to an item in this way is simply lost. Alternately, a DM might allow items to accumulate gp value to be used for further enhancements in the future or might determine that an unexpected property has developed within the item. NOTE: In most 3.x campaigns parties can sell their acquired magic items for only 50% of the value listed in the DMG. In such cases I suggest the values of magic items drained be adjusted accordingly, otherwise PCs would in effect be gaining double value for magic items drained rather than sold. In other words, if a PC can drain a newly acquired +1 sword into his own weapon to gain a 2,000 gp value, he’d be foolish to sell it for only 1,000 gp. Every item the party finds would therefore likely be drained rather than sold, and the party would eventually have twice as much magical treasure as it should have.
Concerning the relative strength of the enchantments in items used in this method, there are several workable approaches. One could say that this method would allow virtually any item to be drained into virtually any other item without restriction. I can’t imagine there would be much problem with this. On the other hand, it might be more interesting to allow the items to roll saving throws, perhaps with the more powerful item receiving a bonus. If an item makes its save, it doesn’t get drained. Or perhaps if the lesser item fails its saving throw it is drained into the greater item. One might also allow some possibility that the resulting item has a chance of being cursed or that it becomes useless. Yet another possibility is to rule that there is a law of diminishing returns – that is, perhaps an item must only drain items of close to the same value, with lesser items being worth less to the final calculated value. In other words, perhaps a +4 sword can only gain full value by draining another +4 sword or a +3 sword, and draining a +2 or +1 sword is worth only half as much.
I think keeping the caps on magic item power as laid out in the DMG is reasonable. A 200,000 gp max value is quite in keeping with game balance.
I don’t think it’s necessary to restrict which items can be drained into other items, provided that the player and the DM use common sense and keep the original intent of the items in mind. For example, if a potion of cure light wounds was drained into a +2 shield there might be a problem. How does the shield wielder now “drink” the potion? The DM might rule that the potion’s effect occurs whenever the shield’s owner is first wounded, that it occurs one time only at the shield-bearer’s command, or something similar. (Personally, I would not allow such a combination – in fact, I wouldn’t allow any “spell storage” items like potions, scrolls, or wands, to be drained or combined with this method.) But aside from certain “silly” combinations like the above that might occur, I tend to think practically any two items could be combined. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to arrive at any mechanical system that would make such decisions easier without seeming overly arbitrary. I would, however, rule that artifacts, relics, and similar items cannot drain or be drained by other items.
I suspect that realistically most items gain their names by accumulating a reputation. Thus it wouldn’t be necessary to name new items, but such items might earn names by being used.
Concerning aligned and intelligent items, if such items could be drained at all I would definitely allow them a saving throw – likely with hefty bonuses as well. If such an item failed its save I would also allow for certain random effects. For example, perhaps the personality of the item is transferred but goes insane. Perhaps the new item’s perceptions are altered in some way and it becomes cursed. Perhaps the personality is transferred intact, but the resulting item now hates the person who initiated the transfer. Alternately, perhaps all abstract qualities such as alignment and personality are destroyed in the process of transference. Of course, all this assumes that such a transfer is possible at all. IMC, I have long ruled that intelligent items are not items at all – they’re creatures, and thus not subject to being drained like other magic items.
Beyond all this, I think such a system should not be widely available in Greyhawk. One must make certain logical assumptions in order to maintain the integrity of the setting. For example, if such a magic-draining system were widely available the number of lesser magic items would be greatly reduced in time as every wizard and sorcerer sucks them dry to power his “uber-item of doom”. NPCs with powerful magic items would dominate the Oerth in their neverending search for magic to power ever-greater new magic items. In a more short-term view, PCs would likely become “dweomer vampires”, and in time every one would have massively powerful magic items at his or her disposal. Not good. Therefore I think it’s necessary to restrict access to this method of magic item creation. Perhaps the best way might be to make this method an item creation feat with other item creation feats as prerequisites. For example, a PC with this “drain item to make a better item” feat would only be able to drain swords into rings if he also had the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat and the Forge Ring feat.
I don’t know if your idea about giving dedicated items divine powers would work out IMC. I suppose, though, that if the power gained were properly balanced with the cost required to gain it, it might work. I’ll have to think about that one. I’d definitely hate for such a concept to result in characters gaining too much magic too easily. Perhaps one could reduce the risk of this somewhat by ruling that an item’s newly-gained divine power only works for the current owner – if the item is sold or lost it loses its divine power. It occurs to me that this could also become an effective way of rewarding characters without giving out excess money or magic. A party who performs a service for a local temple, for example, might be rewarded by enhancing one magic item per party member with such a divine power. The item couldn’t thereafter be sold (since the divine power would thus be lost), the divine power would disappear if the item were ever to be used against the temple, and no money has changed hands – everybody wins.
Interesting post Bubba. I read the whole thing and will have to read it a couple of more times to absorb everything you offered. I recognize that these ideas may not be "Bubba approved" for you campaign, in part or whole, and that is ok. As mentioned, it is something I have thought about over some period of time and have yet to implement on paper. The whole thing started when the paladin expressed out of game, that the character wouldn't be happy about upgrading magical items she has had for some time now because she values her acquired possession more than new things, yet it would be nice if the game offered such playing some sort of reward. I see this as excellent character/player development (especially coming from a 15 yr. old).
The added part of divine abilities which I introduced, I have concrete rules for and have been using for a few years now. I have tweaked them over time, but found them to be rather playable for us. I didn't include much information on them because it was an after thought, plus my post was already lengthy. In short, because I have a small group, game balance isn't quite as much of an issue, since most adventures are considered for larger groups. In a nut shell, purifiying magical items and receiving a divine ability requires the cleric to have the proper feat. The PC must pay a cost to the church for attempting the ritual, regardless of whether it works or not. The whole idea is saving throw based and so as one increases in level, they are more likely to be successful. Such rules were incorporated into the campaign because my overall storyline which revolves around the Gods of Greyhawk and their relationship with mortals, and mortals view of the Gods. Essentially, all of the adventuring we do is one way or another worked into this big scope picture (similar to Dragonlance having it's own world scope).
I would be interested in considerable discussion on the issue in order to pound out some trial by error rules for my campaign. I am perfectly capable of writing my own, but in my opinion two heads are better than one. If this is of interest to you, may I suggest we start this conversation on a new thread so as to not incur the wrath of our fellow Greyhawkers. I leave that up to you. Let me know if your interested in a ongoing discussion or if you are tapped out on this one. Thanks always for your considerations. _________________ Eileen of Greyhawk, Prophet of Istus, Messenger of the Gods
Not sure where to put this new thread....Backalley or the main post area. It isn't really 4th edition anymore. You decide, besides it your turn to respond. I'll find you easily enough. I do hope someone else jumps in as well. I think you should use your influence......If that doesn't work, then strong arm them. Judging from your avatar, that shouldn't be a problem. Best I have to offer is your wind tunnel theory! _________________ Eileen of Greyhawk, Prophet of Istus, Messenger of the Gods
Guys, this is a really interesting concept. I'm going to need time to re-read what you've already posted before chipping in but one thing springs to mind immediately; when conversations come around to magic items most players start talking gp costs. Would it not be better to think along the lines of xp rather than gp as most players consider these more precious and hard won and, therefore, really need to think before sacrificing them? I'm not sure how this could work yet, but it is something I've been thinking about recently before the Wotc post that triggered this thread.
Anyway I'll try to keep up with your thoughts on this-work is full on at the moment-and contribute if I can.
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