Posted by : David Guyll August 23, 2010
4th Edition has spoiled us in terms of magic items. I remember in a 2nd Edition game where the first item I got was at level 2, and it was a +1 two-handed sword (+2 vs. undead). How did I get it? Well, another player playing a thief climbed up a lengthy vertical passage, and opened a coffin filled with mold. She barely made it back after being poisoned, and we only survived because the cleric dragged us to town and got us detoxed. Nowadays they're everywhere and their number is legion. Every level the DM is expected to hand out five of them, which means that for your typical party players can each expect to get one of varying power since in this case everything is not equal.
With the release of Essentials items will be assigned a rarity of common, uncommon, or rare. Common items can be readily crafted or purchased, and do minor things like grant a passive bonus to something. Uncommon items are both purported to be impossible to craft or purchase, right before the article moves on to say that they are, "seldom up for sale and few people know how to craft them." From what I've gathered, almost all the items that currently exist are getting pegged at uncommon, while the really minor shit like burglar's gloves will be common. Rare items, on the other hand, must be found or crafted at the DMs whim if you gather up enough frog legs and basilisk urethra.
I jest but actually use that system in my games already; sometimes when players kill certain monsters they can make Arcana/Nature/Whatever checks to harvest components that can be sold or used later. Now don't get me wrong, I do like the simplicity of D&D's residuum, allowing players to assess at a glance their magic item creation budget. However, I also like the idea of players butchering up monsters for various body parts that they could use to make stuff later. It's a fantasy staple that I can understand why isn't an official mechanic to the game due to the hundreds of monsters and magic items, but gives my players a chance to garner up a chunk of a treasure parcel by harvesting cockatrice blood and feathers for later use.
Ultimately the system serves to restrict certain items from the players, but also I suppose adds some mystery to the game. Player's might hear about a sword that can shoot fucking lasers (now thats craftsmanship), but they can't just plop down a barrel of magic dust and make one themselves. No, they'll likely have to go on some quest or other to kill someone that has it, or gather up dragon blood or some such to make it themselves.