I spent yesterday reading through the playtest documents for D&D Next, and will post my initial impressions sometime this weekend. For now though I am trying to play catch up with some previous blog entries, starting with this one (for the record, the earliest magic item I can recall nabbing was a two-handed sword +1, +2 versus undead).
I do not get where Schwalb is coming from. He opens up by stating that acquiring a sword +1, flame tongue felt unique and important, and was like owning a piece of D&D. Is he saying that because it was a hard-coded item in the game, like a maul of the titans, something that the authors invented? Is he saying that magic items have become somehow less important or evocative because a DM in 3rd and 4th Edition could simply append the flaming trait to any melee weapon they want, instead of just a longsword?
I prefer the game to provide the DM with the parts necessary to build their own magic items, rather than rely on what the publishers give us, so option 1 holds absolutely no appeal to me at all. Good DMs will just invent their own things anyway, so by not informing us of what being fire does for a weapon just makes us have to work harder to disassemble and apply it to something else. Providing us with examples and guidelines will both help prevent doling out over-powered creations, while at the same time allow DMs to do this if they want.
I also want item creation rules, as I think that crafting magic items should be something that the characters can aspire to do. It does not have to be something easy to come by or assumed. It can be more complicated than using magic dust or shelling out gold; the characters might have to adventure far and wide to figure out how to make something, gather the materials, and possibly even find the right conditions. I want characters to be able to forge their own legends if the story allows or even demands it, not just hope to stumble upon an existing one.
The short of it is to give both DMs and players the parts to play with, without assuming that everyone must play with them.