Posted by : David Guyll January 23, 2014

"How many magic items should characters wield as they make their way through their adventuring careers?"

Ignoring quality over quantity, that answer to that depends entirely on the campaign, which is at least likely informed by the campaign setting. For example, in Eberron I would not only expect characters to have more, but to also be able to shop for and even commission them from a local artificer. In Dark Sun, where magic is environmentally destructive...not so much.

I has been mentioned before that the game math is designed so that characters without magic items could still function just fine (man it would also be nice to see this mission statement extend to magical healing). I like this in concept because it allows me to place magic items when and where I want to, instead of having to shoehorn them in just to make sure the characters can keep pace with the math. 4th Edition made this easy with its inherent bonus mechanic, but it would be even better to not have to worry about it at all.

Though the article says there is still no assumed "particular rate of treasure or magic item acquisition", there is a default of sorts to the tune of "about 23 items over the course of 20 levels", which means that in a typical party of four everyone should get about six permanent items. Now one thing that sucks about Dungeons & Dragons and magic items (besides that many are incredibly boring) is that, in 3rd and 4th Edition at least, it was assumed that as you got higher level you will find items with higher plusses.

So, do these guidelines assume finding replacement items, or will 5th Edition have some kind of Weapons of Legacy mechanic where the items can "level up" with you? Will spellcasters—or better yet, anyone in the right circumstances—be able to upgrade them? Will it even matter much thanks to "flattened math"?

Something that piques my interest is the line about the default also being that characters cannot just buy magic items; I like this—again, in concept—but I wonder what characters will spend their cash on. I have heard legends about characters buying castles and such in 2nd Edition, and in 3rd Edition we used Stronghold Builder's Guide to pool our funds together to repair and spruce up a two-story manor. Very early on I heard mention of using a silver standard, so maybe they will also tone down characters accumulating hundreds of gold pieces over the weekend?

Too many, too few, I think that rather than give a default, it would be better to just make it one of several questions that a Dungeon Master asks herself when writing up a campaign: How commonplace are they? How powerful? Can the characters buy them? Can they even make them? Also provide some potential ramifications for these decisions. Like, in a low- or no-magic campaign monsters with damage resistance against non-magical weapons are more dangerous. It sounds more inclusive than giving an arbitrary default.

I do not even think it is necessary for the purposes of publishing adventures. They had sidebars for advice on how to run the adventure with a party that was below or above the recommended size/level range. Just put in a treasure sidebar with some examples as to what and where it could go.

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Polling about the number of magic items is completely the wrong question. There's been no discussion about the assumed level of impact that magic items have on the game mechanics. Only once we know what magic items can do and what the players are up against can we effectively evaluate the influence of their scarcity.

    Essentially, today's polling is basically just another "feel" question with no actual insight about how D&D game mechanics function or how they might be improved.

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  2. Which is why I think that they should not bother, and have Dungeon Masters ask themselves that and other questions when starting a campaign.

    One DM might want to use lots of low-impact items (stuff that any wizard can whip up in a couple days), one might want to use just the very powerful ones (regalia of the gods).

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