Legend & Lore: Magic Items in D&D Next

I remember 2nd Edition games being largely bereft of magic items: even if you count potions the first magic item that we found was a sword at 2nd or 3rd level, with the second meaningful thing was a suit of armor that was accrued somewhere in the 5th-level range. 3rd Edition had an assumed wealth-by-level--I guess intended to help mitigate the swingy Challenge Ratings--and official adventures doled out magic items like they were going to rot.
Do not get excited, it is just 3d6 x 10
gp piled on top of 2d6 x 1000 cp.
4th Edition largely did away with the plethora of magic doodads, by only assuming that you would need magic weapons/implements, armor, and neck items. The tables made it so that in a given level only most of the party would get one magic item, and have to pay for the rest (assuming they had the scratch, generally in my games the characters were pretty far behind when it came to cash).

They also added in an inherent bonus system for games that wanted to take it a step further, or even abstain entirely. While this was good, I think that it failed in that when you compared item powers with character powers, it often become too much book keeping to handle (assuming the item powers were even worth the bother).

5th Edition promises to take steps in two different directions, both mostly good.

The first is that the game only assumes that you will be upgrading armor. 4th Edition basically let you always start with the best armor that your class could buy, which was kind of like OD&D in that it was pretty easy to start with full plate and a heavy shield right from the start. While nice I honestly prefer how things went down in 2nd and 3rd Edition, where characters upgraded their armor several times.

Personally I would like to see a system where armor could provide non-magical benefits, whether from craftsmanship and/or other materials. You could have more than one masterwork bonus that could increase AC, let you use Dexterity (or part of it, at least), perhaps damage resistance, in addition to materials (like adamantine and darkwood) that layer on other benefits. Ideally it would give characters a reason to invest more heavily in a craft skill and/or quest for materials (or at least harvest them from dead monsters).

They plan on keeping the staple +x items around for those that want them, but "officially" capping the bonus at +3. This both requires minimal design, and is also literally the easiest thing I can think of to houserule around if I wanted to. This will allow them to spend the "meat of magic item focus" on designing "wholly unique weapons, implements, and armor" instead of using menus from 3rd Edition and qualities from 4th. One example is a sunder rock mace (I would have gone with rock sundering mace), which might have a +2 bonus, deal triple damage to objects, and smash tunnels into the landscape.

But, why not just put object sundering and tunnel smashing on a list so that DM's could add it to hammers, picks, or shovels? I mean, if they do not it is just going to happen anyway. All making specific items is going to do is force DM's to work a bit harder cobbling their own items from existing things. I am totally cool with tables for item properties and pre-fabs with several properties.

That aside, I do like the idea of a potential table that lets you add a bit of history to an item. Continuing with the sunder rock mace (please change it to rock sundering mace) example, Mearls mentions that a few rolls might reveal that it was used against a demonic incursion, so when underground it can guide you to a dwarf stronghold and grows warmer when a demon is near (frankly I hope they have lots of tables for things like random encounters, NPCs, and character backgrounds).

Ultimately I really like the first part (though, again, masterwork and materials would make it better), and am okay with the second one. Even if they do not list individual properties, it will still be easy to just drop them onto something else. I just hope that the designers mention at least a rough idea of when an item should be given to a party.

1 comment:

  1. Of course the armor table needs work. If you have any bonus in dexterity it usually makes sense to get light armor or medium armor over heavy armor. Splint mail only has a use if you want to have a lower armor class to avoid the movement penalty. Ring mail only makes sense if you have a Dex of 6 or less and have less than 50 gold to put towards armor.

    There are also some odd things about the progressions. If you have a 14 dex, the most cost effective upgrade from a chain shirt is plate mail. If you have a 16 dex, you need to jump from 75 gp chain shirt to 2500 mithral chain. It's also odd, you apparently have no armor class when you aren't wearing armor.


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