D&D 5E Campaign Idea: Very Rare Magic Items at Lv. 1


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NotAYakk

Legend
The BBEG is invulnerable during the first combat, as his hand is on the disintegration wand and he makes it clear that not only is he protected by powerful magic, he’ll reduce everyone to ashes if they attack outright.
This is later remedied when the find him around lv 4, fat and happy, no longer interested in adventuring or defense since he’s already accomplished his goal (irreconcilably destroying the objects the party most loved)
So, there is this thing called the "my guy" fallacy.

It is that in a RPG, your character forces you to do X. Thus you, as a dedicated roleplayer, have no choice but to have your character do X. It is not your fault! It is your characters fault!

But, the thing is, the character's motivations and your interpretation of the character's motivations is something the player does. They are almost totally under the control of the player.

While the disconnect -- I am not doing this, I just created a character's motivations and interpreted them so that the character has to do this -- can soften the blow of what the player makes the character do, it is still the player making the character do it. The character is not an agent. The player is.

And if "My guy" would make the table top RPG game suck, that is the responsibility of the player completely. So when "my guy" would make the game suck, that is a player problem, not a character problem.

"My guy" syndrome is using this disconnect to excuse hostile table behavior.

The thing is, DMs have "my guy" syndrome. And, while I cannot know your motivations, I might use your ideas, twists and responses here as a great example of a DM falling into toxic "my guy" DMing. "I am not being deliberately hostile to the players, the world I built, defined and interpreted is".
 

"The cruelest thing in the world is to take something beloved and then return it broken."
I think I read that in either Lord Foul's Bane or The Power That Preserves by Stephen Donaldson.

Now, back in the day, I gave a Staff of the Magi to a first level mage on an adventure. They were only able to discern through identify that it was a +1 staff, granted +1 on saves, and could create light an unknown number times per day. He got the impression that there were more command words available, but he wasn't skilled in identify sufficiently to discover more. As he went up in level he was able to discover more command words, and was able to fully awaken the staff at higher levels.

The thief found an interesting cloak, the ranger ... an altered Amulet of the Planes, I think, and the fighter the Scepter of Good Might. All grew with the characters as the campaign progressed. This was well received, as the players enjoyed the level appropriate boost the items gave but also the anticipation of what the future might allow them to grow into. I think this concept might be better received by your players.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Been workshopping an idea for a new campaign. All characters start at 1st level, standard rules except for one important addition: every player may choose one (1) Very Rare magic item. It can be from any book, and the DM has no say in the matter. They can incorporate that item into their history and begin play with it.

PLOT TWIST: during the first session, the players end up facing a difficult choice, the BBEG will blow everyone away unless they fork over the items. Using the items in any way also results in the characters being disintegrated. It’s made abundantly clear the choice is lose your items or die, leaving the campaign.

PLOT TWIST: The players are left with some clues as to where the BBEG went.

PLOT TWIST: When they find the BBEG’s lair, the BBEG is gone but the items have all been destroyed.

PLOT TWIST: The players hear of an archmage that may be able to repair the items.

PLOT TWIST: When they finally get to the archmage, the mage tells them the items have been permanently destroyed. Enterprising players may interpret the campaign gimmick as a goal, and may suggest finding a way to create new versions of the items, maybe even using the pieces to model the items.

PLOT TWIST: If the players try to get around the destruction, they are greeted with another difficulty. Not only have the items been destroyed, the magic that created them was permanently warped. Those particular items are now impossible to recreate, they are effectively globally banned from the campaign world.

PLOT TWIST: Every once in awhile an NPC suggests that maybe there is hope if the BBEG is defeated. Once the party kill him, they find it changes nothing. Other NPCs periodically suggest that the items were important in some way or that something may still be done to get them back. Unfortunately, it’s always a ruse, a pretext to waste the party’s time or accomplish the NPC’s selfish goal. As the campaign progresses, the ruses become less convincing and the NPCs voicing them become less motivated to do so, moving from “I’m using you by lying about the items” to “I’m mocking you, knowing that mentioning them angers you” to a final, terminal energy of “I’m half-heartedly mentioning what is certainly a lie about the items for no apparent gain”.

Basically the rest of the campaign writes itself. Ideally, the BBEG is dead by level 4 and the rest of the action is whatever. The important part is the items and how they’ll never, ever make it into the campaign. Even future games set in the world should not feature them.

Not sure if it needs any more spice, but anyway that’s the idea
That’s an epic rug pull bait-and-switch. I’d never play with a DM that did that ever again. I have one D&D group going on 40 years now. If the DM of that group did this, I’d walk and never come back.
 

nevin

Hero
Been workshopping an idea for a new campaign. All characters start at 1st level, standard rules except for one important addition: every player may choose one (1) Very Rare magic item. It can be from any book, and the DM has no say in the matter. They can incorporate that item into their history and begin play with it.

PLOT TWIST: during the first session, the players end up facing a difficult choice, the BBEG will blow everyone away unless they fork over the items. Using the items in any way also results in the characters being disintegrated. It’s made abundantly clear the choice is lose your items or die, leaving the campaign.

PLOT TWIST: The players are left with some clues as to where the BBEG went.

PLOT TWIST: When they find the BBEG’s lair, the BBEG is gone but the items have all been destroyed.

PLOT TWIST: The players hear of an archmage that may be able to repair the items.

PLOT TWIST: When they finally get to the archmage, the mage tells them the items have been permanently destroyed. Enterprising players may interpret the campaign gimmick as a goal, and may suggest finding a way to create new versions of the items, maybe even using the pieces to model the items.

PLOT TWIST: If the players try to get around the destruction, they are greeted with another difficulty. Not only have the items been destroyed, the magic that created them was permanently warped. Those particular items are now impossible to recreate, they are effectively globally banned from the campaign world.

PLOT TWIST: Every once in awhile an NPC suggests that maybe there is hope if the BBEG is defeated. Once the party kill him, they find it changes nothing. Other NPCs periodically suggest that the items were important in some way or that something may still be done to get them back. Unfortunately, it’s always a ruse, a pretext to waste the party’s time or accomplish the NPC’s selfish goal. As the campaign progresses, the ruses become less convincing and the NPCs voicing them become less motivated to do so, moving from “I’m using you by lying about the items” to “I’m mocking you, knowing that mentioning them angers you” to a final, terminal energy of “I’m half-heartedly mentioning what is certainly a lie about the items for no apparent gain”.

Basically the rest of the campaign writes itself. Ideally, the BBEG is dead by level 4 and the rest of the action is whatever. The important part is the items and how they’ll never, ever make it into the campaign. Even future games set in the world should not feature them.

Not sure if it needs any more spice, but anyway that’s the idea
That's like get ving the baby a sucker and the snatching it away when the wrapper comes off. Even if the player accept it the game will turn into a us vs the GM thing and that rarely goes well
 


nevin

Hero
Players should never be punished to drive the story. Now if they start using Thier items publicy and then the BbEGI steals them for his/her plot then they have a reason. If You are married to this idea, give them each a moderately powerful item and have the game start after Thier mentors/family members or friends have been obliterated by the bbeg who took Thier more powerful items. You could even let each of them find the magic item they get to keep on the dead body of Thier characters loved one.
 



While stealing from the party is generally a good way to get them to do anything, honestly I doubt I would be invested enough in a free "very rare" item that was immediately stolen to even have stealing it be a real motivator.

I would try to track down the items, because it seems to be the plot hook. By about halfway through this all I'd be ready to quit, not because I've been deprived of a prized magic item, but because multiple "quest after something and it is a fake-out" scenarios is just a recipe for a terrible campaign. It's actually problematic for fiction in general but can be done well in a format with better control of pacing and controlling precisely what the audience knows about the story. TTRPGs are not the format.
 

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