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Finding magic items (primarily for DMs)

Kannik

Adventurer
Hey all, this is a question for all your DMs out there (and also useful for players too... :) )

When you're going about choosing treasure parcels and the like, what method do you use to find and choose magic items? With the plethora of items out there now it seems quite daunting to find a good handful of items that are appropriate and even useful for the members in your party. It is a task when you’re just looking for your player, but when you’re looking for even a small group of 3 like mine wow it adds up. There’s the wish list idea, but I want to avoid using too much of that to keep the surprise and specialness of the item(s) found.

What way(s) do you go about it that you would reccomend?

peace,

Kannik
 

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S'mon

Legend
I:

(1) Give NPCs lots of generic +X magic items, as if it was 1983 and we're playing AD&D! Chances are the PCs will sell most of them, but they'll get useful stuff that covers the bases.

(2) I geneate special items by finding a level from the Treasure Parcel system or Rules Compendium treasure tables. Then I stab blindly at the listed items for the appropriate level in Adventurers' Vault.

Seems to work. :)
 

Ryujin

Legend
Consider both the attitudes of the players, and the types of characters that they're playing. Do they have a particular shtick? Find something that fits and throw it in. For example do you have a mage, who likes throwing elemental spells? Something that would give him resistance to elemental attacks would make sense. Keicha's Amulet comes to mind.

Recently, while running Pyramid of Shadows and seeing that it grossly under performed in granting treasure, I had Vyrellis's reward the party for finding her 'soul shards' by imbuing them with 'a fraction of her magical power' so they could be attached to an item in one of the three main slots, boosting it by an additional +1 (only one to an item). The players, who got them, loved it.

Then you can give one of the main baddies an item, that he can use against the party. Make it of the same type that a party member uses, like a big impressive looking Greataxe, if the party fighter uses one. At that point it almost doesn't matter what its properties are. Despite the fact that it won't likely add anything to hit chances it WILL add bonus damage on a critical, possibly make the fight more memorable if that creature does do a critical, and become a trophy for the characters.
 
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jbear

First Post
I make sure everyone has the three main items covered: Weapon/Implement, Armour and Neck Item. These are chosen by sifting through the CBuilder until I hit on one I think is useful. Once I hit on that one I don't look much further.

To choose Hand, Arm, Feet, Head, Waist and Wonderous Items I usually roll a d6 to see which category to choose from. Then depending on which level items I need to keep on par with the treasure package guidlines I look for an interesting item of that level.

Other ways of trteasure distribution that I consider note worthy:

An item that the PCs are wearing becomes magical or a power 'awakens'. 'm sure you could use this likewise to increase the power of items PCs already have so they remain relevant to their level. Fluffwise, the item resonates more with their owner or their own increase in power awakens a similar latent power within the item.

Random treasure cards face down spread out like a game of 'Memory'. Players pick from the array when you tell them they have found something of interest. I would recommend including a wide variety of 'wacky' interesting non-standard treasure of your own invention to get the maximum fun out of this method. Some of these could be consumable items, adventure hooks, easter eggs ... etc etc.

Thinks not in the rules or by the book:

I have allowed each player to invent an item (under my supervision) that links in with their back story (and of course opens up adventure hooks for me!); this item will increase in power as the players reach key points in the adventure, especially those relevant to their backstories.

The players also have one Quest Item each. This is basically an item that I have created myself for them, awarded at a very important decision point of the adventure. Each player was offered a choice of four different items (in-story). The powers of these items are superior to normal magical items and can be used more often.
 


I'm kinda old-school when it comes to this. I'll place an item for plot reasons (the boss is some sort of uber-wraith, the PCs find a gravespawn otion), or for verisimilitude (it would make sense for the kobold chieftaint to have small-sized wyrmscale armor and, maybe a vicious short-sword, rather than a holy greatsword or magical leather armor - nevermind that there's no small or shortsword-wielding character in the party.) But, then, I don't really run campaigns, so keeping PCs stocked with 'level aproropriate' items isn't an issue. (I run at conventions and the occassional introductory game or one-shot for friends - OK, I am running a Gamma World campaign, but no magic items.)

I've been more or less continuously playing in campaigns for the durration of 4e, though. Most DMs I've gamed with use the parcel system and 'wish lists.' The DM of my current campaing really doesn't care for treasure much - we usually get some perfunctory monetary award at the end of a 'story' - but, while she doesn't use wish-lists, she is very careful to make sure PCs 'find' the level-apropriate magic items they 'need.'

I think that, were I to run a campaign, I'd just flip the Inherent bonuses switch 'ON' and not worry about systematically awarding items. I'd advise most DMs to use the parcel sytem and 'wish lists,' though. The way 4e is balanced, level-apropriate & character-apropriate items are a must to retain both balance among characters, and between the party and the encounters they must face. One trick that lets you sneak a little verisimilitude in is the use the Transfer enchantement ritual and the variations on the Enchant Item ritual found in Adventurer's Vault. This lets PCs 'upgrade' an item the already like, rather than 'wish listing' the same item at a higher plus, and lets you place magic items in /forms/ more apropriate to the environment/enemies involved, knowing players can transfer it into a more apropriate form.
 
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Aulirophile

First Post
Almost every class handbook on CharOp has a magic items section. If it is rated Blue or better is my standard for picking items. Just go to the relevant handbook and viola.

Though even that is really to much work imo. Now I just hand out "blank of level 14." I call them "prepped residium crystals." One short cast of Enchant Magic Item away from any level (blank) item you want.
 

babinro

First Post
I've gradually created a list of all around useful items for non-speicific builds. I organized the list based on item slot and then item levels. When characters level, I just pick from the list and everyone is happy.

I've created this list based both on my thoughts of what is useful and those of my players. We all feel magical items are boring when they focus on skills or only have narrow daily powers associated with them. So my list focuses on powerful daily powers and pretty much every non-skill related property item in the game. The list is very much still a work in progress as armor and weapons are too varied to properly make a good selection.

While this takes away all the 'surprise' from the game...I'd personally love it if the DM just granted the PC's any 'level+2' item of their choice to be given to the character when the DM says. In other words...level 3 characters would already have their level 5 or lesser item choosen...and while playing through level 3, the DM would simply announce that player x has found their item among the treasure parcel. If the player doesn't want an item, they can get the gold value of it instead.
 
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Dice4Hire

First Post
I tend to give out generic level XX items. And let players choose what they want. Everyone is happy that way.

But I use inherent bonuses, so it is not many items, and many of the items are reskinned into boons and the like. These items level with the party, too, for more simplicity.

I think my level 12 characters have about two actual magic items each.

Yes, I also handwave a lot of treasure too.
 

Kannik

Adventurer
Excellent, thank you everyone. I'm starting to dig the idea of somehow generic items, and perusing the charop boards to help weed out/wade through the vast vast vast quantity of items that are now out there. That and something like Quartermaster is also great. This campaign I’m DMing is a bit non-standard of a game in that chars won’t don’t have easy access to selling or buying things, however if the player of the Wizard ever returns to the group they’ll at least have Enchant rituals. :p

Also, each player will be receiving at some point (one already has his) an artifact tailored for their character. It makes it very sweet, and a great story tie-in. Plus sets up the upcoming tasks....

peace,

Kannik
 

Hi Guys,

Our DM has us produce Magic Wish Lists for our characters, generally up to 5 levels above our current (our group is level 8 /9, so we are posting on our Wiki items up to level 13 / 14 which we would like to "find").

That way, in the treasure parcel of say 3 items, we will find one or two items which peeps have on their wish list (which are usually used against us -- BBEG with the sword which our Dragonborn Fighter wanted, almost BBEG wearing the armour wanted by our Human Warlord, etc).

This makes his treasure placement easier, means our finger wigglers don't have to disenchant lots of stuff, and generally make the players (us) happy with what we find.
 

KidSnide

Adventurer
I look for places in the adventure where it would be appropriate to find treasure and then try to create useful treasure that makes sense for the context. For example, the PCs in one of my games recently killed a bunch of swamp witches who had been creating magical items for the bad guys. Since the PCs had also just killed the witches' magic crocodile allies, I gave the PCs a list of magic boots, belts, leather/hide armor and swamp-themed magic items that they could manufacture out of the croc hides and "swampy" reagents in the witches' huts.

In another game, the PCs recently got a huge pot of money while in a major trading city. There, it makes sense for them to give me a list of what they'd like to buy and then I'll determine if it's available.

-KS
 

Nemesis Destiny

Adventurer
I always try to drop treasure in the context of the story. Most items in my games have a place and history in the campaign and are thematic to where they were found and/or whom it was taken from.

I also often give out boons and other alternative rewards as quest treasure or for well-roleplayed background (if said background leads to a boon that makes sense, i.e. grandmaster training for a warrior whose player was roleplaying that element of their character).

I will take suggestions from players, but I generally don't like "wish lists" - as either player or DM. That said, I tend to allow players to create items they can't by the rules (uncommons and rares), but they have to earn it.

I often make all this stuff from scratch, and it tends to be powerful. And sometimes cursed. ;)
 

Zaran

Adventurer
While I do make sure the drops are useful to the PCs and do my best to upgrade while they have I do not ask for wishlists.

I usually let the monsters use the items they have but sometimes the item may be a trophy or not even known by the guarding monsters. I really dislike the MMO mentality of chests that monsters guard containing things that would have been really useful to the monsters guarding it.

You also have to try to visual mundane loot as well. I've seen modules with big chests containing like 160 gold. That's like 3 rolls of quarters. Fill those chests up with silver and copper worth 160 gold instead. We as GMS have do everything we can to take the video game aspects out of our RPG and keep the players within the setting.
 

Balesir

Adventurer
After polling my players, I don't use wish lists to generate treasure. I allow players to state wishes - but no guarantees that they will be fulfilled.

To fill the parcels, I generally do the following:

1) Check what "key item" slots (weapon, implement, armour and neck item) the party have; I try to make sure they have at least enough suitable items to keep all the characters progressing

2) Select items I think will be found useful or cool - maybe they relate to upcoming encounters (including skill challenges) or maybe they are just 'neat'

3) Check CharOp for quality items for specific classes - especially if I see one character lagging in "budget value"

One trick that lets you sneak a little verisimilitude in is the use the Transfer enchantement ritual and the variations on the Enchant Item ritual found in Adventurer's Vault. This lets PCs 'upgrade' an item the already like, rather than 'wish listing' the same item at a higher plus, and lets you place magic items in /forms/ more apropriate to the environment/enemies involved, knowing players can transfer it into a more apropriate form.
Absolutely this! Transfer Enchantment also lets the players select which character gets specific weapon, implement or armour enchantments, rather than having these effectively specified by the DM. I find Magic Items as a character feature pool to be manipulated by the party (as opposed to individual players) a great feature of 4E. 4E supports and encourages teamwork in several ways - this is perhaps the most innovative.

Though even that is really to much work imo. Now I just hand out "blank of level 14." I call them "prepped residium crystals." One short cast of Enchant Magic Item away from any level (blank) item you want.
It has just struck me that you could do this in a "verisimilitude preserving" way, as well; have a magical trap, hazard or feature of the encounter terrain that is akin to a huge, in-situ magic item. The party ritualist can then Disenchant this for residuum enough for a level XX item that is "focussed" sufficiently to allow above-level item creation.

We as GMS have do everything we can to take the video game aspects out of our RPG and keep the players within the setting.
Really? Why?

I'm not saying GMs should not do this, you understand, but saying that it is mandatory seems a trifle, um, prescriptive.
 

Ferghis

First Post
I would just give them ritual components (knowledge roll determines how much of the monster can be salvaged and used) and occasional plot-relevant rare items. They can make their own common and approved uncommon items. Does away with all the extra work required by wishlists from both sides of the screen and disappointing randomized presents.
 

Zaran

Adventurer
Really? Why?

I'm not saying GMs should not do this, you understand, but saying that it is mandatory seems a trifle, um, prescriptive.

It's not mandatory, but it should be a goal of the GM to do this. Because DnD shouldn't be about a game where a player slays a wolf and gold coins fountain out of the corpse and spill about the ground. It should be a story where the GM is the Narrator and the players control the main characters. Just handing out treasure parcels without any sort of description would just be playing a tactical game like Warhammer Quest . Your game would be much better if the wolves were feeding on a hapless adventurer and they happened to have a bag of coins still on their half-eaten corpse.
 

Al'Kelhar

Adventurer
I tend to approach magic item allocation in the following way - without being rigid about it.

1. What are the levels of magic items the DMG says I should be providing at this level (i.e. n+1 to n+4, where PC level = n)? I treat this as a general guide to the power of the magic items I should be handing out, and don't follow it slavishly.

2. What are the "gaps" in each PC's "core requirement" (weapon/implement, armour, neck item)? This will either be a rough guess at what "plus" of item they "should" have at their current level, or a comparison of the PCs reveals that one still has their amulet of protection +1 while the rest are on +2 and +3 neck items, for example. Gaps are often shown up during combat, of course!

3. Am I filling one of the gaps identified in the previous step in this adventure or a later one? This involves some planning of magic item placement, but it's not detailed - along the lines of "will I give out a +3 neck item this adventure or next"? I don't actually have to think about which +3 neck item, or where it might be found in the next adventure. These are issues I can work on next adventure.

However, I will usually only try to fill 2 gaps per adventure.

4. I've identified 2 gaps in the PCs' "core" magic item allotment, let's have a look through the Compendium for items that fill those gaps, of an appropriate level, and that are suitable for the adventure (e.g. where are they found, who owns them, are they taken from dead bad guys, given as rewards, etc). I may not always choose the "best" item for the PC concerned, but it will still fill the gap.

5. I have 2 other magic item "slots" to fill. I typically reserve one slot for a magic item specifically linked to the adventure. Often I know what this is from the start. It may be useful to the PCs, but it may not be. The fourth magic item will not be particularly important to the adventure, but will usually be useful to the PCs and fill a non-core item slot (arms, hands, feet, etc.). Again, I have a look around the Compendium for nifty items of an appropriate level.

6. Once I have my 4 magic items filling my "allotment", I will frequently add lower level items or consumables as part of the non-magic-item treasure packages. These might be consumables that help the PCs overcome particular obstacles (e.g. potions of resistance to a particular type of damage that features prominently in the adventure), what I like to call "Easter eggs" (like minor magic items that boost skills or have daily powers that are nifty in particular circumstances but not all), or just generic low-plus items used by bad guys (that are really substitutes for cash).

PCs in my campaign can't manufacture magic items other than common ones, and there are no magic shops. However, they do occasionally get the opportunity to trade, buy or sell magic items using connections they establish during the campaign.

Cheers, Al'Kelhar
 

Balesir

Adventurer
I would just give them ritual components (knowledge roll determines how much of the monster can be salvaged and used) and occasional plot-relevant rare items. They can make their own common and approved uncommon items. Does away with all the extra work required by wishlists from both sides of the screen and disappointing randomized presents.
It doesn't, really, though. Rules as written, Enchant Item can only be used to create items of up to the character's level. The items found in treasure are generally 1-4 levels above the character level of the party. I'm pretty sure this, combined with the 20% sale price for items, was intended to give "traditional" DMs the control over magic item input that they (apparently) crave. Rarity rules have moved things even further from a situation of "free trade" in Items for characters. I regard this as a bad thing; others clearly prefer it.

It's not mandatory, but it should be a goal of the GM to do this. Because DnD shouldn't be about a game where a player slays a wolf and gold coins fountain out of the corpse and spill about the ground. It should be a story where the GM is the Narrator and the players control the main characters. Just handing out treasure parcels without any sort of description would just be playing a tactical game like Warhammer Quest . Your game would be much better if the wolves were feeding on a hapless adventurer and they happened to have a bag of coins still on their half-eaten corpse.
Oh, you did mean to be prescriptive. I see. I shall give that the consideration it deserves.
 


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