5E How do you handle magic item churn in 5E?


Item churn in 3E was easy thanks to Disjunction, but how do you handle it in 5E?
Back then I handled it with the slots (ie I've got these awesome doodads but both use the same slot & now I've got these differently awesome thing that kinda does some of both so I can drop down & feel improved) or things with lateral improvements making use of subjective things like asf/acp/crit range/crit threat/etc. None of that works in 5e though. It's really pretty bad that for 5e you pretty much need to just not give any magic itemsor massively restrain yourself from giving your players cool toys like @Aebir-Toril mentioned.


With the limit on 3 items and the fact that we only play up to 10-12th level, it has not been a big problem in my games. I do give out a cooler version of items to a point though. A +1 sword may have the ability to cast a lightning bolt 1/day or re-roll an attack 1/rest. I also tend to make it a +0 item to bring it down a bit.


Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I don't hand out much magic. At 6th level only 1 PC has 2 uncommon items everyone else has 1. I'm more likely to hand out consumables.

Eventually I'll upgrade existing gear if it's a weapon or armor. I don't plan on ever giving anyone a +n shield.


The hero you deserve
Magic items are fun, but they accumulate. So you need to periodically thin the accumulation.
Why? If you don't get give out enough items, then what's the point of attunement? My 12th level party is now at the point where they have to make some really hard choices about what items to use, which makes giving out items even less of a problem for the power curve.


Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
If you have a use for gold in your game, then this is never a problem. Players are eager to sell the magic items they don't want.

The problem is that most DMs don't give players a reason to accumulate gold, because they don't include things like strongholds, followers, ships, or armies in their games.

The solution is to include those things, then watch your players sell magic items and scrounge for gold, because they never have enough.


Creator of the Elfgrinder Mech
My comment earlier wasn't even much of a joke. I don't concern myself with these things because my campaigns generally don't include magic items in large quantities. Most magic items are uber-powerful artifacts, not a generic-brand +1 Sword type of item. The party might expect to find only a few magic items in an entire campaign.


I haven't had a problem with it. Moderation in how many magic items are given out in the game prevents it from being an issue. There's no need for everyone to have six magic items by 5th level like in the last couple of editions.
The problem with attunement without slots is that you can objectively pick the three best items & the gm can no longer have a powerful thing that conflicts with some other powerful thing so only one can be used. Now you unattune the weakest thing & attune to both powerful things


If you follow the DMG guidelines for treasure hoards, you'll find about 30 permanent (not single use) magic items in a campaign. About half will require attunement. They'll be few and far between from levels to 5, but will start to show up during level 5 and on in more numbers. If you have no other use for your gold and can buy items, you can double that up (or just load yourself down with uncommon unattuned items).

None of this is problematic, or requires 'churning'. You can have these numbers of items and have the PCs be reasonably powered and fun.

If you really feel a need to churn items, NPCs will want them. They can make offers to give information for items, give services for items, etc....

Cap'n Kobold

The problem with attunement without slots is that you can objectively pick the three best items & the gm can no longer have a powerful thing that conflicts with some other powerful thing so only one can be used. Now you unattune the weakest thing & attune to both powerful things
Deciding what the best items for you are can be pretty subjective.


Deciding what the best items for you are can be pretty subjective.
can be yes, but the old system allowed mistakes to be corrected. Lets say Alice gives her party two magical widgets that seems nice but innocuous. Unfortunately she did not consider how the first will be when bob gets another couple levels & the magic item becomes much more powerful thanks to some extra class features. The second she thought would be a good "oh crap just hit the fan" button they eventually use up, but didn't consider the possibility that it would get used regularly and never go away because the party never uses the last charge.

Both of those could be solved more quickly & easily under the old slot based system. Sure those are really nice items, but bob can get rid of his +2dex boots and +4str bracers if he replaces the widget with a +4 str+2dex cloak. the party doesn't even have any unused magic bracers boots, but he can probably find something for sale in town even if he has to sell the widget. Under 5e Alice is no't really able to accomplish that unless she give out enough must use magic items that are better than the problematic widget or she makes bob feel bad by having someone steal/destroy it it.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
In my current campaign, magic items are pretty easy to come by. They keep those best suited for their characters and sell the others or donate them to increase renown with various factions. I use the Xanathar's Guide to Everything's downtime rules for buying/selling magic items. I am thinking of customizing the complication tables and rules, however, to both make complications more likely but to also have many more options, especially not particularly bad options, but flavorful and tied to my homebrew reputation rules. Complications would increase based on the frequency of selling magic items and other factors.

I'm running the game in Frog God Games's Lost Lands setting and use the city states for the limits on how much gold is available to make from selling items.

Even with a large amounts of gold that my players gain by plundering the megadungeon they are exploring, they have a hard time keeping the gold and selling magic items are one way to keep up with expenses. They have to spend gold on training to level up. They have strongholds, guards, servants, and followers to upkeep based on Matt Colevilles Strongholds & Followers rules. They have donations to make, bandit groups to pay for "protection", various grasping, petty Barons to bribe or pay off. There are taxes to be paid. Guilds to share the wealth with.

It sounds like a lot of work but I keep the rules pretty simple. I find reputation rules to be the best way to get them to sell gold and renown points lead to large dice to role on a table to obtain boons from various factions and infamy leads to troubles. More money, more problems.