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

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
This. The campaign I'm running has 4 PCs of 6th level. There are 2 +1 weapons, 1 +1 wounding weapon, 1 cloak of elvenkind and 1 pair of slippers of spider climbing. Potions and scrolls I hand out much more frequently.

The major difference I think is that I don't care about rarity. Since I'm giving out fewer items, I don't mind them being good. I feel that magic should be magical.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
This. The campaign I'm running has 4 PCs of 6th level. There are 2 +1 weapons, 1 +1 wounding weapon, 1 cloak of elvenkind and 1 pair of slippers of spider climbing. Potions and scrolls I hand out much more frequently.

The major difference I think is that I don't care about rarity. Since I'm giving out fewer items, I don't mind them being good. I feel that magic should be magical.
That's fewer items?

At our table that would considered a great haul.

Our current campaign is at 6th level and the party only has a pair of slippers of spider climbing. They have both gotten unlucky with the treasure die and missed a decent amount of treasure so this is certainly on the low end.

I'd hate to see what kind of a game you or others would consider to be 'average'.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
I'd hate to see what kind of a game you or others would consider to be 'average'.
I tend to use this as a baseline (from this thread). This is per PC over 20 levels:

4 or 5 common consumables
5 uncommon consumables
5 rare consumables
4 or 5 very rare consumables
1 legendary consumable
2 or 3 uncommon permanent items
1 or 2 rare permanent items
1 very rare permanent item
1 legendary permanent item

My own game is higher powered, but I think this is a pretty decent baseline. By level 6, this would expect most PCs to have acquired 1-2 uncommon permanent items, and a fair amount (5-6) of consumables.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That's fewer items?

At our table that would considered a great haul.

Our current campaign is at 6th level and the party only has a pair of slippers of spider climbing. They have both gotten unlucky with the treasure die and missed a decent amount of treasure so this is certainly on the low end.

I'd hate to see what kind of a game you or others would consider to be 'average'.
Look at the modules. The game seems to intend for 5e PCs to have a LOT of magic items. The tables also generate a good amount of magic items if you use them.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
I tend to use this as a baseline (from this thread). This is per PC over 20 levels:

4 or 5 common consumables
5 uncommon consumables
5 rare consumables
4 or 5 very rare consumables
1 legendary consumable
2 or 3 uncommon permanent items
1 or 2 rare permanent items
1 very rare permanent item
1 legendary permanent item

My own game is higher powered, but I think this is a pretty decent baseline. By level 6, this would expect most PCs to have acquired 1-2 uncommon permanent items, and a fair amount (5-6) of consumables.
Magic items become much more common as characters level up.

The treasure hoards from levels 1-4 are pretty sparse. By 6th level the characters will have only found 3 level 5-10 hoards (18/6 levels). Each one only has a 20% chance of yielding permanent items (though sometimes multiple items when they do hit).


Look at the modules. The game seems to intend for 5e PCs to have a LOT of magic items. The tables also generate a good amount of magic items if you use them.
We use the treasure hoard tables and aim for the average amount of hoards per level.

Sometimes the players only barely accomplish their objectives and that sometimes means missing some hoards. Sometimes the nature of the adventure means more available hoards though (or extra possible ones for truly daring or clever adventurers).
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Magic items become much more common as characters level up.

The treasure hoards from levels 1-4 are pretty sparse. By 6th level the characters will have only found 3 level 5-10 hoards (18/6 levels). Each one only has a 20% chance of yielding permanent items (though sometimes multiple items when they do hit).
I know. All the calculations (which are based on treasure hordes and probabilistic calculations) are in the thread I linked.
 

werecorpse

Explorer
My main homebrew difference is to run games where level up is much slower than 5e rules. I dislike the 5e attunement limit (although I like the requirement to attune to an item to use it as a minor limitation) and prefer the 3e slot limit factor.
1. I find the decision as to which items require attunement and which don’t inexplicable making the intent of it being a limiting event not only non functional but irrational. Compare zero attunement Andre with +3 plate mail, +3 sword, a cape of the mountebank, goggles of darkvision and a wand of magic missiles to maxed out attunement Byron with his Boots of levitation, ring of jumping and sword of life stealing.
2. I want players to enjoy getting magic treasure. When I played in a normal Xp progress (though admittedly high magic item game) we found that once we got to 12th level we started to quite frequently find a fun cool attunable magic item that just didn’t quite make the grade so we either just carried it around waiting for a good reason to use it (rarely ever happened - my cleric carried around a ring of invisibility for 3 levels before the campaign ended. Never used it) or just sold it for a second cape of the mountebank or wand of magic missiles (items that don’t require attunement and thus are much more desirable at high level). I accept that the Christmas tree affect of earlier editions can make getting magic items a bit mundane, but getting items that should be fun but you can’t activate is imo worse.

So in answer to the question
1. I have made consumables better (a normal potion has a random number of sips in it - each time you sip from it you roll a d4 if you roll a 1 it was the last use otherwise there is a little bit left; if it’s a d6 potion when you roll a 1 it gets converted to a d4 from now on, Scrolls the same - the words fade but don’t always disappear- and most wands/staves etc though they can go up to d12.).
2. I use 3e slots as a limiter rather than attunement
3 I give out a lot more consumables (ie a Cape of the mountebank charged with a d4 like a potion)
4 I have a small amount of magic item trade
5 I tend to play with large groups (6-8 PCs) so items filter about the group
6 I’m a bit stingy as a dm when it comes to loot
7 I give out items with properties that grow with the character or are based on the characters power (ie cymbals that when clashed cast Thunderwave at a spell level equal to the proficiency bonus of the character using it)
 

ad_hoc

Hero
I know. All the calculations (which are based on treasure hordes and probabilistic calculations) are in the thread I linked.
I know what they are.

I'm telling you that I actually use those tables as they are recommended in the DMG.

The PCs do not get an even amount of magic items from levels 1-20.

Levels 1-4 are both very quick to go through and the treasure hoards have very little permanent items.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
I know what they are.

I'm telling you that I actually use those tables as they are recommended in the DMG.

The PCs do not get an even amount of magic items from levels 1-20.

Levels 1-4 are both very quick to go through and the treasure hoards have very little permanent items.
Obviously, whatever amount of magic items you want to give out your game is fine. I just find the calculations in the other thread to match with my own reading of the DMG, and the chance of getting virtually no permanent items by level 6 to be a fairly low (albeit not 0) probability.
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
@ad_hoc my players just got level 8 after about 12 months of play in weekly 3-4 hour games -holidays* & I believe their total pile if combined is something like
  • a sunblade that is +1 rather than +2
  • a +1 dagger
  • a longsword made of an alloy that contains fernian shards that deals 4d4 fire damage (no slash, no plus). It's sheath reduces fire damage recieved by 1d4 & grants heat metal immune
  • a longsword made of a mabaran shard containing alloy that does 4d4 necrotic damage. It's sheath reduces necrotic damage by 1d4 & grants immune to a necrotic version of heat metal if it ever exists.
  • a +1 wand of the war mage
  • two different 2 handed focus item that raises range of attack roll cantrips/spells by 50% & one adds +1 dmage to fire spells, the other +1 damage to cold spells (they might have a third poison/acid one, but never use)
  • a set of glamoured plate armor
  • a shield that grants the third benefit of shield master (dex save for half becomes for none)
  • an orb that allows the user to cast chilltouch as a wizard, cleric, or sorcerer (not ever used)
  • 2 maybe 3 +1 weapons
  • a few potions of cure wounds that work like werecorpse describes, I've considered giving out charged wands like that but never have.
  • a quiver of monstrousity slaying arrows with a d6 of ammo like those potions
  • A repeating self loading heavy crossbow that conjures nonmagical bolts & can be used with extra attack
  • a few 1 charge trinkets & maybe 1 or two wands with a few charges
  • a wide assortment of mostly fluff things like a fire starting orb with functionality similar to a grill lighter

  • 1-2 stat boosting items that work based on what the base ability score is. If base ability is 3-8 then+3, 10-16 then+2, 17+ then +1, I'll probably change ASI's to work like that next campaign coupled with a much lower stat array
  • think that's it
My main homebrew difference is to run games where level up is much slower than 5e rules. I dislike the 5e attunement limit (although I like the requirement to attune to an item to use it as a minor limitation) and prefer the 3e slot limit factor.
1. I find the decision as to which items require attunement and which don’t inexplicable making the intent of it being a limiting event not only non functional but irrational. Compare zero attunement Andre with +3 plate mail, +3 sword, a cape of the mountebank, goggles of darkvision and a wand of magic missiles to maxed out attunement Byron with his Boots of levitation, ring of jumping and sword of life stealing.
2. I want players to enjoy getting magic treasure. When I played in a normal Xp progress (though admittedly high magic item game) we found that once we got to 12th level we started to quite frequently find a fun cool attunable magic item that just didn’t quite make the grade so we either just carried it around waiting for a good reason to use it (rarely ever happened - my cleric carried around a ring of invisibility for 3 levels before the campaign ended. Never used it) or just sold it for a second cape of the mountebank or wand of magic missiles (items that don’t require attunement and thus are much more desirable at high level). I accept that the Christmas tree affect of earlier editions can make getting magic items a bit mundane, but getting items that should be fun but you can’t activate is imo worse.

So in answer to the question
1. I have made consumables better (a normal potion has a random number of sips in it - each time you sip from it you roll a d4 if you roll a 1 it was the last use otherwise there is a little bit left; if it’s a d6 potion when you roll a 1 it gets converted to a d4 from now on, Scrolls the same - the words fade but don’t always disappear- and most wands/staves etc though they can go up to d12.).
2. I use 3e slots as a limiter rather than attunement
3 I give out a lot more consumables (ie a Cape of the mountebank charged with a d4 like a potion)
4 I have a small amount of magic item trade
5 I tend to play with large groups (6-8 PCs) so items filter about the group
6 I’m a bit stingy as a dm when it comes to loot
7 I give out items with properties that grow with the character or are based on the characters power (ie cymbals that when clashed cast Thunderwave at a spell level equal to the proficiency bonus of the character using it)
the "I already got that" & "I don't need that maybe we can sell it" is a big frustration to giving out what I figured would be a cool but wound up being useless or not good enough to dethrone any of the party's 3 precious items caused by 5e's attunement slots in a longer game. You are also right about the seemingly arbitrary aplication of attune requirements.

* I know this because it was shortly after moregraves misc was released
 
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ad_hoc

Hero
Obviously, whatever amount of magic items you want to give out your game is fine. I just find the calculations in the other thread to match with my own reading of the DMG, and the chance of getting virtually no permanent items by level 6 to be a fairly low (albeit not 0) probability.
By level 6 the average is 3.72 items from Table F or greater. A party of 4 having 1-2 items each by level 6 is a total of 6 items, well above average. That's more than twice average if it is a party of 5 you were talking about.

The amount of rolls of items on Table F or greater is only 1.65 as most rolls yield 2.5 items.

If my math is correct then there is a 16% chance that the party will not have found any items from Table F or greater by 6th level.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
the "I already got that" & "I don't need that maybe we can sell it" is a big frustration to giving out what I figured would be a cool but wound up being useless or not good enough to dethrone any of the party's 3 precious items caused by 5e's attunement slots in a longer game. .
Maybe that's your problem. What you thought was cool wasn't endorsed by your players. Frankly, that can happen even with slots. If you put an item in the game thinking it would be cool but your players already thought what they had in those slots were fine, you'd be in the same situation. All the 3 attunement slots do is make the issue a more frequent occurrence - and that can be adjusted by either raising the number of attunement slots or not requiring attunement in the first place.
 
I haven't seen a need for churn. I use the tables from the DMG to generate random hoards, but I also recently have had a merchant who specializes in the sale of magic items and has 3-5 particular items on hand at a time for purchase. So my game is probably slightly higher than the assumed DMG average (although the randomness makes a significant impact, as items usually aren't custom tailored for the character). The one exception is that I'm miserly with defense boosting items, as those can get a little annoying when stacked IME.

It hasn't really been a problem for me. If encounters seem to be getting a bit easy, I just bump up the difficulty a little. Pretty straightforward really.

That said, I've never been much for churn, even in the older editions. If you really want it though, it should be easy enough. Most of the old approaches still work. Steal the item. Have a mage wish the item away. A grand conjunction of the stars renders the item(s) powerless (although I would foreshadow that one heavily, since it could justifiably be viewed as heavy handed). Heck, if you really miss the old Disjunction spell, just create your own 5e version.
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
.
Maybe that's your problem. What you thought was cool wasn't endorsed by your players. Frankly, that can happen even with slots. If you put an item in the game thinking it would be cool but your players already thought what they had in those slots were fine, you'd be in the same situation. All the 3 attunement slots do is make the issue a more frequent occurrence - and that can be adjusted by either raising the number of attunement slots or not requiring attunement in the first place.
Your not wrong, but I've never seen it happen in other systems (d&dlike or not) anywhere near as often as 5e & that's speaking as both gm of homebrew game, player, gm of AL games, & AL gm pulled aside to help another AL gm.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
This thread is validating by in large my approach to not have too many Magic Items. By 5th level, most players have 1-2 permanent magic items, with only 1 of them being rare. They've gone through a lot of consumable items, although I've never had a group use too many scrolls, unless there's a wizard in the party. Potions are used a bunch though. And Keotughm's Ointment.
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
I don't care about magic item churn. Sometimes I give out a lot. Sometimes I don't give out very many at all. It doesn't really matter.

I do have a few rules I follow.

1. There's no such thing as a simple +stat item. No +1 longswords, no +1 armor, no basic cloaks of protection. Our stat generation method generates slightly more powerful PCs which guarantees at least one 16 to 18 before racial mods. They don't need magic bonuses until high level. Frankly, though, I never want players to be in a position where they pick a mechanically better item over one that's cool, fun, and creative. Magic items are potent, but the one thing they shouldn't ever be is a universally reliable tool.

2. Almost no core magic items. Even in published modules, everything I give out is weird and unique and often purpose built or crafted for something that the PCs don't understand. Example: A necromancer had a pendant that closes wounds like a periapt of wound closure and grants a bonus first level spell like a pearl of power (only 1st level), but it's a charred black ghoul heart that beats when it operates and makes the bearer smell moderately like a corpse.

3. Many items are sentient to a varying degree. Items remember the purpose they were created for, and some of them try to corrupt or manipulate the bearer. It's not a curse, and it's not like sentient items in the DMG. It's more subtle than that, although sometimes it means magic items function differently for different PCs.

4. The above two make resting to determine an items properties only the first step, since it's actually more important to learn about the item's history not what it looks like it can do. This means identify or similar magic is useful, though my players often forget this until it bites them.

5. Magic items change as the game progresses. Sometimes the players have "mastered" the item and can activate it without being attuned. This is usually a low powered item that I want to keep around but the player can't justify keeping. Other times I introduce a "substitution bench" for attuned items that kicks in over level 8, 10, or 12.

The substitution works as follows: As an action, you can unattune from one item you're attuned to and attune to another magic item that you have attuned to before. You can't reattune to an item you unattuned in this way for 24 hours. After you do this you can't do it again until you finish a short or long rest.

I also give out non magic item rewards as new character abilities. I want characters to gain abilities they didn't plan for that they have earned through their actions. Usually they give the player more options or it's a unique spell that suits their character progression, etc.

The one other thing I would say is to not save the cool stuff for later. I've had the same gaming group for 20 years, and still campaigns often only run half as long as we plan. Give the cool stuff out now or you'll never see it.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
When it comes to game design, I think they pretty much are. You want options to not overshadow or dominate each other (some issues like a +2 long sword vs a +1 long sword excepted). You generally want there to be the opportunity cost of lack of Item A if you choose Item B.
Hard. No.

Some choices should be simply a matter of preference and concept. Constant hard choices leads to players seeing their character through the lense of optimization for fear of “messing up” their “build”.

It also often leads to many people seeing all the options as effectively the same, because they stop caring about the distinctions once they get tired of examining each item in turn in order to make the “right” choice.

Further, some choices should be more valuable for some characters than for others. It isn’t a hard choice for a rogue to train stealth, and it shouldn’t be.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Hard. No.

Some choices should be simply a matter of preference and concept. Constant hard choices leads to players seeing their character through the lense of optimization for fear of “messing up” their “build”.

It also often leads to many people seeing all the options as effectively the same, because they stop caring about the distinctions once they get tired of examining each item in turn in order to make the “right” choice.

Further, some choices should be more valuable for some characters than for others. It isn’t a hard choice for a rogue to train stealth, and it shouldn’t be.
Hard yes, but then I don't think you're quite grokking my meaning. Hard choices are ones in which either option is reasonably valid, neither obviously dominates the other from a mechanical standpoint.

Some choices may flow easily from other choices - that's fine. But in the example you're giving, you've already made the primary hard choice - to play a rogue rather than a wizard, cleric, fighter, ranger, paladin, etc. That primary choice should be a hard choice with no class dominating the other as a role to play in the party. Some choice may naturally flow from that and be easier - but they've probably already gone into the initial choice. "Hmm.. we could use someone who can scout and find traps - I'll play a rogue." And you'd have implicitly (or maybe even explicitly) decided to give up on spellcasting and the other powers wizards, clerics, rangers, etc have as opportunity costs.

With respect to the question at hand - attunement of magic items - there should be a lot of hard choices - choices that are reasonably equally valid. 3e was problematic in that there were too many choices that were dominant - the Big Six come to mind. It was a no brainer to sell a Ring of Shooting Stars and buy the best Ring of Protection you could afford with the proceeds. Ideally, that choice should have been a lot harder with neither option dominating the other - it should have been more of a concept choice, not an optimization one.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Hard yes, but then I don't think you're quite grokking my meaning. Hard choices are ones in which either option is reasonably valid, neither obviously dominates the other from a mechanical standpoint.

Some choices may flow easily from other choices - that's fine. But in the example you're giving, you've already made the primary hard choice - to play a rogue rather than a wizard, cleric, fighter, ranger, paladin, etc. That primary choice should be a hard choice with no class dominating the other as a role to play in the party. Some choice may naturally flow from that and be easier - but they've probably already gone into the initial choice. "Hmm.. we could use someone who can scout and find traps - I'll play a rogue." And you'd have implicitly (or maybe even explicitly) decided to give up on spellcasting and the other powers wizards, clerics, rangers, etc have as opportunity costs.

With respect to the question at hand - attunement of magic items - there should be a lot of hard choices - choices that are reasonably equally valid. 3e was problematic in that there were too many choices that were dominant - the Big Six come to mind. It was a no brainer to sell a Ring of Shooting Stars and buy the best Ring of Protection you could afford with the proceeds. Ideally, that choice should have been a lot harder with neither option dominating the other - it should have been more of a concept choice, not an optimization one.
I think it's best if you establish with your players in a session 0 what kind of game they want. That includes whether or not they even want to have to make hard choices. It may be fun for some people but not others.

I try hard to not force my preferences and opinions on my players.
 

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