Magic Items Preference: flavor, or mechanical bonus?

Flavor or mechanical?

  • Flavor! Inspire the TotM

    Votes: 20 51.3%
  • Give me the bonuses!

    Votes: 19 48.7%

  • Total voters
    39

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Preference question, and no wrong answer. In your games, do you prefer magic items to add flavor to the game, or do you prefer magic items that offer mechanical bonuses.

For example, what sounds like it would add more fun to your game, getting a +1 sword, or getting a sword that illuminated upon command with the brightness of a torch. Would you prefer a suit of +1 armor, or armor that never needed repair and was always gleaming?
 

Kurotowa

Explorer
My wish for a magic item is "This item makes me feel cooler." If it can't accomplish that then it's no better than mundane gear.

A +1 in combat always makes me feel cooler because combat power is satisfying in a combat focused game like D&D. Utility items that let me do something I couldn't before, like fly or breathe underwater, make me feel cooler because I can do something most other characters can't. Flavor items, like armor that's always gleaming, are the least reliable because they depend on the DM describing them having an impact on the world.

Gleaming armor only makes me feel cool if NPCs are occasionally impressed by my appearance. Getting Advantage on a social roll now and then would help close the deal. If it fades into a trivial background detail that never impacts the game, what's even the point?

Might I consider assembling the Dread Lord cosmetic item package from XGtE? (Cloak of Billowing, Smoldering Armor, and Dread Helm.) I might in theory, but the problem is there's no mechanically enforced benefit to it. It depends on DM whim if and when it gives me Advantage on Intimidate or the like. Unless my DM is really on the ball about describing how peasants cower and drunkards hesitate to pick a bar fight it's never going to be as satisfying as a magic item that does something. Even if that something is as prosaic as a simple +1 to attack and damage.
 
Not a fan of TotM, but, since I don't see how it actually has any bearing, went ahead and voted for da Flavah. Bland bonuses are bland.

Of course, in the olden days you didn't have to choose: your +1 sword most likely glowed (thanks, Tolkien), and your +1 armor was feather-light and needed no maintenance. 5e, likewise, has some cool options for adding extra seasoning to otherwise bland bonus items.
 
Flavor above cold numbers. I play the game to have a good laugh, and flavored items allow for new jokes.


Btw, I dislike abbreviations like TotM. I forgot what it means and first thought that it's another adventure, like Tomb of the Mummy or Tales of the Mighty. Takes me forever to realize it means Theatre of the Mind, and I actually had to use a search engine to get to its meaning.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
I think the question is better as "would you rather have a lesser bonus to get a cool, useful ability, or a higher bonus?" I'd rather have a sword of wounding than a +2 sword, even though both are rare. I'd give up +2 to hit/damage for cumulatively add 1d4 necrotic damage per round with each hit. I'd rather have either than sovereign glue, which is legendary but of limited utility.
 

MarkB

Hero
I voted for mechanical bonus because I want to feel like the item is actually being of use to me, but with that said, I'd far rather have something I can use creatively than something that just changes a number on my character sheet. If it's materially useful, I wouldn't classify it as "flavour", even if its usefulness is situational.

Then again, in a recent low-level game I played, the most highly coveted item was the Cloak of Heroic Flapping, whose only effect was to always flap and billow dramatically, regardless of the weather conditions.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
As a player I would rather survive than be cool, so give me a bonus.
But is that really life? Is that worth living?


Of all the Monk subclasses, I prefer The Way of Cool, whose tiny and exclusive monastery is hidden in a really amazing and laid-back valley.


The Way of Cool has a passing-out test for initiates at the third level. The third level monk is taken into a room full of all types of clothing and asked: Yo, which of these is the most stylish thing to wear?

And the correct answer is: Hey, whatever I select.


;) (h/t Pratchett)
 

Len

Prodigal Member
I picked the bonuses because bonuses always make my character more awesome and more likely to survive. But an item with a bonus and flavour is better, and the best are the ones that have a bonus and a story specifically related to my character.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Same. Even a simple +1 longsword becomes that much cooler when you describe it as being made from a single bone and that you hear whispers when you draw it. Even if it doesn't have a mechanical effect, it comes to life that much more vividly in the player's head.

Can't vote...usually create both.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Can't vote...usually create both.
I'm not saying that they are mutually exclusive, but which of the two sounds better to you. An item that primarily is mechanically influential, or an item that might have creative properties that don't necessarily affect die rolls.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
Without info on the DM or campaign - I'd take the +1 item.

If i knew the DM would (or allow me to) add to the fun of the game with the "flavor" item then possibly the flavor item.

But usually, I like unstated option 3 - Flavorful mechanically beneficial perks that aren't pluses.

For example - the group found a cache of adamantine weapons and armor - no pluses but lots of perks.

The ranger in the group has a set of short swords that allows him to shift his bonus action attack (from 2 weapon fighting) to his regular attack routine - thereby freeing up his bonus action for other stuff.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
Preference question, and no wrong answer. In your games, do you prefer magic items to add flavor to the game, or do you prefer magic items that offer mechanical bonuses.

For example, what sounds like it would add more fun to your game, getting a +1 sword, or getting a sword that illuminated upon command with the brightness of a torch. Would you prefer a suit of +1 armor, or armor that never needed repair and was always gleaming?
I voted flavor, but what I really meant was utility. I mean, I have to choose between a sword +1 and a sword that .... glows? Really? I hope that's not the kind of BS magic items that people associate with "flavor item". Do I want the sword that's actually useful or do I want the sword that mimics the cantrip that every caster already has?

The best magic items provide flavor by giving the character different capacities than they already have, or might ever have access to. Decanter of endless water is awesome. Rod of immovability. Cube of force. Ring of X-ray vision. Figurine of Wondrous Power. That's the fun stuff, right there.

Choosing between a sword +1 and a sword that's also a torch isn't that fun; choosing between the sword +1 and a sword that grants you the appearance of the last person the sword has killed is a much more compelling choice.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
There's something in between a numerical bonus and pure flavor. I like magic items that do something mechanically beneficial other than have a straight +1/+2/+3 bonus. (Well, ok, I don't mind also getting some bonuses...)
 

Mort

Community Supporter
Choosing between a sword +1 and a sword that's also a torch isn't that fun; choosing between the sword +1 and a sword that grants you the appearance of the last person the sword has killed is a much more compelling choice.
YOINK

I was looking for a fun item for the villain in the next session - and that's perfect - thank you!
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I prefer to make generic +X bonuses the domain of masterwork quality, while magic should always grant a weapon some property. That +1 Flametongue is +1 because it’s well-made, and does fire damage and sheds light like a torch because it is imbued with Fire magic. That +3 Holy Avenger is +3 because it was forged from unobtanium by the faith’s most talented swordsmith, but deals extra damage to undead and gives off an aura of advantage on saves vs spells because of the divine blessing that was placed on it by the faith’s highest priest.
 

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