D&D 5E Trail and error item identifying


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Trial-and-error can be fun. Occasionally. Maybe the first three or four times. After that, it just gets old, IME.

Things I don't want nowadays...
  • Remembering on my end to add +X to attack and damage while keeping it mysterious from the player
  • Keeping track of unknown magic items and telling players to refer to them as "Magic Sword you found in Room 17 of The Cupcake and Pastry Dungeon"
  • Spending half an hour in a game of 20 questions every time the party finds a magic doodad
  • Spells requiring 100 gp pearls and/or a wizard in order to be able to tell basic information I'd rather not keep track of.
If we can avoid that? Groovy. Otherwise, it's just not fun as a default way of dealing with new stuff. :)

-O
Absolutely all of this.

I view identifying magic items by trial and error as a page from the same book that has "Standard Party Procedures When Encountering A Door." It was fun while I was writing it, the first time, but eventually it just gets old and formulaic.

At this point, it's very old and formulaic.
 

GreyICE

Banned
Banned
The ring is cursed.



Cheers,
Roger
From the big book of "Gotcha!" DMing, naturally, next to the Cloaker, the Mimic, and those living walls and ceilings that crushed you.

"Hey that treasure that I presented as treasure and that you had every reason to believe was treasure? Wasn't treasure. Have fun with that!"
 

Mattachine

Adventurer
A little bit of "Gotcha" is fine, a very little bit . . .

D&D is a game for me, and the players get to know more information than the PCs. So, if they pick up magic armor or weapons, then I simply tell the player the "plus".

If the magic item is simply treasure, a little flavor text and description should be enough for the PCs to figure out what it does. If you try it on, then you magically know what the magic item does. That makes sense to me.

Only if the item's properties form an interesting mystery (such as part of an adventure) or make a specific plot point, would I bother hiding those properties.

The good thing about D&D is that each group (DM and players together) can decide how rules like item identification will play out.

It's kinda like folks that play Monopoly by RAW, and those that put money under Free Parking.
 

Roger

First Post
From the big book of "Gotcha!" DMing, naturally, next to the Cloaker, the Mimic, and those living walls and ceilings that crushed you.

"Hey that treasure that I presented as treasure and that you had every reason to believe was treasure? Wasn't treasure. Have fun with that!"

Exactly! If a DM wants to discourage a certain behaviour, all he has to do is provide some disincentive. If he wants to discourage the identification of items by trial-and-error, for some reason, all he has to do is throw in a cursed magical item.



Cheers,
Roger
 

ZombieRoboNinja

First Post
Anecdote: One time someone in our group found an enchanted, sentient bastard sword. That particular DM never told us the details of what powerful magical items did, even with an Identify spell, so the player spent an entire campaign fighting with (and against) the sarcastic, whiny blade. When the campaign ended, the DM told us that the bastard sword's magic was just that it was kind of a bastard.

...ANYWAY, I think the 100g Identify spell is pretty lame. I think the Detect Magic spell along with an Arcane Lore check is the way to go - just scale the DC to the item quality for anything below Legendary. Legendary items and artifacts, of course, are revealed in exactly the manner the DM finds most convenient, but unless they're being especially sneaky or subtle anyone who can detect magic can probably tell they're exceptionally powerful.
 

GreyICE

Banned
Banned
Exactly! If a DM wants to discourage a certain behaviour, all he has to do is provide some disincentive. If he wants to discourage the identification of items by trial-and-error, for some reason, all he has to do is throw in a cursed magical item.

Cheers,
Roger

Yeah, but at that point the behavior the DM is disincentivizing is TRUSTING THE DM. The DM put the ring in the treasure chest/pockets/whatever. The ring had no obvious signs of cursing, or other clues the PCs might use to identify it. The PCs try and identify it. SURPRISE!

Do this a few times, and you'll find your campaigns dragging to a halt as PCs refuse to trust NPCs, ignore plot hooks as dangerous, refuse to go grab whatever crystal they're searching for since "it's probably cursed" and take dungeon exploration as an excuse to use overkill on every surface around.

It's not a good idea to get into "Gotcha!" DMing and adversarial relationships with your players, unless you really know what you're doing (perhaps some sort of one-shot clearly labeled as "Evil DM").

Always be a trustworthy DM.
 


tlantl

First Post
Trial-and-error can be fun. Occasionally. Maybe the first three or four times. After that, it just gets old, IME.

Things I don't want nowadays...
  • Remembering on my end to add +X to attack and damage while keeping it mysterious from the player
  • Keeping track of unknown magic items and telling players to refer to them as "Magic Sword you found in Room 17 of The Cupcake and Pastry Dungeon"
  • Spending half an hour in a game of 20 questions every time the party finds a magic doodad
  • Spells requiring 100 gp pearls and/or a wizard in order to be able to tell basic information I'd rather not keep track of.
If we can avoid that? Groovy. Otherwise, it's just not fun as a default way of dealing with new stuff. :)

-O

I guess that's the beauty of D&D if you don't like it or aren't in the mood to deal with it then don't.

Just tell them what the darned thing is and get on with it, but there might be days when it would add some color to an otherwise boring or routine adventure and could spice things up a little.

Sort of like salt, used sparingly it makes things taste better.
 

Roger

First Post
The PCs try and identify it. SURPRISE!

Only if they try to identify it using the method that we apparently really don't want them to use: trial-and-error.

Absolutely every other solution at their disposal to identify the cursed ring leads to no Gotcha at all.

I guess this could lead to the PCs deciding to never trust anyone again, but that seems like an overreaction.



Cheers,
Roger
 

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