D&D 5E Wandering "Monsters": Magic Items

Me? I've got nothing to say on the matter as my entire view of this is: If you're too stupid, dense and/or unimaginative to be able to see how/when adding magic items in your own low/average/high magic campaign works for your table or not, then you shouldn't be in the proverbial "big chair."

There is no reason, whatsoever, that I -or any DM- need to be told 'PCs should receive 6-8 permanent magic items over 20 levels. That makes the 'default' D&D game work. But if you want a lower magic game, then just give 'em 3-5. And if you want higher magic, give 'em 9-12."
They need to have some baselines for advice. So they can say "in the average game PCs will gain this much magic and you can account for that by doing Y". So things stay balanced. Which also helps for organized play, where they can say that "this campaign is Average Magic, so at level 10 you need to make X adjustments and at level 20 you need to do Y" to their campaign staff.

It's also very helpful for new DMs who might need a little advice on what is expected and what impact it has on the game.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

GX.Sigma

Adventurer
Two things come to mind:

1. The article talked about "permanent" magic items, and mentioned "wands with only a few charges left" as examples of non-permanent items. I wish they would bring those back--it's weird that every wand in the playtest automatically recharges itself.

2. I really hope they revise the items themselves. The Flame Tongue in particular has pretty much destroyed any balance in my campaign (broken at low levels, broken at high levels).
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
Plenty of magic shops in games before 3.0 - usually because such things existed in other games, such as computer games. It was common enough that "PCs robbing the magic shop" was a known problem for clueless DMs.
 

Plaguescarred

D&D Playtester for WoTC since 2012
My preference is for a PC to find 6-8 magic items over the course of a standard campaign, fewer than 5 for low magic campaign and up to 20 for high magic one.

I also like the idea of some monsters taking only full damage from certain weapons (magic, cold iron, silver etc..)
 

am181d

Adventurer
It is not presented as optional, and is in fact called out as mandatory for the weapons you mentioned. I have seen nothing from WOTC that it is unpopular and likely to be dropped. Do you have a link for that?

Yeah, I went back and checked and realized I was thinking of the accompanying "Experimental Rules" for attunement, not attunement itself. I will also retract my comment that Wizards have spoken unfavorably of the rule until/unless I can find where I originally read that.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
I do know the article doesn't mention attunement at all. Which is a positive as far as I'm concerned, since I'm not a big fan of it (though I wouldn't be surprised to see it in the final game in some form). If they've abandoned the idea of artificial, arbitrary magic item limits, I'm a fan!
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
I do know the article doesn't mention attunement at all. Which is a positive as far as I'm concerned, since I'm not a big fan of it (though I wouldn't be surprised to see it in the final game in some form). If they've abandoned the idea of artificial, arbitrary magic item limits, I'm a fan!

In a world where spellcasters have an artificial, arbitrary limit on the number of spells they can know and cast, why not for magic items too? Seems consistent. Maybe base it on level, like spells?
 

Sound of Azure

Contemplative Soul
In a world where spellcasters have an artificial, arbitrary limit on the number of spells they can know and cast, why not for magic items too? Seems consistent. Maybe base it on level, like spells?

Did anyone else read that in the "movie trailer guy" voice?

---
As for the topic, I think it's great to have advice for new/inexperienced DMs, even if it's just guidelines. It can also be good to have a baseline for such things, so as to know what the designers are expecting. Makes it far easier to drift things when the details are laid out fairly straightforwardly, rather than needing to be inferred. I've been moving away from the "truckloads of magic items" paradigm of late, so that's definitely a plus in the D&D next column for me.
 



pemerton

Legend
That would be the ideal solution. Though I'm not certain it's possible while retaining the "D&D feel".
I rather like 4e's approach to the issue, with implements that are as big a part of casters' arsenal as weapons are for warriors. I like the Harry Potter / Gandalf style wands and staves that actually help characters do magic.
I quite like the 4e style too - and I'm not sure it lacks the "D&D feel", at least for me.

Gygax in his DMG seems to imply that in AD&D casters will want wands and staves if they are to be effective in combat, because of the risks of casting spells in combat. In practice I didn't really see it work out like that, but there is still the kernel of an approach there that is different from the 4e one but makes wands and staves as important to casters as weapons and armour are to fighters.

I'm not particular worried about the magic items not being incorporated into math assumptions. 1e functioned just fine that way and I don't see why 5e wouldn't. Magic items should provide bonuses for the PC whether in hitting, doing damage, or having additional special abilities, not be required to keep up with Monster Jones next door.
They need to have some baselines for advice. So they can say "in the average game PCs will gain this much magic and you can account for that by doing Y". So things stay balanced. Which also helps for organized play, where they can say that "this campaign is Average Magic, so at level 10 you need to make X adjustments and at level 20 you need to do Y" to their campaign staff.

It's also very helpful for new DMs who might need a little advice on what is expected and what impact it has on the game.
In terms of the system expecting or not expecting items, what I'm hoping for are tweaks to the encounter building guidelines so that you can add or remove XP from the budget based upon what the party has. Based on this article, I'd love to be thinking in a few months: "Hmm, well, the party just got two extra magic items last time which bumps them into the high magic column at the moment, so I need to add X to the encounter budget. Oh, nice, that means I can add a Gargoyle and still keep the challenge about right"
Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but the first of the three posts I've quoted seems at odds with the second two. And it's not clear to me which approach WotC is taking.

If the GM is expected to adjust encounter difficulty based on magic items wielded by the PCs, then in effect items are part of the maths -but incorporated via the encounter building tools, so on the GM rather than the player side. I don't see anything wrong with that, but it seems worth noting it for what it is. In fact I prefer it to the approach suggested by billd91, for this reason: if GMs aren't expected to make encounters mechanically more challenging in response to PCs acquiring items then the practical consequence of acquiring items is that encounters become easier. And easier encounters are, on the whole, less interesting. So the reward for acquiring items becomes one of the game becoming less engaging - which is actually the Monty Haul problem that Gygax warns about in the quote from his DMG.

EDIT: Because D&Dnext seems to prioritise "the adventure" over "the encounter" then you could incorporate items on the GM side by changing the "adventure budget" rather than the "encounter budget" - ie the more items you have, the more you have to do between rests if you are going to succeed at an adventure, whatever exactly it is that success consists in. This is still taking items into account in the maths of the game.
 


Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but the first of the three posts I've quoted seems at odds with the second two. And it's not clear to me which approach WotC is taking.

If the GM is expected to adjust encounter difficulty based on magic items wielded by the PCs, then in effect items are part of the maths -but incorporated via the encounter building tools, so on the GM rather than the player side. I don't see anything wrong with that, but it seems worth noting it for what it is. In fact I prefer it to the approach suggested by billd91, for this reason: if GMs aren't expected to make encounters mechanically more challenging in response to PCs acquiring items then the practical consequence of acquiring items is that encounters become easier. And easier encounters are, on the whole, less interesting. So the reward for acquiring items becomes one of the game becoming less engaging - which is actually the Monty Haul problem that Gygax warns about in the quote from his DMG.

EDIT: Because D&Dnext seems to prioritise "the adventure" over "the encounter" then you could incorporate items on the GM side by changing the "adventure budget" rather than the "encounter budget" - ie the more items you have, the more you have to do between rests if you are going to succeed at an adventure, whatever exactly it is that success consists in. This is still taking items into account in the maths of the game.

It's hard to say without knowing the edition, but it doesn't sound like they're divorcing magic items from the all math in the game, but just not assuming magic items for the base math of advancement. So rather than assume all characters have +2 swords at level 10 and factoring that into DR and monster AC they're not assuming any magic items. So monster AC and defences only increase to account for class based bonuses and potentially bonuses from stat boosts/feats.

However, they are also acknowledging that magic items will effect the difficulty of given encounters and are planning on doing some balancing.How that balancing will occur is unknown.
They could recommend changing the XP budget of Encounters based on average/high/low magic. Or they could change experience awarded by monsters to reflect the decreased challenge. Or some combination of the two methods.
 

I'm still laughing at the idea of 4 permanent magic items per character being considered "low magic".
It is compared to no magic. And not every one of those magic items needs to be the standard +1 sword but includes miscellaneous wondrous items.

It seems like a nice "middle of the road" for low magic encompassing 5-2 items per character. While average magic might be 5-8 items per PC and high would be 8-12.
 

pemerton

Legend
it doesn't sound like they're divorcing magic items from the all math in the game, but just not assuming magic items for the base math of advancement.

<snip>

they are also acknowledging that magic items will effect the difficulty of given encounters and are planning on doing some balancing.How that balancing will occur is unknown.
They could recommend changing the XP budget of Encounters based on average/high/low magic. Or they could change experience awarded by monsters to reflect the decreased challenge. Or some combination of the two methods.
That all makes sense. And as I said in my earlier post, I don't object to it at all.

I just find it is somewhat at odds with the impression that at least some seem to be drawing, that having a +1 sword will actually make your PC "better" in some mechanical (as opposed to merely story) sense. After all, if having the sword makes encounters worth fewer XP than, in effect, the sword has been baked into your advancement numbers, just on the GM side rather than the player side. And if having the sword makes the encounter budget higher, then in effect you've traded off your +1 sword for a different character resource, such as the greater number of hit points you'll lose or encounter/daily abilities you'll use in dealing with that higher-XP encounter/adventure before resting.

Again, none of that is remotely objectionable. It just doesn't seem to me to be best described as "taking magic items out of the maths".

I can see one benefit to putting the maths on the GM side, though: that seems to better fit with the play preferences of those who want magic items to be a GM-side thing, which was a common criticism of 4e. Whereas if the differences to the maths to account for magic items all happen on the GM side then a GM can give items (and adjust his/her maths appropriately) or withhold items (and adjust his/her maths appropriately) - which would be different from 4e, where magic items were built into maths on the player side, and whre the GM wasn't given any clear guidelines on how to retake control from the players (eg there was no advice I ever saw on how to adjust encounters for under item-ed PCs, who therefore have attacks, defences and damages appropriate to a lower level but have hit points and powers/abilities appropriate to their actual level).
 


barasawa

Explorer
Quality vs Quantity

It's true that less experienced GMs and players will have little idea what makes a good balance, and some guidelines would help.
Along those lines, don't just say X number of magic items, because the quality and function of those items is important.
For example, let's say you've got a Fighter that has a +1 Shield, +1 dagger, +1 Halberd, +1 Longbow, +1 Short Sword, +1 Leather Armor, +1 Arrow, +1 Spear, +1 Club, and a Never Empty Water Flask.

And you've got another Fighter with +2 Chainmail of Immunity to Lightning, +4 Two-handed Sword, and St Donalds Picnic Basket of Holding.

The first one has armor he won't wear because normal chainmail is better, and a buggerload of weapons he won't use. Sure, he knows how to use them, but in combat, he's going to either be using the bow or one of the melee weapons, probably the ones with the better damages. The arrow is an oddball, as it's really a one use item, but some GMs let people re-use them and treat them as permanent magic items even though you only get to make one attack with it in a battle. As to the Flask, who cares? If you aren't in a desert situation it's barely a footnote. At least the shield is good, unless he's using any of the 2 handed weapons.

The second one has a much better loadout, even though he has only 3 items compared to the first ones 10 items. The armor doesn't have a high bonus, but it's special power of lightning immunity is often valuable to metal wearing fighters when facing certain foes. The weapon is pretty good. It's a large damage weapon with a good bonus. The picnic basket is pretty much a footnote as well, but it frees the GM and players from having to worry about keeping track of rations until the GM wants to starve someone, so counting it against an item limit (even a soft one) for the PC is a bit cruel, especially if you understand it's a convenience for the GM as much as for the players. (Really, do you like keeping track of rations? Even the GM has to if you enforce rations because otherwise the players will go for weeks on 3 days of rations just because they don't want to deal with boring micromanagement stuff.)

Ok, now which of those fighters is better equipped? Which one has a lot of useless magical junk.


As a sidenote, I have been in a very magic item poor campaign. By 8th/9th level, a party of 8 characters had 3 magic items. The Ranger had gotten a +1 Longbow, the Paladin finally got a hold of a +1 short sword (just +1), and rogue/mage had secretly acquired a magic dagger from an enemy mage he backstabbed in combat, and later found out it was +4, making it one of the most powerful magic items in the entire campaign. Let's just say when we encountered wraiths and other magic only foes, we ran like crazy because mages have a limited number of spells and die quickly when they get the opponents attention.
 

pemerton

Legend
Magic items should be a bonus, not a necessity.
Well, this goes back to the conversation I'm having with [MENTION=37579]Jester Canuck[/MENTION].

If the GM doesn't adjust difficulties on his/her side of things, then having a +1 weapon or armour just makes encounters easier, which (typically) makes them less interesting, which isn't really a bonus.

And if the GM does adjust difficulties (via upping the budget for encounters and/or adventures) then the magic item isn't really a bonus anymore (except in story terms), as the GM-side maths has been adjusted to accommodate it.
 

pemerton

Legend
Is there something wrong with the pricing of Efreeti Chain in the playtest? Efreeti chain is Rare, which is priced at 500 to 5000 gp. But it seems to be strictly better than plate - it gives the same AC, plus a bunch of other circumstantial buffs. It looks to me like it should be Very Rare (5000 gp to 10000 gp). Or are anti-magic fields ubiquitous enough that you can't really count on keeping that +2?
 


An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top