Legends and Lore - Magic and Mystery

452 posts / 0 new
Last post
Legends and Lore
Magic and Mystery

by Monte Cook

There's no good transition for me to be able to tell you that last week I wrote about perception so of course this week I'll be discussing . . . magic items.

Talk about this column here.

It's all well and good for rare items that do exotic things. But if the game assumes you have no magic items and you obtain a+6 sword you just went from, say, needing an 11 to hit most monsters to a 5. That's a huge difference. I think one of 4th's strengths is that it FINALLY gave magic items to the players, the main users of said magic items. Sure it took away a little mystery, but so what? Who honestly didn't sneak a peak in the older DMGs to see what the magic items did?

No I think a stronger route would be a good template for creating magic items and making them balanced and interesting, or at least interesting and not completely unbalancing. And a magic item that has no combat application (such as your cubic gate) doesn't even need to count to the parties treasure "ration" for that level, since it is pretty much a story item that helps move the campaign along, rather than a combat item that helps players overcome challenges.

Or maybe creating two classes of magic items. Combat items, which are expected and rationed to players at an expected and reliable rate (your +2 swords, or +3 armors). And a class of magic items that is useful for story or roleplay purposes, and perhaps useful once or twice in a rare combat situation. Things like a +1 longsword vs a bag of holding, or a +2 wand vs a flying carpet, or a vorpal axe vs goggles of clairvoyance. Just for examples.

The other road is to kill the sacred cow that is +n items. They're already kind of weird, do people refer to them as a +2 flaming sword in the game world? What does +3 really MEAN? And who, and how do people, tells the difference between such items? And replace them all with items that add effects and do exotic things. Such as a flaming weapon, or a githyanki silver weapon, or a vorpal weapon that don't add a numerical bonus but instead modify the players combat performance in some other way; i.e. adding a new damage type, trigger specific effects, have attack or utility powers, etc.

Actually, now that I think of it, I rather like that last idea. Just saying a flaming axe rolls off the tongue much better than saying a +1 flaming axe. Though the idea of item levels is still good. It lets the DM know what items are appropriate for players to have. No vorpal swords for level 6 characters.
Legends and Lore
Magic and Mystery

by Monte Cook

There's no good transition for me to be able to tell you that last week I wrote about perception so of course this week I'll be discussing . . . magic items.

Talk about this column here.


This confirms my fear that Monte Cook is not up to date on modern balanced design and is nostalgic for 1st Ed. Nothing wrong with that but you can already play that way if you choose. It just happens to be easier and funner (imo of course) to have a reasonably balanced game.

Throwing a mace+1 into a pit in the castle of Lum the Mad.  Yes he's channeling the spirits of 1st edition clearly... 
I actually liked this article. A lot.
I've been hoping that D&D would start weaning itself from the oh-so-rigid mentality of "At X level, you should have a +X weapon so you can keep up". Inherent bonuses helped this quite a bit. My thought is that if everyone has a +2 sword, there's not much "magical" about them. They're just another + on your character sheet. Magical items should be...you know...magical. Sticking a +1/+2/+3 in front of something doesn't exactly invoke a sense of wonder. My +1 Flaming Sword is now a +2 Flaming Sword. Whoop-tee-do. I like Monte's take on this, and hope to see more come of it.

Now, if we could just get rid of +X items altogether....
Yeah, +X needs to die. Hitting will always be great as long as missing exists.
I actually liked this article. A lot.
I've been hoping that D&D would start weaning itself from the oh-so-rigid mentality of "At X level, you should have a +X weapon so you can keep up". Inherent bonuses helped this quite a bit. My thought is that if everyone has a +2 sword, there's not much "magical" about them. They're just another + on your character sheet. Magical items should be...you know...magical. Sticking a +1/+2/+3 in front of something doesn't exactly invoke a sense of wonder. My +1 Flaming Sword is now a +2 Flaming Sword. Whoop-tee-do. I like Monte's take on this, and hope to see more come of it.

Now, if we could just get rid of +X items altogether....



That's relatively easy. Strip off the bonuses leave the effects and give inherent bonuses. Voila.

What's not easy is his unpredictable suggestions with regards to player power.

He's actually referencing kobold grinding as if this is an MMORPG!!!! 
I haven't read the article yet, but I would be happy to see, in the next edition, the same expectations of accuracy and defense, only better mathed out, so to speak, and with none of those expectations coming from or being affected by your magic items. Have magic items give you new things you can do, not make you better at things you already do.
Okay, I read it... wow.

If the numbers in the game matter for the game's balance, then the ways to adjust those numbers needs to be balanced. I don't really know how else to expand on that.

Also, magic items should be rewards? How are they not rewards? You know what else should be rewards? Experience points and levels. Should we decouple those from advancement?

Seriously, my mind is just blown. Your character's advancement should be faster and more impressive if you're tackling additional obstacles? Okay, I can get behind that. We already have a mechanism for that. The harder the stuff you're fighting, the faster you're leveling, and the faster that expected treasure is coming in.

I'm not opposed to idea of magic items being decoupled from advancement, but I am if they, themselves, provide advancement.
The notion of questing for a higher plus instead of a better enchantment of weapon just makes me cringe. It's unpleasant enough in Dragon Age and Diablo.

I really hope Monte gets around to reading the 4E books some time.
Fire Blog Control, Change, and Chaos: The Elemental Power Source Elemental Heroes Example Classes Xaosmith Exulter Chaos Bringer Director Elemental Heroes: Looking Back - Class and Story Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Xaosmith (January 16, 2012) Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Harbinger (May 16, 2012) Check out my Elemental Heroes blog series and help me develop four unique elemental classes.
The notion of questing for a higher plus instead of a better enchantment of weapon just makes me cringe. It's unpleasant enough in Dragon Age and Diablo.

I really hope Monte gets around to reading the 4E books some time.


I'm only okay with the ocassional side quest to retrieve a magic item of great power to some ends or purpose. Like to defeat the evil tyrant, or slay a marauding dragon. A PC saying "hey what do I have to do to get this artifact?" is not okay. Thats the line for me.

I'm only okay with the ocassional side quest to retrieve a magic item of great power to some ends or purpose. Like to defeat the evil tyrant, or slay a marauding dragon. A PC saying "hey what do I have to do to get this artifact?" is not okay. Thats the line for me.



Why? The answer would be a quest that takes up an entire tier.
Fire Blog Control, Change, and Chaos: The Elemental Power Source Elemental Heroes Example Classes Xaosmith Exulter Chaos Bringer Director Elemental Heroes: Looking Back - Class and Story Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Xaosmith (January 16, 2012) Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Harbinger (May 16, 2012) Check out my Elemental Heroes blog series and help me develop four unique elemental classes.
The way I see it:

Adventuring : Magic Items :: Profession : Money

It's not a reward. It's what's owed to me.

If you disagree for your own games, that's perfectly fine, but I like playing in campaigns where the party goes shopping for magical kicks the same way that I go shoe shopping with my friends in real life. As a DM, if I'm looking to make a magic item mysterious and dramatic, I turn to Artifacts. The game system should be able to accomodate this is a valid play preference and provide balanced rules for it, just as it should be able to accomodate the opposite. Provide better rules for low-magic settings if you like, but you don't have to take away my magic item malls to do that.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
for the second time in a row, i find myself disquieted by mr. cook's ideas regarding d&d (or at least 4e d&d).  and once again, i question his familiarity with 4e.  he speaks of "a 10th-level character is still fighting crippled kobolds and half-strength goblins", but a party of 4e 10th level adventurers will normally face 10th level encounters (plus or minus a level or three), which are essentially devoid of kobolds and goblins.  the encounters are level appropriate; therefor, the rewards are level appropriate.  4e does not have 10th level parties fighting kobolds in one encounter and primordials in the next encounter.

mr. cook writes "What if the game assumed no magic items?"  this would immediately lead to game imbalance, which would undermine a strength of 4e.

mr. cook writes "And you wouldn't have to agonize how to price it fairly as a game balancing mechanism. You would just assign a price logically."  i say, "egads!"  the idea of shifting this aspect of game balance from the designers to each individual dm's gut reaction is chilling.

mr. cook writes "Magic items also provide an interesting way for the DM to have a role in customizing characters."  i say, "no thanks!"  i'd like to customize my own character, thank you very much.  a dm's sand box is pretty darn big.  let him keep his toy shovel out of my teenie weenie character sand thimble.  wait, i have a better idea, why doesn't the dm just go ahead and play the characters as well, and drop all pretenses.

once again, i get the impression that mr. cook views the d&d of yore through rather rose-tinted lenses, and seeks to disrupt the elegance that is 4e.  1e was wonderful.  it is the reason why i love d&d to this very day.  but it also raised more questions than it answered. and, sadly, that seems to be the direction mr. cook seeks to take the game.

balance; a unified d20 mechanic; character (versus player) driven outcomes.  these are only some of the things that have been accomplished over the course of four editions.  i don't wish to see those enlightenments of d&d game design cast back into the darkness.

I'm only okay with the ocassional side quest to retrieve a magic item of great power to some ends or purpose. Like to defeat the evil tyrant, or slay a marauding dragon. A PC saying "hey what do I have to do to get this artifact?" is not okay. Thats the line for me.



Why? The answer would be a quest that takes up an entire tier.


Because I have a story I'm trying to tell. I don't need to take a year long side-treck just so someone can get an artifact they really want. A rare item? Sure I'll do that. But as far as I'm concerned Artifacts find you, more than you find them.
Getting rid of "+X Enhancement" items would be the single biggest improvement to the system at this point. In that regard I can fully agree with the sentiment that they shouldn't be part of a treadmill. OTOH, just getting rid of +X won't be enough - they really have to stop being plugins for PC abilities, otherwise "This widget makes your class feature better," stuff will just become the new +X. In fact, doing away with "item slots" entirely is probably another necessary step, because as long as they exist, so does the implication that they must be filled.

I have mixed feelings about what is otherwise being proposed in the article. In particular, while having items as rewards some of the time is okay, it's annoying when that's the only way for PCs to gain access to them, and the notion that PCs must embark on epic quests to find/create specific items that they want really needs to die - it works in a novel, but it turns an RPG into an item-grind game, and there are better venues for that sort of thing.

Likewise, the comment about the DM being able to customize characters based on what the DM thinks is interesting rubs me the wrong way. The PC is the one thing that the player defines and controls, and that shouldn't be tampered with. Sure, you can propose something collaboratively... but that doesn't work if you're trying to fence items off as DM-only territory as is being proposed in this article.

Why? The answer would be a quest that takes up an entire tier.


Because I have a story I'm trying to tell. I don't need to take a year long side-treck just so someone can get an artifact they really want. A rare item? Sure I'll do that. But as far as I'm concerned Artifacts find you, more than you find them.



My way of handling this would be something like "As with the knights and the Grail, you may seek it if you must, but chances are, even if you were to find it, you would return to rest it at the feet of the ruin of all you ever loved. But if you would turn your back on all the world to seek this dream, well, perhaps it is time to say your goodbyes."

If that character wants to pursue that still, have them roll up a new character. If the ENTIRE PARTY wants that... I'd seriously reconsider my plans. And also start thinking up what kind of horrors their wanderlust would let run wild.
Fire Blog Control, Change, and Chaos: The Elemental Power Source Elemental Heroes Example Classes Xaosmith Exulter Chaos Bringer Director Elemental Heroes: Looking Back - Class and Story Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Xaosmith (January 16, 2012) Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Harbinger (May 16, 2012) Check out my Elemental Heroes blog series and help me develop four unique elemental classes.
This article relates a bit to what we recently did in our game. We hit paragon and decided we needed to simplify a bit

1) we got rid of everyone's magic items
2) everyone got inherent bonuses (+2 for us)
3) we use masterwork armors
4) everyone was allowed one boon-grade magic "item" per tier
   a) item was received at the beginning of the tier
   b) items are lvl 8, 18, and 28, roughly. They must be DM and player approved
   c) very few numerical bonuses were allowed, and certainly none to hit and damage
   d) they were designed to be much more character defining than traditional items

So far, it's working very well. Everyone's items are pretty well defined, and pretty cool. Yes, we could flavor it up with regular items, but we were looking to simplify a lot. This seemed to help (along with other things).

The article says "balanced without magic items" straight up, and then the DM can add what he likes. This, to me at least, sounds suspiciously similar to "lets get rid of +X items". There would be no need for +5 swords....+5 swords would be so grossly powerful as to be far far past artifact grade. Currently, a +5 sword is kinda... well... necessary. It's just what high end adventurers use.

Imagine a 4e where the bonuses scale correctly, and add it that you can get from 1-30 without a magic anything just fine. That you have a couple of magic items that aren't really "help me hit better", but are more "do cool thing X once in a while". That's what we're experimenting with, and it sounds remarkably similar to where Monte is going with this.

Also, really...he's exploring other options... don't think for a moment that he's not read 4e and not played it. He's supposed to explore options.
People talk about the 'mystery' of magic and I don't get it. I've been reading myth, folklore and fantasy since I was a very small boy and I don't really recall much mysterious about magic (the magician might be mysterious but that's different). Let me take two of my favorite myths just to show my point.

Perseus: Hero decides he's going to kill Medusa the Gorgon to protect his mom from some guy who wants her. His father, Zeus, normally one of the lamest fathers in mythology looks over to his daughter Athena and says, "hey baby girl, go take your half-brother Pop's unstoppable sickle, my shield and your uncle Hades' helm of invisibility and give him some of your always excellent advice so he can pull this thing off".

Aladdin: The genies of the ring and the lamp pretty much come with an instruction manual that they self deliver.

I could go on and on, Exacalibur, the Lance in the tales of Roland (along with Durendal and Oliver's sword), the magic flying wooden horse in the 1001 nights, etc, etc.

Who needs mystery, the magic item is just another (frequently better) tool to do what needs doing, I feel the 4th ed puts it in exactly the right place (although I am fond of inherent bonuses with boons, training, gifts).
I think the first thing is to scale back +x... no more +1-+6, but +1 or +2 with the bane like add on effects.


A weak magic sword:
It adds 1d4 fire and can once per day shoot a ray of fire
or
It makes you crit on a 19 or 20 


An avrage magic sword:
+1 to hit and damage, +1d6 fire, and a cool fire encounter and daily power
or
+1 to hit and damage, +3 vs elemental  


A Rare and powerful magic sword: 
+2 to hit and damage +1d6 fire, and a few cool encounter or daily fire powers

or

+2 to hit +5 vs magic users, and add +1 to all defenses and saves vs arcane spells.





edit: I rember back in 2e we use to give out +2 or 3 swords and rings of protection by level 3 or 4, but even in high level campaigns (17+) I remeber few if any above +3.


Infact I just pulled a 14th level fighter out from an old book, and he has a +1 Glaive, +2 vs giants.      

Before posting, ask yourself WWWS: What Would Wrecan Say?

People talk about the 'mystery' of magic and I don't get it. I've been reading myth, folklore and fantasy since I was a very small boy and I don't really recall much mysterious about magic (the magician might be mysterious but that's different). Let me take two of my favorite myths just to show my point.

Perseus: Hero decides he's going to kill Medusa the Gorgon to protect his mom from some guy who wants her. His father, Zeus, normally one of the lamest fathers in mythology looks over to his daughter Athena and says, "hey baby girl, go take your half-brother Pop's unstoppable sickle, my shield and your uncle Hades' helm of invisibility and give him some of your always excellent advice so he can pull this thing off".

Aladdin: The genies of the ring and the lamp pretty much come with an instruction manual that they self deliver.

I could go on and on, Exacalibur, the Lance in the tales of Roland (along with Durendal and Oliver's sword), the magic flying wooden horse in the 1001 nights, etc, etc.

Who needs mystery, the magic item is just another (frequently better) tool to do what needs doing, I feel the 4th ed puts it in exactly the right place (although I am fond of inherent bonuses with boons, training, gifts).


While I can think of examples of mysterious magic items, I think I agree with the gist here. If you have magic, and you don't know what it does, it's a macguffin. If you do know what it does, it's a tool. Regardless of how things work in the stories, in a game, players need tools. the story might still have room for macguffins, obviously.

Even assuming a story with mysterious magic, it doesn't matter whether the character knows or not. It will come into play when the author brings it into play, which wil, with a good author, be the best time in the story for it to come into play. Games just don't work like that.
Plusses are just far too powerful. They're best removed entirely. If a magic item's abilities are powerful enough to compete with a higher-plus item, it's likely too powerful.
Fire Blog Control, Change, and Chaos: The Elemental Power Source Elemental Heroes Example Classes Xaosmith Exulter Chaos Bringer Director Elemental Heroes: Looking Back - Class and Story Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Xaosmith (January 16, 2012) Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Harbinger (May 16, 2012) Check out my Elemental Heroes blog series and help me develop four unique elemental classes.
"Magic in the game just doesn't seem, well, magical."

Of course it does.  It's magic because the game says is magic (and the first rule of Tautology Club is the first rule of Tautology Club).  We tend to ascribe 'mystery' to magic because it doesn't exist in the real world, and thus we romanticize it.  If it actually existed, particularly as a learnable, teachable force that behaves in predictable ways (as magic does in D&D), we wouldn't be ooohing and aaaahing over it.  It would be like any of us being amazed by electricity.

At one point, of course, electricity was mysterious, because we were ignorant of it.  That's when we studied it.  We analyzed it, did experiments, and figured out what it is and how it worked.  If magic existed, we would do everything in our power to study it, analyze it, and remove any and all 'mystery' from it.

And since magic does exist in the D&D world, it is only logical that they have done so.


And to use the horrid cliche' ... Hey, Monte? 1974 called, they want their game design paradigms back.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
The past two "Legends and Lore" columns by Monte Cook seem to really be hearkening back to the older editions of D&D.  If I wanted to play those editions, I'd play those editions and not 4th ed.  I really enjoy the way 4th edition makes magic items an expected part of character advancement because as adventurers go out into the world and quest, they're most likely going to find lots of cool magic items.  I also enjoy the way 4th edition (and even 3.5) allows more player control of a character's magic items; sure the DM still has the ultimate say on whether a magic item can be found or even exists in his game world, but having a player "go shopping" for magic items is a cool part of character advancement.  I see no problem with having lots of magic items, as long as the game is balanced around parties of X level having X magic items each. 

If the "passive perception" system Cook proposed last week and the new magic item system he's looking at this week are indicative of the direction D&D 5th edition is going to go, I'll happily stick to playing 4th edition.

Bill Newsome


D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

"In a hole in the ground there lived....my clan of halfling thieves!"

I do have to say that I fall in the camp of hating the requirement of +x magic items as part of necessary character advancement.  I have been messing around lately with using inherent bonuses to make math work, and then magic items are there for their properties and special powers. I really like it.  The items still matter, and they are still very cool, but no longer is it necessary that an appropriate weapon, neck, and armor for every characters drop every 5 levels. 

I play with a group where many of us frequently miss sessions.  When we are so reliant on loot, it makes it incredibly problematic.  With the solution above, we might miss a few bells & whistles, but we are still perfectly functional.

I am personally very opposed to the concept of side quests for gear.  Side quest for a story related item, sure, but just for another upgrade? Never.  I want to play through stories, not gear grinds.

Just my two cents.

It seems like there are a few categories of magical items... these are the ones I understand and what I think would be a good way to deal with them... and I hope that's what Monte is trying to explain as well, even though he's not doing it very well right now.

MacGuffins: The mysterious story item that is the only known way to deal with The Great Evil. These don't even need rules and any they have are optional. They're mysterious, very powerful, and basically only accomplish one goal really. Can be kept, but at most they deserve a few pages of "how to design a MacGuffin" and a few examples. Fully in the realm of the DM.

Artefacts: Powerful tools with their own will. Will bump player (or party) power by quite a bit, but generally come with a host of problems of their own. Generally temporary, because eventually the item will abandon the party. Will need a bunch of examples since they need to be good, but not broken. Given by the DM, used by the party.

Class defining items: The items that define a character. You're not a knight in shining armor if you don't have shining armor. You're not a swordmage without a sword. These items should not be items, they should be class features. Their power should depend on the character, and they should be available at all times. Need to be taken up in the class balancing and basically only work (properly) for a class member. Fully in the realm of the player.

Nifty items:  Mostly the Wondrous items and minor boosts. Things that provide a situational bonus, or a cool new trick, or just allow you to solve problems creatively. There's many of these in 4e and they're often overlooked for items that just give a bonus to a stat of some kind. They make adventuring cool and you can give players loads of them without really breaking anything. This should be the primary "reward" item. You did something cool, you completed a quest, you get something nifty. Given by the DM, used by the players. You can fill books with these.

Enhancement items: These give you a flat bonus to stats. They are either a requirement (because you can't hit anything without them) or a huge bonus (because they let you hit far easier then your partymates) Generally considered a neccesity and the first pick for any character. Players get grumpy when they don't get any. These items should just be removed. As stated, they're not much of a reward if they're expected, they take up too much importance for the character and 90% of the time they're boring and not adding to the fun of the story. Out. Out. Out!
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.

Magic items have been a part of the game since the beginning. Initially, they were one of the biggest ways to differentiate your character from the others. Two 6th-level fighters in OD&D were pretty similar, but if one had a flame tongue sword and the other wore a helm of brilliance, they felt very different in play.

While the premise was absolutely true:  about the only way to differentiate OD&D and AD&D characters was the magic items they had, there were just so few choices in character creation and leveling up.  That's an odd choice of example, though, since both those fighters are going to be pretty good vs undead and enemies vulnerable to fire, and not have a lot of worries about having to carry torches...  :shrug:

Anyway, the basic idea this week, like last, is a bad one.  This time, though, instead of merely ill-concieved and unnecessary, it's actually potentially disasterous.  Start arbitrarily giving one PC a +6 item at early Heroic, and leave another one using a normal weapon/implement until Epic, and you will upset a really reather delicate balance.  Return to the more amorphous balance of 3e, where how high your AB got was more about how much power attack you could get in than about whether you could hit the enemy at all, and you won't have /that/ problem - you'll have worse ones, of which 3e and earlier already provide ample evidence.

...

That said, it could easily be made to work.  Not by someone intent on wrecking game balance, of course, but, just to speculate about how it might be done by someone with a different agenda than the current set of devs:

Currently, 4e bakes enhancement bonuses into character progression in a number of basics:  attack bonuses, damage, & defenses.  It already has an option to make enhancements less obligatory: inherent bonuses.  If you didn't want to completely scrap the current, balanced, progression, you could use inherent bonuses by default, or even link them to magic items.

For instance, a character proficient in a weapon or implement might get his full inherent bonus with any such item.  If the item is magical, it has some additional nifty effect (it's property/power).  If it's 'powerful' (of a tier higher than his own, say), it gives him an additional +1.   That would be workable, allowing characters to gain greater rewards for outstanding accomplishments, without wrecking game balance (as ill-considered items so often did OD&D and AD&D).

Another option would be to take items out of the basic bonus-advancement scheme entirely.  We already have a model for this 'D&D' Gamma World.  In that latest incarnation of the Gamma World game, characters don't walk a complicated treadmill of stat bonuses, enhancement bonuses, and experties feat patches, rather, they just get a +1 to everything, every level.  Neat and balanced.  'Magic Items' (Omega Tech) don't figure into that advancement at all - but, they do provide quite startling powers.  They also don't stick around very long, after each use, they have about a 50/50 shot of giving up the ghost - and, while a player gets some imput into what he might find, they're quite random, as well.   Adapting that to D&D - without going the extreme CCG route GW did - wouldn't be hard.  Magic weapons/armor/amulets, like other magic items, wouldn't have enhancement bonuses, instead, they might give item bonuses (but probably wouldn't give them to attack/damage/defenses, except, perhaps, situationally - like the old '+1/+4 vs flying monkeys' type items) or have cool propperties or impressive item dailies or whatever.  Since they'd no longer be part of a tightly balanced advancement mechanism - and, since they'd no longer impact that mechanism - they'd be workable.

However, even if items were decoupled from advancement, they'd still have to be kept minor (like 4e items) or temporary (like Artifacts in 4e, or Omega Tech in GW) relative to class abilities and player choices, so that players can continue to define their own characters, rather than having their characters re-definied by items the DM arbitrarily hands out.  If character-defining items are going to be included, some mechanism or guideline to give the player substantial imput into what defining items his character might end up with would be needed.

 

 

Oops, looks like this request tried to create an infinite loop. We do not allow such things here. We are a professional website!

I don't think Monte uses the dictionary term of "mysterious" when talking about the mystery of magic items. He does not want the players being unaware of the power of the item, but being surprised about getting it. Perseus was well aware what his gifts did, but he certainly was pleasently surprised of getting it (and the reader of the story even more since they are well aware of how crappy of a dad Zeus normally is). I have to agree with Monte that treasure bundles, the +X items and so on have turned magic items in class abilities - something predictable and in full control of the players that remove any surprise and wonder from gaining magic items. If there is one thing I would love to change to 4E it is removing the +X, and making magic items more of a shared resource between DM and players. The inherent bonus is a good step in the right direction, but it still has its downsides ;)

As for items defining characters,  it is funny to (a) see that his examples have little to do with character development but everything with campaign development and (b) getting a magic item never forces a player to use it or change his character based on it, at most it is a suggestion. Than again, I find the whole concept that there is a strict bounderary between what players and DM control really superficial and weird. Just as a DM should not fully control a story, nor should a player their character. Sure, both have a veto in their respective territory and nobody should force anything upon the other, but in the end a D&D campaign is a shared experience.
I believe that magic items and feats should be a bonus and not a necessity. There really is no point in having a magical item if you have to have +x item to hit Def X monster. 

I thought 4th edition was supposed to get away from the dependency on magic items but now we see it's the most dependent edition yet. I know about the inherent option but that should have been part of the norm to start with.
I defintely think inherint bonuses is the way to go, and maybe limit the amount of bonuses a magic items can give in regards to hitting (max +3), but be more generous in what type of damage it enhances or properties it gives in regards to the materials or enchantments used to create it. You could even treat magic like technology to some degree, where you have to be a certain class or skill level before you could even use it. That would also help prevent the endless need of replacing equipment, and give the magic items a lifetime of use depending on how powerful it is. The main thing I dislike about current 4E magic items, is the restriction on how many magical properties an item may have, and too many are single use daily or encounter based, versus being "always on" or having the capabilties to have multiple uses and being able to re-charge it. I think balance is important, but they can without much effort, expand the capabilities of magic items while still keeping balance as an overall goal.
I am going to watch you try to convince the throwback DMs you know the ones that Monte is here to appeal to... that they are not 100 percent game world masters mind if I buy popcorn? Oh my fricken god the players have a wish list... that so impinges on my throwing random crap at them... snicker.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I am going to watch you try to convince the throwback DMs you know the ones that Monte is here to appeal to... that they are not 100 percent game world masters mind if I buy popcorn? Oh my fricken god the players have a wish list... that so impinges on my throwing random crap at them... snicker.



The problem is people build their characters from level 1-30 before they even get started and the magic items that are going to give that character the maximum advantage are going to be on that sheet- So the player is going to expect those items during the course of the game because their character is already planned out.

In my opinion PC builds around magic items needs to be removed from the game. 
I am going to watch you try to convince the throwback DMs you know the ones that Monte is here to appeal to... that they are not 100 percent game world masters mind if I buy popcorn? Oh my fricken god the players have a wish list... that so impinges on my throwing random crap at them... snicker.



The problem is people build their characters from level 1-30 before they even get started  


If you are a King Arthur... there needs to be an Excaliber, who shines forth as the symbol of your kingship... if you are a Lancelot it would be appropriate to be blessed with the divine boon Strength of Ten... if that is the DMs job to decide which characcter is which? Can he decide your wizards spell list and which feats you get too?

I do not hear anyone claiming the players get to name the principle export of the land through which they travel or what its  major political players are.. 
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I can see both sides to the magic item issue. I have a player that wants to go shopping and give me lists and that drives me nuts. But I can see his side, in that he has a certain character view he's trying to create. Mostly that view tends towards getting better in combat and I'm not convinced it is driven by character concept however.

Magic items used to be the one place where DMs and players met and the game became interactive. Basically, the DM controls most of the world and the monsters and the players the characters. The magic items used to be a part of the world that the PCs hunted for and found and then worked with the DM to transfer over to the player side of the game. That's where the mystery came in--what items would the PCs find and what did they do? Mysteries are driving forces behind stories (which is why soap operas last forever and CSI has ten versions) and magic items used to be a simple mechanism in the game to provide that mystery.

Magic items don't belong to either the DM or the player but both. That give and take between DM and players can make for more interesting stories. The characters aren't just surprised by what monster is around the next corner but also by what treasure it keeps locked in its chest.

I prefer the game with magic items being a balance between player and DM rather than a player resource.
 The characters aren't just surprised by what monster is around the next corner but also by what treasure it keeps locked in its chest. 



Characters may be suprised by what feat they acquire too... or the new sorcerous power they unlock within themselves.... Players arent.

One compromise to create explicit feats like Fated Wielder (Stormbringer) ... rather a way to allow the player to tie the particular item to their character in a way. 
One effect is existance of these allows that any item that isnt bound to the wielder in this fashion is more fair game to be lost/stolen/distroyed or carried away by plot.

The more character defining things are the more the player needs a say in their nature  When they are just generic tools... shrug.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

i hate it of course. you had to have magic items to hit high level monsters in adnd, i guess were forgetting that in the kumbahyah rush. i wont be giving a +4 sword to a low level pc no matter what they do
It's not that I hate the idea, it's that I think it should remain as one of the optional play styles using inherent bonuses and rarity system. So far none of the L&L articles has come across as anything other than stuff that could fill a new Unearthed Arcana book filled with optional ways to play.

But I know that's now how it works.
Welcome to ZomboniLand - My D&D Blog http://zomboniland.blogspot.com/
Honestly?  I'd prefer to play an inherent bonus campaign for precisely this sort of reason.  When magic items are an assumed part of the character progression, why not just write them into the character progression, and make the enchantments (as opposed to the enhancements) special again?  It's a part of the 4e design I just don't really get - the epic demigod who can't beat people with his fists, because if he tries he suddenly becomes nearly half as likely to actually hit.

I don't think you ought to be giving out unexpectedly high or low level treasures, though.  If the players are fighting and winning against well-above-level enemies, they ought to be levelling quickly anyway, so they'#ll pick it up out of the normal treasure progression quickly enough.

But I'll say it again: L&L has never appealed to me much, because it looks back, rather than looking forward.  Now, we need to learn the lessons of the past to avoid repeating them, but this seems to be pointing to the opposite - learning the lessons of the past with a rose-tinted view to trying it all again.  I don't much want to play a game designed by the guy writing this.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
I am going to watch you try to convince the throwback DMs you know the ones that Monte is here to appeal to... that they are not 100 percent game world masters mind if I buy popcorn? Oh my fricken god the players have a wish list... that so impinges on my throwing random crap at them... snicker.



The problem is people build their characters from level 1-30 before they even get started  


If you are a King Arthur... there needs to be an Excaliber, who shines forth as the symbol of your kingship... if you are a Lancelot it would be appropriate to be blessed with the divine boon Strength of Ten... if that is the DMs job to decide which characcter is which? Can he decide your wizards spell list and which feats you get too?

I do not hear anyone claiming the players get to name the principle export of the land through which they travel or what its  major political players are.. 



But you aren't King Arthur and not every character in fantasy depends on an item to make them special.

Magic items should be something that provides something extra for your character. I'm going to give you a little bit of advice that you and some others have tried to give others around here.  If you want a King Arthur or an Elric type character who depends on a special item then how about you role play that into your character.

You can build your character around an item with a backstory without having to build it with mechanics.

You can build magic items
If you are a King Arthur... there needs to be an Excaliber, who shines forth as the symbol of your kingship... if you are a Lancelot it would be appropriate to be blessed with the divine boon Strength of Ten... if that is the DMs job to decide which characcter is which? Can he decide your wizards spell list and which feats you get too?

I do not hear anyone claiming the players get to name the principle export of the land through which they travel or what its  major political players are.. 

It is exactly what I have been saying before, including on this thread. Players have a say in the world, including defining the principle export of a country they are travelling through and even more so if it impacts their character. As a DM I have a right to veto, but I applaude any player who takes a  more active approach in world design. At the same time I have no objections if a DM makes suggestions for my characters, especially with something as minor as magic items, as long as I have the right to veto it (and even than I am more than willing to look for some middleground). It is a shared storytelling game after all. I have never understood the hard distinction between the two roles.

As for your examples, they are really weak when used in relation to RPGs in generic and 4e in specific. First of all, there is no Excaliber in 4e. Five levels after you found it, you need to replace it with the next plus. Secondly, if you want a weapon that is both an old heritance, and  symbol of your kingship - in other words an item whose impact goes way beyond your own character - than you better expect me as a DM to have a say in the matter since it will impact what you apparently consider the DMs territory (the countries main export so to speak). As an example it illustrates the opposite of what you seem to be arguing ;)
You can build your character around an item with a backstory without having to build it with mechanics.



Isn't that exactly what "Defining items should be class features instead" means? 
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
I think (hope) Monte's point of this whole thing is to make magic items more than just another + on your character sheet. As it stands now, unless you're using inherent bonuses, magic items are a requirement to be able to keep up with the game's assumed math. That in and of itself I don't mind so much. The part I don't really like is that it isn't the properties of the items you're getting that let you keep up...it's simply the + in front of the item. To me, this is bad design, plain and simple. If I know that at every X level I have to get a +X item just to keep up with the math of the game, then it ceases to be magical. At all. I have a +1 Flame Sword. Next level, I'll still have a Flame Sword, but it'll be a +2. All of the other properties will be the same. That's not a magic item...that's a means to an end to be able to keep up with the game's math.

I know people love to look back at AD&D and drop the "LOL..stupid rules were stupid" bit, but think about it. I could get a +1 item at level 1. When I retired my PC at level 18, I could still have that same +1 item. My character got more powerful, not my required toys. Yes, there were monsters who required a +1 or +2 to hit, but those were the minority. If anyone ever got a +3 item, that would pretty much cover any monster they were apt to come across. It's like 3E and 4E became so obsessed with magic items, that they got away from the mindset that it's the characters who should be getting increasingly more powerful, not their toys. Inherent bonuses have helped alot, though.

Maybe...just maybe...Monte sees it the same way. He'd prefer the characters to get progressively more powerful regardless of the items they own. It looks like he wants to end the "you are defined by your items" mentality, and return magic items to where they should be (and should have always been), that being items that further plotlines, provide unique experiences, and help tell a story of fantasy and wonder....not just give players a reason to erase the +1 and make it a +2 when the math of the game makes them do so.