Magic Item Flipside

I have made a few threads on different topics in this vein, and its all about finding out if there are many people out there who share my views on things, as it seems people who agree with me tend to be a quieter sort but come out of the woodwork when prompted.

Today, magic items. Looking through the list, my first reaction is I love how they have split up even basic magic items to give them more depth, utility and more importantly a magical feel, you can know where it comes from, who made it and what look it gets all with plenty of leway for fudging the fluff. As for balance, what you get can go wildly between useful and useless but ... well that is going to be the crux of my question.

A lot of people are complaining about the imbalance between items, and the main items that seem to be attracting attention are giant / ogre strength related. Saying those static numbers should not be given in any circumstance.

First of all, if your like me and roll for magic items effects, why should the results be of equal power? Its not imbalance its just the effect of luck, much like 1 on a d20 is not imbalanced compared to a 10, its just the luck of the roll, you dont try to balance that.

My main issue is, why should there be balance between magical items, and why should the more powerful ones (such as gauntlets / belt of giant strength) be reined in. The DM is the one who is given the options of what to give out and players cant just expect items, rather than time spent on balance, I would rather a more detailed piece of information go out to guide new DMs into what is appropriate and what are the effects of giving out certain items. As they stand, they are big, special game changers, and they do feel good as magical items, I don't want to lose that.

This is not like class imbalance, this is imbalance that can benefit everyone situationally.

So... anyone on my side of the fence at all? 

I realise I'm sooo not the target of this thread as someone with a big mouth, but I agree with you.


The basic assumption behind balancing magic items is its impact on combat. If combat is designed to not really care what magic you have then it's not very important how balanced the magic is.

You don't try to balance individual die rolls because there are a lot of them and over time the average will balance. Magic items don't work that way, a character who gets an overly powerful item or an overly weak one can alter the party balance for much of a campaign.

In the last 3e campaign I played in the DM rolled randomly for which magic items the party found in treasure (expect for a few planted plot related items). My archer ranger was unlucky and never once found a magic ranged weapon in a campaign that ran several years. If the characters didn't have the option of buying magic items in this game, my character would have been rendered totally useless by the random distribution of magic items. This would be as bad as a system where characters are designed for specific magic items.

As long as the game does not assume that players have certain items (ouside of storyline that is) they don't have to be balanced at all.

Since game math is supposed to not require these items for level scaling, balancing just dont become an issue.
Instead it becomes a special point of a campaign or a character to have such an item.
Since game math is supposed to not require these items for level scaling, balancing just dont become an issue.

D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
You don't try to balance individual die rolls because there are a lot of them and over time the average will balance. Magic items don't work that way, a character who gets an overly powerful item or an overly weak one can alter the party balance for much of a campaign.

In the last 3e campaign I played in the DM rolled randomly for which magic items the party found in treasure (expect for a few planted plot related items). My archer ranger was unlucky and never once found a magic ranged weapon in a campaign that ran several years. If the characters didn't have the option of buying magic items in this game, my character would have been rendered totally useless by the random distribution of magic items. This would be as bad as a system where characters are designed for specific magic items.




I think you took a wrong turn, thats not even close to the point I was making. As much as I roll for magic items, I often fudge results on everything, I dont let players miss out too much, likewise I dont let one player be showered in riches constantly. I know a powerful magical item can shift the course of a campaign... but its a powerful magic item surely thats what its meant to do. I just think DMs should know this before they give them out and plan accorgingly.
You don't try to balance individual die rolls because there are a lot of them and over time the average will balance. Magic items don't work that way, a character who gets an overly powerful item or an overly weak one can alter the party balance for much of a campaign.

In the last 3e campaign I played in the DM rolled randomly for which magic items the party found in treasure (expect for a few planted plot related items). My archer ranger was unlucky and never once found a magic ranged weapon in a campaign that ran several years. If the characters didn't have the option of buying magic items in this game, my character would have been rendered totally useless by the random distribution of magic items. This would be as bad as a system where characters are designed for specific magic items.




I think you took a wrong turn, thats not even close to the point I was making. As much as I roll for magic items, I often fudge results on everything, I dont let players miss out too much, likewise I dont let one player be showered in riches constantly. I know a powerful magical item can shift the course of a campaign... but its a powerful magic item surely thats what its meant to do. I just think DMs should know this before they give them out and plan accorgingly.



You examples show how it is important for a DM to know how a magic item will affect their campaign. I think this is where some people have issues. You know how powerful something is from experience, but a new DM should be able to quickly know how powerful and items is, so they know whether or not to put it in the game or not. If you have a wide range of power in a group or subgroup (rare, very rare, etc.) of magic items then a DM with less experience might unknowingly introduce an item that can break their game.

I think that each magic item should be relatively balanced with other items of its rarity and then the section on rarity should have a chart describing how game breaking each rarity is.

On this same note I consider value to be a sign of an items relative power, and I use this to balance what items I give the party and who gets them. I should be the developers job, not the DMs, to assign a value that accurately represents the power of an item.
You examples show how it is important for a DM to know how a magic item will affect their campaign. I think this is where some people have issues.


Absolutely true, which is why it's important that the DMG include guidance to explain how a magic item will affect their campaign.

It's their fault if they don't read it, but it's our fault if we don't write it.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I'm kind of 50-50 on rolling or choosing magic items. I do place specific items when it's plot-dependent, or when the rolls just haven't turned up something for one character in a long time. I don't want my PCs to feel neglected.

I will also re-roll if I think something that came up randomly just won't work, or if the party already has fourteen Oil of Slipperiness and that's what came up on the dice. The DMG should definitely include guidelines on magic items.

In memory of wrecan and his Unearthed Wrecana.

I'm kind of 50-50 on rolling or choosing magic items. I do place specific items when it's plot-dependent, or when the rolls just haven't turned up something for one character in a long time. I don't want my PCs to feel neglected.

I will also re-roll if I think something that came up randomly just won't work, or if the party already has fourteen Oil of Slipperiness and that's what came up on the dice. The DMG should definitely include guidelines on magic items.



I think this is pretty standard. Rolling is fun, but useless items aren't fun/interesting and no one wants one player to be left out.
I'm a random loot type of guy. 

I don't much care what the characters in the adventure I'm writing are as long as they are of the appropriate level range. Most of the time I give the players the choice of which character they play when we start. I usually set up my games so that after a while all of the players have characters of different levels and classes they can use. sometimes they, as a group, will form an adventuring company and use those characters when ever I have conttent for them to play, other times some one will have a lower level character they really want to play and will use that PC rather than one more on par with the group's level.

This usually means that when I write the adventure or modify one I bought I don't know who will be playing what. I just design at a certain level and roll up treasures.

The point is I never put specific items in a dungeon for specific characters. Too bad WotC D&D fouled this up by requiring items as prt of the math. I'm glad that one of the things I really hate about 3e and pathfinder is being dispensed with in Next. 
I think you took a wrong turn, thats not even close to the point I was making. As much as I roll for magic items, I often fudge results on everything, I dont let players miss out too much, likewise I dont let one player be showered in riches constantly. I know a powerful magical item can shift the course of a campaign... but its a powerful magic item surely thats what its meant to do. I just think DMs should know this before they give them out and plan accorgingly.

You are right, that is really an entirely different issue then what I thought you where talking about.

There are really two issues here that the rules need to cover, but if they do there is nothing wrong with having powerful magic items. First, the powerful items need to be clearly marked. Right now the rules try to pack item rarity and power level into one code and this confuses the issue, they need to be seperated. Second, the rules need to have some advice for DMs on how powerful items will chance the balance. This is particularly true of items like Gloves of Ogre Strength, which an inexperienced DM can easily drop into a campaign as a small boost for the Fighter only to see them become an huge boost for the cleric or rogue.

As a side note, the game needs a better and more comprehensive set of minor items. The test rules are way overloaded with items for high level characters and rather short of items suitable for 1-5th level characters. This is probably just a side effect of the rules sample being mostly conversions of classic items, so I expect it will go away, but it needs to be addressed at some point.


My gut reaction is I really like the magic items.  WOTC though does seem to choose one extreme and then allow themselves to get beaten back by the other side.   So I am fearful that what they've advertised this first roudn won't make it into the game.
My gut reaction is I really like the magic items.  WOTC though does seem to choose one extreme and then allow themselves to get beaten back by the other side.   So I am fearful that what they've advertised this first roudn won't make it into the game.



That is my fear as well. I think they have done some fantastic work here with magic items, and I'd hate to see them back down from putting them into the final game. They have some work to do in order to get the values, rarity, random tables, etc. into a more accurate and reasonable form, but the items themselves are great.
You examples show how it is important for a DM to know how a magic item will affect their campaign. I think this is where some people have issues.


Absolutely true, which is why it's important that the DMG include guidance to explain how a magic item will affect their campaign.

It's their fault if they don't read it, but it's our fault if we don't write it.



Technically, it's WoTC's fault if they don't write it.  I take no blame for their decisions ;)
"we" used rather generally.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
"we" used rather generally.



I got it.  My post was humor. Ar! Ar! Ar! (Mork laugh)
I am okay will rolling.

The more important this are:

Characters have enough class features what a single item doesn't replace them.
The DM understands the implications of placing a very rare and powerful item.
The designers do the rarities right

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I could go with random rolling of magic items... if it's structured to the party.

At some point, through some process, you should be randomly choosing between magic items that are suitable for some specific member of the party. And, whether by random rolling or by some other form of machination, *which* member should be more or less evenly spread.

If you're rolling up a magic item for the dedicated archer, and you get a greatsword... nope, try again. In fact, if you CAN get a greatsword in that context, maybe you need to restructure the tables.

If you ever come up with a magic item that no member of the party would plausibly use... that isn't a magic item, that's a disguised bag of gold coins. 
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
I am okay will rolling. The more important this are: Characters have enough class features what a single item doesn't replace them.

I think the critical thing is to get the game's magic item system right so that no matter what or how many magic items a PC has, it doesn't break the system and doesn't eclipse a PC's class features.  
The DM understands the implications of placing a very rare and powerful item. The designers do the rarities right

I think DM understanding is the key but the magic items as they stand won't interact well with the current system and there are a few too many 'rare and powerful' game breakers.  At the moment, I think the system is a bit too fragile to cope with a very rare and powerful magic item because it is a game-breaker.  Unfortunately, the knee jerk reaction is to limit their usage rather than find a workable solution and change the nature of magic items so that they don't break your system but still leave them with a whole heap of flavor that enhances the game.

I think DM understanding is the key but the magic items as they stand won't interact well with the current system and there are a few too many 'rare and powerful' game breakers.  At the moment, I think the system is a bit too fragile to cope with a very rare and powerful magic item because it is a game-breaker.  Unfortunately, the knee jerk reaction is to limit their usage rather than find a workable solution and change the nature of magic items so that they don't break your system but still leave them with a whole heap of flavor that enhances the game.


I think I read somewhere that they admit to having too few common type items, but that they are going to expand upon those in the next (or a future) packet. I couldn't locate the quote in a two minute search; but, I remember reading something to that effect.