Artifacts as a Treasure Drop?

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Opinions?

I'm thinking about dropping a beneficial one on my players' heads, and letting it be the start of a long-arcing quest, for the tier.

Can you count an artifact as a treasure drop, according to the table in the DMG (say you roll up a level-15 magic item... "Seal of the Lawbringer" technically fits in the category, since its description is for the tier) or should they be dropped specifically on their own? 
58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?
Ultimately its up to you as DM. There is no "right" way to drop this into there hands. Whether it's found on the corpse of a gobbo or in a pile of human excrament, the point is that they find it right?
I do not count artifacts as parcel treasure. In my opinion, artifacts are placed in the game by the DM for purposes of the story. As such, they serve the DM, not the player, regardless of the benefits to the PC. However, what I-the-DM count it as is completely independent of where, when, or how they find it.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
I do not count artifacts as parcel treasure. In my opinion, artifacts are placed in the game by the DM for purposes of the story. As such, they serve the DM, not the player, regardless of the benefits to the PC. However, what I-the-DM count it as is completely independent of where, when, or how they find it.



Could not have said it better myself.

As long as the artifact is placed in the players' hands by DM decision and for story reasons (as opposed to the result of a random dice roll), then it doesn't really matter where it comes from. 
Next thing you will tell me Browbeat is bad.
Heck, you could build an entire quest out of the party trying to find out WHY they found the artifact in some random place.

Maybe the previous owner died and whatever killed them didn't understand the value of the artifact. Would the party continue the previous owner's quest in their stead? Maybe they'll have to put up with the previous owner haunting them until they do what they want. Or maybe the artifact can't be used to its fullest until the previous owner's soul is put to rest, if you want to pressure the party into it. (Though I don't recommend the 'do it or else' approach, sometimes it's an effective method.)

That's just a few ideas.
Gunmage, a homebrew arcane striker. (Heroic Tier playtest ready.) GDocs link. (More up to date.)
As others have said, artifacts are outside of normal treasure parcels. After all, they can't sell them, and if the artifact upsets the balance, it can simply move on.

I'm thinking about dropping a beneficial one on my players' heads, and letting it be the start of a long-arcing quest, for the tier.

I've tried to do this, and the players completely missed the point. So, unless you're working with them on this, be prepared for it to fall flat.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy