Thursday, July 12, 2012

Magic Items and DnD Next

I remember in the second Lord of the Rings movie when Frodo and Sam went to the magic shop; it was such a great scene.

"Frodo, I know that Sting is really special and glows when orcs are around and such but we gained a few levels and we really need to upgrade it to something with a higher bonus."

"But Sam, Sting was a gift!  It is a marvellous magical item created using long lost techniques by some master magician..."

"Frodo, get real.  At our level we need better gear.  Vendor that old thing and come look at the selection of +3 weapons this guy has for sale.  Given that we have an appropriate amount of money for our level we *have* to get better stuff or we will die to the next challenging-but-winnable encounter!"

"Ok Sam, you are right.  I will trade Sting for 500 pieces of gold, though it wounds me to do so.  Shall we stare deeply and emotionally into each other's eyes for a minute before doing so?"

"I'm going to buy me a +2 dirty cotton shirt.  YES!"

No scene like the above one ever occurs in a fantasy novel.  Heroes wielding mighty magical weapons don't trade them in and they sure don't go to the store.  Just as much they don't accumulate staggering sums of money such that they could purchase entire kingdoms for the cost of a single upgrade.  Instead they find cool stuff and use it to defeat evil at just the right time.  They also find somewhere between 0 and 3 magical items during their entire adventure.

In DnD though we have gotten used to characters finding reams of magical items everywhere.  The games assume that characters will go to shops to buy astounding equipment and constantly sell off the stacks of gear they find to vendors who conveniently have millions of gold pieces just sitting around.  In 4th edition in particular the game was balanced around a very precise progression of magical gear from start to finish.  The wonder and awe at finding something new was pretty much entirely removed.  It also began to feel like characters at high level were just vehicles for their equipment - a high level fighter would lose 19 Armor Class without their normal armour equipped and that is *way* too much when random events are rolled on a d20!

I always thought that the magical item progression in DnD was ludicrous and the 4th edition progression in particular was overly gamey and led to ridiculous worlds.  Thankfully the designers of DnD Next appear to agree with me.  Gone is the reliance on +1 weapons and removed is the assumption of constant acquisition.  Their plan is to make magic items unique and to avoid giving them flat combat bonuses.  Huzzah!  Whether they will succeed or not is another thing entirely but it comforts me greatly to know that DnD is taking a step back towards feeling like a fantasy novel instead of Adventures In Shopping.  If I want a fantasy economics simulator I will just play Diablo 3.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, actually laughed at the last sentence! The best.