Thursday, May 1, 2014

Cool stuff

A big driving force behind fantasy RPGs is the hunt for stuff.  People love getting better weapons, cool trinkets, and magic doohickeys.  The trouble with stuff is that over the years people playing DnD got less and less neat things with interesting histories and more and more +6 to X in my hat slot.  I have tried a few solutions in Heroes By Trade to solve this problem and we are currently testing the latest with real success.  The big difference in the most recent version is that attuning to a magic item is a big deal.  Finding one is all well and good but eventually before it is willing to grant you its abilities you have to do something the item wants.

This requirement has led to some great situations.  My character just found a two handed sword themed around truth.  In order to attune to it I had to spend an entire day telling it everything about myself leaving nothing out.  I did so, but it generating an interesting situation where the other characters had to decide if they wanted to listen in or not.  I could not break my concentration to tell them to go away or argue with them nor could I lie or omit and this led to what was, for me, a really cool moment of decision.  The other items we found require other things, one of which seems to be to get struck by lightning! and the others are to perform bloody, scary rituals or to spend a lot of time reading secrets from a mysterious book.

All of this means that these items are in no way interchangeable and they have strong memories associated.  We had to choose what items we got carefully based on both what they did and what we would have to do to get them to obey.  Of course the selection process was somewhat marred by the fact that one of the characters was unconscious at the time due to getting mauled quite severely by some kind of dragon / statue / demon hybrid the previous day, but what is done is done!  What we definitely won't be doing is forgetting that we have these items or being bored by them.

The thing I most like about this is that it is a fantastic and natural way for the GM to generate direction and side adventures.  You found the sword that wants to visit a volcano?  I guess you are all taking a trip to Fiery Peak.  Your bowl of healing waters wants you to cure a town suffering from the plague?  Go find yourself some very sick people, somehow.  Of course the GM can make the attunement process simple, like the truth telling for 24 hours example above, but they can also give the item amazing powers and make it feel like it was worth the trials undergone to tame it, especially because the characters had to choose to do so deliberately.

Plus these items really feel like marvellous objects full of history and lore right out of a book.  Fantasy novels are not full of characters wielding longswords +2 but they are full of Fireheart, bane of the Undead, that can only be wielded by a templar who is pure of spirit and intention.  I think I am getting very close to a game that really models that second style and it is feeling great.

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