Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Today's Task is Pure Magic

Writing the magic item section of the Referee book. Getting near the end of this draft.

There will be no monster lists and no magic item lists in the game, by the way. Nor extensive generation tables. On the monster end, I did that already, and on the magic item end, it's just too big. It would end up being weighted towards magic items that are useful for adventuring (or worse yet, combat), and on a conceptual level, that's really lame.

Note that Dispel Magic can permanently disenchant magic items in my rules.


  1. Timely post. We're preparing to start writing up magic items tonight for our own homebrew game book and I'm wondering if we should even bother beyond noting some basic guidelines.

    Simple +X weapons (if even used) need no description. Special weapons and most misc magic should be, well, magical and not inventoried on a standard list, I'm thinking.

    We run a "magic is fairly rare" game and a twenty page listing of "standard magical items" (what does that even mean?!?) does nothing to impart a "magic is fairly rare" vibe.

  2. If a dispel magic, a casting with no cost to it can permanently dispel a magic item, then the dearth of items would be huge in any realistic ecosystem.

    The only offset would be if as per a 3.x or later system, creating items is an industrial process with specific rules and there is both a marketplace and/or ability for the characters to make their own.

    But even then, these things cost thousands of gold when they are any good, and a simple repeatable spell 3rd level spell which also has no adverse consequences eliminating them...

    If it is spirit of Old School, then wow even more vicious. They are rare, inscrutable things these items.

    I am not saying don't do it, I am just curious as to why this rule would be included? Especially since players as much as their character are very attached to gear, particularly if it is irreplaceable!

  3. Good decisions, James.

    Have you considered pointing to your RECG in the text of your game?

  4. The reference is already included. :)

  5. Whoa. Who would bother going to the trouble of forging a magic sword if a simple DM could disenchant it? That seems a tad harsh to me, even with a game including Save or Die mechanics.

  6. The idea is to keep magic items out of the game world as a whole - they'll just be in out of the way, isolated places.

    Same reasoning as limiting Continual Light, removing Raise Dead/Resurrection/Reincarnation, and Create Food & Water spells (and making Cure Disease less reliable)... it keeps the campaign world "real," with the weird stuff out on the fringes.

    It also prevents necessary magic item escalation. If your players have a smattering of magic items at level 3, then any equal-level group of NPCs also have to have equivalent magic items to be equal. And if adventurers have them, why wouldn't the government/nobility be equipped this way? And suddenly the world's lit up like a Christmas tree. I find this quite ridiculous.

  7. I think some of the posters here have a point: If it takes extraordinary effort to create a potent magic item, it seems rather unbalanced if destroying it wouldn't take similar amounts of effort. I agree with Jim on that the magic item economy in several games is ridiculous, and measures should be taken to limit or completely exclude "common" magical items. I don't however think enabling the destruction of powerful magic items with a simple spell is the answer to the problem.

    Consider these magic items: The One Ring, The Infinity Gauntlet, Stormbringer, The Rock of Ages, Excalibur, The Serpent Crown, Mjölnir, The Ring of Nibelung. What would have happened to those stories if any of those items could have been simply dispelled into uselessness by some mid-level hack magic-user?

  8. There's always Rule 0.

    Someone tries to just deactivate the One Ring with a 3rd level spell, I just say, "Hmm, doesn't work on this thing." But that's a campaign level Plot Device.

    One thing the rules as a whole are intended to do is lower the overall power level. People talk about "oh, with the lack of escalating attack bonuses x characters are useless!" But I'm also taking down the greater AC values by making sure magical doodads aren't everywhere (and the suggestions for ACs in the monsters sections are to keep them down unless the monster's made of solid metal or stone or something).

    (not to mention with the way I structure my adventures, combat ability certainly isn't the gold standard by which to judge all characters...)

  9. Hmmm...

    The only thing I'll say is, we can all say we want to eliminate players who are obsessed with possessions and accumulate and empowerment.

    But, that leaves a small audience.

    And, as for "limiting magic items" to make them special - well it is matter of taste. The "Christmas Tree" scenario alluded to is quite silly indeed, but it is perfectly reasonable to run a great game with balanced inclusion of items.

    Eliminating them, but allowing magic users and clerics to get spells every day that heal and blow things up is superficially limiting and incongruous. Unless, spellcasters also are just as rare... in which case, I think you can make an argument you do are not playing Dungeons & Dragons anymore. And, there are in game superstition and social considerations that make monsters then unviable - why would any humanoids survive at all if magic users, clerics, and items are rare in a world of Gorgons, Sphinx, Undead... this offsets conjuration of a "realism" argument against inclusion of at least a fair amount of magic items for characters to cherish.

    I mean, it just feels like baby with the bathwater, and a DM power grab for those afraid to run high powered games... who doesn't remember leafing through DMG and Unearthed Arcana eager to roll on the chart for an item... hoping the roll would be in the 50's for miscellaneous. Play your cards right, you might end up with the cards, or even Heward's Mystical Organ. Anyway, maybe you get my drift even with such inane Monty Haul fantasies aside.