Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Old School Trick: Don't tell them what the magic item does

Its a little bit of extra book keeping for the DM but not telling the players exactly what certain items do is a good way to add a little mystery and exploration to the game.

Its not necessary with simple low end or disposable items like say +1 arrow a healing potion. In fact its often better to simply set up a situation where they are told what the item is.

As an example after saving say an elf or something the party might be give a half dozen healing potions with the NPC, saying "Take these they are made from water from the living river and possess powerful healing magic" The DM can the say "6 potions extra healing"

However more powerful items that are meant to be around a while can simply be given a name and description and th players can figure out what it does. For instance the party stumbles across an enchanted sword, after a couple of Int rolls from the party scholar or use of whatever skill is appropriate the DM can then announce "This is the sword Cleaveheart, it looks like Westland work from a hundred years ago and bears runes of enchantment"

Of course the first thing the players will do is try to find an excuse to use the weapon. let them. heck encourage them . At the point, you can either let them no whats up (its a +2 weapon) or of you feel frisky, simply add the numbers yourself.

No need to tell them what the bonuses are. The player rolls, you compare, he rolls damage as normal, you narrate the effects with the added damage.

This approach has a several advantages.

First, it tends to increase immersion, its far more fun to wield Flarecore than a simple Sword Flame Tongue,

Second, it stops some of the sense of items being disposable , hmm its only a +1 sword time to upgrade

Third , you can always upgrade the item yourself as the character levels up. No need to worry about it being a +3 sword at low level. Until they reach a certain level, it stays a +1 sword, then at whatever level you see fit they unlock more of its power and its now +2 and so on.

The game Earthdawn does this with some success and its an technique that works well in D&D too.

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