It feels super strange that September is already here, even more when at the time I signed up to host the RPG Blog Carnival this month our world barely knew about COVID-19. But here we are, adapting to the new normal, and I have the honor of hosting. Since the title is not that straight-forward, allow me to explain:
As you gain levels, the mundane equipment you started your adventures with becomes less and less important as it is overshadowed by the magic items you acquire during a campaign. In Dungeons & Dragons, magic items may be tools of the character possessing them or even act on their own. They are generally found in treasure hoards, or recovered from fallen opponents, but sometimes, a powerful or important magic item is the object of a quest. Whatever their origin, their importance can’t be underestimated, and that’s why they have been prevalent in the game in every edition and setting, from the original edition in 1974 until the current fifth edition. Many things have changed during the years, but we’ll take a look at the most important ones after requesting your participation…
JOIN THE CARNIVAL!
All you have to do is post an entry in your own blog about anything related to magic items. After doing so, leave a link to it in the comments below and I’ll be sure to read it and comment it as the month ends in a summary post. You can try the following ideas about using, attuning, wearing, wielding and activating magic items.
If you’re a player:
- what you think is the must-have magic item for a character class and why;
- the most memorable magic weapon you have wielded;
- the most innovative use you gave to a magic item;
- if you prefer “mass market” or “high-couture” items;
- how you customized the way your character attunes.
If you’re a DM:
- any system or table you use to handle magic items as part of treasure;
- an artifact you customized or created from scratch;
- a magic item creation system;
- ideas on sentient items;
- ways to destroy artifacts;
- how you make weapons feel special and full of history lore.
You can find some more details about the RPG Blog Carnival here.
Magic Items 101
As introduced before inviting you to participate, the 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide introduced some new concepts to magic items and make previous others disappear. I think giving you this historical approach can spark some interesting ideas to incorporate into the 5e system.
In the first edition of the game, all artifacts had a certain number of minor, major, and prime Powers and side Effects which triggered when they were acquired or used. The powers and effects were selected by the DM from a set of lists, so players couldn’t predict the artifact’s powers. In 1994, Encyclopedia Magica Volume One, the first of a four-volume set, was published. The series lists all of the magical items published in two decades of TSR products from Dungeons & Dragons. The books total more than 1500 pages with each volume containing over a thousand magic items, but there was no attempt to correct rule imbalances or even match AD&D mechanics at all. They are nonetheless, a great source of inspiration.
Third edition arrived along the new millennium with its very complex and detailed magic item creation process and its approach to “slots”, grouping items according to the part of the body you used to carry it. The Magic Item Compendium from 2007 also showed some early hallmarks of 4e design, with some items having levels and some even versions with powers according to such level. It also introduced the idea of item sets, where components of a set would improve as more were collected (my favorite being the Regalia of Galifar, from Eberron’s “The Forge of War”).
And the current edition of the game recategorized the items as Armor, Potions, Rings, Rods, Scrolls, Staffs, Wands, Weapons, and Wondrous Items (as usual acting as a miscellaneous category) as well as introduced two core rules for their use:
- the concept of item rarity, in which magic items are given a rating between Common, Uncommon, Rare, Very Rare, and Legendary to denote the frequency in which this item is expected to be found within the game. The only Common magic item you can find in the Dungeon Master’s Guide is the Potion of Healing, with some more been added when Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was published. Artifacts act as a sixth rarity category for unique items, such as the Hand of Vecna or the Wand of Orcus.
- the attunement rule, as for which some items require a personal bonding process to be used, limiting the number of items a character can benefit from at once to three attunable items (with some specific exceptions, of course).
As I have planned it, I will (as usual) participate too in the Carnival with two or three articles (if time allows!). You will find ideas on how linking particular magic items to deities can set you on track for deep immersion in your campaign world and a little later you may find what Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth looks like as a D&D artifact.
And that’s it for an intro! If you like magic items, check this wonderfully illustrated website with TONS of them (and good luck with the Persuasion check you’ll attempt to convince your DM to allow you to use them).
I hope to read your articles soon!