The Thaw: Treasure Thoughts

locked-chestOne thing I rather glossed over in the session post mortem is the question of treasure. For the kickoff adventure I was profoundly generous and let everyone walk away with one magic item. There were a few reasons to do this, but most of them had to do with magic items being cool and part of what makes D&D feel like D&D.

It was really interesting, because it gave me reason to look at the magic item tables in a much more concrete way than I had previously, and it was informative. I’d had a sense that 5e was a little more conservative with the magic items than previous editions, but I hadn’t realized how conservative. As low level characters, I really should have been handing out only very minor scrolls and potions, and it would actually be a while before they were even in a position to roll on a table that might cough up a +1 weapon. I ended up letting them roll d100 and looking across the first several tables to find the coolest option among them, and despite that, the loot was still mostly potions and scrolls.

The one exception is that our archer happened to roll exactly so to potentially get an arrow of slaying, and that was too perfect a match to pass up. I could have just left it at that – a default arrow of slaying is fun but not crazy – it gets you one 6d10 hit, which would be awesome when it happens, but is not world shaking.

But what’s the fun in that?

So it’s an arrow of dragon slaying. Like, honest to god dragon slaying. She hits a dragon with it, it dies. That is crazy powerful and has the potential of having an outsized impact on play (and also has a nice thematic element, since her character has some Bard the Bowman touchpoints), but none of that worries me because of the flipside of it. For all it’s potency, the idea of an arrow of dragon slaying is going to drive a crapton more play than its actual use. Players will have a reason to use it. NPCs (widely varied, interesting NPCs) have reasons to want it or want to see it used in particular places. It’s an act of apparent generosity which is, in actuality, a gift to myself.

Anyway, I am now going to have to think about magic items over the course of the game a little bit more. I’m ok being more conservative with them, but it increases my inclination to introduce more +0 weapons (weapons which grant no bonus to attack or damage, but which do some other sort of damage) just to deal with damage immunities, which do not seem quite as conservative as magic items. [1]

I also may need to re-examine the Artificer (from the Eberron Rules). Upon initial examination, it’s kind of a rough sell as a wizard specialty, since it’s very hard to argue that the benefits of the magic items they can make offset the loss of the spell slots, especially since the tradition doesn’t give any abilities that don’t use existing resources (unlike other traditions, which are on top of those resources). Maybe it’s a better deal if magic items are much rarer, but I’m suspecting it is not.

There is a reason I don’t normally stress over treasure in most games, but in D&D, it’s half the fun, so I’m willing to go all in on it. It just takes a bit of work.

  1. In fact, I think that the drow will have the secret of making iceblades, swords of sharpened ice that do cold damage but which melt. Reflects the ice heritage and seems cooler than the “underdark radiation” nonsense.  ↩

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