Also, people need stuff. Magic items are stuff and if you can't give out meaningful rewards, players get a little disenchanted. Maybe you have a uniquely mature gaming group, but most people need stuff.
I haven't put too much thought into magic items just yet, but two ideas have generally risen as potential solutions.
- Characters receive inherent pluses at a level appropriate to balance the math. Magic items also provide pluses but also other beneficial effects. A character may either use their inherent plus or the plus of the item and gain its beneficial effect.
- Characters receive inherent pluses at a level appropriate to balance the math. Magic items increase the effective level and also provide other beneficial effects. So if characters receive an inherent +1 at fifth character level, a +2 weapon would confer that benefit at 3rd level instead of 5th.
There is something awkward about the first solution. The idea that a character is "inherently +3" but only benefits at "+2 and flaming" because he is using a magic sword feels like the sword is somehow a cursed sword. That isn't the intent and maybe this solution could be fixed with just a little PR.
The benefit of it is that it introduces interesting tradeoffs. There will be times when a player could attack at +10 but will instead attack at +9 to benefit from an item. That is sort of neat and it opens up to door to give high level characters who should be wielding +5 weapons a +2 weapon with a litany of benefits. It also builds in an expiration date to weapons so you get to reward players without over powering characters. A +3 weapon replacing a +2 weapon is incrementally only +1.
The second solution first suffers from a vocabulary issue. The +1 level vs. +1 attack dichotomy would have to be replaced, but that is a small issue. The bigger issue is that the benefit is situational. Let's presume that inherent attack bonuses are at every 5th level. A +4 sword provides no benefit, then, to a 5th level character. This will encourage GMs to give higher plus weapons because they want to push characters to that next step.
At the same time, the benefit always scales which means a weapon is always incrementally powerful. That might at first seem like a benefit, but compare it to solution one. Under solution one, we could introduce the Mace of Kings, a +5 mace that is the scepter of the king. When wielded by the young prince (level one fighter) after his father's death, the Mace of Kings hugely empowers him. If the villain (level 20 cleric) steals it away, he was inherently +5 and so gains little. There is a moderating influence to inherent bonuses under solution one that is absent in solution two.
The plus side of solution two is that at different points in character progression, they'll value different things. A +3 weapon is really valuable at level 7 because it brings you up to the +2 tier. But at level 9, you might be willing to swap it out for a more interesting +1 weapon. Variety is fun and this solution promotes it.
Feedback is appreciated--
- What do you look for in magic items?
- What did I miss?
- Which of the solutions do you prefer?