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LotharBot
2008-11-06, 03:32 PM
My wife wrote a longer version of this post on enworld (http://www.enworld.org/forum/4e-fan-creations-house-rules/244231-treasure-troubles-resulting-item-points.html). Here's the tl;dr version:

The Problem: 4e treasure selection/distribution

In 4e, magic items from levels 1-5 are +1 (or equivalent; not all items have enhancement bonuses), items from 6-10 are +2, and so on. According to the DMG treasure parcel system, over the course of half a tier (5 levels; I'll use levels 1-5 as an example), each player should get the following:

- enough gold to buy 2 magic items from their half-tier: two at the middle, or one at the top and one at the bottom (ex: 2 level 3's or a 1 and a 5). Note this is still not enough to buy even the weakest item from the next group -- if you're level 5, you shouldn't have enough cash to buy even a generic +2 item unless you've also sold off a lot of dropped treasure.

- four magic items from treasure parcels. On average, you'll get two from within your half-tier and two from the next group up (ex: a level 2, 5, 7, and 9). You can choose to sell any of these for 1/5, which I don't think will happen often; if your longsword-wielding character can replace their +1 with a +2 they probably will.

Here's why this sucks:

1) magic items are often character-defining... and this puts the control of the biggest items your character gets in the hands of the DM. By level 5 you've selected a pair of +1 (or equivalent) items for your character, and you've picked up another pair of +1/equiv and a pair of +2/equiv that the DM selected as treasure.

2) items you've tied into your backstory, like your cool ancestral sword, quickly become mechanically weaker than the stuff Random Orc #47 drops at the end of the fight.

I like the number of items you get -- between levels 1 and 5 you should end up with about 6 total magic items. What I dislike is who picks the items and where they come from -- the DM picking your sword (possibly from a wish list you gave them, but still) and you getting it by killing Orc #47... just not fun.

The Solution: Item Points

At the start of each 5-level block (levels 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, and 26) each character gets two Item Points. Think of these as coupons for a magic item from one block above yours -- when you're level 6, you get a pair of Item Points that can be used to acquire +3 or equivalent items. Item Points can be used in the following 3 ways:

1) if one of the randomly-dropped pieces of treasure from the higher-level set strikes your fancy, spend an item point and take it. If nobody spends a point on the item, it should be sold/disenchanted. (Items from within your current half-tier are freely available.) This is the most mundane use of the system.

2) during downtime, you can spend an item point to acquire an item from up to 5 levels above your current level. You must tell a cool story about how you did it (it's best to work this out with the DM ahead of time.)

3) during normal gameplay, as an immediate interrupt, you can spend an item point to improve an item. Essentially, the force of your will and the coolness of your action imbue the item with more powerful magic. This is subject to the following conditions:
- the action must be sufficiently cool, as determined by the group; see examples below.
- the item can be improved to up to 6 levels above your current level (making this option slightly more powerful than #2 above), and must remain thematically similar (your +1 fire sword can become a +2 fire sword, but not an acid sword.)
- because this is an immediate interrupt, it can modify an action that's already going on. You can use on a weapon or implement to turn a near-miss into a hit or to make a hit deal a little more damage, or you can use it on a defensive item to turn a near-hit into a miss, or whatever.

Examples

- (this actually happened, but before we implemented the system) The pirates' dragon leader has already been killed, but the pirates couldn't tell that through the fog, so they foolishly approached. Now the party is jumping from their ship onto the pirate ship, and Illishan the Dragonborn warlord (whose people had originally built the pirate ship) yells at the pirate captain "get off of my ship!" As the party mauls the pirates, Illishan approaches the pirate captain, and again yells "this is my ship, and they (points at pirates) are now my crew! This is your last chance to leave!" The defiant captain spits in Illishan's face, and Illishan strikes with his fullblade, rolling a critical hit and killing the captain outright. He makes a high intimidate check and the remaining pirates drop their weapons and say "at your service, captain!" Illishan can choose to spend an item point to upgrade either his sword (which landed the killing strike) or an item that boosts his intimidate checks.

- (this actually happened) Kyara the level 6 ranger fires a two-shot attack at the boss harpy with her +1 bow. She rolls a pair of 20s. The whole table oohs and ahhs and cheers. Kyara spends her item point to improve the bow to +3, declaring that she looked the harpy deep in her eyes and then shot them both. Each attack does 2 more points of base damage and she rolls +3d6 instead of +1d6 for each crit.

- Kor the level 13 fighter with the crazy-high AC wades out into the middle of the bad guys and dares them all to hit him, and they're all failing miserably. The toughest enemy steps forward, breaks out his biggest power, rolls his attack, and exactly matches Kor's AC with a devastating blow... but Kor will not be overcome. He spends his Item Point to improve his armor from +3 to +4, making the attack miss, and yells out "stop trying to hit me and hit me!"

- Slick the speedy halfling rogue, at level 17, is sprinting through the dungeon, treasure in hand, trying to reach the exit before the whole place collapses and RFED. His boots of striding aren't quite going to be enough to get him there in time... but he spends an Item Point to upgrade them to boots of speed, "kicks it into high gear", dives through the door at the last possible second, and then reaches back and grabs his hat before it's lost in the cave-in.

- Dan the level 2 fighter kills Random Orc #47, who was carrying a +2 thundering sword. Dan thinks it would be cool to have a +2 thundering sword, so he spends his Item Point to take the sword from the loot.

Why this solution rocks

1) It puts control of character-defining items mostly in the hands of the players. No more wishing/hoping/begging for the DM to put in a +2 frost sword; you can just acquire one.

2) It encourages dramatic moments, and even allows players to create them.

3) It encourages players to keep and upgrade items from their backstory or from earlier dramatic encounters. If you keep using your ancestral sword, every so often you're going to land a hit with it at a dramatic moment, so it'll grow in power with you. If you acquired the awesome plate armor from the boss of the first dungeon, you can make it grow with you as well.

Thoughts?

Shadow_Elf
2008-11-06, 06:05 PM
I like this a lot. I think I'll use this next time I DM a campaign, actually.
Unfortunately, my group is know for Epic Misses (we once rolled 5 natural one's collectively in an encounter).

rayne_dragon
2008-11-07, 04:07 PM
This is an excellent solution. It solves a number of problems that I have with the D&D treasure system and has a good fantasy feel to it.

Meek
2008-11-07, 07:20 PM
One thing about the "sufficiently cool stuff improves the item" bit of this. The Adventurer's Vault already has an option like that where your magic item grows alongside you. I haven't read it thoroughly enough to compare, but it might be worth looking into. Maybe.

LotharBot
2008-11-07, 07:46 PM
The Adventurer's Vault already has an option like that where your magic item grows alongside you.

Yes, "Item levels as treasure", pages 197-198. One key difference is that AV's solution is still DM-driven -- the DM says "hey, your item improves" rather than this solution, where the player says "hey, my item improves".

Zocelot
2008-11-07, 09:04 PM
My opinion is that the DM controls the world, including magic items, while the players control their characters. A wish list is a handy way to work together, but the final word belongs to the DM.

It's also unrealistic for a magic sword to get more powerful, just because you hit something with it really hard. Plus, it can present an interesting roleplaying dillema to have to choose between a more powerful axe and an axe passed down for a dozen generations.


Yes, "Item levels as treasure", pages 197-198. One key difference is that AV's solution is still DM-driven -- the DM says "hey, your item improves" rather than this solution, where the player says "hey, my item improves".

A ritual that improves the power level of an item item is always initiated by the player, not the DM.

LotharBot
2008-11-07, 10:09 PM
It's also unrealistic for a magic sword to get more powerful

*snicker*


A ritual that improves the power level of an item item is always initiated by the player, not the DM.

Reread Adventurers Vault, pages 197-198, which implies the DM is the one who selects the moment at which the item improves.

Zocelot
2008-11-07, 10:21 PM
*snicker*


The D&D world assumes basic rules that govern things. Gravity pulls things down. The sun rises and sets daily. Steel is harder then iron.

These concepts have a base in a concept know as "realism", which is the school of thought that some things in real life carry over to D&D.

Entropy is a universal law that states that a closed circuit will only decline. This means that a sword cannot get more magical, unless magic is pumped into it. Magic is not created by hitting something really hard, unless it's world specific.

LotharBot
2008-11-08, 10:22 PM
These concepts have a base in a concept know as "realism"

*louder snicker*


this means that a sword cannot get more magical, unless magic is pumped into it.

D&D is a world of magic and fantasy. Even fighters have magical "marks" that make enemies struggle to hit things other than them. What's so odd about a person making a particularly important strike -- putting all of their will into it -- and infusing their weapon with magic? What's so odd about a resilient fighter's armor becoming stronger as he resists the attacks of the dragon? It's a classic fantasy trope that magical items become that way, not because they were forged by great wizards, but because they were imbued with magic by some legendary act.

Inyssius Tor
2008-11-10, 04:59 PM
This means that a sword cannot get more magical, unless magic is pumped into it. Magic is not created by hitting something really hard, unless it's world specific.

...

Nonsense. I kill ten thousand orcs and thirteen one-eyed angels of vengeance in single combat with my broadsword Euthanasia, that sword is going to have a hell of a lot more mythological significance afterward. Moradin kills the primordial overking Slaughterstar with a warhammer, that warhammer is an artifact. That eyeball travels around in Vecna's eye-socket for his entire mortal life and demidivinity, it's going to be more than just a lump of ocular jelly when Kas cuts it out--even if Vecna didn't actually go around engraving runes of power into his eyeball, it's still powerful.

Meek
2008-11-10, 06:30 PM
...

Nonsense. I kill ten thousand orcs and thirteen one-eyed angels of vengeance in single combat with my broadsword Euthanasia, that sword is going to have a hell of a lot more mythological significance afterward. Moradin kills the primordial overking Slaughterstar with a warhammer, that warhammer is an artifact. That eyeball travels around in Vecna's eye-socket for his entire mortal life and demidivinity, it's going to be more than just a lump of ocular jelly when Kas cuts it out--even if Vecna didn't actually go around engraving runes of power into his eyeball, it's still powerful.

This. In D&D, a particularly heinous murder or execution can create an undead being. The power of actions and the intentions and consequences of those actions cannot be downplayed or underestimated in D&D. At best, what you can say with that sort of argument is that such things wouldn't happen in any setting, in which case the house rule can still be applied perfectly well to those settings in which it DOES happen.

However, I do agree that it shouldn't be in the hands of the players whether or not their items just power up or even show up. I think that should remain the domain of the DM. It's his story, he should decide if and when items are gained (in this case I count gold, and the subsequent items that'll be purchased or made with it, as an "item" as well) and if and when items power up because you did something heroic.

But that's a fundamental disconnect with the thread starter's intentions, which I recognize, and thus my statement is pretty invalid.