4th edition’s suggestions for magic item distribution has never been entirely satisfactory to me. Even as a player, I hate digging around to find enough things to fill out a wish list.
A lot of people also don’t care for the idea of the PCs always finding exactly what they want. There are various arguments for it, from matters of verisimilitude to those who enjoy the unexpected.
While reading through the new Essentials Rules Compendium on the train today, I had an epiphany.
First, a brief tangent. Schrödinger’s Gun is not my cat’s firearm, but rather the idea that until you, the DM, describe something to the players, the exact details can be changed without them ever knowing. Joe guesses that the kindly baron is really the BBEG as soon as he’s introduced? Change it!
So now we can apply the idea of Schrödinger’s gun to magic items. 4e assumes that PCs can figure out most magic items after spending a few minutes with them… Scratch that! From now on, the PCs simply get “some armor,” “a weapon,” or “some bracers.”
Then you give them a coupon with a slot, rarity and a level. The bearer of the coupon may turn it into any item for that slot, at that level or lower and that rarity or lower.
In game terms, when the PC finally decides what the item is, they’ve ‘identified’ it.
This adds some randomness back into the process, since the PCs have no control over what slot the item is for. It also adds some more competition for items. No longer does the set of plate armor go straight to the fighter. Rather, everyone has an interest in the generic, unidentified armor that was just found.
For players, it also gives them a lot more direction. Having to find an item of a particular level can be daunting, given all the choices. It’s much easier to pick something out with the slot so constrained.
Here are some tables you can roll on to determine type and rarity.
|20||Other (Wondrous item, mount, companion, etc)|