At the time I was writing it, I was still in the mindset of culling "the best of D&D" for the thing, and still hanging onto the conceits found in the later books of AD&D...+5 Holy Avengers and Hammers of Thunderbolts and the like. After all, you need a +5 weapon to harm the Tarrasque, right? Even though I was basing MY version of the Tarrasque on mythology rather than the MM2...
In retrospect, the end result means a gradual power inflation to the B/X game which, while not nearly as terrible as in D20 or even AD&D, does a lot to undermine the heroic simplicity of B/X. It's not that it renders some monsters/obstacle obsolete, after all (in B/X even the lowliest creature can damage your high falutin' character with an attack roll of "20"). But the presence of such items in the game creates an expectation in players: 'Hey, I'm a 23rd level thief! Where's my +5 leather armor?'
I don't dig on that.
In fact, if there's one thing I can't stand about D20 and later editions (well, there's a lot more than ONE thing, but only one thing regarding the topic at hand)...*ahem* If there's one major thing about the topic at hand that really irritates me regarding the latter editions of D&D, it's the assumption that part of character development revolves around the acquisition of things. That part of the process of increased character effectiveness assumes a certain amount of "stuff" (in the form of enchanted items and apparatus) will be discovered for use by the PCs.
This is gaming of the lowest common denominator. This is a video game mentality. This is Diablo or World of Warcraft. I've played both those video games, and they were enjoyable fun in their own mindless sort of way, but that is NOT what I expect or want from a role-playing game. Requiring the acquisition of stuff, in order to achieve the proper level of effectiveness for challenge, is just about the worst possible part of a reward system one can dream up.
Why? Because it makes the game less about player achievement (can the players manage the proper risk-reward factor to overcome the given challenge in this gamist-facilitating RPG) and more about proper "seeding" of "loot" during the course of the campaign. Which types of magical treasure to provide, in what amounts, depending on artificial game need.
Why bother to "level up" or measure experience at all? Solely for the sake of hit points?
[no, of course not...wizards who can't use magic arms and armor measure spell power based on level; though it seems only a short step o logic away from imposing WoW-style level restrictions on equipment use: "oh, your paladin cannot use the Holy Avenger sword until you're at least 15th level"]
Bollux on that. As a DM, I have a LOT more important things to worry about than not allowing a +3 sword to fall into the hands of a 2nd level character...or making sure the 9th level magic-user has found a staff of power or the requisite wand of lightning bolts. Must every halfling thief acquire a ring of invisibility at some point in their career? If so, why do they even bother to practice their hiding in shadows craft?
And so here I sit, currently working on 5AK (which will be play-tested this week, hope-hope-hope) and looking at the "magic items" section of the document, still blank. And wondering what the F I want to do with it. Because one thing I do NOT want to do is build a game with an expectation that magic items (and their acquisition) are in any way necessary or integral to the process of the game. BUT, at the same time, I don't want to leave the reader/player/DM with NO info...I don't want to just say, "hey, create your own enchanted artifacts as circumstance dictates." I want to give folks some guidelines. I like random tables, and even more so I like making the DM's job easier, not more difficult.
It's enough of a burden just drawing a map and coming up with a monster roster that makes sense for a particular adventure scenario.
I really haven't figured out what to do yet. The above published gripes don't even discuss what it is I want the game to model, namely the fantasy literature and mythology found in books pre-D&D. It used to be that magic was feared and respected, and that most every magical item found by a hero came at a price...no one just picked up a +3 sword out of some bandit's treasure chest and found themselves super-tough ever after. Real fantasy doesn't work like that. A powerful weapon was usually designed for a specific purpose like killing a demon-dragon...and when that purpose was served the thing usually "went away," perhaps dissolved in the acid blood of the foe it was designed to slay. Items' powers rested as much in what they represented (like Aragorn's blade Anduril or Arthur's Excalibur) than in their particular sharpness or whatnot.
Conan may be a "high level fighter" in D&D terms, but you don't find him running around with a vorpal blade and plate mail of etherealness. Is that because he lives in a "magic poor" world? No...there is plenty of magic and sorcery and supernatural foes and items (review Howard's story People of the Black Circle story). But magic is something to be respected and feared, as likely to turn on you as aid you, and if you can get by without it (as Conan often does), you're better off.
Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone owns a magic sword for the majority of his career...but it is a bound demon that often acts on its own accord, slaying friends and loved ones as eagerly as Elric's enemies (more eagerly...often Elric encounters monsters and foes against whom the blade is partially if not wholly ineffective). Yes, it gives him great strength and power...at a price. And his reputation as a swordsman is good even without the blade (only his cousin Yrkoon is said to be his equal in swordplay).
How to capture/model this kind of thing in my game...while still making it as easy as a few random tables for the DM? Maybe I need three tables:
- one random set of items
- one random set of bonuses/benefits
- one random set of drawbacks/problems
Again with an eye towards giving players the choice of what they're willing to risk for a particular benefit. Ugh...it sounds, good, by only have a couple pages of space in which to get it done. And how does that work with magicians and magic item creation?
I guess I better just get back to work on the stuff I've already got sorted out. For the play-test Thursday, I'll probably just end up using magic items from other editions. Or not. I don't know yet. Ugh!
All right...talk to ya' later.