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fmitchell
11-05-2009, 09:03 PM
4th Edition was supposed to get rid of the "Christmas Tree" effect: characters acquiring ever-better magic items until the items are more important than the character. As far as I can tell, it hasn't; if anything, they've only become more generic.

So, how could I make magic items "magical" again? I've seen a few approaches:


Magic items that "level up" along with the player, perhaps in conjunction with a multiclass. (E.g. Weapons of Legacy, Midnight)

Magic items that require a "trigger" to activate new powers, requiring in-game quests or between-session game time. (Magic items in Earthdawn.)

Artifacts, in any version of D&D, whose exact powers are unknown (AD&D) or depend on the character's pursuit of the artifact's goals (4e).

Any other suggestions, from long-time DMs out there?

P.S. Note that I'm not committed to 4e, and in fact a bit disinclined. I may run 3.x or even a retro-clone.

Sascha
11-05-2009, 11:50 PM
Step 1: Remove any "math fix" stats from items. Add directly to the character at whatever appropriate level. (Adding level or half-level to normally gear-dependent stats and ignoring the gear modifier may be a start.)

Step 2: Give a (semi-)unique power to the item. Either they do something special to a certain target, or in a special place, or by a special wielder.

Step 3: Name the thing. It's more evocative when your special item has its own name. Elric drawing his "broadsword +6, lifedrinking" just doesn't sound right ;)


As for the actual magic in the magic item, let it break a rule. How big a rule depends on how powerful the item.

Simulating a spell is pretty standard, and one I'd keep - allows for your rings of invisibility, cloaks of illusion or shapeshifting, anything the character couldn't do by any other means.

Extra damage for weapons is kinda meh, really; either change the damage type (like a flaming sword treating all its damage as fire, as the blade is living, flickering flame) or let it ignore a barrier to damage boosts (bypassing DR, for instance; or automatically confirm a crit, if you would otherwise roll for it).


If you want, the property could be reputation: it's not magical, in the strictest sense, but it's known. Those who know the item *will* treat its owner appropriately. Best used as symbols of authority or kinship; a small math bonus could be appropriate here, due to the narrow scope of its domain. (It'd radiate as magic, due to part of the previous users' spirits bonding to the item, if you want to keep the ability to detect it intact.)

DMMike
11-06-2009, 01:55 AM
4th Edition was supposed to get rid of the "Christmas Tree" effect: characters acquiring ever-better magic items until the items are more important than the character. As far as I can tell, it hasn't; if anything, they've only become more generic.


If 4E magic items are supposed to eliminate the Christmas Tree effect, and they have become more generic, what's the problem? Do you want bigger and better presents, or not?

While I'm sorting out my confusion, let me just say that a return to 3E is a safe bet. Especially if you have core books for it.

Dytrrnikl
11-06-2009, 02:53 AM
TO add to the three choices Sascha suggests, here's a fourth and one i find that does a lot to curb Christmas Tree effect and magic item monty haul:

While wizards and other spell using classes may have ready access to casting spells, keep actual magic items themselves scarce or rare items, or give'em a frequency of being found:
1 shot items - Potions, Scrolls be the only 'common' easily accesible items with all other items, even silly things like a Spoon of Myrlund being rare items to come across.

This is how I've handles magic items in my games since back in '89 with 2E. I've found it takes the emphasis off of the toys and puts it back on the characters. I once ran a divine ascension style campaign in which no magic items were encountered until the player's began hitting the 9th level and higher range. When the campaign ended in '94, with player's being around 16th or 17th level, in a group of 5 player's , there were 3 magic weapons (none greater than +3), 2 sets of magic item (+2 at best), one or two wands, a ring of wizardry (which was treated as an artifact), and I think two bags of holding. I still have the sheets in file, I'll have to double check.

Pushkins
11-07-2009, 10:46 PM
Best magic items should be minimal in power, and always exact a cost, not of wealth but of something else, Say a decent sword has potential for a unique power, but in order to trigger that power you have to do some quest or act that empowers the item for a short time, Or after use of a magic item for so many rounds it completely drains it's user of an ability or stanima, and they need to rest afterwards

in otherwords add a User Tax

Dr.Dead
11-11-2009, 10:45 PM
When you fire this arrow it becomes a Flameing arrow that moves on its own going through every thing you tell it to go through the only problem is you got to find out whats its name to control it.

mnemenoi
11-12-2009, 09:58 AM
My items always have a name and history, usually they eventually get known by the players though that is not always the case. I never, ever, ever tell them exactly what it is. They can occasionally guess its general level and have some guess about its effects, but its entirely trial and error to activate it. I try and determine whom made it and why, as well as why it was lost / hidden to begin with.

Farcaster
11-12-2009, 11:22 AM
The inherent bonuses from the 4e DMG 2 might be just what you are looking for. They give the character the expected magical bonuses to their to-hit and saves automatically. That frees you up to give more interesting magic items and not worry about the "math fix."

Winterknight
11-12-2009, 12:05 PM
I agree with the above suggestion by Dyt to keep the power level relatively low on items. I once ran a campaign where one player had a relatively powerful sword, and the other players started calling his character by the sword's name, laughing that the sword was the real character, and the wielder was just a life-support system. Some good-natured teasing, but it made me rethink my approach to magic items.

Most players want their characters to be heroes - an obvious statement, I know. If the player is simply a walking toolbox, with an assortment of items for specific jobs, he's not so much a hero as he is a competent mechanic. Likewise, if a player has a character with a single, exceptionally powerful item he might (not will - just might) feel on some level as if his item is the real star of the show, rather than the character he has so lovingly created.

I agree that a handful of items can greatly add to a character's heroic feel. They can even become hallmark items. I have a player whose favorite character simply will not go anywhere without his magic cooking pot. The pot does nothing more than you would think - you add ingredients, utter a key phrase, and it converts the substances to a hearty stew. Not much more than a cleric's Create Food spell, really, but he loves that thing.

Aside from the flavor type items, I recognize that more powerful players may want gear that reflects this. What they really want, is greater flexibility and ability to overcome the various obstacles they may face. I manage this with two primary techniques.

1) Give the bonus to the player, not the item. One of the PC's I DM'd was an unbeliever - he didn't accept that magic was real, or necessary. He could receive passive bonuses from items and armor (like workmanship, basic + to hit), but he couldn't access special abilities of items (such as Slaying, magical properties, or use/day type abilities). Since this was an undead-heavy campaign (and nary a paladin or cleric in sight), we needed a way to help them deal with this. After several dramatic battles, and self-discovery adventures, we roleplayed the character actually being able to channel his unbelief into his weapons - he refused to accept that these undead creatures required a magical solution, and his commitment was strong enough to allow him to force his will upon the universe. Mechanically speaking - he developed a magical ability himself, despite his disbelief. But, that made that character truly heroic in the player's eyes, even though it's a relatively common ability for others.

There are many, many ways to do this. Exposure to some kind of device that grants a permanent one-time boost to Charisma, rather than finding a Nymph Cloak +3. A bonus skill point due to exceptional play, rather than a device that boosts that same skill. Rituals that unlock hidden abilities within the character's ancestry or psyche.

2) Essentially the same as 1), but with a bonded item. The item goes through an evolution over the course of one or several campaigns. This might be a more appropriate choice if the DM wishes to have the option to remove the power later (by removing the item), or if he wishes to maintain a certain fragility to the character.

WhiskeyFur
11-12-2009, 01:29 PM
Something I had been toying with was taking the earthdawn approach, if anyone remembers that game system from FASA.

Essentially, all magic items had to be learned to be unlocked, or can be created by the user by simply keeping it on him and letting it learn from his experience. Even a mundane dagger could be enchanted in such a way, but if I remember right... NO magic item is found unlocked. A magical dagger is just a fancy dagger until you learn it's history and unlock it.

fmitchell
11-12-2009, 03:44 PM
The inherent bonuses from the 4e DMG 2 might be just what you are looking for. They give the character the expected magical bonuses to their to-hit and saves automatically.

Since I don't have DMG2, could you summarize this approach? From Googling, there are two types, "boons" and "master training", both acquired as the result of play ... although one article said they weren't +1, +2, etc. as were magic items. I'm a little confused.

In general, though, I like the Earthdawn Approach + 4e Artifacts for major magic items, plus "inherent bonuses" if they work the way I think they do.

I'd also redo any monsters that are immune to non-magical damage so that they have damage resistance and/or take lesser damage, with perhaps a simple non-magical weakness. (E.g. Corporeal undead aren't as bothered by most weapons since they have no vital organs, but being dried-up corpses they are flammable.) Incorporeal beings in general can't hurt PCs unless the PCs can hurt them, although they may have other effects, like fear, illusions, or other low-level mental powers that distract or manipulate.
--- Merged from Double Post ---

If 4E magic items are supposed to eliminate the Christmas Tree effect, and they have become more generic, what's the problem? Do you want bigger and better presents, or not?

I think you're being facetious, but just to clarify: 4e magic items (at least in the first PHB) revolve around bonuses to combat stats, plus special powers or special effects (bursts of flame damage, resistance to some types of attacks, etc.) Nowhere are the strange items of previous editions, like the Deck of Many Thins, the instant fortress, the crab-robot-barrel thing (can't remember the name), the decanter of endless water, or seven-league boots.

Farcaster
11-12-2009, 04:08 PM
Since I don't have DMG2, could you summarize this approach?

Sure thing. Basically, the game gives you a certain minimum enhancement bonus to your defenses (AC, Fortitude, Reflex, Will) and your attack and damage just as if you had a magical sword and magical defensive gear. Regardless of what level of magical gear you have, your character always has these minimum bonuses. It starts at second level with +1 and goes up from there. There are no feats to take or anything like that, it is just an alternate rule.

We're using this in the Dark Sun game I'm playing, by the way, and frankly I love the idea since it allows our DM to concentrate on giving us more interesting gear. Plus, bags of magical gear just doesn't feel right for a setting like Dark Sun.

Chris Sims
11-12-2009, 06:16 PM
I have to disagree that the strange items aren't in 4e. For instance, the apparatus of Kwalish (crab robot thing :D) is in the game. A number of wondrous items are strange and cool. The list only gets bigger with Adventurer's Vault 2.

I also recommend the inherent bonus approach, then focus on thematic powers and properties for items. Elements that mean something to the players or the story.

Leveling up existing magic items is also a possibility, and it's relatively easy. Adventurer's Vault explains how to do it, but it boils down to determining the difference between monetary value of the power-up and the item's current power and using that value as part of your treasure.

The Earthdawn approach works here, with the previous ideas, by way of combining multiple items into one for the sake of multiple powers in one item. The result of a quest to unlock more of the item's mystery has a reward result of granting a power-up to the item that is equivalent in treasure value to gaining a different/new item. In this case, I'd keep all the powers daily, so the item-use rules take care for the rest. I'd also avoid stacking too many effects on any given item.

I'd also keep the number of power-granting items or magic item powers (if using Earthdawn) each PC has relatively low. Fill the gaps with items that grant only properties. otherwise, the gear starts to be more important than the PCs again.

I run the Dark Sun game Farcaster is in, and the first items each player got were items affected by the ritual the PCs escaped being sacrificed in. Mechanical, yes, but also story related and filled with the "I wonder if this is all this thing can do? Is it good or bad?" mystery.

DMMike
11-13-2009, 12:57 PM
I think you're being facetious, but just to clarify: 4e magic items (at least in the first PHB) revolve around bonuses to combat stats, plus special powers or special effects (bursts of flame damage, resistance to some types of attacks, etc.) Nowhere are the strange items of previous editions, like the Deck of Many Thins, the instant fortress, the crab-robot-barrel thing (can't remember the name), the decanter of endless water, or seven-league boots.


No facetiousness - I just got confused on the Christmas Tree effect. I thought that you were glad about Forry eliminating it, and that would mean generic item's weren't a problem. But instead you were saying, "great, now my items are lame, how do I make them cool again?"

I'm actually apprehensive about getting further involved in the discussion - I'd just end up complaining about Forry. But since you haven't yet seen the DMG2 I have one thing to say:

"Get ye to a Barnes and Noblery!"

Farcaster
11-13-2009, 02:38 PM
:focus:

Just to be clear, DMMIke, the problem that Frank is describing in this thread is not unique to fourth edition. In fact, it was a problem in third edition as well, and in many ways worse considering that to stay competitive you needed several stat increasing items as well. This overall, is really part of the d20 system of balancing encounters against expected gear.

My thought on the matter is that you could use something like the inherent bonus system from the 4e DMG2 in 3rd as well, thus allowing you to focus on providing more limited and meaningful magic items to the party if that is what you want to do.

DMMike
11-13-2009, 05:20 PM
What's wrong with needing gear? If David is going to destroy Fiendish-Were-Goliath (the 8th level monk), he can do it by outsmarting FWG8M, or by discovering the +19 Monk-slaying sword. Is it really necessary for David to have inherent fire resistence, silvery hands, and supernatural strength to win, or can he get a couple magic items to help?

Is that where "Christmas Tree" comes from; the characters sparkle like Christmas trees when they're fully equipped? I say that they should, because how else is a person going to save the village from a dragon?

A bigger problem than character power versus monster power is character versus character power. As I brought up in a different thread, the Fighter gets no supernatural powers at all. Hit points and Fort save aside, how is a mundane class supposed to compete against a supernatural class (barbarian, druid, sorceror) WITHOUT Christmas tree ornaments?

fmitchell
11-13-2009, 10:07 PM
Is that where "Christmas Tree" comes from; the characters sparkle like Christmas trees when they're fully equipped? I say that they should, because how else is a person going to save the village from a dragon?

Yes, Smaug dies because the dwarves hack it to death with their +5 Axes of Deep Hurting, with Bilbo's +2 Dagger of Armor Negation providing the death stroke. Odysseus and his men defeat the Cyclops with +2 Flame Swords and that handy Dart of Eye Seeking. Samson smote the Philistines with a +8 Jawbone of Mass Destruction, and David didn't bother with his sling because he had +3 Gloves of Giant Pummeling.

You might as well play Munchkin, the card game.

Without nifty gadgets, players have to THINK when they face a nearly unstoppable foe. They have to use their inherent abilities in unique ways, or use plain old problem-solving. Sure, give them extra benefits for completing quests, and give them enough to defeat common foes ... but make the important battles nail-biters. Will they exploit the environment to help them? Did they interpret the prophecy correctly? Can they outthink their antagonists, or even the GM?

As for the "Linear Fighters, Quadratic Wizards" problem: it's a symptom of how magic works in D&D and other games. In the tales that inspired D&D, wizards were either villains or mentors. Mentors could not shoot lighting from their hands on a regular basis, or put armies to sleep; that would upstage the heroes. Villains always need one item to consolidate their power, or one more sacrifice to dark gods before the world was theirs; until then, they were vulnerable. Heroes, with little or no training in the mystic arts, often defeated their enemies through courage, cunning, and steel ... or a deus ex machina if the writer just didn't care.

Beings who command the elements and control minds will always dominate mundane mortals: you can embrace that as Ars Magica does, outfit mundanes with magical technology as standard D&D does ... or, you can limit magic and, in so doing, make it more magical when it does appear.

Grimwell
11-13-2009, 10:30 PM
I'd like to make a small point about this problem being discussed. It's only a problem if it's not working well with your play style. Some people enjoy games where Christmas trees look dim in comparison to the heroes, and some people enjoy games where a butter knife is about all the hero gets.

Style, not system.

DMMike
11-14-2009, 01:18 AM
Now now, fmitchell. I'm not endorsing high magic games. Nor am I discouraging a little ingenuity by the players. I was just pointing out that in the absence of extreme luck or DM hand-holding, characters need tools to complete their work.

I wouldn't dream of making players expect that the only way they can kill a dragon is by dropping their only death arrow into its armpit, on the off chance that it doesn't fry them as it flies by (Bard style). That boils down to, "roll. If you don't get a 20, the whole party dies." However, I would be more than happy to make them run around and squirm as the dragon showers them with flames, and they can only hold their breath and hope their Flame Cloaks help them survive long enough to get in a shot with one from a quiver of Death Arrows (for which they had to adventure long and hard).

A mechanic that makes characters inherently powerful, negating the need for magic-buff items, just means that the players carry massive amounts of luck with them, which would take the fun out of danger. It would be like Bard sitting in his floating-condo until half the town was burned out, then strolling out with a mundane bow and mundane arrows, and shooting for the dragon's weak spot. He missed? "Oh well. My class bonus of +15 to hit and +20 vs fire means I can saunter around town and shrug off fire attacks (with bare skin) and shoot a couple more normal arrows, which are treated like magical death arrows since my roleplaying system, er, family heritage is so cool."

fmitchell
11-14-2009, 03:40 AM
I'd like to make a small point about this problem being discussed. It's only a problem if it's not working well with your play style. Some people enjoy games where Christmas trees look dim in comparison to the heroes, and some people enjoy games where a butter knife is about all the hero gets.

Quoted for truth.

Iron Heroes, a d20 system from Mike Mearls, explicitly addressed this problem. Its default assumption was that magic was rare and dangerous, much like the Swords & Sorcery books I cited above. There was only one magic-using class (the Arcanist); magic items, to the extent they were described, were one-off McGuffins. The other classes were variations on fighters, rangers, and rogues: the Harrier relied on mobility and attacks on the run, the Armiger absorbed damage through custom-built armor, the Weapons Master excelled in one weapon, the Archer ... well, you get the idea. All characters were human, although a system of Traits, separate from Feats, gave players ways to customize their characters.

In the end, IH had too many fiddly bits, notably the rampant use of "token pools" acquired through some activity (e.g. aiming for an Archer), and redeemable for bonuses to hit, damage, or other effects. I wish I could build a version of D&D that embraced the principles of Iron Heroes, the simplicity of 4e (with Powers simplified even further), and the flexibility of 3.x. Alas, I'm not a game designer, and even if I build it they likely won't come.
--- Merged from Double Post ---

Now now, fmitchell. I'm not endorsing high magic games. Nor am I discouraging a little ingenuity by the players. I was just pointing out that in the absence of extreme luck or DM hand-holding, characters need tools to complete their work.

Or information, which is my preferred method. If the players look around instead of charging in with glowing swords, they might notice that cracking the stone over the cave entrance would seal the dragon in, or that a defensive position on that ridge will force the orc hordes to come single-file. By poring through old tomes they may discover that the unstoppable horror has a hidden weakness, or that the friendly count isn't entirely human any more.

Granted, collecting Plot Coupons to defeat a menace has its own problems. But I prefer adventures where the outcome depends far more on what the players do than what they roll.

Geode
01-02-2010, 04:44 AM
I'm not sure if this'll help 'cause I'm not exactly a longterm GM, but this is what I do to fight "christmas trees." When I pass out magical items, I rarely give them anything useful in the ways of combat. It's almost always to make their traveling easier. I also make those items VERY fragile, or not as impressive as it seems after a few uses. I find a lot of my inspiration from the Brothers Grimm.

For example, in the fairytale of "Table-Be-Set, Gold-Donkey, and Cudgel-out-of-the-Sack," I gave the players all three of the special items at different intervals during my last campaign. In essence, the table grants unlimited food, the gold donkey coughs up gold pieces when specific magic words are recited, and the cudgel attacks people all by itself.
The table was a hilarious gift to them because it was large enough for twenty four people to sit at it. The fighter insisted on dragging it around for about 2 mini-quests before he got sick of the trouble and sold it in town. It was a fun prop for encounters, I had never considered that it would provide cover.
Now the donkey granting free money would crash the economic system, right? Wrong. The players couldn't force the donkey to cough up more than about 30 coins per week before it would start coughing up blood as well (if they kept going, I would have killed the donkey.) So far, they still haven't gotten the money they paid for it.
Finally, the shortest-lived item, the cudgel. Pretty much, it's just a possessed wooden stick. When the party wizard activated it, it did its job... It attacked the ogre, was hit by a wayward (critical fail) fire spell, and burned up.

I'm not doing it to just be a jerk. They have learned to cherish good items when they pop up. Remember the fighter? He's currently clinging to an the great axe Wolfbane. In fact, he bathes with it. O_o Wolfbane is just a +1 enhancement, but he knows how rare it is in my campaign. I don't think that's a bad thing that he has a little boost to his attacks. Just as long as he knows that he's doing most of the work.

If you make weapons have very specific bonuses (aka Wolfbane gets +2 vs wolves and wolfweres/werewolves) they won't suddenly blow away your main bosses, but the players will think they have something decently nice, but not amazing. That puts them at a comfortable middleground between depending on their items and depending on their skills.

I really like the leveling up idea... I think I may just steal it!

tesral
01-06-2010, 09:05 PM
Sounds like a white elephant take back sale to me.

fmitchell
01-06-2010, 11:53 PM
If you make weapons have very specific bonuses (aka Wolfbane gets +2 vs wolves and wolfweres/werewolves) they won't suddenly blow away your main bosses, but the players will think they have something decently nice, but not amazing. That puts them at a comfortable middleground between depending on their items and depending on their skills.

Actually, I'm not happy with a middle ground either. (C.f. the Golden Mean Fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_to_moderation), not that I'm saying your way is wrong.)

Wrong game system, I know, but two models I have in mind come from GURPS:

1. A supplement called "GURPS Power-Ups 1: Imbuements" defines a type of advantage in which any sword a character picks up becomes a flaming sword (or +1 against werewolves, or ignores armor, etc.) As in the DMG2 mechanics described upthread, this could be a magical gift acquired as a reward for completing a quest ... or a burden for a player doomed to slay mummies/werewolves/robots.

2. Pyramid issue 3/13 has an article, "The Magic of Stories", using alternative magic systems to model fairy-tale magic. Leaving aside specific GURPS mechanics, the author's suggestions are allies or one-use objects instead of classic magic items, using archetypes with special abilities (e.g. the Captive Maiden, the Fortunate Son, the Noble Knight), and treating the protagonists' attempts to alter the story as a sort of unconscious ritual magic which calls up enough "story energy" to provide fortuitous help.

One example of the latter is self-aware fairy tale settings like Terry Pratchett's Discworld, in which characters influence events by making them conform to classic stories like Cinderella and Macbeth, or breaking the similarities to grant other characters their freedom.

An editorial in Pyramid #3/13 discusses the problem of making magic magical. One solution I'm stealing is that the players might know something about magic, but they by no means know everything. A sidebar has the following conversation:



“How’s this castle flying?!”
“Magic. It’s owned by a magician.”
“Neat! Say, I’m a magician; can I make a flying castle?”
“No.”

TaliesinNYC
03-30-2010, 05:02 PM
4th Edition was supposed to get rid of the "Christmas Tree" effect: characters acquiring ever-better magic items until the items are more important than the character. As far as I can tell, it hasn't; if anything, they've only become more generic.

So, how could I make magic items "magical" again? I've seen a few approaches:


Magic items that "level up" along with the player, perhaps in conjunction with a multiclass. (E.g. Weapons of Legacy, Midnight)

Magic items that require a "trigger" to activate new powers, requiring in-game quests or between-session game time. (Magic items in Earthdawn.)

Artifacts, in any version of D&D, whose exact powers are unknown (AD&D) or depend on the character's pursuit of the artifact's goals (4e).
Any other suggestions, from long-time DMs out there?

P.S. Note that I'm not committed to 4e, and in fact a bit disinclined. I may run 3.x or even a retro-clone.

Very simple solution: don't hand out an item that would imbalance your campaign. Knowing that players like to hoard items, don't hand them out as frequently and your players will learn to appreciate the value of what they have.

Treasure does not have to be magical to be valuable and/or desirable.

tesral
03-30-2010, 05:10 PM
One must also keep the challenges in line with a lower magic environment.

Sascha
03-30-2010, 05:39 PM
Very simple solution: don't hand out an item that would imbalance your campaign. Knowing that players like to horde items, don't hand them out as frequently and your players will learn to appreciate the value of what they have.
Simple, maybe. Though depending on edition, that can have unintended consequences with character survivability. (Or completely intended consequences, if that's the style you're going for ;))

TaliesinNYC
03-30-2010, 05:53 PM
Simple, maybe. Though depending on edition, that can have unintended consequences with character survivability. (Or completely intended consequences, if that's the style you're going for ;))

It's the responsibility of the DM to scale encounters so that the PCs have a chance of surviving.

That being said, it's also the responsibility of the players to play intelligently so that their characters can resolve situations satisfactorily. (Hint: going full frontal isn't always the best solution.)

All things being equal, the DM has to take a proactive approach in setting up encounters though keeping in mind the proclivities of his or her players and the edition or style of the game or setting.

Sascha
03-30-2010, 06:40 PM
Sort of.

With 4E, the power curve is more dependent on magical gear than previous editions (in that it actually cares about preserving math balances); removing or limiting magic items isn't really suggested, without adding those numbers back in (using inherent gains). You could run with lower-level encounters, but I'm not entirely convinced they'd make much of an impact; even or greater encounters are much more dangerous. Also, the design of the game makes combat *fun* enough to want to engage in it; the tone of the game, as written, is to go "full frontal."

[Edit: Somehow posted before finishing my thoughts; doesn't seem as important now :P)

TaliesinNYC
03-30-2010, 06:52 PM
Sort of.

With 4E, the power curve is more dependent on magical gear than previous editions (in that it actually cares about preserving math balances); removing or limiting magic items isn't really suggested, without adding those numbers back in (using inherent gains). You could run with lower-level encounters, but I'm not entirely convinced they'd make much of an impact; even or greater encounters are much more dangerous. Also, the design of the game makes combat *fun* enough to want to engage in it; the tone of the game, as written, is to go "full frontal."

I don't remember magic items being neal

I guess this is the point where I'm showing my age, huh?

I've never run a 4E game in my life. After several years of running two campaigns under 3.x rules, I decided I had enough, then switched back to 2E. Best decision I ever made ... but I digress.

I've always found from observing other campaigns that the reason why Christmas-tree syndrome develops is because it starts with the GM. It might not be his/her intention (it almost always never is, particularly if the GM is experienced) but sooner or later, he/she wakes up to the fact that his/her players are walking around like mini-Fort Knoxes thus causing self-inflicted despair.

There's nothing that says that a GM can't change things if s/he doesn't like them. It just takes a little bit more work on his/her part, as well as the realization that it's an ongoing thing and there's really no silver bullet. If a player has a will, s/he'll usually find a way.

Sascha
03-30-2010, 07:02 PM
I guess this is the point where I'm showing my age, huh?

I've never run a 4E game in my life. After several years of running two campaigns under 3.x rules, I decided I had enough, then switched back to 2E. Best decision I ever made ... but I digress.

I've always found from observing other campaigns that the reason why Christmas-tree syndrome develops is because it starts with the GM. It might not be his/her intention (it almost always never is, particularly if the GM is experienced) but sooner or later, he/she wakes up to the fact that his/her players are walking around like mini-Fort Knoxes thus causing self-inflicted despair.

There's nothing that says that a GM can't change things if s/he doesn't like them. It just takes a little bit more work on his/her part, as well as the realization that it's an ongoing thing and there's really no silver bullet. If a player has a will, s/he'll usually find a way.
Hehe, yeah; though I do firmly believe system plays a significant part, as it sets the 'default' reward structure and power curves. An experienced GM can work it to suit the table, but the rules as written may not present themselves as readily compatible for any given style.

(Also, I still like Basic D&D, myself, though I'd have to put a bit more work into subjugating the rule set to fit my current tastes :P)

TaliesinNYC
03-30-2010, 07:14 PM
For some reason, low-level adventures work well with the no-magic concept.

One of the best scenarios I had in a FR campaign that never quite got off the ground was where the PCs were rewarded with a small keep (and title to the land) as their introductory 1st-level adventure. Now before you say "woah, that's too much", consider the following:

* It's a keep, therefore it requires maintenance;
* That means the PCs need a matching income;
* But because this was Cormyr (pre-Time of Troubles, mind you), there's also the notion of taxes;
* And because there's title, that means the concerns of the nearby village are important;
* And those orcs the party ingeniously drove off (without too much bloodshed)? They'll be wanting revenge ... eventually;
* And the "blak hand mojoka" that was manipulating the "big cheef", well, let's just say a certain Zhent spy had to pay the piper ... which led to certain other interesting scenarios down the line;
* And don't forget reputation! It's a double-edged sword. Good for the PCs (gets more adventuring work, potentially more income), bad for the PCs (unwanted attention; thieves and charlatans; Zhentish; other adventuring parties).

That's one way to curb the development of Christmas-tree syndrome. It did require careful planning on my part, because I had to keep track of all sorts of variables. But it was quite satisfying on many, many levels.

One of these days I'll restart that campaign. I just don't know when that will be.