Dungeons & Dragons Online

The easiest method to give out magic items that your players love

So I've recently been using a system to give out magic items that gives me an ENORMOUS amount of bang for my buck, and thought I would share.

The problem statement:

I'm currently a year into DMing my second campaign, and it could not be more different from my first one.

My first campaign, I ran a module (HotDQ), and tried to stick as close to the module as I could. I was also tight fisted with magic items, loot, and so on. The campaign lasted over a year but eventually just…petered out. An inauspicious end to an okay campaign.

In my first campaign, when I wanted to give out magic items, I spent hours poring over the magic items list, attempting to keep the party balanced, make sure every player had an item that I thought they would love, and 30 minutes during the session giving out the items in a way that made sense in game. It was time consuming both in and out of game and there was always at least one person who thought the item they got wasn't quite as cool.

The Solution:

My second campaign has been a joy. I home brewed the setting, came up with some initial plot hooks, and dropped them into the world. It's a high magic world which has magical airships and submarines, and so powerful magic items are commonplace.

In my second campaign, when my players clear out a dungeon or a time comes to dole out loot, I just say, "alright, each of you gets X points to spend on magic items." They can allocate the points however they want, but they cannot be shared with another player, and they must be spent now. No saving them for the next dungeon. I reserve the right to veto an item (although I personally do this basically never).

  • Common Items – 1 point
  • Uncommon Items – 2 points
  • Rare – 3 points
  • Very Rare – 4 points
  • Legendary – 5 points

Why this works for my players:

The players are allowed to choose whatever items interest them the most. They find this exciting, and it allows them a much greater level of control over their character development. I've also found that it helps them to engage with the world: what items do they think are going to be helpful as they move through the world? Will they need an Eagle Whistle when they go to one of the flying cities in the Sky Realm? Or what about just a Dagger of Warning for general safety stuff?

Why this works for me:

I am a busy person. I want to run a low effort game that doesn't require me to spend 20 hours a week on top of my job to run. I'm also SUPER comfortable with improvisation, and my players and I enjoy a bit of chaos (like, Deck of Many Things at level 5 amounts of chaos).

How this could work for you:

Although I tend to give out a rather large amount of points for random unplanned side quests, the beauty of this system is that you can customize it however you want and just keep the core idea. They just beat the first little goblin cave? Give out 1 point to the whole party, so only one person gets the item, and they have to choose what and who it is. They just beat your tier 1 big bad? Give out 2 points each, or 4 points period. Or if you want a higher magic game, give out 8 points each when they reach level 3. Or if you're willing to do a little extra bookkeeping, allow them to stockpile points until they can buy their own Deck of Many Things.

Things to watch out for:

When you're giving the players the option to choose whatever items they want, they WILL take items you aren't expecting, and sometimes even play sub-optimally. I have one player who took a Holy Avenger Longsword and a Belt of Fire Giant Strength, while another keeps taking one time use items like Elixir of Health and Potion of Animal Friendship. Balancing encounters for both of these players has proven challenging, but if you're willing to roll with the punches it can be done.

Final Takeaways:

This has worked really well at my table, and my players love the system. The main point here is that you shouldn't be afraid to give your players some measure of control over the items available to them. They'll be more excited about the loot they get, and they'll have more fun as a result.


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