Friday, 21 May 2010

4th edition - taking the magic out of magic items

I recently bought all three 4th edition books as I decided to keep up-to-date with the Dungeons and Dragons world. I am a 3.5 edition at heart, after being introduced into D&D by playing Neverwinter Nights. When I was playing Neverwinter Nights, I never thought I would go so deep as buy all three manuals, but I did and it fueled my passion even more for D&D.

But it was time to move on, 3.5 edition is starting to collect dust on my shelf now as I start flicking through the new manuals. Overall...I'm cautious of it. I'm not here to rant or rave about how bad 4th edition is because I don't really have a lot of experience of it. However, when I first got the manuals I wanted to see how the treasure system works.

That's one aspect I loved about 3.5 edition, the random rolling treasure system. It was exciting to roll for treasure when even the DM cannot even predict what will come up. My heart would race when I would roll that rare magic wand or winning that useful invisibility potion that the rogue can use. I enjoyed the randomness, as it took the decision making process for me, as I can be quite an indecisive person sometimes. I would keep rolling until the allocated gold piece value per encounter would have been used up. When planning my sessions, I would always leave the treasure towards the end because it was always something to look forward to.

So, excitedly flicking the pages I came across the treasure part of the Dungeon Master's guide. I have to say, my heart sank. Firstly, they suggest after around 10 encounters you should gain a level. Over a few pages, they have generated parcel packages for each level. Within each level, there are 10 parcels which must all be used to ensure that the party members get the correct amount of treasure. Breaking down each parcel they provide either monetary value (including gems and healing potions) or a magic item level. These parcals are recommended to be distributed amongst the ten encounters, some encounters receiving no treasure and other encounters receiving a lot of treasure. Around 4 of the parcels have one magic item in each parcel. Each magic item in each parcel has a level assigned for it. You are then required to look in the player's manual to look up magical item equipment and choose for yourself. No rolling, no randomness just choosing. The Dungeon Master's guide further suggests that you should give the treasure that the players want, that they should put a list forward about what sort of equipment they want such as a new magical short sword or a necklace. This is annoying, this takes away the idea of finding random treasure and being surprised when you find something. Now it's just Warlock: "Ohhh, find this magical short sword under this rock", Rogue: "Yeah that's for me, I asked for a magical short sword".

In 3.5 edition the players found treasure and then if they didn't need it, they would sell it. Simple. It was exciting finding a wand that no one could use, or a longsword when there wasn't a fighter in the party. It was just exciting finding any magical item and selling it. Thus the gold gained from selling would go towards new things. Now, in fourth edition, what do you spend your gold on if you practically have everything given to you? What about a nice set of potions? No, there are only 4 potions to choose from and they are all healing ones. Gone are the fun potions of invisibility, gone are the fun potions of creating your own potions (like my infamous "Mage armour" potions). I can't believe they took away all those fun potions! In 3.5 edition you could even create your own magical potions by choosing a wizard or cleric spell, putting it in a bottle and looking up the value of it in the dungeon master's guide!

Naturally I should look at the perks of the 4th edition treasure. It does save time, rolling for treasure was a time consuming process. Packages are already made for you and all you have to do is choose 4 magical items and you have all your treasures prepared. You could easy replace the gold gained by similar priced magical items. Also, within the DM's guide it shows how to change the parcels to how many party members there are. If there is one character only, then take away a few parcels. If you have more then 5 players, it tells you which parcels to double up on.
Looking at all the magical equipment in the player's guide it was exciting to read all the different equipment. Such as enhancing damage, using abilities and increasing your defences. There seems to be a feeling of a lot more depth to these items in comparison to 3.5 edition. However, there is not the customizability that was prevalent in 3.5, to be able to create your own items...which I find the most exciting part. The ability to be able to customise the magical treasure would ensure that the equipment was tailored to the players if you wanted to give them something.

All in all, I feel that treasure in 4th edition has been completely simplified. They have taken away the ability for DMs to create their own treasure that they could proudly give to their players. The parcels do save time when planning sessions. But, to be honest, 4th edition...you really have taken the magic out of magic items!

What do you guys think? Any 3.5 edition players here who moved onto 4th edition? Do you enjoy randomised treasure items or creating your own magical items? Any magical items you created that you are proud of?

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