Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Magic Items

I've already begun to get information from backers for their contributions to the game. I've been adding it to the text, and sending the involved a copy of what I've done (so they can see it and approve it). So, I urge you to get me your information as soon as possible, so I can close out this chapter... For example, I've got a pika villain and I don't know where it came from, and I want to make some changes to him... And there are bunch of unnamed NPCs that would really like their names... So, send me your contributions if you paid for them and you're entitled to add stuff. SoulJAR.info@gmail.com, with BACKER CONTRIBUTION in the subject line.

Today, I think I'm going to tackle something I've been avoiding like the plague. Magic item creation rules. The game includes enchanters, which, to be honest, I'm not thrilled with. It suggests that every town has a magic user who makes magic items, and it seems to be there to address a common trope in fantasy RPGs. I remember several D&D campaigns where we didn't have a magic user (remember when they were called that?) and we needed to identify a magic item, so we took it to the "magic store." Then that eventually morphed into a place where you could buy and sell magic items, which cheapened the whole "go into the dungeon to find magic items" experience. Magic items became less special and more a commodity.

I'm not thrilled with the common tropes of fantasy RPGs. But that's the subject for a different blog post.

Mostly, I believe that once you introduce an element to a game, it had darned well better be in there. For example, once you have to write down your "bend bars/lift gates" stat, there had better be a lot of bending of bars and lifting of gates. Otherwise, it's just a nonsense number that has no real use. Which means once you put enchanters in the game, you've got to have magic item creation rules.... Those are always ripe for abuse. You're going to get someone who wants a Rod of Nuclear Explosions who figures out how to do it with the rules....

Originally, the rules were super loose. Come up with magic item. Tell GM. GM tells you if you get it. Done. That's a little too loose for my tastes, and depends way more on trust than I like. It's not that there's necessarily an adversarial relationship between the GM and players, but I've been screwed over by GMs too many times... You figure out an ingenious way around a trap they invented, and nothing you do to get around it works because the GM is in love with his trap.... This is largely why games over the years have taken some aspects out of the GM's hands and made them rules -- abusive GMs*. But I digress.

In the end, you can't make game rules "dummy proof." They're not computer programs with lines of code that you can comb through. And the more you try to make your rules "infallible," the more rules you need. So you end up with 400-page RPGs. That's kind of the opposite of what we're going for here. And there's no way I can stop you from using that tired old trope of the "magic item shop" if that's what you want to do. Enchanters are in the game, and they're going to stay. I just have to figure out a way to make them work.

So, magic item creation rules. Something simple, that allows you to create your own wonders but doesn't give away the store. That's my goal for the day.



* I used to get emails from fans of the Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG begging me to send a letter to their GM to tell him the "right" way to apply a rule. So it really does happen.

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