Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thar Be Treasure!

So after a couple entries of personal stuff, I thought I'd write something about gaming again. From the very start of my gaming career, one of the best parts of gaming has been the treasure. What new kind of magical item will we get from another adventure? What strange and wondrous things will the dragon have in its hoard?

My first experience with D&D and the treasures it gave out was fascinating. The items that came out of 2nd Edition AD&D were unique and encouraged a sense of wonder; the Vorpal Sword that could decapitate enemies, the Deck of Many Things, where a draw of a card could save or damn you; the mythical Rod of Seven Parts, an artifact of incredible power that grew in power the more parts you acquired. There are so many that I don't remember, but I remember the random treasure tables, and how amazed I was every time we acquired new treasure - would it be an item that could help our group, or would it be something we would have to destroy to save others?

Things changed with 3rd Edition; the system was changed to try and make for a more balanced experience. And with those changes, came some things that went for the worse. The treasures became less wondrous, and more about what bonuses or penalties the magic items gave. With those changes, something I loved about the game was lost. The great items that were part of why I enjoyed D&D so much had become simply a pile of numbers.

With 4th Edition, magic items have changed again, though I'm not sure they've become any closer to the items I used to love so much. I think, though, that a part of the solution is something that DMs have to handle, and that is the description of the items that players get. If your average player has their character receive a +1 sword, it's nothing special, nothing magical. If, however, you give them a sword and describe the blade as 'carefully stained, giving it a fiery hue accented with coiling ribbons of black', they're going to be more interested. More show, less tell, and maybe some of the magic will come back into the game.

If you want to know what inspired me to write about this, it is an entry on a blog called ars ludi: 'Treasure Tells A Story'.

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