You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 06 October 2011

It's easy to dismiss concerns or criticism about rules changes, proposed or implemented, as being a grognard, especially in D&D. "You don't like it because it's different," they'll say, "but you'll just buy it in the end." But my understanding is that with the current state of things, and particular with the Legends & Lore articles, we're supposed to talk about it. It's their way of getting community feedback, good or bad, on what they are working on.

Now I reacted pretty strongly to the most recent Legends & Lore article, Magic and Mystery. Twitter can be great about many things but a nuanced discussion of the issues is often difficult in the space of 140 or so characters, especially when having a discussion with particular people, meaning you have to put their twitter handles in with whatever you're trying to say.

So, now that I have a bit more room, let me first say that I'm in favor of the idea of removing magic items from character advancement. I fully acknowledge that the 4e system made it more difficult to run particular types of campaigns. It's also an issue I've discussed before. I love the inherent bonus system, although it doesn't fix this completely, and just felt we needed more guidance on how to use it properly. I also love the new rarity system on magic items to give a DM guidelines about what might be available and what might not be. Again, it's not perfect, but it does attempt to address some of the issues with the current magic system.

However, whatever rule system we put in place, I would love it if more guidance was provided, especially for newer DMs. When I started DMing, I didn't realize that the 4e system required magic items as part of advancement. Given the story and the group, this meant I didn't hand out as many magic items as I should have. While we didn't advance far enough for this problem to become apparent, it wasn't a big deal. But it would have been nice if things were stated a bit more explicitly.

So, it's not the suggested rule change that made me react strongly. I'm in favor, and have been in favor of it for over a year. It's the larger context of the article that made me wonder if I was being trolled by a well-known and well-loved D&D designer and whether or not I should continue to read the articles.

Instead of laying out the issues, the article states that players want a particular type of magic experience from D&D, one in which magic is mysterious. It then goes on to propose that the reason magic is no longer mysterious is that items can no longer do wild and crazy things, in part because they are part of character advancement and also because they are available to players in the form of lists.

Missing from the discussion are the reasons why the system evolved that way. Prior editions where magic wasn't as well codified as 4e had their issues as well. DMs, maybe as a way to bribe their players or under the mistaken impression that adding more cool factor always makes games cooler, frequently gave more magic items than they really should have. They then would try to take those items away from the players, who by that point, thought the DM was playing with them. Trust eroded and the game would become less fun. I personally know of one group that TPK'ed their characters because the game ceased to be fun. (See Monty Haul)

In addition, the old way required DMs to know about the magic items available and put pressure on them to keep up with the books. One of the things I loved about 4e is that each player could tell me what he or she might like and I could keep an eye out for the items that I thought they might want to have. I didn't invest in the Adventurer's Vault series because as a DM, I had enough other stuff to do. I don't want to spend my valuable planning time keeping up with every magic item out there. I just don't. It doesn't mean other DMs don't enjoy it. It just means that there are arguments for allowing players to know what magic items exist and that there isn't one default experience or desire in this area.

Furthermore, there are other just as likely reasons why magic is no longer mysterious that are never explored in the article. After 30 years of playing with magic getting by and large the same treatment, how can it be mysterious for that player? Who is to say that it's not mysterious to the new player who came to the game for the first time within the past two or three years. Maybe there are parts of the magic system that we want to be mysterious and crazy, like the aftereffects of the spell plague in the Forgotten Realms or an artifact lost to the world for thousands of years, but other items, like common spells and prayers should be, well, known.

Rather than seduce us with nostalgia or bash on players for, gods forbid, salivating over an item that perfectly fits their character concept, perhaps we should explore these issues. Also, I find it a bit difficult to talk about solutions to the magic problem only with people who primarily DM. Regardless of which book the magic items end up in, they will have to know about them in the sort of intimate detail that makes mysterious harder if not impossible. Anyway, that's where I'm coming from.


Two comments:

Player's have always (always) snuck looks at magic items and told DMs (often but not always me) what items they want. My players did it during 2e far more than my players did in 4e, who were happy enough trusting me to go through all the books and award treasure I thought fitted their character.
This was before Essentials, and I hated tracking parcels and would have loved random loot tables or charts.

The author of the article was one of the architects of 3e, which first introduced the guidelines that "characters of x level have z amount of magic items", simplified into static pluses for 4e. He probably has a lot of insight into why they made that change as well as seeing the impact of ten years of mandatory magic.

It's easy enough to drop the mystery and tell your players to ask for magic items and read those sections. But it's harder to pull back that veil when the magic items are IN the player books and for a year the game is telling you to hand out +2 swords to your level 2 party.
You write the rules for one default playstyle, but you try and choose the one that allow gamers the most flexibility to adapt and change.

The author of the article was one of the architects of 3e, which first introduced the guidelines that "characters of x level have z amount of magic items", simplified into static pluses for 4e. He probably has a lot of insight into why they made that change as well as seeing the impact of ten years of mandatory magic.

I'm well aware of who Monte is and what he's designed. However, the articles are meant to promote discussion and to get an idea from the audience about what they would like to see in the rules. To do so, it would be better if the articles weren't so one sided in their context.

To do so, it would be better if the articles weren't so one sided in their context.

But, articles written by a person or entity will naturally be one-sided, theirs, no? He could suggest options but I think what he's doing in the article is saying "X is Y". But he doesn't mean, that "X is Y" is a fact, I think like much of the discourse in human thought, he means "I think that X is Y" or "My opinion is that X is Y" and it is up to us to offer alternatives, comments and or critiques. By putting these thoughts out in the L&L articles, he is inviting us to comment and to think about these opinions.

Which you're doing. But I think you might also be attributing a desire to ignore options or an audience where no such exists.

I wasn't trying to imply you didn't know who Mr. Cook was. Sorry. (Feels shame as a minor action)

Mostly wanted to say that it's easier to surrender control than take back control given as the default. But that phrasing didn't come to me until 2.87 seconds after I hit "save".

Given he's arguing against the current stance I think it's fair to focus on that perspective. He's arguing against the status quo. You don't need to support the status quo. It won. It's quo. The benefits are known.

If the article were the be-all end-all on the topic I might disapprove, but I view it as the introduction, the topic sentence of the larger essay. Hopefully we'll see more balanced articles later.

I've been writing about this too -- and I'm one of those that doesn't really enjoy the 4E way of handing out magic items (or 3.5's for that matter) but I think the mystery part of the equation can't be solved just by "hiding" the items from the players. That pretty much always fails.

Look at a game like Deadlands. It was full of secrets. But since I was interested in running the game as much as playing it -- and knew other groups running and playing it -- those secrets don't last long.

The magic of magic items is not about keeping secrets -- it's about tailoring the experience to your group. If your group wants to hand out items and consumables like candy, and that's your thing -- do it.

But you could also have a system where PC items grow with them as they level and they only discover a few magic items as they advance (instead of a dozen or more). This changes the tone and expectation a lot.

And you could write rules that allow both on the same system framework.

That's where I'm coming from. (sorry, I liked your turn of phrase there.)

I think it's important to keep the info out of the players hands not because of mystery but to eliminate entitlement and to return them to a status of 'treasure'.

It wasn't until 4e that my players started using magic items as part of their character builds, and when I took that away, they squawked...loudly.

I could accept Common items being in the PHB, but I think putting all magic items into the player's hands (and Character Builder) was a mistake. At that point, they're almost just another Power.

I agree here. the second the players start using magic items to build their characters it takes something away from development. It hurts it big time, suddenly it is the item and not the player.

I have seen friends say something very similar about his past two blog entries alienating 4e fans. You are not alone.

Would this problem be helped if D&D offered an easy-to-use magic item creation system so that DM's could create items that reflect the setting at the table without breaking the world in twain with crazy stuff.

I was super gung-ho on 4e when it came out, less so now. The new articles have done about as much alienating as it is possible for me. I could conceive that if I showed these articles to me from two years ago, who was so hooked with the way he thought 4e was going, he would have some nasty things to say. Right now though, I'll just second your assertion (and most of my 10+ friends who play 4e feel the same way) that I think a lot of people really into 4e aren't digging Monte's groove right now.

IMO the problem with magic items is not in their openness or mystery. The problem is they are just additional powers, nothing more. Current rare items & GW Omega Tech are steps in the right direction, so I hope they keep going that way.
And I agree that there should be common and widely available items (minor magic or even masterwork versions of items) and there should be rare items that can break the rules on spectacular manner. 4E exception-based design made items boring, 'cause every power & feat break the rules in some way. So items (some of them) should do more, not neccessary making characters more powerful, but giving them things they just cannot ever do in any other way.

Just get rid of plus'd items. Pfft. Gone. No more. Nada. That is the biggest fix you can make. Suddenly a FLAMING SWORD is awesome, no matter what your level. You don't have to worry about selling items, buying items, trading up. Done.

I'm darkly amused that Monte Cook's new "what if" idea is pretty much identical to what D&D announced it would be doing right before the first big round of layoffs, but to a more extreme degree. I don't think I'm alone in recalling Common, Uncommon, and Rare magic items, but I honestly don't know if 4e ever implemented that system because that was around the same time I stopped buying new material.

There's a burning question that Monte doesn't answer: What on earth do players do with all this money if they aren't saving up for magic items? Editions prior to 3.0 had an answer for this, though most campaigns didn't last long enough for that answer to surface: you're saving up for entering domain-level play. You're going to roll that money into your castle, temple, or spell research.

I think 4e's answer to that could involve domain-level play, but if that's not your speed, slash the monetary award to scale linearly rather than geometrically. Money is a way to grease the wheels of the world, rather than a way to secure your next magic item.

I am strongly in favor of baking attack, damage, and defense bonuses into level progression. I assume that this is an unstated part of Monte's thinking; if it's not, well, he should know better, because the math just don't work otherwise.

So all in all, I'm in favor of a change like this, but I feel that it needs some heavy lifting to take place in order to integrate it with the rest of the rules.

Sorry if I sound like I'm beating a dead horse, because your article is quite introspective. And yes in many ways the older systems (OD&D and AD&D) required DMs to be very active and on top of magic items. But 3.X changed that it encouraged PCs to look at magic item properties so they could make their own. Later books had the items there for the PCs rather than being hidden away for the DMs eyes only. What I read in Monte's article was that Magic Items shouldn't be about the static bonuses, and they shouldn't be something that can be purchased at magic shops as though they were well stocked Super Magic-Marts where anything in the books was available.

I think that level of specificity harms player invention and creativity. An example (and two different styles of play follows)

Player A looks for an item across all the books for something that perfectly fits his/her character concept, waits patiently until they get the gold and then buys it (or harasses the DM until a level appropriate item is found).

Player B instead to talks to their DM and says "I want something that can freeze my enemies in place, or hit them with a freezing wind doing damage and pushing them around".

The former might be limiting if there aren't many magic items in the system, or not any that do that type of damage/effect/thing and might cause a player to shift his/her concept around to items they can find. The later is more work for the DM if one assumes the presentation of magic items is very specific (like in 4E or even similar to 3.X), but if it is a looser presentation it might inspire a DM to make a weapon that truly represents what the character is rather than what the PC can find that sort of fits the concept.

Personally I feel magic items should be random, unless the party is on a quest to find a treasure trove with a flaming sword. Or looking to find and negotiate with a hermit known for making the finest channeling rods out of the purist obsidian.

I think I'm unusual, but I don't see magic items as extensions of my character concept. They give me a plus to hit, or to damage, or to my defense, but I haven't had a magic item that excited my about what it did for my character the way a feat has. (Right now I'm playing a warlord with some of the school feats from MP2, the ones that interact with certain powers, and that has really allowed me to define the character.) Similarly, items that reinforce the concept -- say, bracers of strength for a goliath fighter -- are important and desirable, but not exciting.

My wife, on the other hand, has a Cape of the Mountebank for her rogue, and teleporting power from that is something that's exciting for her. It's something she couldn't do at all without the cape, not something that just lets her do what she already does, but better.

I think that's the key, and what another commenter alluded to -- a plus may be necessary, but it's not exciting. A flaming sword or a teleporting cape has less frequent utility but it's much more interesting.

Good post and great topic: for me, 4e flows as the 4th 'take' on the D&D the rules, and I try to consider how the ideas 'nest & stack': to me, the 4e elements are 400% more complicated than the original.

re: 'the point'

Magic-items are the heart & soul of my game: unique, hand-crafted; definitely not part of any ladder, but inexorably entangled with the character fate/path

I also allow players to spend XP to gain stuff in the game, but they still have to unlock those options through role-playing...I guess that equates to a give-and-take dialog between all players, DM included.

Perhaps the problem isn't really magic items but the whole concept of ascending math. WHY do I need an across-the-board +X to hit at 7th level that I somehow wasn't entitled to at 5th? If that whole idea was dropped or revised, it would free magic items to induce more wonder.

The ascending math ... or descending as the case may be, has always been there. Revising it is what I gather they (WotC) are considering now, and that's a good thing. If the player knows what the average to-hit and AC of creatures are by level, then things get a bit predictable. On the plus side, that makes encounter difficult fairly easy to gauge.

But that's my own preferences/experience talking. I think sarahdarkmagic is making the point that for some players their interest is the inverse of what I just wrote. They like the predictability, or perhaps they just like figuring out the just right combination of items that will make their PC work the way they want it to, and appreciate that the system supports that.

There are many different ways to play and one thing that the devs may decide, is to make a change that breaks one or more paradigms of play. And that's ok. As long as there are players and DMs, game systems will get hacked, and life will go on.

So, I feel a little weird saying this to Steve Winter, because I don't want to sound like a patronizing jerk, but I'll see if I can verbalize the formal answer to this: "So that when I gain a level, I am mathematically more powerful relative to the same opponent than I was before." I fight a gnoll (who for argument will be a 5th level monster) when I am a 3rd level character. This is a challenge, because I need to roll well to hit, I have relatively few hit points, and it can hit my defenses with relative impunity. When I reach 4th level, things are 5% better on attacks and defenses (ignoring for a moment attribute improvements), and a little better on hit points.

See, the DM in this theoretical campaign is doing a whole big thing with gnolls (and presumably Yeenoghu), so we keep fighting them. There are other kinds of gnolls mixed in for flavor, sure, but what's important here is that I'm also fighting more of those baseline gnolls. That's where I'm really starting to rock out when I hit, say, 7th level. By this point, my attack bonuses and defense bonuses have improved twice through leveling alone, but I've also picked up better gear. There are no guarantees that I had a +1 weapon at 3rd level or a +2 weapon at 7th, but the odds are pretty good overall that some one of (weapon, armor, neck slot item) have improved by +1 in that time.

Over the span of the campaign, it must do so, because monster attacks and defenses scale up at every level, not even-numbered levels the way PC attacks and defenses do.

I think that changing the design of 4e to solve for this is a valid goal, but one that runs the risk of making PCs not feel measurably more awesome at Level X+1, aside from having a wider variety of powers.

I like this a lot.

Anything that you see the inner workings will make you lose the feeling of magic.

I agree that it is hard to speak from the player's perspective as I DM. I'd love to play in a D&D 4th ed campaign from the player's side of the screen. I just need to find such a game.

If Magic items are removed from the scaling calculation, we can go back to having weapons be more or less powerful based on their enhancement bonus as well as their powers and effects. For instance, one can foresee a frost weapon being a +2 while a holy avenger would be +4/5. It could even go even more in the direction of pluses being reserved solely for truly special weapons. So a frost weapon might be a +0, while a weapon like Icing(Icy?) Death might be a +3 and a weapon-like artifact would be a +5 (Excalibur).

But that's not to say that I don't like the current magic system. There's a lot of fun to it, even if it leads to magic mart style effects _if_ the GM and players let it.

Echoing Steve a little bit. I think I'd love to see +X disappear almost completely. Maybe have a +1 or +2 that a DM could hand out every once in a while, but for the most part focus magic items on cool effects, not attack bonuses. So flaming weapons sure, armor that fits like a shirt and has the added benefit of making you immune to the shadowy magics of Evard, awesome. +3 dagger? Bleh.

The ones I like the most though are all the weird little magic stuff. A compass that can lead you to a person if you put a bit of their blood in it, a crystal that lets you see what was happening in the area 30 years in the past when you look through it. That's the kind of stuff I get excited about.

I don't think the +X should disappear completely. I think they should be harder to get. Right now, +s are linear in progression. There is a +6 version of most/all +1 weapons. And the power of the item is largely in how 1) those pluses apply to the scaling of attack 2) the number of crit die and then 3) in any effects of the item (that may or may not scale with enhancement bonus.

I think that it should be perfectly acceptable for a level 30 PC to be running around with a +1 weapon and be ok in a combat ... but if he's got a +6 item, it better be the dragon's own tooth, or something like it. That +6 weapon would result, in fact, in a 30% higher hit rate, as well as having properties and powers that would make a grown god cry. That there's a +1 Frost Weapon and a +6 Frost Weapon only emphasizes the fact that the bonus is what is important, over and over and over again, no matter what other properties the weapon (or armor or neck slot item) has.

I think future systems, if they so desire, should look at autoscaling certain effects either per level or per tier (crit die being dependent on character level and not item level), and leaving +X to be determined by other factors, up to and including whether the item is iconic or not.

I definitely see where you're coming from, and I can get behind. I think I just like the idea of standard magic items not adding bonuses to attack and damage all the time. And if they do, it's rather low, like a +1 or +2. If a system is balanced with the idea that +0 is what we expect of characters, then that +1 or +2 is a pretty damn good increase. I can see having the pluses go up higher, but have them be very situational. You've seen what I'm talking about in the 3rd edition and earlier "bane" type weapons. It's a normal weapon unless you're going up against orcs, then it has +5 to attack and damage or whatever.

But even then, I think I would prefer some other quality that's just cooler. +5 is beneficial but bland. I would love to see, instead, a bane weapon like that bloody an orc on the first hit, and/or glow in the presence of orcs, and/or impose some kind of fear or condition on orcs near it. Having a +X bonuses is an option that might be worth keeping, but I think the other options are just cooler.

and the bane weapons in 2e- are a mechanic I can totally agree with. However, I'm not suggesting a +5 plain vanilla magic weapon. The +5 would be Excalibur

Excalibur (Level 25-30 Magic Longsword)
Enhancement: +5
Crit: per character + 1d6
Property "Armor of Righteousness": When in the hands of a Lawful Good character, the weapon provides a +2 item bonus to AC.
Property "Strength of the Light": When in the hands of a Good character, the weapon provides a +2 item bonus to damage
Power (Daily, Standard) "Cleave the Ravening Hordes": Close Burst 2, Highest Ability vs. AC, ... etc

Any weapon that got a +5 would be +5 AND really powerful on top of that. At +4 it would be cool, but not as cool, a +3, etc.

But I can also see making the Enhancement line above being a +3 and a Property: Against Chaotic opponents, gain a +2 item bonus to attack rolls. Or some weapons can be conditional and some aren't.

Another thing is that the damage bonus from +X weapons is almost negligible. I'd much rather it be an extra +1d6 or something.

Trevor, I like items like the compass too. The magic items I cared to hand out during my 4e game were things closer to that, the Hat of Disguise, Necklace of Keys, and the Map of Unseen Lands for example. For the rest of it, I was content to have my players pick their level 4 weapon of excellence. If the player likes axes, I don't want to force them into swords. It's just not important to me. Now if the player wants their character to go through that change, that's something different altogether.

As for magic items like the flaming sword, what if they added "stunts" to whatever you can currently do. So, maybe a flaming sword gives your damage the fire keyword or causes ongoing fire damage (to use 4e terms). And then, if you decide to go on a particular quest, the DM unlocks another component of the sword. It's not tied to your level and is part of the "treasure" you get for doing something. I think in 4e we can tie this to boons.

Some of it could even be part of the lore of the setting. Dipping a sword in the fires of mordor results in something freaking awesome but you have to get there first. :)

A main problem here is that accuracy is so important to 4E's design. Hitting is what allows everything that matters to happen, even for spells and most leader/healer stuff. Additionally, there are certain capabilities (for example: movement like teleportation or flight; concealment) that are deliberately rare in the game - magic items let you gain access to these things (or more often).

Those problems mean you must have magic items and players will want them as build enablers. Inherent bonuses solve the first part, but not that utility aspect. Most warlocks use one of two armors in the game (out of tons of possible choices), a snapshot of the issue. When you look at a charging PC, the magic items the player wants for their PC becomes a tired list that soon is an _expectation_ of what they need. Character Optimization forums reinforce this, but even without them players arrive at the same conclusion.

All of it needs an overhaul back to the basic underpinnings. What is incredible is that magic items were 'this close', according to designers, to barely having any function at all in 4E. That seemed too drastic, so instead they added more depth with the idea of limiting dailies so the PC would shine and not be defined by items. Then they allowed a legion of freelancers to write AV and that goal was history as a torrent of insanely strong properties and encounter powers were delivered to the masses. Many popular builds are really only possible because of their items.

While 3rd edition sure started us on this path, it wasn't so completely taken for granted. There weren't that many must-haves outside of ability bumps and protection devices. You generally paid for anything really strong (for example, high-crit or extra attack stuff was expensive or limited in function). Sure, there was cheese, but it wasn't as fine-tuned to PC builds as it is now. In previous editions magic was really much more optional. Rolling on random tables worked about as well as choosing an item for a PC, because the magic items were not so clearly based on fundamental bits that players build around to derive their PC's power. We need to step back in that direction or increase the cost, vastly, of the items that do. But, it is very hard to achieve in 4E. Adding a simple thing like an elemental type can be a gateway to frostcheese, synergy with Eberron shards, etc. Before you know it you are deep in obscene cheese land.

One of the benefits many DMs are seeing from playing Dark Sun, where magic items are rare, is that the players come to understand that they won't get what they want. Inherent takes care of the math and magic items are few and far between. The entire game ends up working better. What would be nice is to maintain that level of balance while also providing interesting/fun magic items in a more typical high-magic setting.

Sing it, brother!

It's amazing how much better balanced 4e is if you pretend that the Adventurer's Vault doesn't exit.

If you want interesting magical items, they don't need to be part of a gear list or from a book. You can have all of the +X gear, never talk about it, and still have plenty of mystery and drama by having non-gear magical items that are part of the game's plot.

You can also have players choose their own magical items, never worry about handing them out, and completely re-skin the fiction. Your class is a fighter and your gear includes plate, a shield, and a sword, but in the fiction, you're a monk who wears robes and never uses weapons other than his fists. It's absolutely trivial. And the monk-who-is-actually-a-fighter can level up and get gear for the sake of scaling, but nobody ever cares in the fiction of the game. As far as they're concerned, he's just improved his abilities. Hell, you can pair the effects of a class power to the use of a specific item with the idea that this item is the origin that ability.

Whether or not it's a good or interesting mechanic to have gear as a scaling tool is a whole 'nother thing, but the "it feels weird" and complaints about disruption of immersion are imagined as far as I can tell.

Well, no one ever cares until a character in the world wants to try to judge another character based on appearances. At that point, the reskinning fiction has to make some hard choices. 4e monster design does a little of this, but you can still get very useful hints about a monster by asking about its appearance. Fudging all these details is possible, but it requires either an omniscient DM or breaking the abstraction.

Note that I'm saying `character' specifically to be agnostic about PCs and NPCs.

It's not just appearances, it's how things happen. In 4e, but not all rpg's, the connection between the mechanic and the imaginary events in the game is mostly arbitrary, however, that's just the connection - the imaginary part, itself, is not arbitrary.

A simple example: if wizards use fire, superstitious villagers could jump to conclusions when a house burns down. But that only works if the wizard does, in fact, wield fire. By the book, a wizard could, however, if you've deliberately re-skinned your wizard's fire power as corrosive fog, maybe the villagers have never seen a human wield magical fire, so you're not on the hook for it.
This applies across all aspects of a game and is not just about appearances, but, rather, what functionally happens in the fiction.

And I don't see how those choices are hard or require an omniscient DM. There's no fudging. The players can do the re-skinning themselves. The abstraction isn't broken, simply remade. You just keep the mechanic intact and re-imagine the effect of a power. Same for magical items, which is the core of this discussion: you can accept the necessity of gear for scaling in the mechanic, and outright ignore its presence in the fiction and the game does not change. So if you find that the nature of magical gear in 4e not to feel mysterious enough for you, it's trivial to eliminate it where the mystery matters and bring in mystery on your own.

Immersion is what you make of it, and is largely separate from where my character's attack bonuses come from, IMO. Others may disagree.

Arguing that the "missing" magic item bonuses can be replaced by Dark Sun-style inherent bonuses misses the point, I think. If you remove the ever-ascending magic item bonuses that are built into the current ladder, then why not simultaneously remove the need for those bonuses? There are other ways to reflect extra killing power and toughness than via upward-spiraling AC and attack bonuses. Even if those numbers do climb, they could climb at a slower rate to accommodate scaling back on magical pluses.

That's absolutely true, though I'll say that changing the rules so that I need to throw out my books is... a direction I wouldn't prefer to go, because in general I think the Monster Manuals have consistently been some of the best content published for this edition. If a proposed adjustment to monsters is easily and universally applied, I'd be open to that as a fix.

I have the feeling that, unless they go hogwild and eliminate powers from D&D, that we'll see an evolutionary evergreen D&D. Yes, every so often you might need to get some new books, or you can just use the digitial tools.

I would like to see:

1. An elimination of +X items (to a degree. Weapon of Accuracy could have a property giving a +1 to hit for example...but it's now an exception rather than a rule).

2. Elimination of feats that give bonuses to hit (or defenses). With accuracy being such a keystone to 4e combat, these are no-brainers.

3. Elimination of attribute increases. Since most people do point buy anyways, and there are very few attribute requriements, you generally get the ability distribution you want at the start. This would return us to a regime where 3-18 is the normal range and an 18 is a fracking big deal.

Doing all of this would then simplify the bonus-by-level increase to equal to your level instead of Level/2.

I can get behind this idea, but #3 isn't as `retro' as it might seem to people that didn't play earlier editions. They didn't have automatic ability score boosts, true, but they had stat-boosting items and spells instead. For my money, periodic ability score boosts are a cleaner approach (although sometimes you might want the dirt involved with finding a manual of gainful exercise in a dragon's hoard).

I'v almost never actually seen those permanent items in a home game. Aside from the bracer,girdles,belts that could be disenchanted. Usually resulting in the wearer being crushed under the weight of the gear they had been carrying.

One thing that has changed in comparison to 1st & 2nd edition is the easy availability of information online. Whether it is forums, blogs or your DDI subscription, there is far more information available to players. Players consume and analyze this information, trying to pick the ideal items for the ideal build. The fact that 4E is so math based just compounds the issue. The items from Players Handbook and the Adventurers Vault (as well as pretty much all of the powers) feel cold. You can plainly see the math right beneath the surface.

Even with a better job of adding flavor and obscuring the math, the players are just too well informed for much mystery to be left. I remember in my early 1st edition days one of my buddies who was in awe of a powerful magic item from another campaign he played. He viewed the item as almost iconic. Little did he know that the DM of the other campaign he played had created the item himself. In this day of DDI and the online character builder, that scenario would just not be possible.

Count me among those who think getting rid of the 'plus' weapons and stat boosting magic items will go a long way to making magic more magical again.

Monte has a point, but I think he's looking back at older editions of the game with nostalgic, rose coloured glasses. Some of the magic of playing those games back in the day had a lot more to do with us as players (discovering the game and the age that we were) than the mechanics of the system. There is a lot to be learned from the old-school, but there are also good reasons for many of the changes throughout the editions that reflect the changing play styles and expectations of an aging audience.

I like method of providing players with magical components, and requiring them to find an appropriate craftsman to create the item they desire. That way, if the player wants their character to have abilities similar to some creature in the game, the hunt is on! They have to find the right components to make their dreams a reality, and when they finally do, it's all the more satisfying.

I also like the idea of "spirit items". These items (usually weapons) are tied to a PC's soul. As the PC goes up in level, the items change. On the DM's side of the screen, the changes can be arbitrary, predetermined, or based on the history of the character's accomplishments and adventuring style.

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