Thursday, May 31, 2018

Who gets the magic item you found?

If you have a generally cooperative group with communal goals, you often get magic items handed out on ability to use, not on individual desire.

In that kind of situation there is a basic question that comes up - who gets the item? Who really exemplifies the "best" choice to maximize the value of a magical item?

The Belt of Might +3 the PCs picked up in our last game session is a good example of this debate. But so does any number of magical weapons, protective amulets, offensive wands, and so on. Who gets it?

Do you:

Shore up weakness?

This school of thought says that magic items are great ways to bring up lagging party members. Have someone vulnerable to magic? Give him the item that helps him resist magic. Have someone who fights pretty well but lacks hitting power? Give him the shiny new magical weapon and enhance that hitting power. Have someone who lags in ST behind the rest of the party? Give him the ST booster. And so on. Use the magical item to make your weaker guys less weak, or plug holes on guys with gaping gaps in their abilities.

Enhance strength?

Conversely, this school of thought say that you best take advantage of a magical item if you give it to the character who best exemplifies that trait. Magical sword of smiting? Give it to the stronger swordsman in the group, so you have enormous one-punch power against boss-level foes. Belt of strength? Give it to the strongest, to make for a truly awesomely strong guy who can bash down doors, smash foes, and lift portcullises. Have a guy with excellent anti-magical defenses? Give him the magic resistance amulet, so he can be your point man against Mind Control wizards and those all-too-charming vampires. And so on - the best place for your best item is on your best guy.

Only consider maximal use?

If the item is used effectively by anyone but with a special bonus by another, does that special bonus trump all other considerations? For example, and item that gets a bonus for a specific Talent or trait, but functions just fine for everyone. Do you only consider the person with the best ability to maximize the effectiveness of the item?

Find a novel use?

For example, with that belt - it's +3 to Striking ST and Lifting ST, effectively (it's +3 ST, without HP). Why not give it to a wizard or cleric, so they can wear heavier armor? Why not bring it along as a booster to henchmen who carry loot and haul wounded companions?

I think this is an interesting debate to witness - in a sense, none of those are wrong uses. None of them are really poorer choices than the others. It's just how you choose to maximize the bonus you found.

On a related note, this post suggests some ways to prevent the choice of "all of the above, as needed, on the fly."


  1. I'm a fan of the "Maximize the fun" approach. Tactical optimization can be fun, sure, but co-operation can occur on other axes.

    1. Yes, but how do you maximize the fun? I will argue that all of the options I listed above are a form of fun-maximization at heart, since it's really about using this power boost to make something you like having happen, happen better with the final intent of such being to have fun.

  2. Maximize the boost, don't necessarily give it to the strongest or weakest guy, but the guy to whom it would mean crossing an encumbrance threshold or adding an extra die for weapon master damage

    1. I should have mentioned that - I consider that a sub-set the first two. If you're saying, "wait, give the +3 to the guy with ST 14 so he gets three dice swing!" you're essentially either doing that because a) he needs 3d because he's weaker than he could be with it, or b) he needs 3d because that's the most efficient way to optimize the benefit. That's just doing the math to make the choice even better.

  3. I almost always about shoring up weaknesses. Usually because the groups I've been with are all more about being "If you hit first, that means you also hit last" mindset and often skimp on shoring up weaknesses.

    Also because almost all of them like to build inherent, near crippling, niche weaknesses into a Character. Like the Wizard with ST 6-7, the Ogre Barbarian with IQ 7 (and Will 7), etc.

    1. Those kind of guys were fun in Man-to-Man, less so when they're walking threats to their own party.

  4. I personally sit in the "shore up weakness" camp. I want everyone to be able to participate and have fun. Ironically when I had a campaign my players didn't even stop to discuss this, they instantly jumped to "boost strength" every time. One fighter was already way ahead of the other in hit/damage because he had max strength (18). The first magic weapon they found was +2 and they gave it to the max strength fighter. Their explanation was if he can do just a little more damage per hit he can take out monsters faster so they don't have a chance to attack and damage the party. Then they found magic armor, magic shield, and a magic ring (over the course of several adventures). They gave them all to the same character, the one with the best armor class already. They explained to me: he's already hard to hit, if we make him impossible to hit the party as a whole can't lose a fight. Except there is always a monster big enough to hit the impossible defenses and there is always magic that ignores physical defenses. I didn't remind them of these facts, but I found their logic effective for the simple cases. Of course if I ever charmed the impossible to hit character or the max damage fighter, the party would have been through in record time! Players who maximize one character against all opposition don't realize they are maximizing against themselves too, thanks to charm/domination type magic in fantasy games.

    1. Aka, the "We're with Superman" approach.

      My players plot and scheme about how to take out their own if they're mind controlled. It's happened before and they've generally done well because they've gamed it out in their heads already.

      I'm a mix of "shore up weakness" and "best guy to use it" approaches. In our non-fantasy GT game, we've generally figured out who the best person to use something is, and for things that are equally well-usable by all we give them to the one who needs it the most. Our new suit of Power Armor is going to someone who usually takes point, for example, despite others needing armor rather badly. But our better gas masks just got handed around to who wanted them because we all had a weakness in that area.


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