I have some good qualities as a dungeon master, and I feel like I’m completely competent in most areas of running a fun game. But I do have a major weakness: Magic items.
Somehow, picking out magic items for treasure troves is a task that I put off and put off and put off and sometimes entirely forget about. Last week, I took the time to pick out a bunch of magic items to give to my Friday night players in my online War of the Burning Sky campaign… only to find out that I’d done a lousy job. I picked chainmail that nobody wanted. I picked a +3 rod for the warlock in the party, thinking that she only had a +1; I’d forgotten that she’d gotten a +3 the last time I’d given out treasure. Sigh.
Another option is wish lists, but I’ve never liked wish lists. I once had a DM ask us to put wish lists together, and it just felt… wrong somehow. When you just tell the DM “I want these things” and the DM later says “Here you go,” there’s no magic in the magic items. You know what’s coming.
One of my Friday night players suggested another option that I plan to try: random wish lists. I’ve asked each player to give me a list of three magic items they’d like. They’re at 13th level, so I’ve asked them to list a 14th, 15th and 16th level item (downgrading any spots they like). That is, items of their character’s level +1, +2 and +3.
I have seven players, so if they all participate I’ll have a list of 21 magic items. I’ll pad that out with a few of my own ideas (maybe an artifact, maybe a booby prize, maybe some coins) and create a table. When it’s time to hand out treasure, I’ll roll on that table (openly, in front of the players).
This way, almost everything I give out will be something that somebody wants (except the booby prize, which is intentional), but there’s no certainty that any particular thing will come up at all. I’ll ask for new items at higher levels, so some items may never come up. And if one PC keeps getting lucky, the party might swap things around or turn a few items into residuum to make new stuff (but only new stuff with DM approval). If I roll for an item that’s already been given out, I might roll again or I might give nothing.
I’m going to give this a try and see how I like it. At the very least, I won’t be scrambling to look through the Compendium to find cool items at the last minute (or beyond the last minute).
Have any of you tried anything similar? How has it worked out? Do you have ideas about how to make it better?