Friday, April 29, 2011

Irreparable

In the back of the 3E DMG, Monte Cook included a table of formulas for pricing new magic items. (Yes, they were suggestions only, yes they were meant for use by the DM, yada yada yada.) This has been, like, an unstoppable bleeding sore ever since. As Monte once wrote, "Some days I look at Table 8-40 on page 242 of the DMG and wish it wasn't there at all." I bet the single-most common question to ring out repeatedly in 3E campaign play is: "Can I really make an item that will cast cure light wounds at will, activated by a command word, for only 900 gp?" (Again, per Monte himself, here.) *

This is so constantly abrasive, that I actually got in trouble with the moderators at ENWorld once over it (having a signature line with a particular rules emphasis that got deleted by the mods). And here is the exact same question again last week on the Paizo forums, more than 10 years after the book's publication. (I ran into this while scouting for the Boats & Ships Map Pack from last Friday; and here's me writing on the topic back in 2004.)

* Perhaps this question also highlights how overwhelmingly important the healing ability is to D&D mechanics -- beyond any other specific spell, nigh-demanding that a certain character class devote all or most of their spell slots to it, etc. And that's one of the reasons why I delete the cleric class and remove responsibility for it from any one player.

8 comments:

  1. I heartily agree with you. In fact, one of the reasons I've cleft to the old school is my problem in 3rd. Ed. and up with the commodification of magic items. It turns treasure troves of mystic wonder into a frikkin' Best Buy.

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  2. Yeah -- the wand of healing just gets tiresome. After every fight zap-zap-zap until the power bar is back up to full.
    I also don't like the way so many of the 3.5e magic items dovetail perfectly into the skills and character builds for further hyper-optimization of a character. More than once I've been in a campaign where I worked my character up from lower levels and have my 'catch as you can' collection of folding boats, Quall's Feather Tokens and +1 rings of protection, etc. Someone else will bring in a new character and all of his magic items will be custom chosen to enhance his abilities so his "keen" rapier coupled with his feats that allow him to score criticals every time he turns around suddenly makes me look like a sucker for having played the same character for so long. Bah!

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  3. What would your reaction be to a game that still included a cleric class, but eliminated curative spells from the spell lists?

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  4. Why would anyone play any edition of D&D later than 1985?

    Um...that is to say, "any SANE person."
    ; )

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  5. That's an interesting question Paul put out there. I don't have clerics in my campaign and I have never put that question to myself. Thanks!

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  6. Paul: I think there's a thousand-lawyers-at-sea joke that ends with the punchline "a good start". :-) More important than this are certain campaign-building demands that clerics make. If you look at my sidebar page the healing issue for clerics comes in at #8 out of a list of 14.

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  7. This is another example of how the design and play culture around 3E inexplicably fetishized guidelines and treated them as if they were holy writ. This isn't inherent to the game, it wasn't the designer's intent (as your link shows), and it's not even what the rulebooks say (in fact, they usually say exactly the opposite repeatedly).

    But it was an attitude that was heavily embraced by WotC's design culture (even if it wasn't embraced by the actual designers, many of whom left the company shortly after 3E was released).

    For example, shortly after 3E was released I submitted an article to dragon which described a number of magical/cursed coins that could be slipped into treasure hordes. Some had useful or dire effects; others were just flavorful, and I priced them accordingly.

    The article was rejected because the items weren't priced correctly and needed to rigidly adhere to the guidelines. So I repriced them accordingly, resubmitted the article, and got a rejection letter from the same editor saying that they were now too expensive and didn't make sense.

    I eventually published the article elsewhere, but I was struck by the incoherence that was being created by treating guidelines as holy writ.

    @limpey: That's a problem with letting higher level characters start with custom-picked gear. It can be trivially fixed by having them roll for treasure instead. (A good method is to let them roll 4x the amount of wealth they're entitled too and then "shop" from the limited list that creates. This gives a rough approximation of the stuff they would have had access to in the course of a normal adventuring career.) The charts are in the book if you want to use 'em.

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  8. Justin, those are great insights, and a great article of yours that you linked to. Thanks for that.

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