We’ve talked about loot distribution a time or two before, so what do you say we take the opportunity to discuss magic item selection instead? Let’s shall.

Whether you’re the adventuring Christmas tree of 3.X D&D, strung with every conceivable belt, ring, and magical ornament, or an Exlated 2e solar exalt with one really big daiklave, there’s a lot of pressure to select the perfect item for your build. It’s easy to get into a mindset where you absolutely, positively must have that +2 rapier of rapid sneezing. You wind up approaching your GM like a junkie in need of a fix, shaking and nervously thumbing through your inventory: Look man, if I can’t buy one or find one, my whole sneezomancer build is basically useless. You’ve got to help me!

For my money, I prefer the kind of game where your character can make characterful choices rather than correct ones. Systems like the old World of Darkness with its minor but flavorful items, 5e D&D‘s bounded accuracy and attunement system, and some of the optional rules in Pathfinder 1e are all steps in this direction. Even there, however, recovering power gamers like myself tend to scrounge for mechanical advantage at the expense of other considerations. What other considerations? Just take a look at Succubus. She does indeed look fabulous.

When I think of magic items off the top of my head, I imagine Jack Sparrow’s compass, Harry Potter’s marauder’s map, or the luggage from Discworld. It’s the weird and the idiosyncratic that stick out in my memory more than the powerful and effective. A succubus won’t get as much use out of wizard gear, but that uncommon combo provides a frisson of intrigue that your standard Charisma-boosting hat can’t match.

Still, I know that there are some gamers that hate to surrender power for the sake flavor. That’s why I appreciate combinations of the two. Magic item quirks can bridge the divide, turning your pirate’s uninteresting +1 cutlass into a prim +1 cutlass. And it’s just good fun imagining a black-hearted sea dog swearing like a dubbed-for-TV version of Pulp Fiction.

Question of the day then. Have you ever taken an item that didn’t fit your build just because you liked it? Was it worth the trade-off? Let’s hear all about your weirdest wondrous whatevers down in the comments!


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