An Unhappy Trend

The article below was written several months ago by Derek Lloyd, owner of Battleground Games, as the start of an article bemoaning the use of magic items in Dungeons & Dragons. Unfortunately, Derek was unable to finish the article due to other responsibilities.

With 4th edition fast approaching we have decided to share this unfinished piece for its relevance. Normally, we would never do this. We wish to only share finished pieces as it is unfair to you, the visitor, and the author to make incomplete thoughts available to the public. We apologize to you in advance. We also hope to have Derek come back and write on D&D for you in the near future. Until then we hope you will enjoy this article.

There is an unfortunate trend that has infiltrated the Dungeons & Dragons community over the past few years that I believe has had some serious ramifications on the game as a whole. It is the issue of player control into areas of the game that were formerly the providence of the Dungeon Master. I realize that as a game evolves certain things must change, but this one seems to have rather sneakily wormed its way beyond what was the original intention of the 3rd Edition designers. This shift is most apparent in the recent book, the Magic Item Compendium.

Compare these two passages from different versions of the game. The first is from the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide by Gary Gygax: “Just as it is important to use forethought and consideration in placing valuable metals and other substances with monsters or otherwise hiding them in dungeon or wilderness, the placement of magic items is a serious matter. Thoughtless placement of powerful magic items has been the ruination of many a campaign. Not only does this cheapen what should be rare and precious, it gives player characters undeserved advancement and empowers them to become virtual rulers of all they survey. This is in part the fault of this writer, who deeply regrets not taking the time and space in D&D to stress repeatedly the importance of moderation.”

The second passage is from the 3.5 Edition book, the Magic Item Compendium by Andy Collins, Eytan Bernstein, Frank Brunner, Owen Stephens and John Snead: “A player points to an item published in this book or the Dungeon Master’s Guide and asks, ‘Can I buy this?’ The answer should usually be, ‘Yes.'”