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The Seer Vitz

Magical Weapons: Meaningless Tools or NPCs?

If you are like me, you really enjoy adding a magical weapon to an adventure to motivate the players. However, if you are like me, then you hate to see a character abuse a magical weapon that you have taken much time to think about and create. Nothing is worse than to have the character use your weapon as nothing more than a way to improve THAC0!

How do I overcome this aggravation? Well, sometimes I just don't tell players how the weapon benefits them. Other times, I have them find the secondary powers the weapon contains. But my favorite way to avoid this aggravation is to have the weapon have a higher intelligence than the players do. Sometimes I do this by having the weapon act as a home for some extra-planar creature. Nothing is more fun that to see the reactions of a player when he realizes his character is using a weapon that is the residence of a creature more powerful than the party combined.

In effect, I transform the weapon into a NPC so that the characters cannot just abuse it. Rarely do the players object because I allow them to believe that they are controlling the weapon. And that truly is the key to their happiness. If you let them feel helpless about a situation, then they will not enjoy the game as much. As long as they believe they are in control, they find much more enjoyment than you could imagine. [Note: this could just be the people I play with, so you may not want to try this at home!]

But, a thing to remember is that you do not have to maintain the weapon as an NPC. Your main goal should be to interest the characters in the weapon in such as way so that they treat it more as a stat modifier. Once they see the weapon as something more than that, all that time you spent working on the weapon becomes worthwhile. Not only that, but you could create adventures by having the character lose the weapon and then go try to retrieve it. If you did you job properly, the character will want to retrieve it on his/her own. And if you didn't, you can tell the player that there was a curse on the weapon, and that he/she is forced to retrieve it! But, you may not want to do this too often, or the player will never pick up another weapon that he/she knows nothing about!

Make your magic weapons as interesting as the adventure itself and your players will really enjoy themselves. Make them commonplace and your players will see them as nothing more than a plus to hit. You could just not use magical weapons, but I know of too many players that enjoy them to try that route! Magic weapons should add something to the game… Something more than just enhanced skills. They should add actual enjoyment and excitement.

James A. Vitz
RPG Columnist