Boon or Bane: Making Players Pay for their Toys

Lately I’ve been posting a lot of Divine Artifacts, some of which are overpowered at first brush, especially when they are arbitrarily awarded by the GM, often for free. The same can be said of Enchanted Items, though those have a clear power evaluation that can be consulted when granting them to players (an epic enchanted item is essentially equivalent to a major ability). But players tend to get very excited about new toys. They love them! It’s fun for them to get new toys, but can the imbalance from overpowered items cancel out that fun?

I like giving new toys to my players, but it doesn’t have to make life easy for them. In the D&D games I played with my dad, he gave us several Bags of Holding, allowing us to carry anything we wanted. However, he also required us to specify how our things were organized in the bags, making it hard to find things in a pinch if they were in the wrong place. He’d allow us to keep the free horses he gave us in the bags, but to take the horses with us would mean also taking enough grain to feed them (or taking time to let them graze), not to mention having to clean out the refuse from the bags every morning. It had a very real time cost.

I hold that any item can be put in situations where players love it, but have to wonder about its benefit. Here are some examples from among Mind Weave items:

Consider the Machinist’s Ring. It was sure helpful saving Bofran from the closing walls, but suppose he wants to use it to solve a puzzle in the same room. He can touch the ring to the movable puzzle part and control it directly, but not without also controlling the walls, at least for the next hour. If he waits an hour, he may find the walls close in on him again.

DiviningAnchorThe Divining Anchor, if local treasures are arranged a certain way, will not lead to a treasure, but to a point between them where no treasure is to be found.

The Mechane might fly slower than walking speed, or be blown about by the wind, if there is no great urgency to arrive at the destination. However, the characters might be unwilling to leave it behind, in case there is so much urgency on the next trip that they don’t have time to get back to the ship.

The Keep Stone might be very valuable as a fortress, but it can also be a dead weight, especially if you are running with no time to bury it.

TabletOfChitalinSince Mind Weave tracks damages to objects by computer, players are likely to be wary about exposing their items to such damage. A player with a leather Master’s Whip might be hesitant to wield this powerful weapon against someone who might parry with a steel sword. Someone wearing a Resolute Robe must be careful at all times to avoid it being damaged from physical attacks both ranged and melee, not to mention fire. Someone using a Tablet of Chitalin might see all that power melted away by a single spell, not mention the wrath of Chitalin for losing such a gift.

There is always a way to make the player’s toys into puzzles in themselves. This means you can enjoy the fun of giving toys and the fun of new puzzles. It’s a win-win situation!

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