Ask the Game Master: My players want magic items all the time

Got a gaming question? Ask the Game Master to make a ruling, provide advice or referee your gaming troubles. Send your questions to [email protected]. This week, we’re talking about how to award magic items.

I keep running into the same issue, especially with new players. They constantly want magic items, weapons and equipment all the time, and they want access to be able to buy anything they want  from item, potion and weapon shops. (Sort of like playing Diablo). What should I do?

This is something I see for a variety of reasons. One is RPG video games like Diablo (but even stretching back to Final Fantasy) where you can pop into item shops and pick up what you need. Certainly, in those games, you can wait for the perfect item to drop in-game, but you can often stock up on potions, armor and other things to make your character’s life better.

There was also 3.5 and 4e, which were built on giving magic items to your players almost constantly. You actually had to adjust the way you played the game in 4e if you didn’t throw magic items at your players. Magic weapons and armor were built into the game.

Anyway, there are ways to play with that expectation. In 5e, magic items are supposed to be very special. A player shouldn’t be tripping over them in every dungeon room, but so many players still loot every dead goblin looking for a ring of protection. I deal with it every time I DM.

When I play, I assume certain potions of healing and spell scrolls are pretty widely available in larger cities or from certain spellcasters, but for a fee.

Magic items up to the “uncommon” level of rarity can also be found in magic shops, but it’s not like you can drop into a shop and make a special order for a ring of mind shielding. If I were running it, shops would only have a small number of very specific items, and they’ll all come at a price. The price might not even be gold or platinum, but the shop owner may offer a quest in exchange for the item.

Make finding those items into part of the game, and you’ll be just fine.

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