Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Player Charter

The typical D&D party distributing items at the end of the adventure.

Magic items are a funny thing in D&D.  They tend to be fairly important to players as resources, and as such, can bring out a competitive side to a group that otherwise gets along well.  My players have told me stories of games when they were young, where guys got into yelling matches about the distribution of items.  I haven't experienced that, but there's usually that guy at the table that wants every item, regardless of their class or role.  I have a funny memory running X2 Castle Amber in Colorado a few years, before moving to Pennsylvania;  the group had lost a bunch of guys to Killer Trees, including their magic user, and the magic item hoarder had picked over the bodies pretty well.  "I'll just carry all the spell books, wands, potions, rings, etc, for the dead guys - just in case".  They learned about a high level Amber family cleric who might be able to raise their dead magic user, but before they could do it, the guy carrying every magic item got petrified.  After they raised their magic user, his spell book and items were stuck in a solid stone backpack because they let one person hoard all the gear.  Good times.  But I digress.

My current group has five players.  We've gamed together for a few years now, but it's hard to get everyone together for every session; we have a rule that if at least three players can make it, that's a quorum, and we play.  (Thus I wax longingly on the virtues of episodic games that allow players to slide in and out).

In addition to transient players, we're using a lot of retainers in the current game.  (Henchman and hirelings are Retainers in Moldvay Basic).  By the book, retainer morale is checked whenever something awful happens, and in between adventurers.  So far, the retainers have been fairly well treated and no one has left in between adventures due to morale… but it's only a matter of time, right?

Which finally brings me to my point about magic items.  Last session, the group proposed a radical idea to managing items going forward; they incorporated themselves as an adventuring company and agreed on some by-laws.  Their first official policy governed magic items:  Henceforth, all magic items found by the party is property of the corporation, to be distributed from the company store at the beginning of each adventure.

There were two major reasons for enacting the charter; the first one was since players miss game sessions, they wanted a way to redistribute items at the start of each session to reflect who was actually going out there.  If you only have one magic sword, and it's in the possession of the guy that's never there, it doesn't help the group that goes out to the dungeon and runs into a wight.  The charter also means they can freely loan items to some of the retainers, and minimize the fear the retainer will take the items and run.  (When a morale roll is failed and a retainer splits, he'll probably try to take everything he can anyway, so that should be some quality DM entertainment when it happens).

The charter also covers wealth - partners get 2 shares each, retainers get 1 share each, and where possible, they try to sell everything and convert it to coins.

Are my players visionaries, or taking this all too seriously?  Have any of your groups gone so far as to create a charter and turn the magic items into "community property"?  I'd like to hear how magic item and treasure distribution works in some of your games.


  1. I think your players are visionaries. Pure genius:)

  2. There are good and bad things about this. The good thing is obviously it diminishes as much arguing over magical items after an adventure. The bad thing is a lot of times characters can become personally attached to their favorite items. So much so that it almost becomes a part of who they are as adventurers.

    Back in the day I played in many a monty haul campaign and we never really had an issue with dividing up the magical items. If there was something that another player desperately wanted from a horde, that player would usually get it. Then again, there was often plenty to go around.

    These days, as a DM I don't like to give out too many magical items. These characters will be adventuring for a long time if you run a long term campaign. If they get a magical item at the end of every session or adventure it almost becomes pointless to an extent. Players are no longer impressed when they find things, etc.

    But incorporating and having the items all belong to the "company" is a neat concept, but probably not one I'd employ or encourage my PC's to employ.

  3. I'm with you. When I was a player, I'd be saying, "You can take my magic sword away when you peel it out of my cold dead hands". Magic items were integral to character identity.

    Apparently, my players are more mature than the DM; they see all those things (rightfully?) as mere tools.

    We'll see how it works out.

  4. I was actually running a one on one campaign with one of my friends a few years back on the side. We were playing 2e Forgotten Realms. He wanted to play a paladin. So at like level 3 I gave him a sword that was essentially a holy avenger, but even stronger. It was part of the story I had brewing. He became very attached to this sword to the point that he thought himself invincible.

    Well, the entire thing was deliberate from the start. It turned out the sword was an ancient elven artifact and his most trusted ally, the NPC elf fighter who I was running with him as his adventuring partner, betrayed him and took the sword. The elf had been exiled from Evermeet and was going to return the sword as an attempt to be welcomed back.

    This absolutely crushed him as a player, because he had become so attached to the sword that it had essentially been part of his personality. He felt he could do anything because if he got into a jam, he could fight his way out of it with his sword. When it was stripped from him by his best friend it really hit home.

  5. The exact argument for not becoming too attached to your magic items. I believe it was Raggi(?) who said "We explore dungeons, not characters".

  6. The early days of one of my campaigns, the Company of the Blue Sun (campaign journal over on dragonsfoot), had a group of players that tried to do this. We were playing 1E though and I suspect it was a creative way to get around the magic item number limitations for both the ranger and the monk in the party. Once a critical mass of magic items had been found, the players took more permanent possession of items. When we had a returning player roll up a new character, he was disheartened to discover that his new character was not made a full partner in the company, the way his earlier character had been. His character stole almost any magic item he came across because he felt the company didn't give him a fair shake.

  7. Way late for this, but in the game I grew up playing the group had a player charter like this, plus a bunch of other stuff (e.g. a 'house fund' of 10% off the top that goes to maintaining the party's home base including security, maintenance, necessary bribes to local officials to ignore the vandalism of the evil monkey who lived in the attic with the half-ogre baby to terrorize the neighbourhood together, etc.) as well as buyout options for pieces of magical (or in some cases non-magical) treasure.

    I consider it a sign of maturity in the campaign that the players care enough about treasure distribution to agree on a contract.