It’s been a while, but here’s another GM Tech!
Extraordinary items are one of the best ways to reward your players in Open Legend, but they can often be a bit bland if assembled as purely mechanical things. The broad strokes of the item of course depends on the campaign and what the PCs would be able to use, but here are a few tips I use to make treasure more interesting.
Restrictions breed creativity
As counterintuitive as it seems, often adding limitations to when an item can be used can result in your players using it more often rather than less, especially as it can let you make the item more powerful without worrying about balance as much.
If the Royal Crown just gives advantage to non-combat Presence rolls then the player might forget about it entirely, because they don’t usually roll Presence apart from for healing and bolstering allies. If the Royal Crown gives advantage to Presence when convincing a crowd to follow and support you then that restriction actually acts as a guide for how to use it; the player will seek out situations where they can sway a crowd because they know it’s an option.
Related to the above tip, you can add a great deal of personality to an item by giving it small, rarely useful abilities that I call “trinket text” (a term I came across with regards to designing cards for Magic: The Gathering).
In addition to helping you sway crowds, the Royal Crown also has a subtle glow about it; not enough to light your way but you should cover it if you’re sneaking in the dark. Also, while you’re wearing it you can instinctively recognise royalty when you meet them, regardless of disguises, and they will recognise you. Importantly, the glow is not there to screw the player over if they forget about it, it’s there to remind the player of the item when their character notices it. The other ability may never come up in your campaign, but it gives you the ability to insert a cool story beat if it would ever be relevant.
Where in the world?
When designing your item, including the limitations and trinket text, it’s always important to think of the item’s place in the world. Here’s a few questions I like to ask myself:
- What was its original purpose, and is it different from what it’s used for now?
- How did it get its powers, were they granted to it by a character or are they naturally occurring?
- How did it end up where it is now, who brought it to where the party finds it and are any previous owners searching for it?
For the Royal Crown:
- It was used for leading countries rather than crowds, its glow made it recognisable as the real deal, and recognising royalty was important for diplomacy.
- In this world items can accrue magical power from powerful users, being worn by the ruling monarchs of a nation for generation after generation granted this crown its subtle powers.
- The nation whose rulers wore this crown was overthrown in a bloody rebellion and annexed by a neighbouring empire. The crown was stolen by a rebel and hidden away in the dungeon where the players find it, which was then overtaken by goblins. Now a faction within the empire seeks the crown and a worthy champion to wear it, to retake the throne and restore the nation to independence.
You may never outright state these answers to your players, but knowing them will help you to work out how other characters in the know react to the object and help it feel like a part of your world. They should serve as a guideline when tweaking the looks and abilities of the item before you introduce it to play.
Obviously you don’t have to use all of these every time, but by using them you make your items feel more unique and memorable to the players. One final tip I have to you is to not worry too much about the item’s suggested wealth level if it’s unique. The WL from the item creation rules serve as a guideline to prevent you from giving something unexpectedly overpowered to the players but they can’t and shouldn’t be the whole story. Just make sure that you don’t give out something that’s powerful and useful in every situation to one PC in particular and leave the others scrounging for scraps. If that confuses you, then forget I said anything and stick to using the WL guide as intended.
How about items in your games though? Do you have any tips you personally use? Any items you’re particularly proud of making? Let me know down below!