Perfect Magic Item Sets

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The magic item set (as explored in the pages of the Adventure’s Vault 2 and elsewhere) is one of the coolest ideas in magic item history. What could be more awesome then assembling a set of keyed and themed magic items into a suit of power that grants you further bonuses once finally complete? Who hasn’t poured over the item set pages, dreaming of the perfect synergy of deadly arcane accouterments to elevate their character to the status of legendary hero. Yes, and who hasn’t experienced the total let down of flipping to the last page and realizing there is nothing that remotely suits the hero you have in mind.

Magic item sets, simply put, suck at offering something that will work for every player. Instead, a player (or the treasure-planning DM) must figure out how to shoe-horn their character into magic item set that doesn’t really suit them. When the attributes of a magic item set come tied down to a series of items, it automatically excludes a wide range of characters who might like the theme but can’t meet the item prerequisites. In today’s article, we’ll look at an alternative to this one-size-fits-one mentality with alternate magic item set rules.

Rather than viewing a magic item set as a few very specific items which must be brought together, this rule variation frees the DM’s hands to create magic item sets that are perfect for any player. Essential, we’ll take the “themed set” part away from the “magic item” part, and create a series of templates that can be applied to any item you might want to hand out to a worthy player.

One final note before we get into the details: why are we bothering with magic item sets at all? Aside from the very excellent benefits of injecting texture, history and detail into your game world, magic item sets are a unique way to get a handle on certain types of players. As we all know, not everybody gets excited about courtly intrigue, prophetic omens or thwarting evil plots - some people just want to slay some damn monsters. The best way to get these players interested in what’s going on in your campaign might be to adopt the tactics of the drug-dealer. Give them one or two parts of a magic item set, just to get them hooked, then tantalize them with the rest of the set – still waiting to be found. If they end up learning a little more about the doomed knight who first bore them in the process, so much the better.

Image Courtesy Wen-M

Image Courtesy Wen-M

The basic mechanic for this system is the same you’ll find laid out in the Adventure’s Vault 2 – item sets consist of 4 or more magic items that, when wielded together, offer additional magical benefits. Generally, the first effect is something that scales up as items are added, followed by a more  powerful effect once all the items have been reunited. Large sets (6 or more pieces) often have an intermediary power they grant as well, just to keep things interesting. 

The following are a list of magic item set  themes and abilities that a DM can apply to any selection of magic items he sees fit. Simply choose a suite of magic items form the appropriate tier, preferably with powers and a theme that already complement each other, and apply the templates listed below to the set as it’s assembled. By using the templates to make custom sets you gain a great degree of flexibility as to which items make up the set – something that’s especially valuable for characters with unique or original character themes. Creative game play ought always be rewarded, and magic item sets is one more way you can do so.

The theme of the sets below have been left intentionally vague in order to make them as broadly applicable as possible. Each set has three different power levels – but depending on how many items you want to include in the set, and which the tier which the set will be completed in, you may only want to apply two of the three powers.

These sets are only grazing the surface of what a truly creative DM can do. I encourage you to take this as a starting point and generate intriguing sets and unique powers of your own.

-By David Crennen
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