After our last session, where the main focus was the characters purging an aberrant plant monster from a dungeon inside something akin to a large stone foundation, my thoughts have centered around magic items and treasure.
At the end of the session, they discovered that this abomination had gained energy or the like from a tree, which turned out to be a Staff of the Woodlands (a Rare item). My idea was that the creature sort of fed from this tree and almost had withered it. Thus, my concern about the balance of the staff was secondary. But avoiding highly imbalancing fat loot, and avoiding a monty haul campaign, is important. But I have a few considerations that I need to take into account.
- I have seven 4th level players, and currently four of them have a magic item that aren’t consumable: a shield +1, a Wand of Secrets, an Alchemy Jug and the Staff of the Woodlands. With seven players, I need to hand out quite a lot of stuff, before everyone feels overloaded with magical items, and thus many magical items isn’t unbalanced in itself. It is the fact that I have 7 players that makes the game harder to balance (so I kind of skipped balancing encounters to the party).
- Remembering our old AD&D Forgotten Realms campaign from high school (the player playing the wizard Welk was the DM), which I enjoyed very much, magic items were relative scarce, but the ones we had were quite significant to our characters, so at 12th level I had maybe 3 permanent items. I really liked that, and I think it is worth emulating.
- Staff of the Woodlands is on table G, and can be awarded at random at any level (although the likelihood in a 0-4 or 5-10 level hoard is low).
- The staff has a limited number of uses per day. It has a number of abilities, including casting Wall of Thorns, which is a 6th level spell, and very powerful, but the Wall of Thorns takes up 6 of 7 charges. If I run one encounter adventuring days, it can be a problem. But I intend to have multiple-encounter adventuring days, which makes it more of a choice to use the power. Furthermore, as I’ve more or less ignored balancing encounters, it can be important for them to have a method of escaping an encounter or dividing an encounter into more manageable size, if they bite over too much. And as they only gain 25% xp from encounters, but additional xp from exploration, it matters less that they can handle more powerful creatures. The lesser powers, and the fact that it is a +2 weapon, will have much less impact on the story, but will be quite useful to the druid.
My preliminary conclusion is, that I would rather hand out a good number of consumable items and a few relatively powerful items, than scatter many +1 shields, armours, weapons and other uncommon items around the game. If each character has the chance of obtaining one Rare or better item from now and until 10-12 level, that is fine by me. Hopefully, some of these items will become important aspects of their characters, and help it become a memorable campaign of heroic characters. And hopefully, they don’t become too powerful and collapse the ideas in the campaign… We will see how it goes. It is a sand box after all.
And now for the short recap of last session:
The group discovers the inner laboratory of the witch they defeated in the previous session. Inside they find a number of interesting items, including some sort of silver rod, which appears to be a key to something, a portal to the Warrens (the world between the prime plane and the outer planes) and some ancient elven books. The druid and wizard begin deciphering the content of the books and advance their skill in the local elven language, and they decide not to open the portal, even though it is a possibility (the campaign could have taken quite a turn, had they decided to go through. I know where it leads, but prep is sketchy). Instead they went back to the ruins, with the sort of top less pyramid shaped structure, and went inside. The dungeon contained thick vile creepers that attacked them, and they burned their way through part of the dungeon, reaching the center, where an abdominal plant creature lived. They attacked its pulsating heart and overcame it, and found the Staff of the Woodlands at its heart.
I had, by design, made several entrances to the dungeon, which meant they could clear out all of the abominations pods before they faced the creature itself. For each one they killed, it would have one attack less (minimum 2). It had a ton of damage potential, but it was one of those evening where I rolled poorly, so the group overcame a very powerful creature more easily than anticipated.
I look forward to them delving more into the books they found, and the campaign is opening up to a lot of options now.