D&D 5eReviews

Xanathar’s Guide Breakdown, Part Eight

I’ve been asked to put off my adventure review for a week, so I’m pressing forward with the back half of Chapter Two in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. This includes traps, downtime activity, and magic items, all of them quite hefty sections.

Barbarians and Bards | Clerics, Druids, and Fighters | Monks and Paladins | Rangers and Rogues | Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards | Backstory and Feats | Rules Clarifications and Encounter Building | Traps, Downtime, and Magic Items

 

Traps, Reset

If traps – especially large, complex deathtraps – are your deal, then the DMG was probably a bit of a letdown. Sure, you could die from those traps. I mean, you probably don’t, but you could. This section goes deeper – a lot deeper – into describing and resolving traps. The most important part is super short: the Making Traps Meaningful sidebar. There was a similar sidebar in the 4e DMG 2 that presented a list of ways to use (and not use) traps. I’ve written about trap design a bit over in Harbinger of Doom, as well, though that post is a touch dated now.

Now, most of us probably can’t quote the DMG rules on traps, chapter and verse, from memory. They’re a bit dry, and they’re not the kind of thing you need to remember to run the game well. The DMG differentiates mechanical and magical traps, while XGTE drops that distinction. Since the main difference is how you disable or avoid the trap, and every XGTE trap has its own Countermeasures description, it is a distinction that has lost its usefulness.

The DMG also separates Simple and Complex traps, but woefully undersells the idea of the complex trap. None of the Sample Traps are clearly marked as complex, even though some of them meet the definition. In response, XGTE tosses out that definition and get its hands dirty with designing and describing complex traps.

Other than explaining complex traps and giving examples, the most important thing that XGTE does is that is changes the information presentation. Instead of being 3-5 paragraphs of text that you need to read all of in order to run the trap, there are bold italic paragraph intros for trigger, effect, and countermeasures, and each trap has its level and relative deadliness clearly listed. There’s still plenty of description, so they do all of this without stripping traps down to pure mechanics.

Traps always suffer from scaling issues, and that’s true in both versions just as it was true in 3.x and 4e. Until and unless traps deal damage based on a percentage of the target’s current hit points, which I do not seriously recommend without a hell of a lot more thought, what is deadly for a 1st-level D&D character is trivial for a 5th-level one, to say nothing of 15th level, and so on. (Now would be a silly time to be surprised that D&D hit points scale steeply.)

So sure, it gets weird that poison needle traps could be ubiquitous at 1st-4th level, rare and of less concern at 5th-10th, and ever more trivial thereafter. Sure, we all notice that XGTE’s Sample Traps include 6 traps for the first tier of play, 2 for the second, 1 for the third, and nothing for the last. (On the other hand, if I recall correctly, traps simply stopped scaling at all in 3.x after CR 10.) It wouldn’t take too much to imagine more damaging and harder-to-counter versions of the lowest-tier traps, though. In fairness, one bad roll on a poison needle trap could ruin the day of even a high-level character, because 10 minutes of paralysis might get you into a different pine box than the one you thought you were cracking.

I don’t have a lot of specific commentary to offer on the sample simple traps. They seem fine to me, except for Sleep of Ages – unless the spell drops most of the team (unlikely even for a 21d8 sleep-bomb, an average of 94.5 hit points), it’s mightily easy for them to just wake one another.

Next we get into design guidance for simple traps. There’s more going on with trap purposes here – that is, things other than direct damage. There’s also a lot more foundation for using spell effects. A single trap might contain multiple spell effects, especially for tier-4 deadly traps. I’m a fan. For whatever reason, they’ve changed the range of suggested attack bonuses by trap type to fixed values that are the top ends of those ranges. They’ve also renamed “setback” traps to “moderate.” The rest of the changes are just rephrasing what’s in the DMG, so a minor net improvement.

This brings us to the biggest part of this section: Complex Traps. Complex traps are the legendary monsters of the trapmaking world. As with legendary monsters, there’s a lot going on here: trap triggers, initiative (sometimes acting on multiple counts… as two examples do and the third sometimes does), active elements, dynamic elements, constant elements, and countermeasures.

With traps, I think it’s an important piece of the fiction that there isn’t a hostile, intelligent presence directing the trap’s outcomes – it’s all automated. Someone intelligent probably built the trap (though some traps are more emergent properties of an environment), but they aren’t hidden somewhere driving the whole thing. If they were, we’d call it something other than a trap. I’m not trying to box out the possibility of monsters using traps and hazards against the PCs, like pulling tripwires when the PCs are in the trap’s kill zone. My point here is that adding dynamic measures to a trap, so that it’s self-modifying in an automated way, keeps complex traps from becoming stale as you approach the end of that encounter.

Active elements are what the trap does on its initiative, while constant elements are what the trap does outside of its turn – sort of like reactions and legendary actions. Surprisingly, only one of the three sample complex traps even has constant elements.

The countermeasures are, of course, what you do to “defeat” the encounter, and heavily emphasize skill checks. This is where trap gameplay gets touchy. Think about who you would expect to be good at defeating traps. Is that one party member, possibly a rogue, maybe even specifically a Thief? More to the point, if you’re playing the party’s rogue, maybe even specifically a Thief, are you expecting to take the lead in defeating traps? I would say that the game at least primes you for that expectation, to the point that you might lean into it by spending a precious Expertise slot on thieves’ tools. Does that all sound reasonable?

If so, this section comes damn close to laughing in your face. It’s like playing a fighter because you expect to be the main contributor in combat, except that D&D has spent literally decades leveling that playing field, but hasn’t done similar work in shaping expectations around traps. (There are reasons you can’t buy Expertise in a weapon proficiency, too.) Rogues have some edge at low levels, with a wide variety of skills so that probably some of them are relevant. As things trend toward higher levels, they have less and less to do. The fiction of what the trap is trends away from the mechanical and toward the magical, because that’s how you raise the stakes and challenge level in fantasy. (If you do want Thieves to be A+ awesome at handling complex traps at high levels, tweak Use Magic Device to help them in some way with Arcana checks, even if it’s just half-proficiency and using the best of Int or Cha.)

On the other hand, they are making the right decision by trying to involve everyone. Clerics and druids still need a little more to do beyond healing or protection from poison. Let’s break down the example complex traps by ideal character type.

Path of Blades (Tier 1)

  • A true speedster (tabaxi rogue or monk, maybe) has very little to worry about because they can cover so much of the trap’s area and be out the other side before things go all that wrong. There aren’t really any good places to end your first turn, if you can’t cover the whole distance in one action, but passing a Dex save to avoid the crushing pillars is what you do best.
  • Whirling Blades target AC, so a heavily armored character with a shield, and maybe also a shield, is the best for this. This is a long stretch of the trap, and a rogue’s Cunning Action Dash is a big performer here if they can afford to ditch their teammates, or need to run back to rescue someone.
  • The Rune of Fear targets Wisdom, and can be totally ignored with one calm emotions spell (2nd level, available to bards, clerics, and Archfey warlocks). There are various ways to become immune to the frightened condition; not a lot of them show up at 4th level or earlier. None of these tamper with the rune, so they don’t trigger Rune’s Defense – one of the major dynamic elements.
  • Countermeasures:
    • Whirling Blades need Investigation to avoid, or thieves’ tools to disable.
    • Crushing Pillars: “The pillars are not susceptible to countermeasures.” Not within this tier, anyway; once a few wall of spells are on the table, it’s another matter.
    • Runes of Fear need Arcana or three successful dispel magic spells (which are way outside of Tier 1, I might add). By the time you can do that, you might well have access to dimension door, letting you skip from the start to the finish in a single spell – so pro tip, add at least one 90-degree turn in the trapped hallway.
    • Interestingly, you can’t put the whole party on trying to disable the Runes of Fear. One character trying it locks everyone else out, for no obvious reason beyond forcing you to spend at least 3 actions in the Rune’s area.

Sphere of Crushing Doom (Tier 2)

  • I’m just going to say, if you can read this trap without the Indiana Jones theme song playing in your head, you may be beyond help. (Or really young, or any number of other things; don’t take this line too seriously.)
  • The Sphere requires a Strength save, so it favors barbarians, fighters, and rangers.
  • Countermeasures:
    • Wall effects can stop the sphere, especially wall of force, which is available toward the top end of this tier. Druids, sorcerers, and wizards are the way to go here. Because I am way behind in listening to the podcast of Critical Role, it was just a few days ago that I listened to Tiberius Stormwind solve a very similar trap with a different-but-comparable spell.
    • Disrupting the Portals is a series of Arcana checks, preceded by an action spent examining the magic. Or you can cast a bunch of dispels. Oh, and if you succeed in the wrong way, you might block the way to the actual goal of the whole thing. I mean, the text says it’s blocked, but my disintegrate or misty step or smith’s or mason’s tools proficiency all say otherwise.

Poisoned Tempest (Tier 3)

  • Locked Doors: Well, you can’t do anything about these up-front, unless you beat initiative 20 and know where you want to be enough to Dash over there. (Ditching a lot of your party in the meantime.) This solution favors rogues and monks.
  • Poison Gas needs a Con save, so that’s tough for rogues. Dwarf is a good kind of rogue to be.
  • The Tempest effects target Dex, Strength, and Con saves. Evasion can help here, but in general this is random enough that most classes have one or more bad problems to worry about.
  • Countermeasures:
    • This trap has a complicated series of checks that you have to perform in a particular order, if you want to Open the Doors. Perception (always a good buy for rogues, and a good candidate for Expertise) comes first, followed by Arcana, then thieves’ tools, then Athletics. If your initiative order cooperates or you ready actions, you could solve this trap in as little as a round. You could be out of this room before the Tempest effect on initiative 10! Good luck.
    • Disabling the Statues punishes a raw-force solution, and rewards either thieves’ tools or Strength checks. (In general, a DC 20 Dex (thieves’ tools) check is easier than a DC 15 straight Strength check, so we can call that favoring rogues.)

The Tier 1 example is pretty generous to rogues (or anyone with thieves’ tools), the Tier 2 example is really not, and the Tier 3 example is probably the best spread – rogues can do a lot without doing it all. A spelllcaster with the right spell can still skip the whole thing, because short-range teleportation effects are almost always the answer.

To keep this in perspective, we’re talking about just three examples. I’m hammering on this point so much because I want you to remember it when you go off to design your own complex traps. Don’t just make them magic problems for magic people to solve, and don’t make the rogue irrelevant in high-level play. No single complex trap needs to have something fun for every party member, as long as there’s another complex trap later on that lets the players you skipped last time shine.

The complex trap design guidance is good stuff. Even a casual understanding of encounter design is sufficient to see how what they’re saying here applies to all sorts of challenging situations. I’m hoping that this is a trial balloon for a more engaging skill challenge system. Most of all, I want to see more combat scenes with environmental effects that work like dynamic or constant elements.

 

Downtime, Revitalized

This section kind of sells itself wrong, I think. This presents downtime as what you do when you’re not adventuring, and that’s fine if your campaign is an episodic format composed mostly of stabbing things where the sun don’t shine, while standing where the sun don’t shine. If you have broader ambitions – as WotC’s published adventures and, I think, most modern DMs have – downtime is about giving the campaign a sense of scope, and montaging your way through grander efforts that don’t call for stabbing. No matter what you may have heard, sometimes the most practical solution to a problem is not stabbing.

Rivals are one of the big pieces of how they’re making your non-stabbing time more interesting, while possibly also hurrying you along to your next bit of stabbing. Rivals are every kind of antagonist and foil that isn’t directly in the path of your violence – such as enemies that are, socially or geographically, out of reach. This section doesn’t technically fold into the earlier section on character backstories, but on the other hand… how could it not? This is sort of a recapitulation of the chapter on villains in the DMG, but delving more into the idea that an antagonist doesn’t need to be evil, or a mortal foe, to be a challenge that you have to resolve. Rivals recur over the course of a much longer time, which is a good baseline for developing the kind of emotional connection (probably hate, but whatever) that you want with the best villains.

For this text’s purposes, though, rivals are the answer to “how do we have problems during a montage?” Every downtime activity has a variety of complications, and not all of them involve your rival(s), but when you need a face to attach to a problem, there you go.

Okay, let’s get into the details of the downtime activities that they cover here. It’s been almost a year since the UA article that moved a lot of this content into public playtesting, and while I’m not doing a line-by-line comparison, it might be fun to review.

Buying a Magic Item

If you played a lot of 3.x, Pathfinder, or 4e, the absence of magic item shops might well be one of the greatest culture shocks of 5e, and you’d hardly be the first to wonder what the hell you’re supposed to do with all this gold. There are a lot of good answers, but this activity offers a limited way to go shopping for magic items – either as a fishing expedition (i.e., just go see what’s on offer) or as a targeted hunt a particular item.

This activity assumes that buying a magic item is sort of like being a high-end art buyer. It seems like it would be a good premise for the start of an adventure, in a James Bond kind of way. You probably spend gobs of money just making contact with sellers, to say nothing of what you wind up paying. It hurts my brain a bit that the worst-case asking prices here are still around 60% of the creation cost; I’m not really sure what the intent is there.

But, you know, even a successful purchase might be as much problem as solution. The Magic Item Purchase Complications table is bad news all the way down. Some of them are a lot more satisfying than others – “it’s a fake” doesn’t promise as much exciting, ongoing content as “it’s an intelligent evil item.” I guess in that regard, 60% of its crafting price might look like a screwjob.

 

Carousing

In the fine tradition of Conan, this gives you a way to turn gold into holes in your memory. On the plus side, you’ll probably come away with some people who are really impressed with your total lack of concern for your liver. That is to say, you gain Contacts. Can I just say, having Contacts on your character sheet is a great idea, and why are we just now getting this tucked into an optional Carousing rule? I can’t get over how this section of rules veeeery quietly slides D&D into a more Blades in the Dark-like space.

Carousing has meaningful social striation, with the understanding that for most adventuring purposes in a fantasy setting, nobles are more useful contacts than the poors. If you didn’t pick Noble for your background, you might have to work your way up in society, and whether you’re a Noble or not, it’s an incredibly expensive activity.

Here again, they’ve undersold the breadth of the ideas they’re playing with. If you have a political goal, this is the Do A Politics action. For anything short of pushing a thieves’ guild out of a neighborhood or some light treason, Contacts are the levers of power. They could have just as well called this action Schmoozing or Lobbying. There’s a ton of potential here, and it all comes down to a Charisma (Persuasion) check or two. Just remember that the rules have stripped this way, way down, so it’s on the players and the DM to put descriptive meat back on the bones. Make it a vibrant part of your fiction that happens to be resolved in one or two die rolls.

Oh, and once you’ve rolled a Complication, cross it out and write a new one in its place. Repetition won’t help any of them. Also… probably more Charisma (Persuasion) outcomes should have one additional hostile contact.

In short, this section has a lot more depth and interest than the DMG’s original version. Good work here.

 

Crafting an Item

I’ve been a notorious critic of the core rules for crafting, both mundane and magical, so let’s see what goes on here. Right off the bat, I see that they’ve slightly increased the crafting speed for nonmagical items (from 5gp per day to 50 gp per 5-day workweek). Sure, that’s actually a pretty meaningful help for some of the top-end mundane goods like plate armor, ships, or buildings (and yeah, I’m actually okay with cathedrals taking decades to build).

Crafting Magic Items is the big change, though. First off, formulas are an assumed necessity in these rules. There’s also a hard requirement that you have to have an exotic material that you gain as part of a quest. This is the part that I think is a big problem, as explained in the UA breakdown that I linked. The short version is, it always feels like you’re choosing to go on an adventure to get the privilege of spending vast amounts of time and money, rather than just going on an adventure to get the damn thing you wanted. That exotic component replaces the original system’s requirements – character level and spellcasting ability.

I would like to see a shift toward some magic item crafting components entering play as a part of normal treasure distribution, or suggestions of ways that you can scrap Alice’s no-longer-useful magic widget to be the exotic ingredient of Bob’s new magic gizmo. Turning widgets into gizmos is what I am all about, folks.

Also, the Complications table for Crafting an Item is just terrible. These are more about creating hard roadblocks to progress than introducing compelling content into the fiction.

There’s one thing that rescues this, though. There’s a new Magic Item Crafting Time and Cost table. It slashes the DMG’s Crafting Magic Items table (p. 129) by huge amounts: 50% off for Common items, up to 80% off for Legendary items. Consumable items are again halved. Furthermore, it lists a number of workweeks that you might actually complete in the course of play! They’re all less than one calendar year! If crafting is part of your game, this is the biggest change in all of XGTE.

There are also separate rules for Brewing a Potion (which takes even less time) and Scribing a Scroll (which is its own separate action for whatever reason). Neither potions nor scrolls seem to require exotic ingredients (though this is slightly ambiguous), and a basic potion of healing takes just 1 day and 25 gold to make if you have the right proficiency. It’s still not interesting, and the Complications don’t fix that, but it’s at least not also punishing.

 

Crime

Crime pays in D&D, in case you didn’t know. This is a way to play an active criminal, in a party with a paladin or officer of the Watch, without making all of your adventures into an argument. I mean, do they really need to know where your extra petty cash comes from?

The fundamental principle here is that you try to guess what DC you can hit, and you roll three checks at that DC. Two are predetermined, because of course you need Stealth and thieves’ tools to make with the crime. The third you choose from a short list; I’d suggest that this list could probably stand to be expanded a bit, but I appreciate that there’s one Int skill, one Wis skill, and one Cha skill. Your tally of successes and failures decides the outcome. The DC you chose determines the value of your haul.

The Complications here are compelling, but they really push continued solo play if you’re not part of a whole team of criminals. I feel like this is scratching the surface of the consequences you could expect at the end of a heist in Blades in the Dark. You could likewise use the opening three rolls like a BitD Engagement roll. There’s a lot to work with in just a few paragraphs here.

You can add so much richness to this subsystem by handing out a new kind of treasure. Let’s call it a Tip. It grants a +X bonus to the lowest of your three Crime rolls. It’s awarded by Carousing contacts, by suborning thieves from competing guilds, by performing Research…

As with Carousing, I’ll remind you that the rules don’t provide a lot of the story for this. The players and the DM need to focus on doing that, or it becomes a gambling machine with fairly obvious odds.

 

Gambling

This is, um, also a gambling machine with somewhat less obvious odds, since the DCs are themselves randomized (but will average out to 16). The unfortunate thing here is that it’s incredibly hard to get some character classes decent ability scores or skill proficiencies, short of spending feats just for this. I’m specifically thinking of barbarians and fighters, who seem to me like the type to enjoy a spot of gambling (and sure, Pit Fighting is its own separate activity).

The Complications here are more or less fine. It’s a short list, so be ready to cross out items you use and replace them if your players go deep on Gambling.

 

Pit Fighting

Pit fighting is, in fact, gambling for the more warlike set, with similar mechanics and similar Complications. I like that you could have a non-downtime sequence where the fighter is in a match on center stage, while the rogue is Carousing and making useful contacts, and the wizard is Relaxing in the stands. This makes everyone’s activities and skills more a part of their shared story. Anyway, this is basically fine.

 

Relaxation

This is a renaming of the Recuperation activity from the DMG, and provides a default action if some players don’t want to deal with downtime activity while others do. It costs money to relax, which has indeed always been my experience. The health benefits are quite substantial… also accurate. Relaxation doesn’t trigger Complications, but maybe they don’t know about mixing Carousing in with your Relaxation schedule like I do.

 

Religious Service

This is sort of a cleric’s (or paladin’s, or whatever) answer to the Contacts of Carousing. Or maybe rogues and bards are just worshipping at the bar. Anyway, you spend time working on a faith’s behalf and roll either Religion or Persuasion, gaining favors from them as a result. The Complications are about what you’d expect from a moderately cynical view of the medieval Church, and they appeal to my taste and spark my imagination more than several other sets of Complications in this chapter have.

I note that there’s not an activity for signing on to do scut-work for a more powerful wizard for a week, but that could definitely happen in my campaign, or in the Realms. Adapting Religious Service to suit the life of a journeyman wizard is trivially easy, though.

 

Research

If there’s a downtime activity in the whole book that I care about more than crafting magic items, this is it. What they give us is very straightforward, basically turning cash and time into revealed factual statements. There’s no internal handling, beyond DM fiat, for facts that someone has gone out of their way to conceal, or things that no one has ever known and written down (cosmic truths, perhaps). The Sage background really needs a way to plug into this activity directly. Even more than that, the Wisdom-based Knowledge cleric needs a way to apply their strengths to this activity – even something as simple as “use Wisdom in place of Intelligence for this roll.” I do like this activity’s potential to gobble up vast sums of money in a hurry, as you have to decide how much money you’re spending before you roll.

The Complications are fine here. I’ve had FR’s Candlekeep on my mind lately, so I’d particularly love to see major centers of learning add their own wrinkles to this activity – beyond “advantage on the roll.” A unique list of Complications that are customized to each location could be great. Most games wouldn’t need that kind of content, but at the same time, creating interesting content is how you make people want to use it.

The deeply disappointing part of this is that there aren’t rules, here or anywhere else, for researching spells. Some intersection of Research and Scribing a Spell Scroll should suffice.

 

Running a Business

…is notable for its absence. It is partially-but-not-really replaced with the Work activity.

 

Scribing a Scroll

This works a lot like Crafting a Magic Item, but it has its own price chart. That chart is a real head-scratcher, because I’m not sure any one 9th-level spell is worth 250% of a legendary item (but two workweeks faster to create). Lower-level effects are a lot more reasonable, though there’s still clear pricing tiers that cause some huge leaps. From 1st to 2nd level, the price increases ten-fold (the Common to Uncommon jump). 2nd to 3rd, 2x. 3rd to 4th, 5x. 4th to 5th, 2x, and so on. It reads like the creator of this chart didn’t confer with the creator of the Magic Item Crafting Time and Cost chart.

The Complications for scribing have the same problems of not being all that interesting that we saw in Crafting an Item. It’s hard to be all that interesting when you lock yourself in your study. In itself, it’s an argument for shifting the setting’s assumption of what crafting magic items looks like, so that you do something in public.

 

Selling a Magic Item

Liquidating unwanted magic items is fairly complicated in 5e’s default economy, such that you can only sell one per workweek with this activity. You pay an up-front cost to sell and make a Persuasion check, which determines what kind of offer you get. There is, of course, a Magic Item Base Price chart, and this one makes no goddamn sense held up alongside the Magic Item Price chart of Buying a Magic Item. It is consistently twice the price listed in the Magic Item Crafting Time and Cost chart, though, and that at least checks out. The challenge of selling and such can eat up your margins if you’re trying to make money as a magic item crafter. If you aim for rare items, though, you should turn a strong and steady profit (as long as you subcontract that whole exotic-component thing, like every NPC spellcaster ever).

Because of the many, many random factors, you can also probably turn a net profit on just being a middle man, alternating the Buy and Sell actions, keeping an eye on baseline values, and buying low and selling high. It’s riskier overall, but unbelievably faster turnaround.

I’m not crazy about the Complications offered for Selling an Item. My issues with Complications in Buying, Crafting, and Selling come from the idea of fakes and accusations of fakery. I recently listened to a Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff segment where they did 15 minutes on the challenges of turning magic-item fakery into compelling gameplay, and they had to go a lot deeper than this section does. For starters, does identify work, or doesn’t it? If it does, fakery doesn’t get real far in a baseline D&D setting. If it doesn’t, you really owe it to your players to admit up-front that identify doesn’t always work.

 

Training

Well, they’ve greatly reduced the number of days that Training requires, which is fine by me: from 250 days down to (10 workweeks – your Int modifier, if positive). The cost in gold is the same before you take the Int modifier into account.

Complications from Training are rare, but several of the suggested Complications do at least make good adventure seeds.

This activity is fine; I just wish they had carved out some design space for more things to be trainable. I would love for 5e to have a functioning concept of Lost Arts or the like (outside of spells, boons, and post-20th level advancements, I mean) so that training would be valuable, valid treasure.

 

Work

This is basically the life of a temp. (I’d say day laborer, but you are employed – or not – on a week-long basis.) There are a bunch of different potentially applicable skills; if anything, I think the list should be longer. For instance, where the heck is Animal Handling? Anyway, your check result determines your standard of living, and a really good result nets you cash as well.

The Complications here are all Too Real. Items 1 and 2 are wage theft, 3 and 6 are bullshit office politics, and 4 is your typical employer-is-a-cultist thing (look, I worked for Barnes & Noble back when they were slowing their descent into bankruptcy the old-fashioned way: blood sacrifice).

That brings us to the end of Downtime Activities. Overall, I think these are a solid step up from their UA versions, but they’re still a bit uneven. I can’t help but notice that the most interesting and well-developed activities are early in the alphabet. Would it be too uncharitable to suppose that they were written in alphabetical order, and the writers were running out of steam over time? Anyway, as I harped on earlier, use these activities as the bones of the narrative, no matter how tempting it is to roll, resolve, and be done.

 

Magic Items, Recharged

The first portion of this section strips away the veils around the number of encounters and the treasure-hoard math to show exactly how many magic items you probably receive in the game’s default treasure level. I probably won’t change my campaign’s magic item distribution on this basis, but it’s a look into the inner workings of 5e’s math. At worst, it shows you how to approach treasure distribution with a deeper understanding.

The dark underbelly of this section is that it gives me horrible flashbacks to the absolute worst parts of 3.x and 4e, where entitled players argue with DMs about treasure distribution, encounter by encounter. Players, never ever do this. It is one of the most obnoxious things you can do at the table. (Also, if you’re now playing 5e as so many of us are, these are guidelines and the DM is well within rights to remind you that the game works fine with no magic items at all.)

Next, we get new magic items, all Common. The DMG has only a tiny number of Common items, so this is a great addition. Many of them have only marginal mechanical benefit (that is, you might be able to argue for advantage on a skill check in the right kind of situation), but they help you cut an impressive or humorous image. Depending on the kind of game you’re playing, a lot of them are great starting points for further enchantment. You could rework them as Minor Properties that are limited to particular types of items. You can count on certain types of players to fall forever in love with some of these, refusing to replace that item no matter what comes along. God bless ‘em.

The rest of the chapter is a collection of tables containing all of the DMG and XGTE magic items. This chapter introduced the distinction between Minor and Major items, as a second axis of power alongside rarity. Consumable items are minor, as are some utility items like the ring of swimming. Major items are permanent items, or semi-consumable items such as a ring of three wishes or a tome of clear thought. Again, this is the kind of thing you mostly don’t need to know, but once you have the information collected in this way, you might find a use for it. For example, if you’re thinking about hand-picking a few items to go into Daynor’s Curiosity Shoppe, trending toward the minor items might serve your purposes.

 

This brings us to the end of Chapter Two of XGTE. Chapter Three is a whole mess of spells, and I already know I’m going to have a good bit to say about ‘em. If you’ve stuck with me to the end of this massive article, thank you! I hope you’ve enjoyed it!