I'm sure this has been discussed before but I can't find an answer anywhere:
When PCs find new armor and weapons what is the best way to roleplay the properties and stats of those items? Is there a way to get across the idea that this "+1 masterwork longsword" will do more damage without saying, "...You found a +1 masterwork longsword". What are some good ways to deal with this?
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For stuff like a flat modifier(+1, +2, etc.) you could say that the weapon glows with a faint inner light or something like that. Anything to hint that it's magically enhanced.
For Ghost Touch, you could say it has an ethereal, almost ghostly, appearance.
For Fiery/Icy/Shocking, you could say it leaves a trail of fire/frost/static as it is swung.
For masterwork "It is of exceptional quality." The balance is immaculate, there's no wasted weight." etc.
For Keen - The blade's edge is like a razor, finely honed and exceptionally sharp.
There's a lot of ways to do it. Just look at what the magical enhancements are and find something that you think would describe what it's doing.
I like throwing in details like how bright the glow of the weapon is, and having special designs on the weapons themselves that also glow.
The barbarian in the group I DM for just recently got his hands on a flaming sword, the blade itself doesn't glow too bright, but it has a red flame design that goes up the entire blade, and when the flaming property is activated it glows like a torch.
Another way to describe magic weapons is to talk about how easily they are swung, or how intense it feels when you land a hit. Almost like the weapon is compelled to be easier to use than others.
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You pull the sword from the scabbard and it makes an audible sound, like polished metal sliding against polished metal.
"Is there something wrong with the scabbard?" asked Sarah, "that's a bad sound, check to see if the blade is scratched.
On inspection, you find the blade is fine and there is no obvious defect in the sheath. "There's nothing I can tell..." you slide the blade a few more times; it makes the same metallic sound, but the blade shows no signs of wear. It looks awfully sharp. "Let me try something" You take all the various swords among your party and test them all in the sheath, but none of them make the same sound. You then try the new sword in all the other sheathes and it makes the same sound in each of them. "I think it's something to do with the weapon, itself. It might be ensorcelled. You can hear how sharp it is."
"That's just weird..." said Sarah.
I've always stuck with a descriptive, letting them try and figure out what an item is by use rather than give a flat out description of it. It makes identifying something that much more fun and intensive than a simple die roll.
If they want to spend the time to figure out the item with skill checks, then I will give them hints on notes, with three levels of obscurity, the most being just a base test, the next requiring an advantage of some sort (Magic, Bardic Bullpucky, or a lab/library), the least requires atleast 2 of those. Still the final act has to be them activating it, and has caused characters to learn new languages as the trigger isn't always in common/draconic/dwarven/etc.
Testing potions is fun, as I have an index of what a potion looks, tastes and smells like. Every potion of a given spell is similar to another, so It keeps things 'easy', though gambles and mistakes can happen, like when the potion of cure light and potion of barkskin are both green and taste of almonds, though one smells of chocolate and the other of loam.
With items, I often use hints as to it's use. Doubly so when I started a new campaign on a new world and started a new index.
A sword with a fire enchantment might be made of black iron, be stylized with flame motifs or be warm to the touch. Most magic items will have a trigger or command word, for a sword it might be embossed on the blade or be the battle cry of a famous user in the past.
I've shamelessly stolen ideas from books, movies, tv shows and cartoons, and even other games and systems.
Anyways, when in doubt, make it up, or ask a friend who's unconnected for help. My wife's given me more ideas for items for my last campaign than any other source.
Testing potions is fun, as I have an index of what a potion looks, tastes and smells like. Every potion of a given spell is similar to another, so It keeps things 'easy', though gambles and mistakes can happen, like when the potion of cure light and potion of barkskin are both green and taste of almonds, though one smells of chocolate and the other of loam.With items, I often use hints as to it's use. Doubly so when I started a new campaign on a new world and started a new index.
Would you be willing to post one of your indexes as an example? I want to make sure that I have the right idea when I try to do this.
I could try, due to moving, I only have access to the new one I was rather 'lazily' compiling. IE: it is currently unfinished as the group hasn't hit higher levels or tried making their own.
Lacking a scanner/camera I'll transcribe it.
My usual format is a table in a lined notebook: spell name, color, taste, smell.
I sort it with 'common' spells first, plus their 'linked' or troubled set.
My first one had 3 additional sections, listing spells by their common component, I was really just going to toss this one into a digital database and use that to resort it on the fly.
There will be modifiers, more intense tastes and smells for stronger CL potions.
Blue w/ Red Specks, Almonds, Cloves
Dark Green, Cinnamon, Garlic
Rancid Yellow, Artichokes, Sulfur
Rancid Yellow, Cinnamon, Sulfur
Dark Green, Cinnamon, Boiled Cabbage
Blue w/Dark Red Flecks, Almonds, Blood
Brown, Rare Steak, Wet Fur
Cloudy Grey, Raw Tuna, Wet Fur
Orange, Cobwebs, Dusty
Orange, Leather, Musty
Pale Blue, Bugs, Grass
Blue, Bugs, Wet Sand
Navy Blue, Dirt, Peat
Deep Blue, Willow Bark, Loam
Navy Blue, Tar, Peat
Black, Stale Bread, Mold
Black w/Silver Swirls, Bitter Tea, Tar
Black w/Blue Swirls, Bitter Tea, Rain
Dull Red, Bloody, Acidic
Dark Red, Bloody, Soap
I will say, when I give them a potion, I give every potion a number, and they have to declare they are using said number, I have the only 'true' master list, and their free to make their own, like good adventurers.
It's a little more 'work' but keeps us all honest, the same goes with scrolls and found wands. Plus it lets me better keep track of what I've given them, and they've used the 'similar' but different angle to bluff adversaries to down negative effect potions.
Speaking of scrolls, I've used a similar system for them as well, but I dropped that with my new game and I lack my old primer for them, it only really came into effect when they were trying to figure out a found scroll of a spell they didn't know, or in the rogue's case, every scroll. It was fun, and as the rogue tended to horde any scrolls he found, it led to some fairly amusing incidents. Summoning a wild boar instead of healing the wizard, Bane instead of silence, Polymorphing into a cat instead of turning invisible, etc.