Well, it’s that time of the month when, following a Blog Carnival, the hosting site compiles a list of the blogs posted on their chosen subject and officially passes the baton on to the next host. Hold on a minute – this month the person that has to do that is me! I guess I had better get busy…
The subject this month was “Making The Loot Part Of The Plot” and a lot of people had a lot to say on the topic. In fact, we had 39 submissions…
I’ll get our contributions out of the way first! We kicked things off with a post entitled Making The Loot Part Of The Plot which was – to be honest – little more than a list of possible articles relating to the subject. As the person who populated that list, you can imagine that I had something to say about each subject, but time was limited. I include this link more out of a sense of completeness than anything else, and to show how much more there is to write on this subject!
Despite being distracted by the then-imminent release of Assassin’s Amulet (have you bought your copy yet? and if not, why not?), we were able to tackle a number of them in the month that followed. In Loot As A Plot Mechanic, I wrote about changing the way GMs think about the loot, and then listed many different types of reward and how they could be used as Plot Mechanics.
This was followed by a two-part excerpt from one of the eBooks we’re preparing in support of Assassin’s Amulet, A Player’s Guide To Legacy Items: Part 1 summarized the concept of a Legacy Item, how they come into existence, how characters acquire them, and the process by which the item moulds and shapes the character. Part Two talked about the powers a Legacy Item could contain, how players could access those powers, what the effects were, and how the presence of the Legacy Item became part of the campaign’s overall plotline.
In Making, earning, Finding, Analyzing, using, Selling, and Destroying Loot, I looked at all the things that characters might want to do with ‘the loot’ and the plot potential of each (I also vented a few times on issues that annoy me every time they crop up – and talked about ways around them).
This was followed by The Value Of Magic, I attempted to come up with a rationalized basis for the value of Magic Items – a big topic in itself! – and came up short. But along the way, I described a nine-step general classification scheme for ranking magic items in terms of their value to a character, listed all the other factors that should be considered in pricing a creation cost, and showed that this was a useful contribution to the subject even without being able to take the final step.
Johnn closed out the month with Why I Fell In Love With Staves Again After 10 Years, in which he discusses the myriad aspects of using, recharging, and designing staves in terms of the plot points they contain. Then, as a cherry on the top, throws in another half dozen or so great ideas on making the command words plot points, and giving them non-magical functions – each of which gives a staff a further plot point. While much of the article is devoted to Staves as they appear in the Pathfinder RPG, an awful lot of it is good advice in D&D as well.
VBWyrde uses the baking of loaves of bread as a metaphor to describe ways of making the loot something the PCs want to interact with in his post, also entitled Making Loot Part of the Plot. The metaphor might be slightly quirky but there’s some solid advice in this post.
Ameron offers 7 Adventure Hooks for Making the Loot Part of the Plot which are worthwhile in themselves, and even more so if you analyze each looking for the reasons the Loot is significant in each case. But the piece-de-resistance of this article is the “related reading” on offer. Since it’s entirely possible that this was automatically generated and not-handcrafted – our system works in a similar way – I’m going to list the suggestions on offer when I checked out the post:
- Even a Regular Item can become and Adventure Hook
- The Little Details make a Big difference
- Intelligent Magic Items
- Your Coin is No Good Here
All relevant, all worth reading.
Medieval Mike offers Loot as Part of the Plot in which he talks about how he personally achieves this in his game, and some really interesting ideas that he’s come across for doing the same. The “Book Of Martial Forms” that he describes is so similar in principles to our Legacy Items that it would be easy to convert, but Mike offers a wrinkle that hadn’t even occurred to us – custom-designing each new power to fit the character’s objectives at the time it is granted. The article is obviously written from a 4e point-of-view, with its mention of Healing Surges and Action Points, but the advice is solid for any FRPG – and the ideas are top-notch. And be sure to read the comments for even more ideas!
Game Knight Reviews
Fitz’s contribution is The Gassy Gnoll: Where’d that come from?, in which he posits the notion that an item’s history might be its magic – and that this magic can only be accessed once you know about that history. That summary really only scratches the surface of a really great idea. Once again, check the comments for some added brilliance courtesy of the RandomDM.
In a seperate article, Fitz links to a new ‘Legends & Lore’ article by Monte Cook at Wizards of the Coast which he thinks is relevant to the Blog Carnival, and I have to agree.
The RandomGM, Johnn, and I discuss in the comments section of Making The Loot Part Of The Plot (and yes, that is a redundant recurrence of that link) the results of the survey discussed in the article, given in the follow-up ‘Legends & Lore’ post, and their significance.
Fame & Fortune
In all that glitters…, Satyre warns against overload, then offers six suggestions for adding plots through loot that can really capture your player’s attention. Some of the advice is, quite frankly, brilliant. All of it is worth the time to read it.
Berin Kinsman’s Dire Blog
Berin has also entitled his post Making Loot a Part of the Plot, but don’t think that he is treading the same ground as everyone else – he isn’t. As his article shows, there mere fact that there is loot to be had at a location, and that there will be something trying to stop the PCs from getting it, is enough to make past loot part of the plot – and yet, this is a post about what tomorrow might bring to the PCs. Every player and GM should read this contribution!
The Githyanki Diaspora
have offered Mo’ Gold Pieces, Mo’ problems in which Judd The Librarian expounds on the possibilities of plots that begin where most GMs would think the story ends. I’ve done this myself for my Rings Of Time campaign, and it provides a great way to jump-start an adventure. And I love the dilemma posed by Verrain in the comments: “the only thing left to decide is if I want to run this or beg someone else to run this.” You don’t get much higher praise for an idea than that.
Runeslinger (great name for an arcane supervillain!) gets deeply philosophical in Looting Characters about what makes a great game, and how “loot” factors into that question. If you’re looking for quick-fix simple solutions, this is not the place to find them – but if you’re looking to go beyond those in any direction, with any game system, this article will be thought-provoking, stimulating, – and, perhaps, a little daunting. Highly recommended.
Five Fictive Fantasies
FiveFictiveFantasies seems to have been genuinely inspired by the subject and has offered many posts to the blog carnival.
The first is Mark Of Station which posits the consequences of making “the loot” badges of office, and how that immediately makes it part of the plot – no matter what the relationship is between the wielders and the PCs. An elegant proposal that I will have to make greater use of in my own campaigns!
Second up, we have No Printing Press in which literacy combines with the concept of ‘books as treasure’ in a number of extremely useful ways. If you can’t draw new inspiration from this article, you have no imagination.
The third in this series of posts is The World Is Loot, and it describes the insight of a paradigm shift in the perspective of the players. Whether we realize it or not, this is the goal that we all strive for as GMs of our campaigns – but it’s a lot harder to reach a destination if you don’t know where you’re going.
Next up, we have Magic Shouldn’t Work So Hard. I have to agree completely with these proposals – consider them snaffled for my campaigns!
And this blog isn’t done with the subject yet: Overpaid Killers (an ironic title, given that I’ve just co-authored an e-book on assassins) talks about the art of painlessly separating PCs from their accumulated coinage. This post works brilliantly in conjunction with the submission from The Githyanki Diaspora cited earlier.
Orion’s first foray into a Blog Carnival, The Importance Of Branding, discusses the use of symbolism and historical context to add to the allure of treasures and makes the loot a conduit to game history and culture. This article touches briefly on some of the same ground as the first of Five Fictive Fantasies’ first blog post, but only tangentially, and is an excellent contribution. Again, the points that Orion makes are things I’m going to have to keep more strongly in mind in the future!
Sea Of Stars Design Journal
Sean Holland offers Magic Items as Plot Devices in which he breaks down this variety of plot device into three types, then considers the strengths and weaknesses of each, and the style of campaign for which they are best suited. There’s some very practical advice here. Sean also touches on the risks and liabilities of using goodies as plot devices, an important point to consider.
Edward at Houserule poses questions about the value of money, and the impact of character wealth on a game, in If I Were A Rich Man. His tips are definitely worth considering, especially when setting up a new campaign.
After notifying us about the article above, Lee Dvorak was sufficiently inspired to add Iconic Weapons, or give everybody the Sword of Kas!. This article also tackles the subject of Iconic treasures, but takes the conversation in a slightly different direction – in the process inadvertently offering a solution to one of the vexing problems that I vented about in one of my own posts for the carnival, and one that should have been obvious to me. Absolutely topnotch.
And then another of the bloggers at Houserule, Jeff, was inspired by Lee’s post to write Loot: Mystery and Freedom, which also tackles the proposal for iconic treasures, and moves it into an interesting and innovative direction. For those that care, be warned, it contains some Drizzt spoilers.
Exchange Of Realities
What Loot Can Do With Your Plot is another blog post to take a look at aspects of the overall picture and the types of plot that loot can engender. The key point to emerge involves the relationship between successful use of Loot as a plot device and forward thinking and planning. Success is not something that often happens by accident!
Ravyn followed this article up with a second, Impress Me With Your Shinies, describing how GMs can make their items iconic. This is essential advice for exploiting many of the other carnival posts to the full. And, as a bonus, the implications of one of Grimtooth’s traps (discussed in the comments) are totally fascinating.
Late in the month, Ravyn added a third article, Impractical Applications (Swag!), which offers a couple of interesting items, and how they figured into the plotlines, and by extension, how someone else can do the same. For someone who was “almost surprised [he] made it to this month’s [blog carnival]”, she certainly made a substantial contribution – well done!
Hack & Slash
Another writer who seems to have been genuinely inspired by the subject, -C weighed in with no less than 5 posts for the carnival, starting with On Magic Weapon: A Table part III which offers a d% table for giving your weapons a purpose. This is the sort of thing I’m hopeless at producing, so this was a nice contribution to the carnival! Oh, and there are links to parts I and II of the table at the bottom of the post. Oh, and don’t forget to check the links on the RHS of the page for “On The Magic Amour: A Table” parts I and II, if this stuff is your bread-and-butter.
This was followed by On Riches Causing Ruin. Actually, this post preceded the other, but I’m listing them in the order -C did when he advised us of his blog’s contributions. This article poses the question, “have you ever ruined a campaign with treasure?” – too much,
The third post for the blog carnival at Hack & Slash was On The Distribution Of Wealth which tackles the placement of loot within an adventure or campaign – and offers a great deal of game-mechanics insight and history along the way. It’s those insights that power most of the comments, so don’t skip the discussion.
Continuing the line of discussion concerning the placement and distribution of treasures is On Sample Hoards, which offers two sample stacks of loot, old-school. Personally, I thought the cannibals (“Exhibit A”) had too much coin but everything else was reasonable. I’d have cut the coin allotment and replaced them with a pouch of herbs on one of the cannibals that – when chewed like tobacco but not swallowed, functioned like a healing potion – after five minutes of chewing. Divide the value of the removed coinage by the value of a healing potion, round up (because you’ve made the potions slightly less useful) and you have the number of doses or ‘charges’. Add an extra one or two to that tally for good measure, and to keep the players happy. These examples are worth studying because they show how to integrate a treasure cache with the environment of the encounter – a key part of old-school gaming that is all-too-often overlooked.
The final submission from Hack & Slash completes the discussion of the placement of treasure with On The Generation of Treasure, which walks the reader through the process of treasure placement that -C uses. Again, this is old-school stuff, and -C specifically warns new players against reading the post – something I disagree with. C’s approach is very similar to a proposal I articulated a while back in Objective-Oriented Experience Points –
he’s talking GP-value and I was talking xp, but according to the old-school paradigm, they are one and the same. The approach still works even in a modern campaign (with, perhaps, a little less randomness to the process) – you just have to recognize what it is that you are distributing, and into how many ‘parcels’. Rather than suggest non- old-school readers turn away, I would encourage them to read the post and see what they can glean from it to benefit their games.
4649matt connects the topic with that iconic event of the month of October (at least in North America, and spreading) – Halloween. His article, Trick or Treat contains lots of good advice and interesting ideas, some of which can be taken even further than the blog suggests – such as using the ‘allure of the shiny trinkets’ to lead players into traps and away from something that is to be protected. Another must-read.
The Random DM
The Hoard Project was an ambitious project to prove that tables can build a cohesive story and emergent behaviors. Still incomplete, and clearly something that RandomDM is determined to finish, even the tables that have been completed so far offer value to the carnival, offering a bunch of tables to help develop a big pile of loot – with meaning.
This almost got missed because WrathOfZombie didn’t send CM a link to the post, which would have been a shame – it’s a great contribution. Fortunately, I noticed it as a “related post” while revisiting one of the other submissions. In Loot Part of The Plot, the suggestion is made for the loot in question to come as a choice: a tangible reward, or a favor to be called in at a later time. A convincing arguement is then mounted that “favors” – which would include debts and obligations – are under-represented in many campaigns. Finally, the post shows what those campaigns are missing out on.
In addition to his post at Campaign Mastery, Johnn also offered a carnival entry through his other site, Roleplaying Tips, How To Create Great Magic Items In Just Three Minutes. This offers a system for the generation of memorable, even iconic magic items.
To go with it, he is also running a
contest to create items using the system. While he intends to compile the entries and give them back to the gaming community afterwards, if you want something to use in the meantime, there are several offered in the comments to the contest, and a few more offered as comments to the template that he posted, so be sure to check the comments to both articles!
(I would echo the advice of Satyre from Fame and Fortune and warn against placing so many of these unique items that the uniqueness gets drowned out. Choose your targets carefully! One per PC per adventure, plus (perhaps) one for the big bad guy per adventure, should be ample).
The October 2011 blog post barely scratched the surface of this topic and still produced some great posts. Every single one of them had something that the others didn’t, and that’s absolutely brilliant! I hope that everyone enjoyed the carnival, and my thanks to all the contributors.
From here, the Blog Carnival migrates to the website of one of this month’s contributors, the Elthos RPG Blog and their subject, ‘Tricks & Traps, or How to think like a Villain’. Take it away, VBWyrde!
(Oh, and don’t forget – you can sign up to host a round of the Blog Carnival (2012 dates have just been opened), and check out all the past carnivals, at the Archive Page hosted by Nevermet Press).