Item Destruction on Failed Save, Or, Equipment Durability II

This one’s about when a Fireball hits and you fail your save so your stuff has to save or get destroyed. I wrote about this here too, differently. I like what I say here better though.

Read somewhere on the Wizards site (Proud Nails article) about how the guy doesn’t like how the 3E rule for equipment damage is hidden and the index is bad. He offhandedly talks about how he doesn’t like going down the list of stuff a player has and saving for each thing, referencing the table.

There’s a table in 1E like that for item saves, and I think there’s one in the 2E DMG. The point is, your stuff may need to save vs. various attacks when the DM says it needs to, including anytime you fail a save vs. something like Fireball or Cone of Cold. It’s usually a pain in the butt, and hard on the player since he’s losing his magical gizmos, which is probably why in 3E they changed to “only on a natural 1” instead of on any failure.

Well here’s a way around saving for every dang thing: if your stuff would need to save, instead the DM rolls d6-3 and the player has to pick that many big-ticket items to destroy.

A big-ticket item in this case could be a Fighter’s non-magical platemail he’s wearing, or a potion, or a sack of coins, or a 1,000 GP gem. The player has to choose from among the best stuff he owns. He can’t pick his 50′ hemp rope, torch, and clothes unless he didn’t have ANY big ticket items!

As a general rule, the item needs to be worth at least 1,000 GP. If it’s a single magic dagger worth less than that, it’s fine. But you would lose a whole quiver of arrows, for example. A coin with Continual Light cast on it is, in most campaigns, worth only slightly more than the coin itself (although in 3E it costs 25 GP to cast the spell, so it’s worth that anyway).

It’s okay if the player doesn’t choose his best stuff. What matters is that he chooses legitimate stuff. Here’s an example of a player who understands how this works (Assume 1/2E, so the potions are worth 400-600 each):

Leather Armor +2, Spear +1, Shield +1, Potion of Healing, Potion of Levitation, Girdle of Hill Giant Strength, 500 GP Garnet, 1000 GP Emerald, Backpack of Adventuring Gear.

The DM rolls d6-3, result 5-3=2. Player says, “hey DM, can I lose my whole pack of gear for one item?” and the DM will probably glance at his gear and think, well that’s all his food and tools and he’s in the wilderness, sure let’s say yes.” and the player picks the 500 GP garnet as the second item. If the DM had said no on the backpack of gear, the player probably would have picked the garnet and the emerald. The levitation potion is worth less than that emerald, but could really come in handy on the adventure.

At no point would anybody expect him to pick the girdle, which is by far his best item, or his arms and armor. But what if he gets blasted a second time? Some hard choices. And interesting choices are what I like about D&D.

If it were a 1st level PC, with nonmagical Spear, Shield, Leather, Adventuring Gear, Sack of Coins, I think any of those would be valid choices. If he had Plate instead of Leather I’d still let him lose his Spear before his armor, since the values are within the same scale as each other. Remember, it’s fine if someone chooses to lose a Dagger +1 instead of a Crystal Ball.

Some points about this system:

1: It puts the choice in the hands of the player. He doesn’t groan that the acid pool ate away his magic boots. He chose to lose the boots because he wanted to keep something else more.
2: It’s a lot faster since the DM can tell the player to pick X items to lose and move on with the combat or answer another player’s question or whatever. It doesn’t require looking up any rules: just remember the d6-3.
3: The number of items is combined with a chance of occurence. That is, there’s a 50% chance that no items are lost, and 1 in 6 chance for each of 1, 2, or 3 items. If that still seems harsh, you can modify the die down for less-damaging effects like Cold or Crushing Blow. You could also be a nice DM and say “since it was a fall I’ll let you break your lantern for one of your picks if you like” and the player can take you up on it – totally an ad hoc thing. Of course, if the lantern breaks you’re without ilght and covered in lamp oil … Furthermore in my experience, even people with a lot of stuff will tend to lose 0-2 items to a round of item saves, so the chance and the amount seem reasonable.
4: Players who don’t understand or intentionally try to scam the system (the bag-of-rat-pelts from the older post) should hand the character sheet to the DM and he will pick the items to be destroyed. This gives the player an idea of what the DM would do if he were playing, so the DM should pick the cheapest legitimate item choices rather than the PC’s best items. Mechanically it’s the same as having the player choose (and this is a case where the DM needs to favor the player rather than be impartial since he’s acting on the player’s behalf) but I think most players will prefer to choose their own misery. If a player really doesn’t want to choose, he can ask the DM to choose or have another player do it. It doesn’t really matter.
5: There’s a good reason to carry backup weapons, potions, generally just to keep magic items instead of selling them (I know, some people just sell all the stuff they won’t use tomorrow). It also encourages carrying those items instead of stowing them safely at the home base.
6: What happens when the guy carrying some party treasure decides to sacrifice the nice magic sword the party just found instead of burning up his own equipment? Again, interesting choices with important results.

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