Saturday, June 2, 2012

Unidentified Items

So D&D gives an elaborate set of procedures for identifying items -- detect magic plus a Spellcraft check, examine it for helpful clues, an epic Appraise check plus a Spellcraft check, an epic spellcraft check, casting Identify, or (inevitably the most common course of action) bringing it to the Mage's Guild to ask divination specialist apprentice wizard Beth to cast identify for 110gp. (But even these methods are unlikely to identify any cursey properties of an item, which generally come out in the normal course of play.)

But it doesn't give a lot of advice for dealing with unidentified items. I hit upon a technique that has worked pretty well for me. It involves a separate sheet in my Excel Document of Doom.

Basically, whenever players acquire a magic or otherwise special item (or occasionally a completely mundane item, just to throw off metagamers), I describe it, and then I give it a number, and I tell the players that, whenever they use the item or mention it to me, also mention the number, so I know which one it is.

The Excel sheet has four columns: the number; a description and all the properties of the item; a list of all the properties the characters have identified so far; and whoever currently possesses the item.

"I hit him with the big sword I found in that pile of dung. Item #6."
"Do you now? Excellent. As you fly into an uncontrollable rage, you discover that it wasn't just a +2 greatsword after all."

It works pretty well.

Items aren't removed from the list unless they're lost or broken or sold to an NPC. (Given to an NPC means it goes into the NPC's treasure. Sold means it goes into the master list of things that might eventually get rotated back into the world.)

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