Alright, so I’ve already ranted about encumbrance rules and how much I don’t like them. (Then, I had all my annoyances about them repeated in Dragon Age: Origins.)
Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize: I don’t like magic items, period. Sure, they are a staple of fantasy literature. And I have a soft spot for certain classes of magical items, like the strange artifact or consumable item that has to be used at just the right time. +1 Swords? Fiery Platemail? Rings of Jumping? Never a fan.
Let’s walk backward through the three editions of D&D I played the most so I can complain some more:
4th Edition: As a DM, I pick treasure parcels by level. I don’t know what to pick for most characters. Even the ones with wishlists can only get the next best weapon so many times. As a player, I don’t want to scour all the books (or compendium) for every slot, making it difficult for me to pick a wishlist.
3rd Edition: Random treasure often resulted in items that were useless to the party. Expected wealth (and corresponding power level) always ended up way off no matter how closely I tried to stick to the rules. Item creation could be punishing to the user, but was pretty important.
2nd Edition: Even more random. Very spikey: for example, Paladins sometimes getting their hands on Holy Avengers and outclassing everyone else. Complaints about the wild imbalance in things like “Monty Haul” vs. “Stingy.”
I know that in a lot of more “old school” games all magic items are rare, treasured, and given out by the DM, but I still think I would be annoyed by that because so much of it is DM whim, and can create some real overshadowing problems within the party. (In fact, I recall specifically being annoyed by it when playing in a Rules Cyclopedia game.)
What have I liked? Well, Iron Heroes was a game that tossed out magic items as a base assumption but still felt like D&D, so I’m good with that. The inherent bonuses rules of DMG2 are another good solution that, were I to start a new D&D campaign, I would definitely use.
Really though, at the same time I’m tossing out all the boring magic items, I want to bring in more of those that I do like. Consumable magic items that must be used carefully but can be helpful to a wide variety of party members. And artifact (and artifact-style) items. In my current campaign, the PCs are about to get a hold of an artifact, which is something I’m excited about. (And- spoiler for my players- there’s already an artitifact in the party that only one or two of them know about.) I even introduced a Deck of Many Things- which ended up in the hands of an excitable gnome NPC. I’m also thinking about giving away more ritual scrolls.
My conclusion? The +1 weapons and Tridents of Underwater Command and Gauntlets of Ogre Power are sacred cows of D&D. Many love them. I do not. I would rather get items that have to be weighed carefully on their use, but are still balanced and give interesting options to the players. Now somebody make it happen.