They help DMs in filling out treasure piles, but they risk breaking immersion since they’re an out-of-character aid. They help give both players and DMs a better sense of a character’s and player’s style, but they also risk taking a long time to complete since there’s literally thousands of magic items in D&D to pour through for ideas, fit and inspiration.
Without wish lists, you might risk discovering too much low-use or flat-out useless magic treasure. With them, players might feel entitled to all of them, like they’re order lists.
Still, now that we’ve toyed with wish lists for the first time ever in 4e, there has to be a faster, better way, right?
Quick Wish Lists: Step 1
One specific approach that combines the best of wish lists and reduces the worst aspects of them is the Quick Wish List 3 x 3 Method.
Players list out and keep update the Big 3 of all magic items – Weapon/Implement, Armor and Neck slots – only. These magic items form the core identity of most adventurers’ magic item wardrobe, and as luck would have, they are also typically the three most powerful.
There’s a reason the DMG and Character Builder both include rules for higher level character creation focusing only on those three magic item slots when it comes to gear selection – mainly, it’s the enhancement bonuses that come along with them. Other than pure power, however, these three magic items are generally quite striking visually, and often come with flavorful materials and lore of their own. (And when they don’t or don’t have enough – make it up on your own or together!)
Be sure to include specific item levels (IL) on your wish lists as this is the most helpful thing your DM needs to know besides the items themselves; it’s the most critical part of the treasure rules for magic items.
Quick Wish Lists: Step 2
After listing out those three magic items, now list out three descriptors or tags: keywords, themes, features or mechanics. These terms can match or be different from the main features of your key three magic items, depending on how focused or dynamic you see your character.
Like the Big 3 magic items, both you and your DM very quickly get a sense of the most important types of magic treasure that fit both the vision of a particular character and a player’s usual playstyle. Most importantly, having a specific mechanic listed makes it super fast and easy for both you and your DM to look up magic items with those qualities in a search in the online D&D Compendium.
Vision or Pitch: Optional Step
Coming up with a brief vision statement or pitch for your character can help too, similar to what you might write up as part of flushing out your character’s backstory or background. Essentially, it’s like verbalizing into prose what you’ve already done in steps one and two of Quick Wish Lists.
If you think it helps you better visualize your character’s style and favorite magic items for that character, go ahead and add this step in either before or after your 3 x 3 picks. Go back to it after a few levels or once a tier and revise it if something’s changed, whether in your mind or due to something that happened in actual play.
Whether you take advantage of this actual step or not (and I strongly suggest you flex your creative muscles and spend the extra minute to do so), this is essentially the third step that truly makes your wish list three-dimensional, or 3 x 3!
Example & Analysis
Let’s take a loot at a specific example and then briefly analyze it for inspirations for additional magic treasure the character (and player!) might enjoy.
Brogos, Dwarf Warden
Brogos is a hulking ox of a red-bearded dwarf, who wields his rune-covered spiked hammer and heavy diamond-shaped family shield with pride, and dreams of becoming a tribal champion or king someday. He likes to be the first to engage and strike fear into the hearts of his foes, calling upon ancestral spirits to make him as resilient as a mountain.
Wish List Items: defensive weapon, craghammer (IL 2/7/12/17/22/27); lifefont armor, hide (IL 4/9/14/19/24/29); timeless locket (IL 14/19/24/29)
Wish List Descriptors: defenses, saving throws, initiative
Brogos’ three critical magic items match his wish list descriptors exactly in this case, so it’s clear the player wants this character to focus on three elements and themes (defenses, saving throws and initiative) in most of his magic treasure. So, in the future, for other body slots, the DM can quickly do a search for ‘initiative,’ for example, under hands or feet and see what comes up in the online Compendium to fill out treasure parcels.
Additionally, besides drawing more heavily on magic items with defenses, saving throws and initiative bonuses and features for treasure that catches Brogos’ eye, the vision flavor text also suggests other, more elaborate or evocative possiblities. Kingly items, like crowns might be a flavorful treasure, matching the character’s dreams. Also, items with the fear keyword might be a great fit. Items that provide resistance of some kind, or are dwarven or goliath in make might also be excellent treasures, from both a crunch and flavor perspective.
Ultimately, by using this Quick Wish List 3 x 3 method, we’ve simplified the standard 4e Wish List here with something more streamlined yet still useful for both parties, player and DM. We’ve saved a lot of time in the process on the player list creation and “research” side, and still saved the DM significant time by providing a handful of the most important items as well as key descriptors or tags to use as search words in the online Compendium for future treasure.
Most treasure found keeps some of its mystique and is a pleasant surprise when discovered. And yet, these treasures tend to come with themes the characters and players will appreciate as they continue shaping the vision of their heroic characters and their fantastic magic items.