Magic items are ultimately disposable items. Even if we give them glorious histories and backstories, unless we make them uber-artifacts, the mechanics of D&D often mean that they are going to get swept to the side for the next +1 or cool ability that comes a player’s way.
When it comes to magic items, PCs are serial monogamists, leaping from weapon to weapon in short intense flings.
In my Blacktree game, I decided to change this a little bit. Many of the items are disposable, but certain items I “level up” as the game progresses.
Submitted for evidence: Cracklemaw. Our paladin got this lightning sword at about third level, and now that he’s pushing 8th, the sword has gained a +1, and now can deal radiant damage in addition to the lightning damage. The last level up occurred right after slaying a black dragon in the climactic fight of an adventure. Matt, the player, definitely is looking forward to having a holy avenger, and he’ll get it –but it will have been by his side for almost the entire campaign. Cracklemaw will grow in power and “personality” along with his deeds.
This will happen with a few other items that the characters happen upon. Judging by how pleased Matt was with Cracklemaw –which by the way, has been used more creatively than I thought was possible with the weapon — this organic handling of magic items will definitely be a staple of 4e games I run.
Have you done anything like this in your 4e campaign? What were the results?