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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > Let’s Make a Deal and Run 5E D&D as a Monty Haul Dungeon Master

Let’s Make a Deal and Run 5E D&D as a Monty Haul Dungeon Master

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Summon One Bad A$$ Evil SOB to Your 5E D&D Games

I love magic items in my Dungeons & Dragons games. As a player there’s nothing quite like adding awesome new magic items to a character’s inventory. When I’m the Dungeon Master I aim to elicit this same excitement for players by providing a steady flow of nifty magic items for their characters too. I’m definitely dating myself by invoking the name of Monty Hall, host of the classic musical comedy variety-game show Let’s Make a Deal and later used to describe a playstyle wherein the DM’s unreasonable generosity translates into lots of treasure — including magic items. What can I say? I love dishing it out as much as I do raking it in. Let’s get into it.

D&D history of magic items

The impetus for this post comes from Reddit where someone asked, “What is your style of giving out magic items as a dm?” There’s a decent number of replies demonstrating a wide variety of perspectives on this aspect of D&D. Seeing how the incorporation of magic items into the game evolved has been pretty interesting to observe throughout the years and across each edition. In 5E D&D characters’ powers stem primarily from an internal source (themselves) compared to earlier editions.

In 1E and 2E Advanced D&D for example much of what a character could do came largely from the magic items they’d accumulate along the way. When 3.5E D&D was really cooking a character’s growth and development very much hinged on keeping up with new and better magic items at every level. When it came to 4E D&D (the best edition imo) magic items were part and parcel of advancement to the point they were included not in the Dungeon Master’s Guide but rather the Player’s Handbook itself including their cost in gold pieces and guidance for where characters might likely find them for purchase. In the current era’s 5E D&D magic items are downplayed significantly. Bounded accuracy reduces the need for keeping up with the magic item arms race of previous editions and instead focuses on the narrative impact of discovering such treasures.

Screw all that!

Thinking back on my own experiences as a 5E D&D DM I realize pretty much every single adventure I’ve run includes at least one magic item. In fact I’d say in just about every session I run there’s a magic item somewhere. Characters don’t always discover them but like the homemade taste of Prego they’re in there. I looked through a bunch of old campaign notes with this in mind and noticed there’s almost always a reminder for myself about some magic item or another.

One of the more memorable examples of this comes from my stint as a featured DM at D&D In A Castle. Nerdarchists Dave and Ted and I collaborated on an expansive crossover campaign and this included several customized magic items. One of these was a powerful artifact sword Ted came up with, which I placed behind an extremely difficult to find secret door. There was no indication or clue about either the sword’s existence or the presence of this secret door whatsoever. After the party overcame the challenge in this particular chamber they were all moving on ahead. One player paused a moment and said they wanted to take one last look around the room and specifically indicated they were checking along the wall — right where the secret door was at! I couldn’t believe it.

I called for an Intelligence (Investigation) check. Mind you this character was a fighter, hadn’t invested much in his Intelligence and certainly did not have proficiency in the skill. If I recall correct he had something for a bonus though. He rolled the die and wouldn’t you know it, a natural 20! Of course this doesn’t mean automatic success but after applying their bonuses the result was 25 — exactly the DC I’d selected. As a testament to being an awesome player he didn’t even keep the sword for himself but instead gave it to a character for whom he felt it made more sense. What a memorable moment.

Incidentally both Nerdarchists Dave and Ted will be featured DMs at D&D In A Castle 2022. If you’re interested in this absolutely amazing vacation opportunity you can find out more about it and consider registering for their tables right here.

Magical clothing is my favorite kind of D&D magic items. Our own Mage Forge collection includes lots of such apparel like these Commander’s Gauntlets I designed and Ellastreana’s Enchanted Expedition boots from Nerdarchist Ted. Click the image and crack open the Mage Vault to add 250 new magic items to your collection!

Hand out magic items like candy

It’s safe to say I’ve never thought as often or deeply about D&D as I have when it comes to 5E D&D. This is especially the case since it’s my job now and as such it’s plastered all over everything I do online so it’s more or less inescapable. This being the case I’ve given some serious thought about why I enjoy doling out magic items so much and one aspect emerges above all else — they’re simply engaging.

Whether a character finds a classic magic item straight out of the Dungeon Master’s Guide or something I create from scratch they inevitably become a unique part of the those characters. In my very first 5E D&D campaign (the one that became a yearslong Spelljammer campaign) during our second session the party explored the home of a missing sage. During their investigation a monk found a magic dagger. It was nothing more than a dagger +1 but I borrowed a detail from the Princes of the Apocalypse campaign I’d participated in when I lived in Austin.

“The name ‘Reszur’ is graven on the dagger’s pommel. If the wielder speaks the name, the blade gives off a faint, cold glow, shedding dim light in a 10-foot radius until the wielder speaks the name again.”

The player was fascinated. What did Reszur mean? Was it a person? A command word? The key to unlocking some greater mystery? This monk wielded Reszur proudly from this moment forward. Even after a later quest resulted in a powerful magical staff he always treasured that dagger. His curiosity led to several side quests and little by little the character discovered more of the history, unlocking greater powers of the blade. (I made all this up as we went along — it was never meant to be anything more than a magic dagger with an engraving.)

What I enjoy most about loading up characters with magic items is when they provide interesting powers otherwise unavailable to them. Crunchy combat modifiers don’t excite me and instead giving characters different ways to interact with the world is the juice. In another campaign a character came into possession of a cloak of displacement with a twist — while attuned to it he was blinded in the Material Plane, which I call the Waking World in my games, but when the hood they could see the Dreaming World (basically the Feywild). This fascinated the party so much so they altered the entire course of their adventures.

What about you? Do you keep a tight lid on magic items in your 5E D&D games or do you make like Monty Hall and sprinkle them liberally throughout your campaigns? If you’re interested in adding more magic items to your games we’ve got a FREE encounter called Spirit of the Forge you might find perfect. It was designed specifically to give DMs a way to introduce more magic items without overwhelming the characters — and as a way to make the most use of our Mage Forge collection of 250 new magic items. You can find Spirit of the Forge on the website here and preorder your own deluxe Mage Forge set right here.

*Featured image — Monty Hall was host of the television series Let’s Make a Deal, which was famous for awarding grand prizes.

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Doug Vehovec

Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, worldbuilding or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy he enjoys cryptozoology trips and eating awesome food.


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