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I'm wondering what you guys think of attunement as a mechanic. I've seen it in a lot of games recently. Generally, "attunement" is a rule that serves to limit how many magic items a character can benefit from at once. To use a magic item, you must first attune to it. Usually, this takes some time and may or may not involve a ritual of some sort. In many games, characters can only be attuned to so-and-so many magic items at once.

Thoughts? And can you recommend systems that limit magic items in a better way?



Hail Tzeentch!
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I quite like it. 13th Age uses the notion that people only have so many "chakras" and having a magic item fills up a chakra; you can only wear one neck item because you only have one neck chakra, and wearing an amulet on your head doesn't work because it doesn't slot into your head chakra. It's a reasonable explanation for why you can only have so many magic rings, etc, and serves to make magic items more special. Part of the problem with F20 games can be the feeling that you're just keeping a special, wonderous magic item... until you find something with a better bonus.

Aragon didn't discard Anduril because he found a +2 flaming longsword; he kept it around because it was special to him and better than anything else out there. With attunement and magic items that grow with players, you can recreate that story beat.

The Benj

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Trinity had the concept that you could only be (and I think they even used this word) "attuned" to a limited amount of psi-active devices at once.


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I think attunement is a game putting in a stop-gap to prevent GMs from handing out too many magic items/preventing a single player from hoarding them. It's the sort of limiter that is needed if you can't trust your players IMO. Personally, I'd avoid it, but it does simplify things if your system/world has magic items everywhere. Things can get cumbersome when players have to remember that they have both the boots of incredible leaping and the anklets of impressive hopping.

From a balance perspective, depending on game mechanics you may need to include specific details about certain things not stacking.


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And can you recommend systems that limit magic items in a better way?
There are several things you can do:
- Make items consumable.
- Make effects situational.
- Make effects too big for everyday use.
- Make using the item costly in non-monetary manners.
- Make items stationary / hard to move.
- Make items with unique effects that cannot be measured against any other game statistic.

I mean just look at the stuff in stories. That one ring can make you invisible, but it opens your mind to all kinds of nasty influences. The Arc of Covenant can topple city walls, but you really want four people or a wagon to move it.

Here are some things I handed out in my current campaign.
- A tatoo that allows the character to see, why someone is sad. (Given by a godess to the most sadistic character in the party.)
- A sword that kills every living creature it so much as nicks. (They are very careful, when to use it. Enemies will escalate. Also it doesn't help against several kinds of monsters at all.)
- A piece of chalk that can make a firewall. (Gets used up.)
- A mask that can make people ignore you. You also forget something every time.
- Very comfortable shoes.

So I guess, for a rule: Take that list of caveats and apply at least one to every item.
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I agree with Pete, I think attunement is a D&D-ism to try and control ludicrous boatloads of magic items. The best way of limiting them is simply that: to limit them. Don't hand them out like lollies in the first place. Don't generate random magic items in piles of treasure. I also think that 1of3's idea of making magic items individual and interesting rather than stock standard "+2 sword" to be good.


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I like this mechanic from Space Princess:

In the game, players play action cards simultaneously, but the card with the highest number on it resolves first.

You could give magic items a ranking number in a similar fashion. Only one magic item takes effect, because its magical energies out-compete the auras of other magic items. If there's a tie, highest level goes first, then intelligent items, and that tie is broken by Intelligence rating.

It's more number crunching however, and attunement just simplifies the process.


Registered Magic-User
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Little late to the party, but I wanted to go on record to say that I quite like the idea of attunement. Even if the GM is scrupulous about handing out magical items in a low magic setting, they have a way of proliferating - having as fixed limit on how many you can have active at at time seems like a great way maintain some semblance of balance regardless of circumstances. Tying attunement caps to magical proficiency or ability scores could be a great way to differentiate characters and prevent certain stats or scores from being dump stats (the Warrior might think twice about dumping INT if attunement is tied to it, for example.)

A related idea is that - if your system uses "mana" or "MP" or similar resource for spell casting, that using magic items would draw on that - giving non-spell casters an active reason to care about those sort of resources.
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