Cool Idea: Skill Treasures

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0760

Cool Idea: Skill Treasures

Here’s a simple way to make awesome magic items customised for your players.

The idea occurred to me the other day, and I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before.

I’ll outline the recipe in three steps because I loves me my GMing recipes. 🙂

Step One: Skill Hunting

Review each character sheet and note the top three skills they are best at or would be desired boosts.

For example, the fighter might want a better athletics score, but the wizard has been trying to use that skill recently too, so mark that skill down for each character.

Step Two: The Right Form

I hate it when you lovingly craft a custom magic item for a player and then the item gets scooped by another party member.

So in this step, for each player, make a short list of item types that would slot in a perfect and unique way for each PC.


  • Fighter gets a sheath for his weapon type
  • Wizard gets a book written in magic
  • Rogue gets halfling-sized boots
  • Cleric gets an item attuned to their deity

Another approach is expandable items:

  • A new tool for the character’s class kit
  • A staff with swappable gem slots
  • A trophy item you add defeated foe parts to

And then there’s the fantastic approach of NPC bequeathment. It’s rare to get rid of a valuable gift given to you by a respected NPC.

Step Three: Add The Skill Boon

Match skill with form and create the skill boon.

For example, a stealth skill boon might be boots or a sound-muffling cloak.

Last resort, it’s just “how the magic works.” Don’t ask why the pointy hat makes you a better tumbler, it’s just how the magic works.

In fact, the item doesn’t even need to be magic. With this Skill + Form method, special mundane equipment works great too!

Step Four: Encounter It

Ok, now here’s a bonus step from my Faster Combat course.

You want to customise encounters for your PCs. Not just to make them shine, but to facilitate faster-paced gameplay.

For example, increase damage to make combats go faster rather than bump up defence which makes combats slower. Instead of terrain that provides a +2 AC cover bonus, create exploding mushrooms combatants can manoeuvre each other into.

You want to do this so you can chew through more encounters in your limited time each session. More encounters = more story = legendary campaigns.

So take your new, skill-based items and plan encounters around them so the Skill Treasures will help in combat.

For example, make more locations friendly to athletics manoeuvres. Or give foes languages the PCs now know to allow deceptions and parley tricks during fights. Or create neat zones rogues can hide in and strike from if they can pick the entry lock.

Now we have full and rewarding gameplay integration.

Typically, skills get under-used in combats. Use your new Skill Treasures to change that and watch as your players switch from gory grinding to good gaming.