Coax The Details Out
It all starts with a flaw. The item does not work as expected.
This creates surprise, which makes great gameplay. After the surprise, it makes the item distinct and valued because it’s not just another +1 dagger.
Design cost-value into your flaws and find that sweet spot where the penalty of using the item is less than the benefit it offers, so PCs put up with it.
And design flaws that open up gameplay. Each time the flaw triggers you get a new hook, encounter, or momentary drama out of it.
Great flaws also offer choice. They makes players think and engage with the item.
For example, the Necklace of Soft Footfalls. Commissioned from the unscrupulous wizard Belgrath by the famous cutpurse Dani The Deft. Dani wanted to enhance her already formidable stealthiness. Unfortunately, Belgrath sub-contracted to a sloppy jeweller.
The necklace clasp clicks loudly into place when activated. Loud enough to attract attention from a distance, especially in echoing places like midnight alleys and dungeon corridors.
On the surface, you think it’s a gimmick. The first use generates the expected surprise. The table laughs. Fun.
Then next time the bad guys make a hearing check and foil the PC. Nice one.
The player gets smart and activates from a long ways away and makes a successful sneak. Great thinking.
Another player says the clicking sound is a signal the rogue’s gone rogue, and now it’s a party tactic. Great gameplay.
Then word spreads. “Hear a click at night and it means a dagger in the back.” People get cautious. They watch the puddles for footsteps and keep their backs against the wall.
A bounty of 1000 gold gets posted for capture of “The Clicker,” a name that makes everyone but the rogue guffaw.
Now it’s personal: The rogue’s getting laughed at. She’s got bounty hunters on her ass. And foes are getting wise to her ways. She’s got to up her game…. While pondering your next session today, think about this. Think cause and effect. Coax immersive details out of last session’s notes. Let past gameplay offer new opportunities.