Player-Requested Quest Objects
It’s a sad economic truth that most magic weapons are swords. Dwarves might enchant axes, elves might enchant bows, but they’re both going to also be enchanting swords… and so will humans, goblinoids, and anybody else enchanting weapons. Swords are the prestige weapons. They get all the attention.
You can see this in the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. Magic swords have their own table, all to themselves. They go up to +5, and having golly-gee-whiz! powers beyond that, like “vorpal”, “wounding”, and “holy avenger”. They also get a special section on making them intelligent and self-willed.
On the next page from the swords’ table, there’s the chart for all the other weapons. Axes go to +3. Spears can be +1, +2, +3, or cursed. The only magical flail is +1, that’s it and that’s all. There’s only one sling, but it’s a +2, at least. Well, kind of — it’s +2 except it’s considered only +1 for determining what monsters’ immunities it pierces.
Clearly, the big magic goes into swords. (And wizard’s staves, but they aren’t really magical weapons, usually. Not in this context.)
This is inconvenient, if your character doesn’t use a sword. Back when I ran 3rd Edition, the party’s big damage dealer favored the scythe. I pointed out that there was absolutely no chance of ever seeing an enchanted scythe, anywhere. Ever. Ever ever ever. Who would ever enchant such a thing? In hindsight, I suppose I could have dropped in a brotherhood of farmer-ninja or some such… but the point remains. An enchanted scythe is weird enough to require some back story. (That, and I’m pretty sure the point of choosing such a weird weapon is to have it be weird. If every third guy is carrying a scythe, you don’t have a distinctive PC, you’ve got an offbeat world.)
Since I’ve got nothing against wish-fulfillment, I’ve decided to go meta-game to solve the issue. Here’s what I’m a-gonna do:
Any player can give me a “wish list” item, or items. Give me ideas, or write-ups, I’ll take anything. If they look kosher, and especially if they look neat and interesting (as opposed to boringly powerful, or powerfully boring), I’ll use them while stocking the dungeon. (I might tinker a bit, as well.) In return, your PC will get a free rumor, saying that an item of that description can be found somewhere in the dungeon. That’ll be enough clue to start researching and working towards finding the item. Even if you don’t go digging, for whatever reason, it’ll still be out there to be recovered by chance.
… and if the original seeker dies on the way, it’ll still be out there to be found… for the object of irony, if nothing else. I think everybody’s forgotten how Rho was going to chase down the crossbow lost by the previous priest of Anubis. Someday, somebody’s going to get into “clear the level” mode, stumble across it, and have a moment of silence over the first PC to fall.
(Come to think of it, the dungeon’s likely developing a bad reputation among the followers of Anubis.)
Weird items still require explanation, but at least I’ve got a co-conspirator to share in the guilt. Plus, since the requester has to put forth some effort to chase down rumors and so forth, there’s no additional weight of improbability added; the unlikely bit is that the thing exists at all, not that the one guy who might use it is also the guy who recovered it from the dungeon. It’s the object of a quest, not a fortuitous drop.
This is essentially how TKotBO got his special shield, the Rol-X. His player came to me with a very specific request, just as Strang needed something to trade for the “fine turnip”, the first piece of orichalcum recovered from the dungeon.
I figure, fair’s fair. If you’ve got a request, players, lay it on me.