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Customization, Part I: Weapons and Gear

Last week I began work on my character for an RPG a friend of mine is starting. My thought for the character is a sort of “tomb robber” archetype, someone fast, clever, and very knowledgeable about artifacts and lore.

As I looked at this new character I began to wonder about his equiptment. The dagger made sense to me, it seemed like the weapon my character would most prefer. However, I also had a bow and a shortsword. The sword I could explain away, he ackwardly carried it befause his mentor said that he had to. The bow made sense for hunting but seemed kind of bulky for tomb raiding, so I decided that I’d describe it as a very small bow, even if the GM gave me a penalty for that. I came up with quite the custom design for this bow, and because of that I feel more attached to the character.

I’ve noticed a trend in RPG’s both those I’ve played and those I’ve listened to, that during character creation the GM will allow a lot of gear and weapon customization, so that players will get more invested in thier characters. Then, as the game progresses, GM’s tend to resist customized gear. Shops only offer simple, standard weapons and equiptment. Customizing weapons is costed out, either with time taken, risk of failure, or actual gold cost.

Based largely off of how much customizing this characters weapons has helped me visualize him, I want to try to allow more creativity throughout any games that I run. Easy examples of this are giving simple, cheap oppertunities for costume changes, having shopkeepers ask things like “Ya want anything engraved on the blade?”, and allowing players to work on gear without much chance of destroying it.

One easy way to allow custom weapons that I’ve though of would be to allow players to embed jewels in the hilts of daggers, swords, and revolvers. I GM’ed a game in which I rolled on loot tables. Very quickly the players accuired s few small bags of gems. I had no ideas for them other than “Trade them in for gold at the next town.” The gems were a bit of a disappointment to get in that campaign, but imagine how much fun it would be to have a customized sword hilt, or bow, or gauntlets. A player could decide to make a certain gem part of thier characters “theme”, and might even rejoice when they get that last ruby they needed to craft a complete set of ruby arrowheads.

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