Getting Your Stuff Stolen

One of the tools in the GM’s toolkit is stealing the party’s stuff. Sometimes this is done to re-balance a party when they get an overpowered item, and sometimes this is done as a plot device: the party gets captured or they have to go on a quest to recover their stuff. This is all fine for the GM but it’s quite traumatic for a player. This is not as much an issue in 4e because gear matters a lot less, since most powers are intrinsic to the character. However, it still sucks to be without one’s favorite stuff.

What can you do without your junk?

  • Improvise a weapon, or go bare-handed [DDI].
  • Beg, plead, or busk for money and use that to rebuild your equipment. Alternatively you can appeal to the quest patron, church, or guild to get an advance.

How can you get your stuff back?

  • If you’ve been temporarily deprived (such as being imprisoned), odds are, your goods are lying nearby. Your first priority should be to find them. You should do this stealthily to avoid getting into combat unarmed.
  • If your stuff is stolen and the enemy is not immediately available, you get to swear vengeance and hunt him down, assuming you know who “he” is. Before you go off, you should follow one my suggestions above or one of your own to get replacement gear in the meantime. A warrior doesn’t feel right without his armor.
  • You can use rituals such as Detect Object [DDI] to help locate your stuff as well.

How often do your characters get deprived of your stuff and how do you handle it? Anyone have a good GM story about this? In my experience, when I’ve done to this to my players, it hasn’t gone well!

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5 thoughts on “Getting Your Stuff Stolen

  1. Yeah, taking things away from the PCs is always a dicey subject. Players don’t like being deprived of things that they’ve earned, or things that they take for granted, especially when it comes out of the blue. It’s a great way to create real tension at the table (between you and the players, not the good kind).

    This is why I suggest, if you’re going to take things away from the players, you be upfront with them about it. Let them know that there’s a chance they might lose some of their gear soon and that, if they do, they’ll either get it back or get something equivalent or better later on.

    I absolutely do not advocate taking things from the players’ characters as a method of balancing the party; there are better, less overt ways to do this. One solution is, if a particular item is causing an issue, talk to that player and ask them politely to relinquish the item. Ask, don’t demand. If that doesn’t work, and it’s clear that that item is hampering the fun of the other players, try to give them items that bring them back into the spotlight. You can always make encounters tougher to compensate.

  2. Rust Monsters have always been a way to get rid of player’s items. back in the 1st edition Fiend Folio, they introduced the Disenchanter, a deer-like beast with a sucker-mouth that did the same things to non-metal magic items. Both of these were notorious DM devices for bringing balance to a game. Sometimes they could be used to set a player up to get a new, better (or worse) item. In 29 years of gaming I have never seen a player who was OK with losing gear… except maybe the monk.

    Then there was the ‘you get captured’ hook, used in Adventure Module A4- In The Dungeons Of The Slave Lords, where the PC’s get captured at the end of the previous adventure by a nasty trap and are deposited in a cave, naked, save for loincloths, to die. The players have to make their way out of the dungeon and find equipment along the way. Later they must confront the (fully equipped) Slave Lords with the rusty or improvised crap that the found while escaping from the dungeon. Fun stuff.

  3. The big question, in my mind, is how you offset the lack of attack bonus. Level 1-5, ok, losing your gear isn’t too big a deal, but 6+? monster ACs assume the PCs have magic items of about the appropriate level, and in the absence of that, you’re looking at a whiff-fest.

    -Rob D.

  4. Hasn’t happened so far, but maybe my DM/boyfriend figures that since I’m the only player in our game, I need every little bit of help I can get. But, man, if anyone took my portable hole…(I still think that sounds dirty, but I love it, anyway.)

  5. @Brian,
    I agree, although it’s hard to balance an encounter if a party member has a way-overed powered item, like a +10 sword a level 6, or slippers that grant +20 to stealth.

    @by_the_sword,
    Remind me not to play that module!

    @Rob,
    That’s a good point. Most of my experience is in the +1-3 range. A +5 or 6 item would be hard to ignore. I’d hope the GM would take that into account for encounters planned while the PCs were stuff-less.

    @Spring,
    Portable holes are great items, just don’t stick one in a Bag of Holding!

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