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Zeroing in on Magic Items

Continuing from our previous article Zeroing in on Advancement (Admin Team note: This article has been temporarily made private while we revisit the topic), let’s discuss magic items. Just like advancement checkpoints, while treasure checkpoints, unlock lists, and magic item tables allowed us the opportunity to normalize and inject a bit of equity into the game while removing situations where contention arose over an item’s ownership, it didn’t have the same feeling of immersion and, like advancement checkpoints, it was more complex than was intended. So, just like advancement checkpoints, we’ve opted to leave treasure checkpoints behind and find a system a bit closer to our roots.

Find It; Keep It

Just as before, if your group comes across a magic item during a session, you can use it until the end of the session. Where we deviate a bit is what happens to that item at the end of the session. With consumable items, the system remains the same as it has since Season 1; if you find one, someone at the table can keep it.

With permanent magic items, the post-session process is a little different. If an item still has magical properties remaining at the end of the session, (i.e., the characters haven’t used them all up), any player or players may choose to keep the item. If your characters find a +2 net, one or more characters can walk away with one at the end of the session. The normal rules regarding multiple copies of a given story item will still be in effect in Season 9.

In addition to those found during your adventures, you can also obtain items from renown and, if you’re a member, your faction. These items fill a role that the evergreen unlock list once fulfilled; a basic list of items: +1 weapons, +1 shields, +1 rods of the pact keeper, +1 wands of the war mage, and for those characters with the Safe Haven background feature, a selection of magic rings bearing the sigil of your faction.

The restrictions based on tier and an items Magic Item Table are gone, although only tier 4 characters can possess a legendary item or an artifact. Characters below tier 4 that find such an item instead “unlock” it and may choose to add it to their character sheet after reaching tier 4.

Magic Item Limit

Where the program deviates from previous incarnations and adopts some of the equity facilitated by treasure checkpoints is in the introduction of your character’s Magic Item Limit. So while your character can find any number of magic items during their tenure as an adventurer, they’ll be able to possess only a certain number at a given time. This number is based on that character’s tier.

If at the end of a session, you find that you’d like to keep an item you found, you may. If you’ve already reached your magic item limit, you can choose to permanently replace an item you already own with the newly found item—even ones that no longer have magical properties remaining. So if your tier 1 character really wanted that net, but already had a +1 net, they could get rid of it and keep the better of the two.

There will be situations where items don’t count against your Magic Item Limit (such as common or consumable magic items or story items) or continue to count against it even when the item itself may not have any magical properties remaining (such as tomes, manuals, etc.). We’re still hammering out the final details on these niche cases, but as a general rule, if you’ve got a magic item, it will count toward your Magic Item Limit.

Magic Items as a Commodity

This system will allow us to take what we used as a replacement for “faction charity” in Season 8 and make it a surmountable obstacle. Previously, you could incur a treasure checkpoint debt to purchase a spell scroll needed to return you to life. This, however, left your character with a checkpoint deficit that couldn’t really be overcome until they reached 20th level. Now, in lieu of spending gold to return your character to life or to remedy a select few conditions that precluded that character from playing, your character can now trade a magic item to receive the benefit of any spell—including wish—necessary to return the character to life or to remove any condition or effect that removed the character from play. In order to utilize this option, your character permanently loses a permanent magic item of uncommon or greater rarity in their possession and their Magic Item Limit is temporarily reduced until they reach the next tier of play (or, in the case of 20th-level characters, they reach a certain number of milestones). So, a 1st-level character that dies and can’t afford a raise dead can trade the tattered cloak of lesser nothingness to a priest who will perform the service for him. The character permanently loses the cloak and their Magic Item Limit is reduced until the character reaches 5th level when the reduction is removed and their Magic Item Limit increases accordingly. This option can still be used if the character has no magic items in their possession or if their Magic Item Limit has been reduced to 0—it’s always available to those willing to pay the price.

The Bottom Line

We wanted to return the feeling of immersion that finding magic items once had, with measures of the same degree of control and equity that the treasure checkpoint system afforded—all without the complexity of fractional checkpoints, tiers, tables, and the like. As always, refining this preview is a joint endeavor, and your constructive feedback helps us shape what these rules look like upon final printing.

To come, Zeroing on Seasonality…

Travis Woodall
Latest posts by Travis Woodall (see all)

Author: Travis Woodall

Spawned in the fires of California in the time of disco and bell-bottoms, Travis Woodall now calls the soggy Pacific Northwest his home. Having played more systems than he can count from about twelve years of age, D&D has always been the game he has inevitably been drawn back to. Though he is usually found slumped lifelessly in front of his computer amongst a sea of empty beer bottles, Travis is also known to enjoy reading, writing, and on rare occasion, spending time with his wife of 15 years and his son.

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  1. I think this is an excellent step in the right direction. My major concern is that AL rules have become so needlessly complicated that it has just become a mess.

    We must remember the entire point of AL and the Rules in the first place.

    1) Make D&D accessible to all players while introducing the idea of character continuity between sessions and groups.
    2) Enforce a soft system such that each character are relatively “balanced”
    3) Encourage a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone.

    There is no way we can balance the game for every character for every combination of items at every level, so this currency system is not only complicated, but also ineffective. On top of that access to specific items through specific campaigns is not what D&D is about.

    Instead I propose a simple option;
    Level restricted items, that’s it.

    Anything you find in game is useable, and I mean anything. Max item’s = tier level. Super straight forward.
    To take that item to another group you only need to pass its level requirement.
    The only work that needs to be done is to look at every legal item and assign it a minumum player level requirement. (These can be tweaked)

    I’ve played games where a Druid “legally” had a Staff of the Woodlands. It was unbalanced, she was way overpowered but we still had fun.
    I don’t care if she “paid” for it or not, I won’t care whether she has the “reknown”, or whether she “found” it an a session with another DM. Heck, she could have lied,.

    It didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.

    Let the players build any character they want, put soft limits so a level 1 doesn’t have a ridiculous item and be done with it.

    Then, just to make sure everyone is on the same page; Campaign types.
    Let the DM then put a tag on their game;
    RP, Min-Max, Balanced.

    RP: Role Play – this game is going to centre around role playing primarily, your overpowered items/stats will be wasted here, this is a game for fun.
    Min-Max: Optimised Characters – this game is going to be very combat heavy with difficult encounters and minimum rest. The DM will bring what it can from the campaign so you better be ready. Bring your HexBlade-Paladin with min INT max STR CHA, you’ll need it.
    Balanced – this game is AL as we know it. We want all aspects of the game. The DM reserves the right to overrule “broken” combinations or exploitations of RAW.

    – The rules are overbearing and this is a good step but not enough.
    – Items should only be restricted when moving between groups, any item found in a continuing campaign can be used for a continuing campaign. The restriction is only a – level requirement; no cost, no renown, no unlocking, no lying needed.
    – Some people want to “optimise” characters, provide a game type for that player, these players will optimise in any rule set and this just sets more casual players further behind.
    – Having a ban list is and will always be a good idea to protect the game and importantly the players.

  2. Ok….if I am reading this right, we can get back to keeping items that drop in modules now (in season 9) meaning that if a +2 sword drops in a module, and three people want it, they all 3 can have it. They just have to make sure it does not go past their magic item cap for number of allowed items per level/tier???? And if it does, they can replace one of the items with the new item and get rid of the old item?

    Just trying to make sure I am reading all this right so that when we start this I do not break the rules.

    I am also guessing we are capped by tier on number of items but are we going to be restricted by what table they drop on? I mean I understand upgrading your magic items as you get more powerful but that normally means the lesser items are gone so I may not have any tier 1 items anymore since I upgraded my armor/cloak/weapon etc past the ones offered at Tier 1 or are we still going to restricted by tier in some way?

  3. Did just think of this as well. HIGHLY recommend that you make items tier specific as well. If a level 7 player has a tier 4 items, the item should not be allowed to be used till they are tier 4. Best excuse it that they do not have the skill to use the item for some reason or it is inherently sentient to a degree and refuses to be used by someone not appropriate (or worthy if you want to use the term). This would prevent people from using out of tier items (again a level 7 player using a tier 3 staff and a tier 4 staff).

    As for duplicate items at a table. Believe a lot of this is addressed in the past where you took out story items from general play. They stay in the story. As for having 3 holy avengers at a table…well…if you have 3 very high level paladins at your table it may happen. If you have two high level mages you could have two staffs of the magi at the table. All of that is possible. I understood the argument about having two Dawnbringers at a table as it should not happen but all that has been solved. You will need to issue an update each season for story items in each book though.

  4. Now I’m curious to see how this is going to work with trading and Fai Chen.

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