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From Diablo 3 to D&D: Socketed Items

From Diablo 3 to D&D: Socketed Items

Diablo 3 by Blizzard

How It Works

Aside from whatever magical properties armor and weapons has, most items function in only a few different ways. That’s not the case with slotted items in Diablo 3. Creating slotted items and armor in your tabletop games is a great way to add customization, and doing so can be as simple as adding the slotted descriptor to items.

One way to handle slotted items involves adding magical properties to gemstones in your campaign world. The gem type could indicate some of its properties and significance, such as sapphires having cold/frost properties or emeralds adding to speed and dexterous abilities. The gem’s properties could fluctuate depending on the item that contains it. If a sapphire is added into the grip of a slotted sword, the sword could gain additional cold damage properties. If you add this gem to armor instead, then perhaps it could help reduce cold damage or form an icy coating over the armor that causes damage to those who attack you with touch or melee attacks.

Multifaceted Possibilities

Below are some short examples of how using gems and socketed items could translate over into your games. The categories are generic so that you could choose to have a gem imbue different properties if inserted into a helm rather than a chest plate or if affixed into the head of an axe rather than its hilt. For the sake of imagination, brevity, and campaign flexibility, we’ll leave those bits up to you.

Let’s also assume that gems bestow various boons onto mundane objects and pass them onto their owners when bound to these items. In rare instances, some large or rare gems have granted sentience to these common items, providing the items with personalities that mirror their properties in some manner.

Example Gems

Gem Weapon Armor Mundane Item
Garnet Bleed effect / increased critical damage +1 Str / gain or increase barbarian rage Increased morale of nearby allies
Ruby Fire damage / manipulate fire Fire resist / bonus to checks vs. cold Increased chances of finding love/lust/friends
Amethyst Force damage / knock back Physical resist / bonus to checks vs. alcohol Increased chances of prophetic dreams
Sapphire Cold damage / chill materials Cold resist / bonus to checks vs. heat Decreased chances of being charmed
Diamond Any damage type / unbreakable +1 Con / increased healing effectiveness Increased effectiveness in breaking objects
Lapis Lazuli Summon weapon / glows when [X] is near + 1 Wis / one extra divine spell per day Decreased damage from falling
Opal Dual elemental damage / slows enemies Bonus to luck / attracts evil or good (50/50 d%) Increased effectiveness in sneaking
Obsidian Necrotic damage / accelerate aging Ghost touched / last sight vision once per day Increases chances of supernatural contact
Amber Radiant damage / sheds bright light Shield once per day / weightless armor Decreased effects of aging
Topaz Sentient / stored spell (as wand) once per day +1 Int / one extra arcane spell per day Increased psychic resistances
Pearl Holy damage / bonus damage vs. evil Repels evil / emits candle-bright light Decreased chance of contracting disease
Emerald Glamered weapon / glibness once per day +1 Cha / disguise self once per day Increased chances of finding riches
Citrine Lightning damage / stun Restore magical charge once per day / bonus to speed Increased chances of avoiding traps
Moonstone Nature damage / health regeneration Damages attackers / bonus to grab Decreased chances of becoming lost
Cat’s Eye Dancing weapon / knock prone +1 Dex / cat’s grace or minor invisibility once per day Increased chances of avoiding certain death

Note: / = “or”

Other Trinkets

Instead of using gems and minerals, you could instead fill these slots with other types of items. A necromancer might slot his or her weapon with bits of bone from past victims. A cleric might use a fragment of a long-forgotten relic. The main idea here is to adorn weapons and armor with modular-based elements as opposed to using basic enchanting schemes.

Keeping It Under Control

Having no limitations when using slotted items in your game could not only make for overpowered characters, but also cause a bookkeeping nightmare. To prevent this, you could consider not allowing more than a certain number of socketed items per character for story reasons (perhaps gems have a poisonous effect if too many of them are in close proximity to others), or you could allow monsters and NPCs to use them as well. The latter option might only add to your bookkeeping problems, though, so my suggestion would be to pick only one or two properties for a handful of gems and start there.

Other factors could also affect how this all works: size, cut, quality, and origin. Perhaps only the best of the best gemstones warrant the effects I’ve described here. Each gem could also have some drawbacks, such as accelerating aging or attracting the attention of truly terrible creatures, to keep things interesting and balanced.

Glimmering Plot Hooks

Socketed items can add also help you build the backstory of your campaign. Cursed gems could contain demons or other extremely powerful creatures within them. Blacksmiths might want to learn how to socket items as part of their craft, so they could send adventurers to discover lost lore or gather materials that help them harness the power in specific types of gems. A coven of warlocks could be trafficking stolen souls inside “common” gemstones, and the heroes might need to put a stop to this practice.

I hope you have enjoyed this installment of D3 & D&D. Are you going to give this a whirl in your game? Have you already done it or something like it? Let me know! I’d love to strike up a good conversation in the comments. Stay tuned next time for a topic very close to my heart: traps, tricks, and other deadly traversals.

4 thoughts on “From Diablo 3 to D&D: Socketed Items”

  1. Morgan Boehringer

    Nice one again Jerry. I’m enjoying this series of articles quite a bit – it’s nice to see the borrowing going in the other direction – from PC-Games to P’n’P…

    While not the same as this system, I had a vaguely similar system in place for a low-magic (yep, he said low-magic, uh-oh, there goes the neighborhood) campaign that used “spell-crystals” as the power source for casting arcane spells.
    Spell-crystals could not be fashioned (except by extremely knowledgable and powerful individuals) and were most often mined at great cost or found in hoards held by dragons and other great beasties. Different colored crystals correlated to different types of magic, and facets gave the relative power level the spell-crystal could impart, the spell-crystal burning out upon casting the spell… (This was waaaay before Sorcerers and explicit schools of magic existed….we’re talking 1E)
    It made for very judicious hoarding and storing, stealing and seeking of spell-crystals and created a nice flavor reason why magic was rare generally.

    Divine magic was an altogether more complicated affair, and not as successful. Damn holy-types….

  2. @Morgan Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it, I’m about to kick off a big inner-city campaign next week and I’m going to toss the idea of these out there and mention that there’s a specialty shop somewhere in the city that may deal in these things. Leave it as a scarcity/wonder idea and see if the players gravitate towards it. We’ll see how it turns out.

    I really like your idea of spell crystals in a low magic game, it’s always nice to have a really thematic explanation to things instead of just “this is a low magic game, magic is low because I said so”. So if I may ask, how did you handle divine spells in this scenario?

  3. Morgan Boehringer

    Would you believe a mix of hand-waving and DM’s fiat? Luckily there was often only a druid DMPC and a low-level Paladin or Ranger (they got Druid spells as well as Magic-User back in the blissfully wacky day!) in the crew, so it wasn’t much of an issue… I did have a protean idea of cleric’s petitioning their church instead of their gods for rights to cast, which would have made for a great thematic reason to diminish divine casting – divine bureaucracy!… Druid’s would likely have had an easier time under this system, but Druid Circle’s could be just as controlling…
    I know it’s completely unfair to all concerned, but hey, that’s life. I have no problem with an unfair/non-level playing field as a player, and implement one when necessary for theme or flavor as a GM.
    Your article has me envisaging dredging up that old campaign with some new players…:)

  4. The 3.x Iron Kingdoms pnp RPG that Privateer Press used to publish has a similar socketing mechanic that might be worth checking out if you start needing more in-depth mechanics. IIRC, it’s covered in both the Character Guide and the Liber Mechanika.

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