I’m not sure what the community consensus is here, but as someone currently playing through Kingmaker for the first time, I’ve found the itemization design to be incredibly problematic. I know this is a long entry, feel free to skip to the end for the change I consider most important.
I’ve had four problems with Kingmaker items - unique histories, item saturation, companion item progression, and locations :
- Weapon uniqueness: this might just be a resource constraint, but I wish that every weapon above +2 had a short story attached to it. I think it adds to the narrative, underlines how rare magic items are, and makes items (and thus the game) more memorable.
1.a) SOLUTION: I’m really confused why “write the history of a weapon/armor” isn’t a Kickstarter reward: surely there’s enough potential supporters who would pay $50/$100 to write a weapon history. It’s a win-win: Owlcat doesn’t have to pay to write item descriptions, and instead gets paid money by people who want to write item descriptions. Make it a forum competition. There’s so many options - and you don’t need to worry about narrative continuity because items are self-contained narrative nodes.
- The game should dynamically assign found items. There are so many player options (a result of Owlcat giving players every option available in tabletop Pathfinder), so the game has to drop a huge variety of magical weapons - just in case the PC wants to use a Kama or Gnome Hooked Hammer. This ends up giving the player too much money (bad, reduces narrative tension) and makes magic items seem common (also bad, because it lessons the excitement of finding a magical weapon). By mid-game, I seem to find a magical item every 15 minutes, and that is just too often. It’s like giving a kid too many presents: eventually the Player is spoiled, and that dopamine rush (Oh! A Blue item! Let’s identify this!) goes away mid-way through Chapter 1.
2.a) SOLUTION: This problem can be fixed by dynamically assigning item types based on player character proficiency choices. Much like the initial chest (in the prologue) grants an item to match a character’s weapon focus, bosses should drop weapons that match Player choices (for main and companion characters). Does someone have Weapon spec in Longsword? Increase the likelihood a longsword drops. There should be very few items that a player doesn’t care about: because giving a team without proficiency in ninja stars a really cool magic ninja star is basically just giving the player some cash. Are certain unique weapons going to drop? Yes, absolutely. Maybe you (the design team) wants players to explore different equipment layouts, or maybe this Temple of Torag is going to give a magic warhammer regardless of character proficiency choice.
2.b) Dynamic weapon type assignment should be possible to code (obviously I don’t have access to the code-base). Item properties could be generated at game start (requiring characters to pick their desired weapon focuses on character generation), at chapter starts (reflecting character choices so far), or only when characters enter a map.
2.c) Dynamic assignment would hugely reduce the number of items the game has to throw at players, which will both make them poorer (adding tension - good!) and will make them appreciate magic items more.
- There aren’t enough items that match companions. I’m not sure how this happened - did the item team and companion team just not talk to each other? - but there’s a startling lack of items that match the proficiencies of some companions.
3.a) Full plate armor plateaus at +2 from the Troll Keep until after killing Armag. That’s nearly 2 chapters and 5-7 levels with no change to heavy armor, despite two companions being trained in heavy armor (Valerie and Harrim) + (possibly) the PC. Meanwhile, for light armor, I’ve found multiple special +3 leather armors (which are by this point useless because they restrict dexterity more than Padded Armor, and I assume most people that use Leather are building DEX-based classes). The distribution of medium armor seems fine.
3.b) The second example is bastard swords. 2 (!!!) companions start having invested a feat in this weapon, which provides a bonus to average damage of 1/hit over the D8 no-feat-needed Longsword. I have yet to find a SINGLE unique Bastard sword (I have found a few generic +1’s). This is bad game design. I’m fine with giving companions a questionable feat because it adds to their character, especially if that feat - a unique weapon choice the PC probably wouldn’t choose - helps the itemization team plan a progression of magical items to equip that character with. Knowing that two companions use bastard swords should have made it obvious to the itemization team that they needed to place magical bastard swords in the game over the first four chapters. (According to the wiki, there are a lot of magical Bastard swords towards the end, and I missed one by letting Armag live, but that still means 0 unique bastard swords through Chapter 3, and one in Chapter 4 behind a dialogue choice.) Contrast this to a huge number of Aldori dueling swords (maybe designed for a PC, given the setting, which is fine), it seems - odd.
3.c) I don’t really have a solution here. This seems like a management oversight: someone should have been wargamming out each companions itemization over the length of the game (IE “at Stag Fort, Valerie/Amiri will find a named Bastard Sword… new armor in Troll Fortress… new, better Bastard Sword in Vordakai’s lair… etc.”). It seems, as someone playing the game, that this progression was not thought out. Like most design problems, the solution here is probably to storyboard the issue.
- Locations: this is a short recommendation, but I think it’s important. Too many cool weapons are found in hidden boxes. Like, a random +4 falchion, likely the best weapon you’ve found so far is… in a box you find looking for Tristian. The box happens to be behind a perception check as well, so you may not even get it if you roll poorly. This sword should be EPIC. Give it to some named skeleton champion, make the Player feel cool when he finds it. Finding it in a box - without even a fight - is anticlimactic and computer games should aim to make things as climactic as possible. Finds like this - a weapon well beyond the current power curve - should be memorable: like getting that frost longsword+2 in baldur’s gate after getting a quest, after hearing tales of (and possibly impersonating) the bounty hunter who has it, and seeing Prism’s sculpture. A lot of thought went into creating a “moment” for players, and then rewarding them with epic gear to underline how cool they just were. Finding a magic sword in a box - comparatively meh. I just played it and I didn’t even remember if I found it in Armag’s tomb or Tristian’s kidnap site (I had to look it up).
4.a) SOLUTION: Basically, finding epic weapons should take epic fights.