I read recently a D&D (pen and paper) blog post about giving players items that aren’t obviously weapons to encourage them to think of solutions to challenges that do not automatically involve combat. This idea combined with recent gameplay experiences in Divinity Original Sin 2, where even mundane items can have interesting uses – a normal spade is very useful for digging up buried treasures for instance.
A standard MMORPG trope is for ‘trash’ items to drop off killed monsters – items that are not intrinsically useful as gear upgrades or adventuring supplies, things you just normally sell to the next vendor for a small amount of cash. Can at least some of these items be given a purpose to add some variety to the game?
Junk as valuables
Maybe that’s an oxymoron but in Lord of the Rings Online it’s true, junk items can be handed in via the Task Board system for a small experience reward. As far as I’m aware LOTRO is the only game that takes junk beyond the “vendor trash” trope, giving players another potential reward for collecting them. I do wonder what other types of reward they might be tied to: for example, as a source of some extra crafting resources (via deconstruction). It may be that some white quality (non-magical) weapons already can be deconstructed (they can be in Elder Scrolls Online for instance), but what about non-combat items like the matted fur example screenshotted below – couldn’t a stack of those be combined to make a piece of reconstructed leather instead of the XP reward for task hand-in?
Junk as tools
As with the example given for DOS2, some junk could actually be normal tools that might have a purpose. Finding non-stated items that are modelled after real-world tools isn’t hard in an MMO. But what if the gameplay gave optional uses for such items? Maybe a heavy blacksmith’s hammer could be used to bust the lock on a chest in ESO or bash in a locked door in DDO? They’d probably need to be one-use items to avoid bypassing the challenge too easily.
Any danger of their overuse could be limited somewhat by having the junk items by default be a ‘broken’ version – maybe a crafter would have to repair the item to allow it to be used in this way? That would also make the item reusable if after that single use they reverted to ‘broken’ state again.
Junk as Housing Items
Although there may already be items you could classify as junk items that are housing items, here I’m suggesting the idea that a game should let you turn junk items into housing items in certain cases. Take the normal blacksmith’s hammer item above, why not be able to have a crafter turn it into a housing version of the same item instead? Maybe some players want to decorate the crafting area of their home with appropriate tools? Maybe they want to take the broken swords they find and fix and polish them to set up a weapon display? If crafting isn’t always an appealing conversion route, their could always be an NPC to do the same process for a small fee (likewise with junk as tools above, an NPC could also do this).
Trash items maybe an afterthought to most players, quick to sell or delete if bag space is low. But these are items that are designed still, artwork has been done, some flavour text has been added – indeed many of the best flavour texts I’ve seen in games are for vendor trash items. So having new or more varied uses for them would be nice I think, what about you?