New uses for junk items?

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.

Blacksmith’s hammer in WoW (via WoWHead)

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).

Displays of fancy weapons are commonplace, but what about simple tools?

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?

This entry was posted in DDO, EQ2, ESO, LotRO, MMORPG, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to New uses for junk items?

  1. Isey says:

    I recently read a D&D article about fluff magic items as well, like a ring of invisibility – where the magic word makes the ring invisible. (Or ring of teleportation that you can teleport only the ring to somewhere within view). Little flavor items.

    Personally in MMOs I’d love to see them get rid of it altogether. It’s just junk and clutter and adding nuance or meaning to those items will just force bigger bag sizes and the hoarding mentality. WoW used to have one time use lockpick kits kind of like your hammer idea.

    I think in living, breathing world of an MMO they could have a place but in our current achievement bassed and bite sized rewards MMOs it would give just another thing to track and sort through. Fun to read someone thinking about it at least!

  2. ComicRelief says:

    The “trophies” (task board items) in LotRO can, in some cases/locations, be turned in for ‘reputation gain’ with certain factions. For instance, the matted fur referenced can, I believe, be turned in to garner Thorin’s Hall reputation gain, if turned in at the ‘correct’ location(s). Task boards inside of housing areas, for example, will typically list all of the available faction reputation gain items as well as just xp/monetary gain items. 😉

  3. Shintar says:

    Hm, I’m ambivalent about this. On the one hand, I like the idea of there being more items with uses beyond combat and crafting… on the other hand inventory management is already enough of a mini-game, and I don’t think we need another level of “making it more difficult to judge whether to keep or sell this”. I was actually quite annoyed when I first found out about the task board system in LOTRO, because I kinda felt the game had been lying to me by marking items as junk that actually did have a practical use too…

  4. Meznir says:

    Guild Wars 2 has an achievement for having found all the junk items:

  5. bhagpuss says:

    The GW2 achi is for finding a very small subset of the trash items. There are far more than that.

    I don’t think of them as “trash” items, though. I think of them as, at worst, “flavor” items and at best as the essential bricks of world-building. I have plenty of them tucked away in banks and many of my characters carry one or more as talismans or lucky charms. All the MMOs I have played that use them would be significantly diminished without them.

    In a practical sense, they exist in order to control the flow of currency into the world and to moderate social behavior. Having items that need to be converted acts as a brake to wealth acquisition and a driver for social hubs. Games that place all the money directly in a “wallet” remove a reason to visit and thereby create and maintain areas where players gather. They also reduce social interaction between players (the summoning of temporary vendors in GW2 is a social act). If the game also allows remote spending of currency the isolating effects are increased still further.

    I’m biased because I actively seek detailed and complex inventory management as a key element of gameplay but I don’t believe the widespread use of “trash” items is mere tradition, let alone idleness, by developers. They know that small things like this are the glue that holds worlds and players together.

    I completely agree that there could be far more imaginative use made of the items, though. I would love to see some of them made convertible to crafting or housing items, for a start. I have a wonderful grandfather clock in EQ2 that is just aching to be placed.

    (second post – apologies if it duplicates)

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