GM Prep Tip: Handling Magic Items

GM Prep Tip: Handling Magic Items
I used to run a rather magic-heavy RPG, both at my home table and tournaments at conventions. One thing that really seemed to gum up the works was how we handled the loot, especially potential magic items. With a lot of players and/or loot, keeping track of which items were identified, either as being magical or fully identified, was a bit of a pain.

One thing that took a little more up-front effort, but paid HUGE dividends later, was the creation of item cards for an adventure. I'd start off with a stack of colored index cards and regular white cards. I see no reason why you could also just use "plain" white index cards and some colored highlighters.

Every potential magic item (quality weapons, armor, jewelry, etc.) got a white card. On the card I
Tri-color note card system for handling magic items
wrote the common name of the item and a unique alpha-numeric identifier to show where the item came from. It didn't really matter what it was as long as I could look up the item if needed. A simple format and/or a key in my GM's book helped in this regard.

If the item was magical it got another index card, but this one was a different color. All items identified only as having magical properties used the same color. Another color was used for magical items that had actually been fully identified.

The cool part about this three-color coded system was that it was easy to find out who had what. The player holding the card obviously had their PC lugging it along. If the card went missing then that item was lost. When the players started identifying things I'd just have to swap out cards and it made players divvying up the adventure's spoils more of a physical event than it usually was. Many games have Identify Magic work such that not all of the properties of an item are identified. With the cards I could just write down the identified properties as we went along.