Toying With Trinkets

Items and artifacts often drive the fantastical stories we create while playing Dungeons and Dragons. These objects are powerful and have existed for the majority of D&D’s lifespan.

Examples include The Hand and Eye of Vecna, a pair of body parts from one of the most powerful undead beings to ever stalk the cosmos of D&D, or The Wand of Orcus, an obsidian, skull-tipped rod created by the Blood Lord himself to cement his power over the entirety of the Abyss.

However, items so grand and well-known are not the only objects that can contribute to a campaign’s narrative. Sometimes, tiny and seemingly inconsequential items can shed light on a character’s past, act as a catalyst for their current situation, or provide a new path for their future, or the future of their group as a whole.

These items are called trinkets.

Introduced in the fifth edition of D&D with a one-hundred entry roll table in the Player's Handbook, trinkets are weird but interesting knick-knacks that player characters can possess when the campaign or adventure begins: A mummified goblin hand, its fingers still curved inward, a tiny, ebony statue of a raven, or a vial of an unknown beast’s blood are all possible trinkets.

Today, I will be discussing how a trinket can be more than an item in a PC’s inventory, how dungeon masters and players can incorporate trinkets into the overarching narrative, and why dungeon masters should construct trinket tables personalized to the setting of the campaign.

‘Tis time to toy with trinkets, folks.

A Trinket’s Task

Every player character should start with a trinket.

To find a trinket for your character, do one of the following:
  1. Locate the trinket table in the Player’s Handbook (pg. 160-161) and either pick a trinket or roll a d100.
  2. Ask your dungeon master if they have a personalized trinket table you can roll on (more on this later).
  3. Ask your dungeon master if you can create your own trinket.
Once you have your character’s trinket, let your mind go wild and talk to your dungeon master about the object. Specifically, make the trinket’s story interesting and connected to your character. By the end of this process, your character should have an interesting item that you can use during play to add depth to your PC, and your dungeon master can utilize it in the campaign’s story.

Let me guide you through the process using one of the trinkets I described above: The tiny, ebony raven statue.

The Player

Say I have rolled on the trinket table provided by my dungeon master, and I get the tiny, ebony raven statue.
 
Immediately, I think about its origins. How did my character come to be in possession of this trinket? There is a myriad of possibilities: I was gifted the statue by my mentor before he passed on, or I found it while swimming in the river that runs past my town. Perhaps my brother smelted it before he went missing, or maybe I made it myself. Personally, I find option two most interesting: I found this strange trinket in the river while swimming.

Now, I ponder about the statue’s relationship with my character. Do they carry it with them everywhere, either on a chain around their neck or is it tucked away in the deepest recesses of their backpack? What if they often forget about its existence, but the trinket always appears in places it should not, like at the top of their bag, or inside their waterskin? This should be a quirk of the trinket; make it interesting, and make sure it would be something that can be shown during the campaign. I like the idea of my character being obsessed with the statue, so I’ll have them carry it around their neck on a chain.

Finally, I cement what my character thinks about the trinket Is it important to them? Do they associate the statue with luck, chance, or something more sinister? Perhaps they started having nightmares a few days after picking up the statue, but can’t seem to get rid of it. Or maybe they have had a stream of extremely amazing luck ever since they found the statue. I'm going with idea number two: My character has been having great luck since the statue has been in their possession.

Now, I have an interesting trinket: A small, ebony statue of a raven that my character found while swimming in a river near their town. Since finding it, they’ve been obsessive about keeping it safe and close by, so they bought a chain from the local jeweler designed especially for the statue. In addition, they’ve had amazing luck since wearing it, and they most definitely attribute it to the statue. Is this tiny trinket more than it seems? Is this luck random? What happens if the trinket disappears? Well...

Now that I am finished thinking about the trinket from the player’s point of view, let me switch to the viewpoint of the dungeon master. This is where the fun begins.

The Dungeon Master

I am now the dungeon master, and my player’s character has the raven statue described above as their trinket. I should be thinking: What can I do to make the item more interesting, a part of the story, and a consequential part of the campaign?

Immediately, my mind is bursting with ideas. I’ll go with the first one I have.

The ebony raven statue was the property of an old wizard that lives upstream from the PC's town. A few decades ago, hobgoblins assaulted the area, and toppled his tower, causing it and everything within to tumble into the river. The wizard survived and the hobgoblins were eventually repelled, but most of the wizard’s belongings were lost to the running water of the river, including the magical raven statue. This statue contained the spirit of an avatar of the goddess of chance, a raven that could be summoned to protect and aid her summoner. However, as months turned into years which turned into decades, and the statue slowly made its way downstream, the object lost its magic and connection to the avatar. However, now in the hands of a would-be adventurer once again, the statue’s magic is beginning to return. How long will this process take? No one knows; perhaps the spirit will return at the most opportune moment, or maybe it completely faded years ago.

Once you start, the story practically writes itself, and now you have a huge variety of plot hooks stemming directly from this trinket that relate to the player’s character! This is fantastic since most great stories revolve not around ‘the story’ but ‘the characters.’

For example, what if the original owner of the statue, the wizard, runs into the party during their adventures? Maybe he is perfectly fine with the PC having the item, and is willing to help restore its faded magic, or perhaps he desperately wants it back. It’s also possible that more of his artifacts were lost in the river, and can possibly be found! More quests! More plots hooks! More possibilities!

That’s the essence of trinkets. They are little objects that can massively contribute to the story. Use them as such, fellow players and dungeon masters.

You won’t regret doing so, my friends.

Building Unique Trinkets

While the trinket tables of the current fifth editions books are interesting and valuable, they are not personalized, and they are not tailored to your campaign setting. Thus, I absolutely love creating trinkets unique to my world, and I advise all dungeon masters around the world to do the same.

Making a unique trinket table is extremely simple and fun to do, and creating them especially for your setting can be quite rewarding.

The table does not need to be lengthy, the trinkets don’t need to be amazingly detailed - simply make them fit the aesthetic of your world or the setting your group will be adventuring in. If they’re delving into a terrifying jungle, flavor the trinkets to be tribal totems and natural. Exploring an ancient and desolate wasteland? Create trinkets that are simple relics of the civilizations that ruled the desert eons ago.

The trinket table for my Cursed Jungles of Yatar campaign.

Flavorful trinkets can go a long way, and they’re a blast to design!

In Summary

Toying with trinkets and making them a core part of your character as well as their story can greatly enhance your campaign as a whole.

Remember:
  1. Players, you need to think about why your trinket is important to your character, and it needs to have ‘screen time’ during play. Make sure your character pulls it out, mentions it, or does something with the trinket to establish that it’s more than an object.
  2. Dungeon masters, weave the trinkets of your group into the story! Delve into them for plot hooks, and ensure that their trinkets are consequential pieces of the narrative, not little knick-knacks that only exist to fill up their backpacks.
  3. Creating trinket tables tailored to your campaign can be an exciting exercise that will help immerse you and your players into the world.
That’s all for today, folks.

This was an incredibly interesting and fun article to write, and I hope you all, players and dungeon masters, take this advice to your tables. Trinkets can be boring, or they can become a larger part of the story you’re telling - perhaps akin to the artifacts discussed at the beginning of this piece if your dungeon master is insane.

Until next time, farewell!

Comments

  1. Great article! My initial reaction to trinkets in 5e was negative. I have been changing my mind as my players started using them for story purposes. This article is gives wonderful advice on the creation of use of trinkets! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Brian. I'm glad your opinion on trinkets has changed! At first, they look inconsequential, but they can quickly become another amazing part of this great game.

      Delete
  2. I loved the trinket table from the 5e player so much because I love the mini stories and immediate plot hooks items like these offer. I've organized a few dozen similar tables that are available for everyone so that every DM has access to thousands of trinkets to reward and entertain their players with. It's still ongoing and I put out a new table about every week https://tabletoptrinketsbyjj.tumblr.com/post/171668528582/hotlinks-to-all-tables-a-complete-list-of-every

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