Personally, I’ve never enjoyed paging through the thousands of items available to players in order to try to pick an item out that they’d like go reward them with. I also hate the concept of wish lists, where the players tell you exactly what they want and the quests just happen to reward it or the monsters just happen to be carrying it. I’ve discussed some alternatives before as well as custom items , but now I want to talk about the Megaman style loot system for creating custom items.
I spend about 30% of my preparation time trying to come up with unique encounters and creatures. It is more important to me than any items, of course, because the design and encounters are how I play the game. I want them to be memorable and when a player takes something away from a story that they can bring up later for a laugh or a smile, it makes me happy. So, I’ve decided to start letting the characters take something away from specialized encounters as well.
When my players face a particularly tough boss, they usually have some sort of theme attached to their threat. A shadow dragon uses orbs of darkness to move around combat more freely. A hobgoblin might have the eye of a beholder it uses to cast random energy rays. A kobold master might be much more shifty than a regular kobold. When these creatures are defeated, I have the drop something that embodies their own power, though not to the full effect.
For example, my shadow dragon dropped some gloves that as an encounter power allowed the user to create an area burst 1 within 10 cloud of darkness, much like the Drow racial. As a daily power they could move from any square of total concealment to another square of total concealment. The encounter power was useful on its own, but the daily power gave them mobility that was difficult to match.
Recently my players fought an optimized version of Thar. Even without any modifications you’ll notice that Thar deals extra maximized weapon damage on a critical hit. I took this fact and applied it to the axe he was wielding to create the Sundering Executioner:
Item: Executioner’s Axe
Critical Hit: +3d6 damage
Property: The high crit damage on this weapon is maximized.
I usually only do this on particularly nasty or memorable fights when the enemy in question has an obvious power that might be useful and usually only on Solos and Elites. When giving out regular loot, especially lower level loot, I tend to find something reasonable from the known list and give them a token that allows them to enchant their own item.