This is a response to the article posted at the Wizards of the Coast website entitled Treasure Options. I guess this is the third part of the series, I didn't catch the first two or I probably would have posted this sooner.
The article explains ways to give your players treasure with rich backstories. I don't want to be a big downer or anything, but really? I may be alone on this, I probably am NOT though, but I have to say that I have never, ever met a player who wanted to have loot with a rich backstory.
My experience with this kind of loot has been two-fold.
1 ) Any loot that you give a player that has a rich backstory is usually viewed as the beginning of some type of quest or is a hook to start an adventure. As a DM, I really don't want to give a player an item with a rich backstory and then have that item, which I had not intended to be the start of anything important, as a derailer which leads the entire party on some quest which I was neither prepared for, or, really interested in doing.
2 ) Items with rich backstories, which don't provide a statistical benefit to the character are simply ignored in order to sell them, receive gold/platinum and then use that money to buy magic items or gear which does grant a statistical benefit.
I don't want to waste a lot of time creating rich backstories for my items when the player's simply ignore it in favor of vending said item for GP. It just seems wasteful on all fronts.
Givin that Xmas is coming up, I'll make this analogy; perhaps getting a gift is nice, it shows that someone was thinking about you when they gave it to you, but if the gift sucks, and you don't have any use for it, you will either a) return it to get cash/store credit in order to get something you want (that is if you can), b) give it to someone else or c) quickly forget about it in some corner of your home unopened and unused. If you give someone cash, it might not show a lot of forethought, but you are going to use that cash for exactly what you want. Yea, it might not mean a lot emotionally, but you are going to be much more satisfied with what you get.
This analogy holds up perfectly with respect to the article over at WotC for one reason - any player that gets some random item, which isn't mechanically benefical, is not getting what they want. All players want items/magic items/stuff that does stuff. In the end, GP is where to be.