Mythicos, I didn’t see the two statements as contradictory. They’re two distinct issues, not one problem that resolves itself, though I can see how you’d say that.You know, YMMV and all that...
But why say on one hand that beginning characters are too weak, and on the other that useful items should be weakened?!?
Seems to me that Useful Items are a great way to customize your character AND reinforce some weaker skills; both being things you've been saying are errors/weaknesses of the new edition of the game.
The game can both be prohibitively challenging (ie I won’t even bother using that skill) and obnoxiously dice-farmy. If the solution to high TNs is to have a Useful Item always at the ready, or Hope, or whatever mechanic it is, that’s going to get very repetitive and boring quickly. Hence my “dice scrounging” comment and my derisiveness towards the pipe that appears in every scene.
(btw, one of my favorite games IS a narrative, rather than utilitarian dice pool mechanic by which you increase your options through cinematic, rather than utility or your tool in question, be it a firearm or a pair of spectacles. But TOR never struck me as a “throw dice in the pool by any means necessary” kind of game, so the ubiquitous appearance of that famous walking stick or pipe seems only “Useful” in a meta-game sense).
In short I agree it’s a remedy, but one where the long term implications of it might make the cure as bad as the problem itself. Just from a thematic sense, why would you want merely useful items eclipsing magic rings and Elven swords and Dwarven hauberks?
I do realize I’m being picky here, but this is Middle-earth. If what gyrovague said becomes the norm and my trusty rope is as valuable as magic or featured in every single scene, maybe it’s a little too useful, you know?
I mean I know Sam loves his Elvish rope but it’d be very weird if he brought it up in every single scene thereafter. There’s a danger in creating player habits that lean their characters toward one-note characterizations out of a desire to pass their Skill checks, ie that lantern is always in his hand or he literally plays that harp anytime he has to greet a stranger on the road.