This trope covers equipment which is generated by the game engine using random numbers rather than being hard-coded into the game. Obviously the algorithms used for this vary, but usually involve some combination of:
- A list of "basic" templates from which the unique weapons are derived.
- Ranges for calculating the stats (this might entail a maximum and/or minimum numbernote or using a specific modifiernote ).
- Various traits or special effects which have a random chance of being added (Elemental damage is a popular one).
- Some sort of system for generating a name for each unique variant (e.g. a Plothook might be called the Plothook of Troping if it has a bonus to Troping, a Plothook of Flaming if it deals fire damage, or a Swift Plothook if the "attack speed" stat rolls higher than average). Compare Tiered by Name, which tends to use a similar naming convention for enemies.
- "Rare" variants, which are weighted to have higher stats and more special effects than other Random Loot of the same level (often with multiple tiers and Colour-Coded for Your Convenience).
Some games make this one of (if not the) central mechanics (particularly the Roguelike subgenre, the earliest of which are the Ur-Example of this trope), with the main draw for playing the game being to find better and better loot (often with an Excuse Plot). In other games, it's less important, but prevents the player being bored when all they can get from Random Drops is the same piece of loot (once you've got the +5 Plothook of Troping there's no need to keep fighting those Goddamn Bats or Demonic Spiders unless you're forced to and there's no real thrill from finding it again). Essentially, "find new loot" gives the player a short term objective to be rewarded with while they pursue the game's longer term goals.
The downside, of course, is that randomness is the enemy of skill development. To get good at something—a Fighting Game, a Roguelike, chess—you need to do it over and over, learning as you do about patterns and behaviors. Eventually, you reach a point where you can guess what's going to happen next, and what to do under those circumstances. Randomly generated loot can slow down this process because one of the things you need to know about are your own character's capabilities—and when those are constantly changing because you're constantly swapping out new equipment, you can't establish a baseline and will have trouble learning to play or fight to the best of your abilities. (This is a big reason why games like Team Fortress 2 have random elements, like Critical Hits, turned off during high-level Tournament Play.)
This trope has the odd side effect of invoking Video Game Caring Potential: the loot that emerges from the Random Number God can have a lot of personality, and it's not unusual for players to get attached to their various pieces of gear. Of course, no matter how great your gun is (Sparking Shootbanger of +5 Fortitude, +6 Grenade capacity, +3 Socks), there's always something greater awaiting you in the next dungeon, and to exploit it you'll need to discard Vera or whatever without a second thought. Remember, If every piece of gear in the game is awesome, then every piece is simultaneously Vendor Trash.
When this is done with levels, see Randomly Generated Levels. Compare and contrast Design-It-Yourself Equipment (when the player can control the stats themselves), Socketed Equipment (where the player can determine bonuses themselves) and the Sword of Plot Advancement (which is usually fixed). Subtrope of Random Drop.
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U / 3DS has equipment, which a fighter can equip three of, each of which increases one stat, and decreases another, and sometimes giving another advantage or penalty. Anyone can equip badges, but there are other types that only a few fighters (or just one) can use.
- The Borderlands franchise uses a system where its equipment (guns, class mods, shields, grenade mods and, in the sequel, artifacts) is built up from randomly chosen parts which have different traits (although the player can only see this in the stats and the unique model this produces). It also has several manufacturers, who all have their own unique gun parts and special effects (as opposed to simply being slightly different colours and having a few stat differences). (even more so in the sequel). Naturally, there are also more potential combinations/parts.
- Shadow Warrior 2 has randomized upgrade gems and medallions that alter weapon/player stats and add special effects to spells and weapons, the latter of which remain fixed and consistent throughout the game apart from directly (and permanently) upgrading their base stats with Masamune Orbs.
- Perfect World: When a player crafts an item, it uses a template with randomly generated stats.
- Trickster Online uses this trope for Boss Unique drops, Master Equipment from non upgraded bosses, equipment from the towers (both from hunting and drilling) and the common variants in the maps...
- World Of Dungeons: Most of the items are like this, and some players categorize them into 'families'.
- In Star Trek Online items of rarity higher than "common" have a list of modifiers that can be added (uncommon gets one, rare gets two, very rare gets three). Some can be bought in particular configurations from vendors, but Random Drops are procedurally generated. As of Season 9.5, equipment created through Item Crafting also gets randomly-generated mods, a source of much frustration for players seeking "perfect" gear.
- The Sword of Procedural Generation you can get from Jick's Jar of Psychoses in Kingdom of Loathing is a parody of this. It has five special abilities, all of which are randomly chosen when you receive it. Oh, and only one to a player. Sadly, this led to a lot of special-snowflake whining from the "Stop Having Fun" Guys.
- The Diablo series is the Trope Codifier. It featured individual pieces of equipment with random variations in stats, but special effects were mostly fixed to specific item types.
- The Torchlight series uses a similar system to Diablo, with individual stat variations and Socketed Equipment.
- While not standard, this is possible when creating a module in Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 through using its scripting language. It is actually done in the "Diablo - The Dark Wanderer" multiplayer module (running on the Viking Northeast server) to imitate the way the Diablo game generates its loot.
- Path of Exile follows the Diablo model of basic templates with numerous prefixes and suffixes denoting special enchantments, plus multiple tiers of rarity/power.
- Some unique items have an extremely wide range of mods or mod values it can roll. For example, Ventor's Gamble can roll life, item quantity/rarity, and resistance values as high as the best-rolled rare rings or put them in the negatives, and Watcher's Eye comes with 2 or 3 mods out of the 90 it can spawn with. While you can reroll number values using a Divine Orb, most items with random mods are stuck with whatever they get.
- Dragon Age II features this, resulting in regular random weapon drops routinely out-performing unique named weaponry that you have to gain through arduous side quests. This is stark contrast to Dragon Age: Origins, where only the most basic loot was randomized and all the high-level equipment was predefined and obtained under specific circumstances.
- In the Fallout series, container loot is randomly generated upon entering a building or cell. Loot outside containers is static except for certain level-based spawns. In Fallout 4, Legendary enemies carry "rare" weapons or armor pieces with randomly chosen stat boosts or special effects.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- Subverted throughout most of the series with non-unique enchanted items. For example, non-unique enchanted weapons follow the "X weapon of Y" naming format, IE [craftsmanship] weapon of [adjective corresponding to a power level] [enchantment effect] (or, for a specific example, Steel Sword of Greater Frost). Depending on the specific game in question, these items can be dropped by NPC enemies, found randomly in the world as loot, or found in the inventory of shops. In the games with strict Level Scaling, they will usually be scaled to the player's level.
- Morrowind averts it with loot outside of containers, which is hand placed and never changes. Savvy veteran players can find extremely high level loot well before it will start being randomly generated in containers. Containers are instead filled from "leveled lists" of items, giving players a better chance of finding good loot at higher levels, with the Luck Attribute also playing a role in what appears.
- Angband and its variants have ego items and random artifacts. One starts with a basic item, like a Hard Studded Leather [7,+0]. With a numeric bonus, that might be a Hard Studded Leather [7,+3]. If it gets an ego, it might be an Elven Hard Studded Leather (increases stealth, detects orcs), a Hard Studded Leather of Resist Fire (reduces fire damage), or with two egos, an Elven Hard Studded Leather of Resist Fire! If it becomes a random artifact (or randart), it receives a unique name, like the Elven Hard Studded Leather of Felorith, and some random powers. Because this is Angband, most ego items and randarts look like average junk until the player identifies the items or pseudo-identifies their greatness by Gut Feeling.
- Moria, the ancestor of Angband, has ego items but no artifacts.
- Dungeon Crawl has ego items and random artifacts, like Angband.
- Elona follows a system similar to Angband, with regular items, like a steel helm, magical items (a conspicious steel helm) which get 1-3 random modifiers, and randarts (the historic helm <White Wrath>) that have even more modifiers as well as higher stats than a base item of that type. Randarts generated cursed will usually get negative modifiers.
- NetHack makes only a few random tweaks. Some items get blessed or cursed, a few items get fireproof or rustproof, and a few items get a numeric bonus, like a stack of +1 darts.
- In Ragnarok, the only consistent loot in the game is that the village shop will always have a grappling hook and a pick axe, and Odin's tower (located just before the Final Battle) has one of every item in the game. While powerful items are more likely to spawn on harder levels, it's possible to find items such as the wand of wishing on the very first level.
- In Dwarf Fortress, everything about artifacts is random; who will have the mood, what kind, what they'll make, and every meticulous detail about it's styling. Items of lesser value brought by traders, or found/dropped in Adventurer mode, will be randomly generated within the local society's parameters, sometimes similarly detailed.
- Fury Unleashed is more gameplay focused, with random elemental effects, damage, attack speed, and mag size on your guns as gravy, but it's possible for the game to cough up a rocket launcher that walks like an assault rifle. Armor is all pre-baked though.
- Nippon Ichi games usually make use of this trope;
- Disgaea: All the items you get have different stats, Even if they're the same items. (Example: One Yoshitsuna has 3 more INT points then another Yoshitsuna, but 5 less STR points) You can make the items stronger with specialists and Level Grinding in the Item World.
- Phantom Brave does the same thing as Disgaea, but has a different system for leveling (You have to go into randomly generated dungeons to level up the titles [adjectives you can equip to an item or character] and fuse two items to increase the level cap).
- The weapons in Kid Icarus: Uprising will have randomly generated abilities and stats when you obtain them. The strength of the weapon depends on what difficulty level you play at; you'll find better loot on harder difficulties.
- Warframe features riven mods. Awarded occasionally for completing sorties, these mods come with a randomised challenge which, once completed with a particular riven mod equipped, will reveal to you a mod granting randomised bonuses and penalties to a specific weapon, the strength of which depends on the weapon's disposition, which is determined by its popularity among the players (the more popular it is, the less disposition it has).
- Magical weapons and armor in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, when rolled for instead of picked by the Game Master, are wholly randomly generated starting from weapon or armor type to the nature of the enchantments upon them. Well, random except anything magical always has at least a +1 bonus before any other properties. The strength of the item (minor, medium, or major) sets upper and lower bounds on the power level that can be rolled. It's generally easier to get an extra plus on something rather a special property.