Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Uninteresting Treasure

One thing I've always loved was interesting treasure.  Of course, when it comes to actual play, especially as a GM, I've discovered that players often don't actually care about most loot.  Is it magic?  No? Sell it.  As a GM, why should I spend so much time making up so many interesting treasure if it lasts for only a few moments?

In my last game the players went well off the rails of where I thought they would.  In looting a house, they found some treasure, but I didn't feel like making up the details right then and there.  In the end, after a quick appraisal roll, i said "You found 50 ducats worth of various trinkets".  I was really quite disappointed in myself, bu my players were completely cool with it.  So I started thinking - how can I make loot more interesting but not spend so much time on things that are just going to get sold off.  How can I make SOME treasure more interesting rather than go into detail about everyhting.

That brought up an idea I had ages ago about how I've been handing out treasure.  And lo, the following treasure tables were born.

The Loot Tables
When an room (at least when random dungeon stocking) indicates loot is present, roll on the Primary Loot Table.  Then roll on the Loot Details table.  The roll is 1d6p (roll 1d6 - if the result is 6 add 1d6-1) with a max value of 11 (although I may fiddle with this after some actual play).

 Primary Loot Table 
Loot Details Table
 d6 (1)  Trinkets Knowledge  TreasureMagicRelics
1-3CoinsMapLost ObjectConsumableRing
6-8GemsBookOddity, brokenMinor ItemArmor
9-10ObjectsNotes Oddity, working  Major ItemWand
11 Damaged Treasure  MysticalHoard Faltering Relic   Weird Stuff 

Loot Descriptions
Trinkets - small valuables
  • Coins - the familiar dungeon loot, a pile of coins
  • Jewelry - rings, circlets, that sort of thing
  • Gems - gemstones!  the good stuff
  • Objects - sceptres, crowns, royal orbs, a gilded chalice, and so on
  • Damaged Treasure - a Treasure, but damaged and therefore not as valuable
Treasure - the cool stuff, these get actual descriptions and can be quest items
  • Lost Object - an item of importance being looked for by someone
  • Trophy - cool dungeon trophies like mounted dragon heads or an owlbear paw cloak clasp
  • Oddity, broken - strange otherwordly object that doesn't do anything
  • Oddity, working - as above, but it domes something keen
  • Hoard - roll a few times on the loot table and compile everything together, use hoard value
Knowledge, Magic, and Relics - I'll cover these in another post

Loot Value
This is always the tricky bit.  Take the "treasure unit" for the dungeon (based on the dungeon level and number of characters it was designed for) and multiply it by the modifier for the Trinket and Treasure type value modifier.  This is how much the loot is worth if straight up sold off.

The values look a bit weird, I admit, but the average value of treasure, based on the probability of the various types of loot coming up and the multipliers comes out to pretty darn close to average.

The Base Unit of Treasure is "100g".

  • A pile of coins (Trinket - Coins) comes out to 50g
  • A platinum sceptre (Trinket - Object) would be worth 125g
  • A ceremonial helm made from the skull of the cyclops lord Durgan Hellchyld slain by the mighty paladin Gregory the Black (Treasure - Trophy) sits at 225g

If you don't want everything to always be worth the same value, roll 2 red dice and 2 black dice.  Subtract the red total from the black total and multiply the difference by 3.  This is the % difference.  Get a -3?  Then the coin pile above is now worth 9% less (45.5g if you want to do the math).  In the end, the probability evens out.
Loot Value Multipliers
Loot$ Multiplier 
Coinsx 0.5
Jewelryx 0.7
Gemsx 0.9
Objectsx 1.25
 Damaged Treasure  x 1.7
Lost Objectx 2.25
Trophyx 3
Oddity, brokenx 4
Oddity, workingx 5.5
Hoardx 7.5

So now I can make some hand-wavy descriptions of minor loot (trinkets) and really get into describing the cool stuff.  I'm sure I'll break out some random tables for inspiration on this as well, but now I won't have to spend as much time agonizing over what is pretty much "worthless" descriptions of things that are going to just be moved around for cash and then caroused into experience points anyway.