Building A Treasure Horde

TreasureIf someone asked me what part of designing adventures I find the most perplexing I would say treasure without a thought. For me, deciding what treasure a particular encounter should have has always been a problem. I know there are random tables, but whenever I use those I get wonky results and often accidentally unbalance the game. The problem is, that treasure is a very important aspect of the game which means even if I wanted to, I can’t really not put it in. I have tried all kinds of different solutions to make placing treasure easier for me, but until recently I haven’t really found one I liked. Thankfully about a year ago I came up with a series of questions that have made placing treasure a lot easier.

1: Does this Treasure Make Sense?

When I first started GMing, I rarely gave¬†thought to the logic of treasure placement. Things such as the adventure location, the monsters encountered, and where the treasure came from didn’t seem all that important.

An encounter in a cave full of stirges should have treasure that makes sense. Stirges don’t value treasure, but they do a really god job at killing low level characters. Any treasure found inside a stirge cave should reflect this. You won’t find priceless artifacts, but you will find things like potions, coins, and the like. Giving just a little thought to the environs and creature helps make any decisions about treasure a lot easier.

2: Does this Treasure Unbalance the Game?

The biggest mistakes I have ever made as a GM was giving an artifact to a first level party. My players loved it, but it destroyed the campaign. That campaign ended rather abruptly and I learned a valuable lesson. When I consider treasure , I always ask myself if an item is going to create a balance issue. A really powerful magic item or to much gold can unbalance the game. .

3: Does this Treasure Aid the Party?

This is the final question I ask myself. Yes, almost any treasure will aid a party in some way, but there are things that are better than others. Giving the party incense of mediation when the party doesn’t have a cleric isn’t all that helpful. However, giving the party a +2 amulet of natural armor when there is a Druid in the party, makes a lot of sense. I also tend to have “boss” fights at the end of the adventure. For this reason I often want to make sure the characters will have stuff to help them with that fight.

I will probably never perfect the art of placing treasure. They are not perfect, but I do think these questions help. I would love to hear what other people have to say on this topic so don’t be shy.

Until next time may the GM roll poorly,

Ric :)

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