Friday, July 15, 2016

Player-Valued Treasure

In trying to follow up my last post and give more explicit rules for treasure placement, I ran into something I thought about a while ago: there aren't really a lot of treasure types.  Most treasure, especially with unintelligent monsters, will be incidental, whatever was dropped by their previous victims.  So it will be coins or "dungeon tools" like scrolls, potions, and wands.

But coins are boring to me as DM, I've always wanted something more-- art objects and trade goods like bales of silk and such.  But I was thinking again lately that anything of that type is just something that players need to convert to gold, kind of like annoying treasure, treasure with an extra step.  There's nothing wrong with making some treasure more of a challenge-- something big and difficult to move but really worth it if you get it out.  But I always wanted something more, something that when found, players would be hesitant to give up because they considered it cool and valuable in it's own right, you know, like treasure. What would that be?  Here are some ideas:

Clothing and jewelry they might like and want to adorn their character with.  Sashes, cloaks, belts.  These things will need to be detailed enough so they aren't just abstract treasure, but might be the players favorite color or style.  So specific gemstones and materials, not so we can calculate the value of the ring better if we know it is ruby versus moonstone, but because the player might really dig moonstone.

I like the idea of embroidery or leatherwork that tells stories or has scenes.  Maybe they depict a quality the player might want to convey, Bravery, Determination, Cruelty.

They might be in a particular style, that of their home land, or their home village, a kind of embroidery like their mother used to make, say.

Cloak clasps, hair pins, scarves it all depends on your players I suppose.

As a player, I always liked to personalize my gear, carve my staff for example. Maybe let your players find wood carving knives, leather tooling kits, a roll of leather belt "blanks" or various lengths and widths.  It's not like players can't carve their staves if they asked, or buy supplies to do these things, but they might not think of doing so (especially if they are new players) until the option is presented.  These items turn the abstract idea players hadn't thought of-- hey, I can make my character dress like a crazy pirate!- into the treasure.

Class-Based Gear
Players may be more interested in items they can use: decorative scroll cases or lock pick sets, well-made water proof sacks, light but strong caskets.  Interesting Holy symbols of their own deities.  Belts with pouches, gloves made of interesting materials like basilisk scales.  Armor of normal defense but with geometric patterns or a bright color, or all black.  Scabbards, quivers, tabbards.

Character Image Items
Some players (especially experienced roleplayers) might have a conception of their character they want to portray: the drunk, the fop, the scholar.  If you get the sense that they are going for that you can personalize treasure with stuff they can use fulfill that role, whatever it is.  Tobacco, casks of particular types of drink, musical instruments, books about certain subjects, hobby/craft tools like fishing or hunting gear.  Hats, fancy boots.

I suppose much of this could overlap with adornment, but not consumables that have no in-game effect like tobacco and alcohols.  And not the interest-based items.  Collection display cases, stationary, muzzles and falconry gear.

3 Types of Treasures
So now I'm realizing that what I'm ending up with is that there are probably ~3 types of treasure similar to the way I propose there are three types of monster in my last post:  1) There is raw treasure, coins (a subset would be awkward treasure that needs to be converted to coins and is a bit difficult to do so). 2) there are dungeon tools-- usually consumable magic items (magic items like scrolls or potions, poisons, fire works) that help players survive, and 3) discretionary treasure that you place to try and please your players based on what you know about them.

So, what next?  Raw treasure is easy, I just plop down coins equivalent to three times the experience point value of all the monsters in the dungeon.  Dungeon tools I feel like I have been working on for years, you can see some of these tables on my DM aids page.

For discretionary treasure, though, we won't always know what characters want until they grab it.  So, I guess variety is important and making sure some of each type above is available.  The good thing is that most of the clothes and tools won't be worth too much in monetary value, so it won't hurt to make a little available in each hoard or dungeon.  Maybe I can make a treasure table for each category above: Adornment, Class Gear, and Image Items.  Then I could roll once on each, or roll once on one of the three each time I determine a treasure.

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