Friday, September 3, 2010

Treasure Types

I was always fascinated by treasure types, they strike something in me that likes categorization and organization. At the same time I always had a sense that they were a missed opportunity in D&D.

It seems the two approaches you might take when making a table of treasure types are:
  1. List ever possible permutation so that the system will be useful for a DM / monster designer in whatever type of treasure they need. -- If this were true, knowing the first few entries of a table should allow you to recreate the whole table.
  2. List "types" of treasure in the sense of a bandit hoard being different from an undead hoard, so that the system carries meaning about, not just the treasure a monster has but, probably why it does, or what type of monster it is. -- If this were true you should be able to predict that similar monster types will have similar treasures.
As best I can tell, all the D&D treasure type tables I've seen do some of both and thus are not really useful for either.

It seems like they are a kind fancy footnote. But the data they record is really pretty small, a series of what, 6-12 numbers? Wouldn't that be more useful to have closer to the monster entries themselves?

It could have been worth the DM's while, if turning back to the table gave a more extensive treatment of what treasure type A meant, for example. Okay, this is the treasure of a bandit's wilderness camp, tell me what kind of commercial goods they may have on hand, stolen from merchants: how many barrels of ale, how many bales of cotton, pounds of spice. Tell me if there is any seasonal variation: are the camps richer during the time of the big regional fairs? When would those most logically occur? If your thinking, "A DM could figure all that out," you're missing the point; a DM could much more easily decide how much gp/sp/cp a bandit wilderness camp would have, and thus not need the table at all.

If we had a treasure type table like that it could be useful communicating with each other in the community, too. Maybe my Rebelling Peasants have a variation of type A because they leave travelers with all coins, but take their goods to live off of. Or whatever.

What "types" of treasure might there be? Here are some ideas:
  • intelligent creatures more likely to have books and scrolls
  • undead hoards or bands of humanoids more likely to have personal jewelry and armor
  • lairs of gross stuff like jellies and such, less likely to have much but magic items that would survive
  • giants and ogres might have a bunch livestock and foodstuffs stolen from locals
  • cults would have candlesticks, and other religious paraphernalia in precious metals, maybe carpets.
  • It seems like the classic pile of coins would be pretty much unique to dragons
  • animals lairs like bear caves might only have incidental treasure left over from previous victims.
In the end, it doesn't seem like there are really too many possible types. Wouldn't it have been more useful to categorize the treasures like this?


  1. You would think that was how it was done. There's really no reason not to have done it that way, now that you mention it. What, exactly, do the Treasure Classes in Labyrinth Lord, for example, mean?

  2. It would be interesting to have a matrix, or a scale that would apply to it. One column would be your criteria (possibly more types) and the other column/scale would be the wealth/power of the creature.

  3. I got the impression that was the goal of the AD&D treasure types (though it may have been inherited from original D&D), but not explicitly stated. That said, I love your types and think they would be a great improvement. Write it up!

  4. There was some discussion of this a while back on Dragonsfoot, which I stumbled across today: