Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Treasure - By the Book or Off the Page?

Treasure, whether magical or mundane, is detailed in most OSR / Original (A)D&D DM / GM / Ref sections of the rules. In effect, this gives one a shopping list or, even more likely, a classic Chinese Menu to choose from. This certainly simplifies things, but it does lead to repletion, especially after 35 years or so of gaming. How many + 2 Longswords can one expect to find over that time? I suspect the answer is infinite.

This is a large part of the reason my first two OSR projects / products dealt with more unique magic items. I have no problem taking many of the magic items in my campaign off the shelf (or out of the core rules), but it's the ones crafted at the workbench that helps keep the magic "magic" in my opinion.

The same goes for the more mundane treasure - gems, jewelry, coins - get repetitious after a while. Having the party try to successfully recover (and later sell) the fragile porcelain tea set without breakage is a lot more fun (challenging) than the next hoard of coins.

Am I guilty of taking the shortcut of grabbing from the shelf more than I feel I should? Definitely, but I'm trying to go to the shelf less often in the future.

Do you create your own magic items for your campaign? Do you add more unique non magical treasures? Does your group even care one way or the other?


  1. I make my own. Some are very simple, but I try not to do just a +1. I figured if someone put the effort into making it to give it some history or background. A reason to exist. Mundane treasures, mainly coinage, I use different eras and kingdom type of coins. Some silver pieces are larger, made of a different type or quality of silver. Little details like that. Players enjoy it and I enjoy making it up.

  2. I used to create detailed magic items and treasure. If the group found gems I rolled to see which ones they were. Art objects were always fully detailed. Coins were always different, minted by different empires, defaced by the orcs, etc.

    Eventually though I started to notice that no one at the table cared. They just wanted to know what the effect of the magic item was and how much the other loot was worth.

    So I moved away from detailing everything, though I do like to throw in one or two unique items ever treasure horde. You may find: "100 gold worth of jewelry but one piece sticks out it's a ....." There are a ton of illuminated manuscripts which you figure are worth at least 2000gp titles or note are..."

  3. So Joe Wetzel is coming out with these Encounter Cards, and on each card there is a "Trivial? Treasure" that is non-standard, with no price attached, but it is an oddity that could prove to be valuable or a plot hook (or both.) That's neat.

  4. I do a combination of both.. I like to throw in stuff of my own creation.. Especially rare books and such..

  5. I used to enjoy making stuff up... But, like some others have said, all the players want now is the "bottom line," i.e.: "What can it do for me" or "What's it worth.." Sad, really. They approach most story arcs the same way, don't care, just want to fight shit and take its treasure. One even plays their character as intentionally veering away from anything that smells of destiny or fate, they want nothing to do with it. I swear to some of them it's nothing but a bunch of stat blocks paired off against each other. I'm not sure where it went wrong, but I'd guess it was the switch to 3e and the Optimize curse. We are now using PF rules, and some PF Adventure Paths, which is helping. I have also been making the study of Tomes, both magic and mundane, an integral part of the adventures. Magic items aren't anywhere near as cool as they used to be though, so I have been trying to bring back some of the old magic. C'est la vie.

    1. "I'm not sure where it went wrong, but I'd guess it was the switch to 3e..."

      Well there's your problem.

    2. Yea... the lure of 'something new' drew us in. Now they are all addicted to the "fiddly bits" of character tweaking. A simple stat line alone would not be appealing any more. They did realize that 3.x was awful, after a while. Thus the switch to PF. Although I am not so sure PF isn't falling down the same rabbit hole.

  6. I do like to throw in at least some unusual magical items and mundane valuable items. But I think making every treasure "unique" is both an impossible task and effort wasted on probably 90% of players anyway. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with using off-the-shelf treasure, any more than there is with using off-the-shelf monsters or equipment lists. An old monster or treasure can always be used in a fresh new way. I find it fairly obnoxious to demand (as some OSR pundits have) that DMs "reinvent the wheel" with respect to practically every aspect of their campaigns. Why throw out decades of imaginative work by countless DMs and game designers?

  7. The OSR system I'm working on, magic items greater than +2 require immense investiture of the creator's power and is uniquely 'attuned' to its creator. So, if anyone ends up with a +2 item, chances are it was taken from a very powerful Elf Lord or Magus who may still be around and wanting it back. +3 items are typically only in possession of ancient sages, cannot be bought, and are a leading cause of magical cancer and inadvertent creation of undead.


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