This is Our Game: How do you parcel out treasure?

Every month our group of contributors circulates a point about running a D&D game, or some other RPG-centric problem to address. We all stew and think about it for a while, then write up a response. At the end of the month we compile our responses for your reading pleasure.

This month’s question is: How do you parcel out treasure?

Geek Ken – I try to stick by the guide that each player by level 5 (and in 5 level increments thereafter) will have a magic weapon, armor, and neck slot item. I like circulating a wish list where players list the items they want in priority: armor, weapon, neck/cloak, and wondrous item. With that I have a guide for what would likely interest the players.

I tend to pick out the items myself and try to fit it to their playing styles or power/class deficiencies. Say the group is short on healing, then I’ll be sure to pass out something like exalted armor (gives a 1 shot bonus to healing powers). This does take a bit of time, but I like to be sure that players are getting something that helps with their ‘meat and potatoes’ adventuring. This isn’t limited to combat though, if I have a player that loves talking their way out of situations, an item that gives a bonus to diplomacy checks is high on my list of possible treasures.

Once I have a short list of potential magic items, I keep that handy when whipping up adventures. I’ve adopted the semi-random treasure tables from essentials, but may very well jump back to the traditional parcel system. I’m still on the fence about how the random treasure tables scale with smaller groups.

As treasure goes, I also like to be sure I’m not stingy with the cash. My homebrew campaign is pretty magic heavy. So if a player just wanted to pick up a simple +1 sword, they could do so in a larger town. I like giving this option to players as it allows them to really pick up something they want if needed. However, I try to stick with a fairly rigid plan for passing out magic items, while keeping cash pretty fluid.

Thadeous: Every game for me is different. I know it sounds bad as a DM but I never give treasure out the same way twice. A while ago I created a wish list to print out and give to my players to fill out. I like having the wish list so I can give a play what they want from time to time. But I also like the idea of giving players completely random treasure, some of which they might not be able to use. Why would I give a party with out a warlock a pact blade? Perhaps later I might add an NPC who is a warlock who lost his blade and can either be a friend or a foe to the party depending on how they handle the situation.

Treasure can be more than just items that grant power and bonuses to the party. Treasure can be part of an adventure, it can even be key to solving a mystery or overcoming a skill challenge with ease. Giving someone ring with special powers might come in handy at first until the original owner wants it back. If that story line is good enough for Tolkien it’s good enough for my home game.

As I set up treasure parcels for encounters I some times set them up ahead of time. If players are raiding a keep I am going to send them home with precious objects and fine art. Most keeps won’t have mounds of gold lying around. A dragon or a monster who hoards treasure might just enjoy a large pile of silver and gold. For encounters with hoarding monsters I like to roll from the random treasure table in the DMG1. I actually like to let the players roll for their loot; it’s nice to let the feel the sting or the joy of their own rolls. The randomness of the treasure makes it feel more like exploring, no one knows what they are going to find until the dice hit the table.

Arcane Springboard:  I hate to say it, but I don’t really enjoy giving out treasure.  For some reason, it seems just a chore in 4e.  Part of this I suspect is that there is much more of a guideline to be followed, but also because frankly, magic items just aren’t all that interesting.

However, I’m starting to become a bit more freeform in what I give the players.   I’m starting to give out weapons with better pluses than they should normally have.  In addition, I’m giving some targeted items that I think the players will like, but also adding in some random ones, especially uncommon consumables.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Geek Ken likes games. Sometimes he likes to blog about them too.


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Geek Ken likes games. Sometimes he likes to blog about them too.
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