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DM Dispatches #6 – Spilttin’ Treasure

Written by Darkwarren - Published on May 1, 2013

DM Dispatches is a weekly column that shares stories and reflections from Darkwarren’s experience dungeon mastering his weekly group’s Rise of the Runelords campaign that started in January 2013. The intention is that other DM’s and players can learn from his experiences as well as enter into discussion and add their two coppers as well.
Splittin’ Treasure

There comes a time in every campaign where the party finds treasure. Isn’t that why we all roleplay, for the fake wealth? It’s usually around this time where the group of players, especially if they are new to a gaming group, has a discussion regarding splitting treasure. Even though we have been playing for many years and know each other pretty well, the same old arguments come up every time a new campaign begins and new characters try to work out how to divide their loot.

There seem to be a few schools of thought on this subject. The two that are always argued about in our group fall into two categories. We call them “accountant” and “organic”.

The accountant method allows for a character to choose an item. He then owes the party half of its value, which is split up among the remaining members. This is offered as an option in the 3.0 DMG.

Or, if you’re like most of the guys in my group, you’d rather not do all that paperwork and go with what we’ve deemed the “organic” method. What this means is that treasure that is immediately useful is given to the characters that can most benefit or can use them most effectively. Two handed vorpal sword? That’s the barbarian’s now. Arcane spellbook? Wizard’s. Coins, gems, art objects, and other sundries? Split them up evenly. Of course the player’s know that if they get the sweet item AND a share of gold, they typically help the others pay for their desired items as well.

There is something to be said for acting true to your character. If your character is an accountant cleric of the god of wealth and commerce, she might be comfortable with dividing loot according to actuary tables right down to how much each PC owes to the party, including interest. If your character is greedy it makes sense that he wishes to get as much as he can and then steals from NPC’s and even the other PC’s. If your character has a charitable streak she might offer up some of her gold to other NPC’s or PC’s. You get the idea.

Our group had the discussion. I’ve had it before. As DM this time I wanted to remain out of it, as I thought this was more of a player dispute that could also be dealt with in-character. This was one of those times that I really only acted as mediator when two different players might have gotten heated in their dialogue and I stepped in to calm things a bit on our message boards. Things didn’t get too heated.

We ultimately decided to stay with the “organic” method, as we always have. But it brought up some great points in our discussions:

How do we (and our PC’s) understand economic freedom?
Is the group’s wealth more important than the character’s wealth?
How are they willing to share, save, or spend?
Ultimately what drives their decisions in terms of wealth?

The last question I pose to all of you: how did you and your groups handle the splitting treasure issue?

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Written by Darkwarren

Matt W., aka Darkwarren, has been roleplaying ever since his older brother introduced him to the red box set when he was 7 years old. Since then he has game-mastered SSDC’s Battleords of the Twenty-third Century, WEG’s Shadowrun and Star Wars, and of course Dungeons & Dragons in a variety of forms. At thirty-four years old he takes turns on both sides of the screen with the group that he helped found in 2000 when 3.0 hit the stands and has met every week fairly regularly ever since. Currently they have been running a variety of the Paizo Adventure Path scenarios, so that’s his wheelhouse. He was almost famous when two of his adventures were green-lighted for possible publication right before Paizo relinquished the rights to publish Dungeon magazine.

Matt also has years if experience in improvisational comedy, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is currently working and studying to attain a master’s degree in theology, to enhance his career as a religious studies teacher. Lastly, his greatest passion is his family, especially the three sons and dog that he shares with his wife in upstate New York.

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2 Responses to “DM Dispatches #6 – Spilttin’ Treasure”
  1. Fullovstars says:

    We prefer the organic method as generally the group plan to stay together until the end of the campaign (at the very least) and also, the fact that most beginning quests have more treasure than any fantasy world farmer or even artisan are likely to see in their entire life, means that money is rarely an issue to any group.

    On the other hand I think that hobby shop random groups could see the benefit of the ‘accounting’ style, but then again if its a random group, then why care who gets what?


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  1. […] column, providing a Player perspective to my DM’s viewpoint.” Today we’re rebutting his article about treasure division. Specifically whether our group should do an Organic Method where PCs are just given what gear they […]

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