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Rolling for treasure: keep the players guessing

Written by Expy - Published on July 18, 2007

I wrote recently that I like to keep the dice rolling to a minimum in my game. I forgot to mention that one thing I almost always roll for is treasure. Why is rolling for a random reward so great?

The players love it

It’s not much work for me and my players love it. They know that if they enter that cavern and slay the dragon – if being the key word – their treasure will not be limited to what the DM has planned or is willing to allow. It’s all random! Of course, there is some censorship – a party slaying a naked goblin in a desert won’t leave that encounter with a vast treasure, even if they’re insanely lucky on their dice rolls!

It keeps the players guessing

Anything can happen. By rolling for treasure, the players can find a powerful artifact. But what happens when they roll for a random encounter? They have to believe that I’ll take whatever’s on my encounter list!

It triggers adventures

A powerful magic item always comes from somewhere. It was made by someone. Now the characters have that item in their possession and the righful owner is about to track them down. Or let’s say that I would like to direct the characters to a certain area of the world they adventure in, but the players missed the hint or clue that would lead them where I want them. A randomly found item can be the missing link. They investigate the item’s powers but only find where it’s from. Or something like that?

What if you later realize that there are too many magical items in the game?

The PCs can become very powerful with too many magic items. It can throw off the balance of the game. What are you going to do?

I’ve tried finding sly ways to rid the players of their cumbersome powerful artifacts. They didn’t like it. So I decided that if the item is too powerful for a party, I’ll just have to make the party stronger. If the party gains a few levels, the relative usefulness of the magic item diminishes. The monsters they encounter can also be more challenging.

And the players will love it.

What about you?

What’s your take on handling treasure and magic items?

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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7 Responses to “Rolling for treasure: keep the players guessing”
  1. Gryphon says:

    I am very stingy with Magic items

    I give out PC specific items tailored for them specifically…without them knowing of course…they just happen to be there. Many do get sold cause I am not right.

    But I am playing in a game now where the GM just screwed up and let us build our own items….and we are supposed to be in a low magic world.

    As an inividual I believe we are at least at a +2 CR as a result….Plus we are even more exotic than that there are too many of us with Adamantine weapons now…ie 2 out of 5.

  2. Yax says:

    I would say playing in low-level magic campaign would be a good reason to be stingy on magic items. Maybe the item creation feats could be harder to acquire or the items more difficult to create.

  3. SavageWhitey says:

    I have always went for the random rolls for treasure (encounters, monsters, etc.) because …. well its random. Finding tailor made magic is just to unbelievable to me, yes in a fantasy rpg =P. Random stuff happens, and i roll with it.

  4. Dangimill says:

    I love doing this too. It always interests my players when I find that the goblins swimming through the swam naked are carrying a full plate armor, although it’s hard for my players to realize that the loot isn’t actually theirs until they kill the monster(s), and get quite annoyed when the monsters use up any of the loot.

  5. "James Carter" says:

    There’s a way to “have your cake and eat it too.” Make custom tables. I mean if you’re going to be at least (quasi) realistic, what would a bunch of kobolds or other low level monsters be doing with a +5 flaming, holy smite weapon (even if it has to be identified and/or you have to go on an adventure in order to unlock all its powers) Wouldn’t such monsters be defeated by such a thing?


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