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Tales From the Other Side of the Screen #6: Splittin’ Headache

Written by MythicParty - Published on May 6, 2013

Tales From the Other Side of the Screen’ is a weekly response to Darkwarren’s DM Dispatches 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 can best utilize since helping one person helps everyone or instead do Book keeping recording sales which lets players take evenly split gold to then go buy exactly what they want.

Splitting treasure is often a great way to end a gaming session.  The bad guys have been defeated & now its time to taste the fruits of victory- from magic items that let you do cool things to GP that allows you to go buy magic items to jewelry/gems/tapestries that you can sell for GP to then go buy magic items.  Fun times.  However occasionally, like deciding what movie to watch, you all just don’t agree.  And at the risk of ‘throwing another hissy fit’ I don’t think handing out stuff that we happen to come across works in most situations.

Let’s start with the premise treasure division should always be based on roleplaying the character; & how would that individual want the treasure/rewards to be shared.  In addition to any traits, & overall personality, alignment is a big consideration. A Chaotic character would not share treasure the same way a Lawful character would, just as an Evil character would not share it the way a Good character would.  Because no two characters are the same, each could (or to me, should) have different ideas on how to split spoils. i.e. the current party of misfits in our Runelords Adventure Path is pretty much the opposite of the homogenous band of Dwarves establishing a kingdom in the Kingmaker AP.  So while its not very realistic to say that a random bunch of different strangers with completely different goals would decide to do things the same way nationalistic stunties did, the Organic Method is what both campaigns are doing.

I don’t think its just clerics of Abadar or even Lawful Neutral PCs who’d want some basic record keeping when it comes to tracking treasure. At the very least, True Neutral would also seem to apply as well, if only for the balance aspect. A case could be made for LG & NG heroes as well. But then there are those characters with a mercantile background or an interest in business- they would also favor a split via a record. Then there are those characters who simply believe that they should be paid what they have earned, whether they are soldiers, sailors, or alchemists. And finally, some PCs simply hold to ‘fair is fair.’

The practical argument is that certain classes will have a much easier time finding equipment that they can use than others. For example, there’s probably not going to be any magic bullets, guns, or gunpowder written into the adventure, meaning that the guy that uses these items is always going to have to be buying them at full price. Meanwhile our Half-Elven Rogue will much more easily be able to find enchanted rapiers or ensorceled studded leather armor.  Meanwhile the Half-Orc cleric may indeed one day come across a magical whip, but a magic longsword for the party’s fighter is much, much more likely to happen.  Since the game is designed around math, there is a fixed amount of treasure written into the adventure. If 1 character is getting stuff for free, thats an unfair situation for the character who has to guy out & buy their stuff at full price because the ‘pool’ is finite.

The most balanced way to do things is to let people who want some treasure to buy that treasure at 50% of what it cost of their own share. So the Rogue could get Masterwork Thieves tools at 50gp, but then doesn’t get as much gold from the pile. The others meanwhile can use the extra bit of remaining gold to buy what they need but that wasn’t what the writers included.  But that’s a tale from the other side of the screen- what do YOU think?  How does your gaming group divvy up the loot?



Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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4 Responses to “Tales From the Other Side of the Screen #6: Splittin’ Headache”
  1. MythicParty says:

    BTW, here are several dozen methods other than Organic or bookeeping:

    They all have their +’s & their -’s (some more so than others) but the point mainly is to show just how many different possible ways there are to divvy up loot.

  2. Mike says:

    As my group’s usual DM, I have another way to make organic treasure more fair to the more ‘exotic’ type of character. If you ever watch Pawn Stars, you’ll hear the part from Rick about ‘that’s not a high demand item so it’ll sit in the shop for a long time taking up space, so it’s not worth as much as its list price’.

    Taking that into account, I tend to use memorable NPC ‘pawn shop’ owners who just happen to have a magic whip or a magic gun or whatever, but it’s been sitting there for ages and nobody’s been interested… “So I’ll trade you even for that longsword, since that’ll be out the door today at a profit.”

    This method not only gets everyone the gear they need to stay balanced, but it gives them an NPC contact (or several in different towns) that they might actually care about (plot hooks for later, anyone?)

  3. francesco says:

    I usually give at least one player-tailored item when handling out treasures, and make sure they know it is targeted to a specific player (well, they have pretty much all unique different builds, so it is kind of easy…).
    Random treasure is fun, but it may unbalance the party unless you’re willing to fudge some rolls

  4. Liselle says:

    Since I’ve been playing 4E, this hasn’t really been a problem. I choose magic items tailored to the group, trying to keep things balanced. Then I throw in a few potions or alchemical items that they can divide up as they choose (the heavy fighters are most likely to be assigned healing potions). Maybe the magic user will find a book with some rituals in it. Finally, there’s the coins and gems, which the party members divide up evenly. When they get back to town, if they all agree on a group item, they might pool their resources to purchase it.

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