Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A Tedious Update with Further Thoughts on Treasure

Since my previous post on the subject, I've been giving quite a lot of thought to the subject of assigning treasure in D&D. This is primarily motivated by the planned restart of the "Eberron Code" campaign. (I'm projecting a mid-May restart, but that remains an aspiration rather than a certainty. For the time being, my horizon remains the 12th of April, so I'm not really in a position to be making many plans beyond then.)

Anyway, I thought it might be useful to run through an actual example of what I discussed last time, and also to address some of the magic item types in more detail.

The second part of "The Eberron Code" begins with the PCs at 6th level, and heading for 7th (of course). According to the "Wealth per Level" table, at 6th level they should have approximately 13,000 gp of equipment each, and at 7th they should have approximately 19,000. Having looked at the character sheets, this is reasonably accurate, although the current group are a little heavy of not-quite-ideal magic weapons.

Given that there are six PCs, this means that the step from 6th to 7th level should see them gain about 36,000 gold pieces worth of equipment. Note that that is equipment, not treasure - if they are given a huge pile of gold but have no opportunity to spend it, then it doesn't count.

As discussed in my previous post, I'm inclined to think that a good balance is about one-third 'valuables' to two-thirds 'magic'. As such, in the first few sessions, they should have opportunities to find roughly 12,000 gold pieces worth of valuables (some gold or platinum, but with an emphasis on historical artifacts, artworks, jewellery, and the like). I have several ideas for how this should be placed, which is quite nice... and I'm not going to recount them here - sorry Brindy!

As further discussed in the earlier post, I'm going to multiply that remaining 24,000 by a factor of 5, this representing the resale value of any magic items that the group decide to get rid of. (I also expect them to expend a significant amount of the magic found - potions, scrolls and wands are there to be used, after all!) So, that should be roughly 120,000 gold pieces of magical treasure, that should be stuff that they can use... but probably not stuff that they would choose for themselves.

But... how to then assign the treasure?

Well, D&D helpfully places magic items into categories, so...
  • Weapons: As discussed, the group is currently rather heavy on magic weapons, including examples of the holy quality and the bane vs evil outsiders that I noted were probably the most powerful in the game. That being the case, I'm going to avoid magic weapons for the time being. Longer-term, I'm inclined to think that magic weapons should be constructed with three guidelines in place. Firstly, the PCs should never find a 'simple' +N weapon - there should always be some sort of special quality attached to the weapon. Secondly, the 'plus' on the weapon should roughly match the 'virtual plus' attached to those special qualities - a holy weapon should also be a +2 weapon, for example. Finally, the special qualities should avoid the obvious 'power' choices. So, no flaming or equivalent (though flaming burst and the like are fine), no holy (though axiomatic and the like are fine), and no bane vs evil outsiders (although any others are fine). Of course, any of the 'special' weapons are fine, as are pretty much any of the traits from other supplements.
  • Armour and Shields: Armour and shields are somewhat simpler than weapons, in that the 'power' option is usually just to maximise the flat 'plus'. In general, there's an especially desirable armour in each category (that is, studded leather or mithral shirts, elven chain, or full plate; oh, and heavy shields over light of course). So, the same guidelines apply about giving special qualities as well as a flat plus, and balancing the qualities with the plus. The only qualities to avoid are the animated shield and mithral shirts that give bonuses to Hide or Move Silently skills. Everything else is fair game.
  • Potions: Potions should generally be awarded as treasure only at very low levels, so don't really apply to this campaign. When placing a potion, absolutely anything is fine except healing potions. Because potions are one-use items, they can be considered 'safe' treasure to give out - they won't unbalance your game.
  • Scrolls: Scrolls are much like potions, in that as one-use items they won't unbalance the game. In general, scrolls placed as treasure should always be of a level higher than the party spellcasters can already cast, or should be arcane spells that the Wizard (or Bard) doesn't know. Placing a scroll of fireball when the party Wizard already casts that spell routinely is something of a waste.
  • Wands: Wands are limited-use items, and so are fairly safe, but not entirely (as 50 uses can last a long time!). As with scrolls, wands should usually be more powerful than the spellcasters can already manage, or should be of spells that they don't know. And, when placing treasure, avoid healing wands at all costs!
  • Rings: Any ring, except the ring of protection can be placed as treasure. As these are very valuable, but tend to give a lousy return on investment, they make for ideal magical treasure.
  • Rods and staffs: Any of these can be placed. As with rings, they make for ideal treasures, being both expensive and giving a lousy return on investment.
  • Wondrous Items: I'm not a fan of the Craft Wondrous Item feat, because it allows access to an absurdly wide set of items, but as placed treasure these are generally great. There are only a small list of particular items to avoid: those giving stat boosts, those giving skill boosts, and the amulet of natural armour. Almost anything else is fair game.
  • Psionic Items: The psionic items fall into slightly different categories, but these are generally just the magic item categories by another name. In each case, the same guidelines tend to apply, although as psionic items are more exotic simply by virtue of being psionic, there tends to be less of an issue in their placement.
  • Custom items and artifacts: It should go without saying, but these can always be placed freely!

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