I have never liked designing or generating treasure. I just… don’t.
And that’s a shame because it’s supposed to be one of those things that compels players to uh, explore and stuff. I mean, as a player, I want to find treasure. I can think of two times in my campaigns where treasure didn’t suck:
In Praise of Stone, the first full-length 4e campaign I hosted, I started just handing out treasure about halfway through the campaign. I was tired of trying to place it or make excuses, so what I did was find the requisite 4-5 magic items of appropriate levels through the DDI Compendium, and I printed a copy.
At the end of a game session in which the party leveled, I held a sheaf of papers face down, and had each player take one. Everyone got to read about one of the magic items found, and they got to discuss who should receive what.
It wasn’t ideal, but it seemed to work. And I didn’t… totally hate it.
The other time I could think of was in my campaign Mediterranean Plotluck. The party (finally) fought its way into the dungeon I’d been dangling in front of their faces for weeks, and described a big pile of loot.
In that case, I just created a flavorful description of the booty in the room, and only one item actually had a predetermined effect: a mirror of life-trapping which was to serve as the transition to the next story arc in the campaign.
I didn’t bother coming up with effects for the individual pieces of loot until each player selected one — and then I just made up their effects on the spot based on what I knew about the player and any stated expectations.
That’s it. That’s the best I have.
In over ten years I’ve run a great number of encounters, told some fun stories, had some great battles — but only two good treasure experiences. Well, really one good one and another that didn’t completely suck.
Well, I’ve created a couple “character pools” now, and I really enjoy the experience. I like being able to generate thirty characters in less than an hour, and I like being able to derive information from. Six. Rolled. Scores.
Is it so strange? I’ve been developing generators for dungeons, factions, and adventures that use score systems like characters — it seems to me like I could contrive something for treasure hoards. But where to start?
The first thoughts I had were about “what” might constitute a treasure; I mean, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” can certainly apply. But should it?
I figure what I’ll do to start is come up with a set of scores — I even have some in mind (Coins, Gems, Jewelry, Artwork, Potions, and Magic), and then try to come up with some “classes” of treasure.
My investigations of different editions of D&D have given me some insights into how “classes” of things can be made to span a broader range of well, things than they technically represent. But that’s for another blog post.