Recently, David McGrogan asked for our favorite treasure tables on Google+. I said that I didn’t care for any particular one. I just use the official ones. For me, the most important aspect of using treasure tables is that there is no choice involved. Just roll. It’s like discovering the world by rolling on the table, it’s about being surprised even if you’re the referee of the game, it helps me suspend disbelief. The mechanics make sure that I’m not thinking of it as a figment of my imagination. It feels like a real thing. It’s like learning about object permanence as a toddler. You close your eyes, and you open them again, and the objects are still there. No amount of wishing, crying, pulling, pushing or punching changes this. Rolling the dice makes sure that my wishing has no effect on the outcome. I might embelish this or that, but if a deck of many things comes up, then that’s what you’ll find. If something boring comes up, I might change it. A sword +1 might get changed to an elven sword of a particular elven house. Or it might belong to a set. Or it might have a minor magic effects.
Treasure tables act a bit like random encounter tables. They are also part of the implied setting. You’ll find a lot of potions, scrolls and magic swords because that’s what this is all about.
This also explains why I hate treasure schemes that pull away the curtain and say things like you choose or you should always place or anything else that implies that the treasure found might be simply a figment of my imagination.
This initial impression grows stronger as the dice rolling slowly turns into a ritual. I do it every time when I prepare a session.
I still dole out quests involving particular items which are not rolled on the random treasure charts, of course. But these adventure seeds, these plot relevant items, they are a different thing.
Anyway. Random treasure. No choosing.