2018-12-28 Treasure Type

I’ve been adding more treasure to Hex Describe and once again I’m thinking about adding treasure types. Remember those cryptic treasure types in the D&D monster manuals? A lot has been written about them and what they might mean. Perhaps it’s time to start my own categorisation of treasure. I’ve been thinking about adding the following chapter to Halberds and Helmets. It lists the various treasure types, provides a very short summary of what it stands for and what it might likely contain, and most importantly, it lists which entries in my monster chapter are part of it.

What I’m still lacking:

  1. the exact compositions of these hoards (stuff like “Older chimeras often have amassed quite some wealth, for they they do not only prey on those who wish to enter but also on those who wish to leave the netherworld. 50% for 1d8×1000 sp, 50% for 1d8×1000 gp, 20% for 1d6×100 pp, 30% for 3d6 gems, 20% for 1d6 jewelry, 20% for a magic item.)
  2. example hoards (but these should be easy to add, now)
  3. average values of these hoards

What I’m noticing is that I’m assigning treasure types without considering the danger these creatures post. I’m hoping that the special abilities they have, or their numbers, make all of this “reasonable” and that none of these turn out to be “easy picking.”


Remember, “Treasure is Experience.” When a big chunk of XP is provided via treasure, fighting turns into a strategic decision: when is it worth to risk a fight? And it makes alternative approaches more rewarding: tricking a dragon makes more sense than fighting it.

Providing enough treasure is important for the party to gain levels. How quickly should the party gain levels? It’s hard to provide good numbers. If your players are frustrated, you might need to add more treasure. I like to run a campaign for fifty sessions or more. Assuming the campaign ends with characters on level ten, that means it took them about five sessions per level. Instead of handing out more treasure than provided for in these tables, consider providing more treasure in a different form:

  1. stealing a ship that is worth 50,000gp would provide as much XP when it is lost (given away, sunk, stolen)
  2. conquering a well maintained keep worth 75,000gp would provide as much XP when it is lost (given away, lost in a siege)

This sort of treasure isn’t listed in the treasure tables below!

If treasure isn’t parceled out in small chunks and isn’t gained in regular intervals, but found rarely and in big chunks, then it works a bit like a slot machine: the reward is rare and hard to predict and thus players might feel a strong urge to be there for every session, and such large hoards become part of the oral tradition of the campaign as players keep talking about it.

(When such design patterns are abused, they are addictive. Signs of addiction are the inability to stop even though you want to, abandoning friends and family, the inability to maintain normal social ties. All of this isn’t true when you’re simply playing in a regular role-playing group so I wouldn’t worry about it.)

This is why treasure is defined in terms of probabilities: you roll for it. Players might get a lot of treasure, but they might also get nothing at all. Beating a dragon is not a guarantee of a rich reward. Players need to determine whether the particular dragon they are targeting does in fact have a big hoard. If it doesn’t, I hope the players are at least doing it for the right reasons and not for material gain and personal advancement. This encourages players to look gather information and to scout, both of which make the game more interesting and the decision to risk a fight a strategic one.

The following monsters have unique treasures:

Dragons: They actively seek out treasure, destroying settlements of others and looting them. And their servants bring them gifts. They have everything.

Dwarves: They actively seek out treasure, digging deep and plundering as they go. They also have everything.

Golem: Within their bodies, gems can be found.

Pixies: They have but a tiny pot of gold.

Unicorn: It’s horn and it’s hair is valuable.

All the other monsters are assigned a treasure type.

Treasure Types

None: Some creatures don’t have a fixed lair and don’t collect shiny baubles (bear, giant bee, giant beetle, boar, giant cat, giant centipede, giant crab, crocodile, elephant, giant fish, giant goat, hell hound, horse, ifrit, jinni, invisible stalker, jinni, giant lizard, marid, pegasus, giant scorpion, sea serpent, shark, skeleton, giant snake, giant squid, giant toad, giant weasel, wolf, giant worm, zombie). They have no treasure.

Poor: Intelligent creatures that live in ruins, finding the things others have left behind (giant apes, doppelgänger, frogling, gargoyle, goblin, gnoll, kappa, lycanthrope, myconid, nixie, giant spider, treant). These have very little treasure.

Baubles: Creatures that collect only gems (gnome, swamp crane).

Humanoids: Creatures that live in settlements (halfling, human, lizard people). These have a lot of silver and gold coins and a lot of magic items, but few platinum coins, gems and jewelry.

Rich: Creatures that get presents from others (centaurs, giants, rakshasa, vampire). They have a lot of coin but also gems, jewelry and magic items.

Ancients: Creatures that live underground, plundering the riches of ancient empires, or remnants of ancient empires (elf, spectre). These have magic items and platinum coins.

Robbers: Creatures that rob merchants and travellers (ettin, hobgoblin, manticore, minotaur, ogre, orc, troll). They tend to have a lot of silver and gold coins, and some gems, but few magic items and no platinum coins.

Scouts: Creatures travelling in small groups, perhaps in the service of others (bugbear, tengu). These may have some magic items and some platinum coins, but very little else.

Terrors: Creatures with magical powers cursing the land (basilisk, chimera, gorgon, harpy, hydra, medusa, naga, salamander, shadow). These treasures have a lot of magic items because of all the failed heroes that tried to kill them.

The Dead: The graves yield what people bury with their dead, mostly coins and jewelry (creeper, ghouls, mummy, wight, wraith).

Continued: 2019-01-01 Treasure Type Again.



I tried to add this chapter to the book, and move the treasure specification from the dragon treasure there. But as a user of the book, that seems to lead to more leafing around. Better to keep things as they are. I can still use treasure types in the background, and I can still use this text. But I don’t want to tell the referee who just read up on elves that they can roll up their treasure by turning to “Treasure of the Ancients” table.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-12-29 21:39 UTC

And I half remembered seeing an analysis of the AD&D treasure types before and now I found it again: Rob Conley had it on his blog in 2012. Part 1 and Part 2.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-12-30 10:00 UTC

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