Rules Sketch: Stocking and creating treasure

If you’re walking in on the middle of the Advanced Fantasy Dungeons series, there’s an index here.

Treasure in second edition is a ridiculously complicated affair. Each creature is assigned a treasure type such as D, M x 100, or Q x 10. Major treasures are in a lair (A-I) minor treasures are on the creatures person (J-Z). Within each treasure type there is a percentage chance that each type of item (coins, gems, art objects, magical items) will appear, and you roll against them. Then, if they appear (apart from for coins, which appears directly on the treasure type table), you generate what they actually are on one of 32 gems, art objects, or magical items tables.

The complexity of Treasure Type A-E, H or Z are impossible to replicate without the deep network of nested tables, but I’d estimate at 20 rolls, more than that if the magic items you roll are complex. Treasure Types J-P are simplest at 1-4 rolls. It’s a significant variation in complexity, but also in time – I don’t want to spend that much time generating a dragon hoard. There’s a clear simplicity curve, with table H at the top, A through I and Z beneath it, and J through Y in roughly that order.

I see only two solutions. The first is to refer to the original second edition treasure table (not my preference, as I want to be able to play modules straight from the book as much as possible). The second is to create a less random, but more streamlined subtable for each treasure type, perhaps one d4 roll for the simple types, but a d666 roll for the more complex treasure types. I think the second is what I’ll go with, but maybe I won’t prioritise it for the alpha.

I want to provide some guidance, though, for adding interest and story to treasure. There is no guidance in the DMG except to do it. I like to add broad strokes descriptors to cultures commonly found in hordes. Describe the coins, a few descriptions of the style and material of common items, how their weapons are unique, and how their potions work.

Elanren Empire: Platinum coins, describe as asymmetrical items made of mithral, crystal or force, freezing, lightning, or shining blades, potions are needles encased in crystal, to be injected.

Then I can just describe the horde as a mix of Elanren and Gedwymm treasure. But it doesn’t give me specific stories. For that, we need a story table, inspired by the ones Ty wrote here, but instead of creating items, I want to take the items we have generated on the treasure type table and add a story to them.

We start with an Origin already, for example Elanren. Then we add a theme and twist to the magic item or art object. You could use a master table, but my gut would be write one for each culture, but only use 6 of each. You could also use this structure for a specific, for example, arcanist who made all the items in her tower.

So our rule:

For each origin — typically culture, organisation, or individual — that might have artefacts or items in the hoard or treasure:

Coins are:

d3 Aesthetic and materials:

d3 Weapon effects:

Potions and scrolls are unique how:

d12 themes:

For each item, roll on the lists or modify the description appropriately.

A theme can be anything: Barricade, Ally, Animal, Light, Places, Enemy, Self, Vegetation, Civilization, Dark, Ruler, Body, Servant, Wilderness, Emotion, Monster, Soul, People, Element, Pathways, Requires sacrifice, Invert, Secretive origin, Specific owner, Subtle, Repurposed, Ugly, Purify the origin, Unease, Precious Metals, Corrupt, Tell a story, Corrupt the origin, Natural materials, Heavy, Recognizable, Purify, Protect, Past, Copy, Create, Exploit, Grow, Strengthen, Curse, Heal, Reveal, Weaken, Harm, Mutate, Destroy, Future, Solitude, Trick, Harvest, Hide, Commune, Isolate, Pride, Displacement, Fate, Betrayal, Empowerment, Communication, Faith, Order, Rebellion, War, Vanity, Beauty, Chaos, Control, Change, Youth, Love, Dreams, Glory.

Themes are stolen directly from Ty! I’ve simplified a fair bit from the original punnet square and three lists structure.

This has been a part of the Advanced Fantasy Dungeon Series! Let me know your thoughts on Treasure!

Idle Cartulary

15th June 2022


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