Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Monster Treasure Tables : To Use or Not to Use

I have to say I don't have much use for them. I like them for the general idea of what kind of treasure value a monster should have, but I've always stayed away from the rolling dice to determine what the critter has stashed in its nest or stuffed in its pockets.

Last few days without a computer I've been unable to work on my one adventure so I started writing a new one. This one I am writing without a map first (which I will go into in another blog). The one area is populated by a tribe of goblins and the goblins have in their possession a intelligent, lawfal good dagger. The leader of tribe can't use, knows its powerful so they put in on an altar and worship it. In my world goblins are not only scavangers of things, but also of religion and culture, they just sorta pick up things along the way.

It added a nice flavor to the adventure I wouldn't have if I followed the treasure tables. I'm curious how much people adhere to the treasure types for monsters. These new adventures I am creating for OSRIC and S&W and soon LL when I shell out the dough for the books, I haven't been as stingy with the magic items as I used to be. So I don't want to have to roll a 5% or less to give a critter a little something cool in their pockets.

So today's question is, how many of you use the the treasure tables? Or better yet, how do you use the treasure tables for monsters?


  1. Well, just like yourself, I use them as a guide, but because I work backwards when writing adventures, I tend to think how much XP I want the whole dungeon to be worth (if the party do everything right) and then divvy that number up between monsters and treasure (usually along the established lines of 75/25) which numerically prescribes what is going to be in the shiny stuff pile.

    So, proportionally, the tables can give hints as to how much each monster should have in relation to other monsters, rather than a numerical absolute.

    Word verification - hostria, where parasites go on holiday.

  2. I usually stick to the treasure tables but might exchange a magic item or two. I feel challenged to make sense of the random results I'm getting and thereby manage to surprise myself. I like that aspect of random rolls.

  3. @DG> Hmm never tried building an adventure that way. So do you start with a pool of xp then just place critters in there that fits the xp budget. Kind of interesting. I'm going to have to try that.

    @Alex> I can appreciate the randomness and being surprised. But I guess I find myself more surprised by not rolling. Random things pop into my head and I wonder if I can get it to make sense. And I'm finding not having a map drawn before hand quite freeing.

  4. Here are some possibilities:

    1: You could make sure GP was balanced against monster XP. Whether you do this because they can trade GP for XP by squandering it, or just by seizing it, or whether they have high training costs and need lots of money for that.

    Monsters should not all have loot. If you care about making sure everything is perfect and even with XP from monsters, then you should shift the GP from monsters who don't collect it toward the monsters who do.

    2: It's okay to roll, because in the long run things will even out. If you're worried about the short term (whether giving too much or too little) figure out the average based on the roll and give that to the monster.

    Example: 1d6 x 1000 CP, 50% chance. That's 3.5 x 1000 = 3,500 CP, x50%, so 1,750 CP.

    3: Note that the given amount is not per monster, but based on a full encounter. But because you roll the encounter number too, it's viable to say that the upper bound has the full possible treasure and the lower bound has the minimum. From there a lot of simple math will let you arrive at a per-monster amount.

    Downside: each monster species has an individual treasure type that doesn't agree with more than one or two others in the whole world.

    4: They should quickly learn that stupid monsters aren't worth fighting most of the time because they don't keep treasure in their lairs, and that wandering monsters will carry absolutely nothing and so are never worth fighting. Except high level or very intelligent creatures who carry the magic items they can use and intend to use.

    A: However you figure out per-monster treasure, you can spread it around more than that. A monster who doesn't collect treaure may have some incidentally nearby. There may be a hidden forgotten hoard that the DM takes from some other monster. A very large hoard can be amassed in one place by taking pieces from nearby hoards.

    Downside: There may be lots of fighting, then when one player is absent comes the "payday".

    B: You can swap around the contents of the hoard. An inappropriate magic item (a Salamander with a scroll) can be exchanged for money instead. Or money could be swapped up for some gems or jewelry or an art object. There should be lots of old weapons lying around, so "buy" those out of the hoards of nearby monsters.

  5. I'll have to keep this brief since it is quite an involved process. What I did, once I'd worked out what level I was aiming the dungeon at was to take the rule, used by some that it should take the party as many adventures to advance as the number of the next level, so two adventures to get to 2nd, five adventures to get to 5th, etc. Then I worked out the average xp required to get from let's say 4th to 5th level (the four core classes F, MU, Th, Cl ) and divided that by five, so that for a fourth level party, fully completing the dungeon with all its monsters and treasure should take it a fifth of the way to the next level.

    Once I had that number, I multiplied it by the size of party I anticipated doing the dungeon, in this case six.

    Now I had a total XP pool that was on offer if, as I've already mentioned, the party made all the right moves and cleared it out. Using the 75/25 rule, or some other pleasing ratio, I could work out how many XP worth of monsters needed to be in the adventure and how much treasure I should put in to be found if the party really tried (and, on occasion, got lucky)

    I'm not wholly sure whether to put magic items into the monster XP or the treasure XP; yes, they are technically treasure but they are one-off items that don't immediately yield benefits (i.e they have to be identified first and perhaps a key word discovered to activate them) so they are probably closer to extended inanimate encounters rather than just a sack of gold; in fact they could be used as adventure hooks in themselves (quest to find the trigger word, historical research, trying to shake off that pesky undead guardian).

    I should stress that the above is a guideline and not hard and fast, and subject to alteration for the sake of the adventure. Nevertheless, it's a starting point, and for me works better than flicking through the MM and saying "Ooh, that looks like a good monster, let's put it in"; although that does happen with my wilderness wandering monster tables.

    And that's the brief version. You want the one with the maths?

  6. Thanks for explaining. The thanks, your explination was more in my line of understanding. You start throwing math into the mix and I glaze over. I am going to try your method.

  7. I sometimes roll, using a table, but I often toss out the result. Or I'll just look at the table and say, "One of these, two of those, and none of them thingies." More often than not, I'll just grab a handful of dice and roll to determine the amount of gold. For planned encounters, I pretty much always plan the treasure as well. I can only think of one time this past year where I just rolled dice, using the treasure table and used the results. It did create some entertaining results as the party found that the ogres had a broach, a tiara, an earring, and another piece of jewelry. They decided the ogres must have won a beauty contest of some sort.