Monday, November 7, 2016

Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover: Treasure

The section on treasure starts out with a bit of description of what treasure is, and its purpose in the game. That purpose, of course, is to help characters go up in level, as the value of the treasure determines how many experience points it is worth. There are a few interesting notes in this preamble:

It mentions what to do with treasure, including better gear, hiring retainers, and buying spellcasting or other services from NPCs. Interesting that it leaves out the end-game goal of eventually building a stronghold. Maybe Frank is including that in "better equipment" (p. 40)?

Magic items (contrary to AD&D), are explicitly stated as not being worth XP. The value of magic items is in what they can do for you.

Payment for services rendered, or rewards for service, are counted as treasure (and hence worth XP).

"The DM should always determine the contents of a large treasure hoard before play, to decide how best to hide and protect the treasure from theft" (p. 40, emphasis in original). I'm not sure how much time Gygax spent in the AD&D DMG discussing how to hide/conceal treasure, but Frank gives us just a few lines like this (and one or two more later). While these days I can appreciate the concise nature of the advice, it pretty much passed me by early on. Treasure was sometimes in a chest, but often just piled on the floor in dungeons in my early (and even many later) games. Again, I think this was some video game influence, where treasure just appears after defeating the enemy, and you can just pick it up. I think a bit more about concealing treasure would have benefited my games more when I was young.

And finally, we get another note that monsters that can use magic items probably should! This of course, means that potions and scrolls may become rarer finds, as monsters are more likely to use them on the PCs!

Random Treasures
This section gives us a four-step process to determine treasures randomly. First, find the monster's treasure type in the monster list. Second, roll percentage dice for each type listed on that line of the table. Third, find the amount of each type present. Finally, roll for any magic items on the magic item tables, if any are present.

Fairly simple, and easy to understand. The section has another note about how to convert the number ranges to dice notation, to see which dice to roll. I think this is a good place for that reminder, as fledgling DMs are more likely to need reminders right here, when rolling for treasure, than in other places, and who wants to flip way back to the front of the book, or consult the Players Guide for this info when rolling up treasure?

Placed Treasures
Of course, rolling dice is fun, so I like to roll randomly first and see what I get, but I do often revert to simply deciding on the treasure present for many encounters or lairs (or at least partially so, I'm more likely to overrule the percent chances of treasure being present or not, and accept the amounts I roll).

Frank warns us here that it's OK to adjust the values up or down as needed, and to keep in mind that 3/4 or more of all XP is from treasure, not monsters defeated.

Then he tells us that as DMs get more experienced, they may just decide how much XP they want to give out, and decide on the treasure in that way. Of course, this is assuming the players will discover all the treasure (but if it's just scattered across the floor rather than well hidden...). What's most interesting about this is that it's in a way predicting the "XP Budgets" and "treasure parcels" of 4E, two areas where old schoolers tend to reject in that edition. While it's just a suggestion here, it was the standard rule there, which may be why many rejected it. Anyway, Frank ends this section by reminding the DM to "force the characters to earn their treasure!" (p. 40).

Adjusting Treasure
Of course, treasure found should be matched by the size of the lair. A hand-full of orcs shouldn't have a massive treasure, while a village of several hundred (plus maybe an ogre or troll) should definitely have a good sized treasure.

Interestingly, there's a note that if the number appearing is specifically 1-4, don't adjust treasure even if there's only one creature in the lair. This is obviously a reference to dragons, who all have an NA of 1-4 for both dungeons and wilderness encounters. But that would also apply to some bears, great cats, carrion crawlers (if you remember my analysis of that monster, though, this makes sense), some giant lizards, some lycanthropes, medusa, owl bears, giant rattlesnakes (two attacks plus poison and low treasure justifies this one), and some of the slime/ooze types (if they have treasure). It might have been better to just say, hey, single dragons are tough, and worth their full lair treasure.

While it doesn't inform the DM to divide the treasure by the percentages of the maximum number appearing present, it does tell us that in general, smaller lair numbers means smaller treasures. Which makes sense.

Other Treasure Types
This is something that the introductory adventure at the beginning of the book did well - show the DM that treasure doesn't need to only be coins (or gems and jewelry). In it, there are hat pins, plates and silverware, and a few other non-standard treasures. I never paid much attention to this section, though, until I got the Companion Set years later. It had much more detailed lists for making interesting treasures. These days, I love to add in tapestries, books, kegs of spices, letters of credit or deeds, and other valuables besides just coins. It's more fun that way.

Average Treasure Values
This is really handy - a table with the average amount of money each treasure type can produce. As the book says, after random rolling, or if deciding to place treasure, it gives you a good idea of how much the treasure may need adjusting. I've tried replicating the math (for Chanbara), and maybe I'm doing the calculations wrong, but I get some odd numbers when I try to multiply the average amounts by the percentages of treasure being present and adding the values together. I suspect it's the gems that mess up my calculations, but it's not a big enough deal for me to have to worry about finding the discrepancies between my method and however Frank calculated them.

Treasure Type H (dragon treasure) is of course the largest, with an average value of 60k. Treasure Type M, however, is similar with an average of 50k. There aren't any creatures in Basic with TT M, however. I'll have to go through my books sometime (or the RC, it's got them all together) to see what creature has TT M (if any).

Anyway, the lowest average value for a lair treasure is TT J at a whopping 25 gp. And who gets that? Kobolds. Yeah, they're really not worth the effort. Orcs or goblins have similar numbers in their lairs, and aren't THAT much harder to beat than kobolds. Orcs get TT D, average 4k, while goblins get TT C, average 750gp. You know what, take on the orcs. The risk/reward is best.

OK, here's the thing lots of people get hung up on. Coins in D&D weigh 1/10 of a pound. No, it's not realistic, but then D&D isn't a simulation, it's a game of risk/reward, and managing your encumbrance to maximize rewards and minimize risks is part of the game. Making treasure hard to carry makes players more likely to take risks rather than just spend every adventure trying to clear out weak monsters for piddly (but safe) treasures.

Anyway, we get an explanation that electrum is an alloy of gold and silver, and the coin exchange rates.

We've got a chart to roll for gems, with a percentage roll to determine the value, with a few examples of gems of each value. If only giving the players the names of the gems, they should be able to get them appraised in town. Frank suggests a fee of between 1-5% of the value of the gem for the appraisal.

Next, we get an optional rule, about combining or splitting the value rolled into different types/values of gems. I'm not sure why this is listed as an optional rule, instead of just a suggestion, since doing so has no effect on the value of the gems, and really only affects players as they try to divvy up treasures found.

Unlike gems, which have a flat distribution of values, jewelry values are on a curve, found by rolling 3d6 and multiplying the value by 100gp. This gives us an average value of about 1000gp per piece of jewelry. There's a table with some examples of different types of jewelry for different value ranges (and again, the Companion Set has much more detailed tables, but for early games, this was definitely sufficient).

There's also the rule about damaging jewelry. Fire, lightning, crushing, etc. can damage jewelry, reducing its value by half. I rarely remember this rule. If the PCs get hit by a fireball, or fall 20' or whatever, I should have them check to see if any jewelry they are carrying is damaged, but usually forget. Since jewelry is one of the best values for the encumbrance, I should really track this more often.

And again, we've got a section (not listed as an optional rule) about combining types of jewelry, and even combining gems and jewelry if they're found together.

Group Treasure Types Table
Type A: Bandits and Troglodytes have this type (and I think most human groups in Expert, like pirates, dervishes, etc. also get A). It's a nice sized hoard, the fourth largest with an average 17k gold, and with chances for all coin types, plus 50% chance of both gems and jewelry (6d6 worth of either!), and a 30% chance for any three magic items.
Type B: A fairly common type, the value isn't so high because it doesn't have much gold, lacks platinum, and there's only a 25% chance of 1d6 gems or 1d6 jewelry to be present. There's a mere 10% chance of a magic item, but it will always be a sword, weapon, or armor. It's likely there will be copper coins in this treasure hoard (50%), but the average value of 2000gp isn't bad, if you can lug out all the small denomination coinage.
One thing I noticed when I was looking through these just now is that Halflings and Green Slimes (next to each other in the monster listings) have the exact same Morale, Treasure Type: (P+S) B, Alignment (yes, green slime is Lawful - take that, Flumpf!), and XP value (5, which is obviously wrong for the 2HD** slime). Yes, there was apparently a copy/paste error here.
Type C: Another fairly common type (Lycanthropes, Minotaurs, Ogres and Neanderthals, for example, have it), which is limited to copper, silver and electrum coins, and 25% chance of 1d4 gems and 1d4 jewelry, and a 10% chance of any 2 magic items. It averages only 750 gp value, most of which will come from silver coins.
Type D: This is the treasure type for tougher humanoids (orcs, gnolls, hobgoblins, lizard men). It averages 4000gp, much of it gold (60%), and never has electrum or platinum. There's a 30% chance each for 1d8 gems or 1d8 jewelry, which is not bad. And for magic, there's a 15% chance of any 2 plus one potion. Not bad, if you can defeat or outwit some of the stronger humanoid types.
Type E: Doppelgangers and elves get this type (maybe a few more). It averages 2500gp, slightly better than B, and is unlikely to have coppers (only 5%), although again no platinum. It has only a 10% chance for 1d10 gems or jewelry, but a 25% chance to get any 3 magic items, plus one scroll. Not too shabby.
Type F: The medusa and shadow are the only creatures that get this type. It's fairly sizable, with an average 7600gp. It never has copper, with low chances for silver and electrum, and decent (45%) for gold and (30%) platinum. It's likely to have more gems than jewelry, 20% chance for 2d12 gems but only 10% chance for 1d12 jewelry...this is the first type to give different percents/amounts for the two. It's also got a 30% chance of magic items, consisting of any 3 non-weapons, plus 1 potion and 1 scroll. Medusas and shadows can be tough opponents, but they provide pretty nice treasures.
Type G: Only dwarves get this type, and I've seen it noted recently that dwarves are maybe the best treasure haul for the risk involved based on their numbers and hit dice. The treasure averages 25k, with only gold and platinum coins (lots of gold), and 25% chances to have 3d6 gems and 1d10 jewelry. Plus, there's a 35% chance to get any 4 magic items plus one scroll.
Type H: Dragon treasure. Need I say more? This is the most valuable type with an average of 60k gp value. Copper and platinum coins are only 25% likely to appear, with 50% for the other coin types, and with large amounts for each type present. 50% chance of 1d100 gems and 10 to 40 jewelry. The only down side is there's only a 15% chance of magic items, but when they appear it will be any 4 plus a potion and scroll. I think probably more than 15% of the dragon lairs I've placed have had magic in them, though. It just seems to me that dragons should have magic items. But really, with such a high monetary value, maybe the magic items are overkill. Let the PCs battle dwarves or medusa if they want magic.
Type I: No creatures in Basic have this type. The only coins it might have are platinum (30% chance), and it's got a high percent chance to have gems and jewelry, 50% for 2d6 of either, but only a 15% chance to have one magic item. The average value is 7500gp, which is pretty good, but you're never gonna find it until the upper levels.
Type J: As I mentioned above, this is Kobold treasure, and the average value is only 25gp. It will only ever be copper or silver coins, but on the up side, it will never be more than 7000 coins total... Do you really want to face a bunch of kobolds just to have to lug out a few thousand copper coins?
Type K: Again, no monster in Basic has this type of treasure. It's made up of only silver and electrum coins, mostly silver (30% to electrum's 10%). The average value is 250gp. Again, not great.
Type L: This is the treasure type for normal rats, of all creatures. The average value is 225gp, and it consists of a 50% chance to get 1d4 gems. That's it. So while facing rat disease may not sound so good, you're likely going to come out ahead of taking on the kobolds...
Type M: Like I mentioned above, this is the second largest type, with an average value of 50k gp, but no creatures in Basic have it. For coins, only gold or platinum appear, with a better chance and more platinum (50% for 5~30k coins compared to 40% chance for 2~8k gold), plus high chances for gems (55% for 5d4) and jewelry (45% chance for 2d6), but sadly no magic at all. If there are creatures in the later sets with this type (I'm too lazy to pull up my RC pdf right now and check), they're likely worth the fight for the loot you're likely to get.
Type N: This type consists of a 40% chance to find 2d4 potions, and that's it. No listed creatures have this type.
Type O: This type consists of a 50% chance to find 1d4 scrolls, and that's it. Again, no creatures in Basic have this type of treasure.

Individual Treasure Tables
The first five have no percentages, so creatures (usually human, demi-human or humanoid) with these types always have some coins in their pockets. The last two seem to are often used for either wealthier individual types, or for lair treasure of animal/unintelligent monsters, and to me seem to represent stuff you might find on the carcasses of things they were eating.
Type P: You get 3d8 coppers. Kobolds, gnolls, gnomes and normal men are likely to have coppers in their pockets.
Type Q: You get 3d6 silvers. Bugbears will have P and Q, dwarves get Q and S. Hobgoblins have only type Q.
Type R: You get 2d6 electrums. Goblins carry electrum. I wonder why? Someone should do a Gygaxian Naturalism post about why goblins always carry electrum coins.
Type S: You get 2d4 golds. Demi-humans always have some gold on them (and green slimes, if you don't realize the error like I just did).
Type T: You get 1d6 platinums. Elves (who get S and T) are the only creatures in Basic to commonly carry platinum. So elf lair treasure isn't amazing, but picking off random groups of elves is more profitable than picking off random groups of other humanoid types. Interesting, no?
Type U: Now, we get a "proper" treasure type entry again, with percentage chances of various types of loot being present. As I mentioned, lots of creatures (bears, great cats, giant lizards, oil beetles, some snakes) get this as their lair treasure. Bandits get this as their individual forget elf hunting, go hunt bandits! There's a 10% chance of 1d100 coppers and similarly silvers, and a 5% chance of 1d100 golds. No electrum or platinum (the goblins and elves must have taken them all...). No gems, either, but a 5% chance for 1d4 jewelry, and a 2% chance for any 1 magic item. I rarely check each bandit I place for the 2% chance magic item, but I should from now on..."One of the bandits has a staff of wizardry in his breeches, another has a potion of invisibility."
Type V: The biggest normal animals (cave bears, sabertooth tigers, etc.) of groups that get type U for lair treasure instead get this. It doesn't have coppers, and instead has a 10% chance for 1d100 of both silver and gold coins, and a 5% chance for 1d100 of both electrum and platinum coins. Again no gems, but a 10% chance for 1d4 pieces of jewelry, and a 5% chance for any one magic item. Prehistoric animals seem to eat only the higher class sorts...

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