On Riches Causing Ruin

How many campaigns have you ruined with treasure?

I've had this discussion several times this week, and it's the topic of the October Blog Carnival, so some thoughts (and I have a few) on treasure!

I'm going to talk about several things this month in regards to treasure, but for today, just some thoughts.

Dungeons and Dragons is the most successful RPG because of treasure. Players have an objective metric of how well they are doing -- the amount of gold they have collected. There's a reason one gold piece is equivalent to one experience point.

Treasure is your campaign throttle. It allows you to set the pace of advancement and character power, but like any indirect tool it takes some experience to use correctly.

Treasure should be exciting and interesting. The treasure you are giving is boring. 

Treasure serves myriad of purposes, but should always be about driving player choice.

We will talk about all of those things and more this month, as well new tables, some reworking of the treasure document, an examination of what to let your players do with all that hard earned treasure, advice and guidelines for the distribution of treasure and more!

Not only I have ruined a game with treasure, recently I ruined the same campaign that I was playing with two groups in opposite ways. One group got too much treasure, and one didn't get enough! The lessons learned from this were manifold. I had another game that wasn't ruined with treasure, but let an artifact into play when one was generated at first level using random determination.

Have you ever ruined a game with treasure? Comment below!

P.S. I know I don't have one of the larger blogs out there, but I'd like to welcome all my new readers, and say thank you - last month was my first month to exceed 10,000 hits. I know that's not a lot compared to many blogs, but I wanted to say thank you just the same.


  1. I am going to say no, I have not ruined a game with treasure. I saw a lot of my friends ruin their games with treasure though, and all the advice in The Dragon was about how to avoid "Monty Haul-ism", so I was a little forewarned and I still came close on a number of occasions, despite my tendency to err on the side of stinginess and low magic while doling out treasure.

  2. Keep the magic items in check and there is never too much treasure.

    I've certainly had campaigns unbalanced by players finding magic items that I hadn't considered the implications of.

    The gentleman with the most followers in my campaign was once the richest member of the party his whole relation to loot has changed drastically over the past couple months. His wealth and fame have driven him to a position where he needs more wealth.

    A lot of money opens a lot of options for a campaign however so there is never too much good old hard cash as long as there is something to spend it on.

  3. I ruined my high school campaign with too little, compared to the ridiculous amounts needed for advancement and training in AD&D.

  4. @JDJarvis- Exactly. Same experiences here, a bit of unbalance from magic items being allowed in without being fully considered from the "if I were a player, how could I abuse this to my advantage" perspective, and too much cash is never a problem. Also, charged usage magic items and single use items are your friend, potions, scrolls and their ilk should make up the bulk of any magic in a hoard, then things that run out over time, then weaker permanent items, then the really good stuff should be reserved for when they really have earned it.

  5. Ironically, we had this problem in a Shadowrun campaign where our character got too much of a payout. We were all, "guess it is time to leave the shadows then" and most of that group retired. A few were later killed but all vanished from active play.

  6. On the other hand, I have read blog posts/rants about how there is pretty much *never* enough treasure considering how slowly XP accumulates in D&D, and how much training costs (AD&D) etc. etc... I think it ultimately is just a matter of what you as DM are expecting to happen.

    If you ruined a game with treasure, was that from your DM perspective of that of your players as well?

    I can't say I have ruined a game with treasure, but then I can't remember a game where players worried much about it either, to be honest. There was a good amount, but never seemed to be anything to spend it on. D&D treasure, to me, is all about magic items and other cool or interesting things, not simply wealth.

  7. "first month to exceed 10,000 hits"

    I haven't had 10,000 hits at my site *yet*.

    As for the treasure question, in AD&D it was was kind of hard to do because of the XP gained from treasure -- they were kept roughly in step.

    D&D 3.x, OTOH, between breaking that relationship and the magic mart making magic items more or less commodity items, led to a more direct relationship between 'coin in pocket' and personal power. It lends itself to breaking.

  8. Congrats on those 10,000 hits last month. You always provide interesting posts to read, so I'm not surprised.

  9. 10,000 in a month! Congrats! I ruined a GURPS campaign (one of my first) by killing characters who got "too powerful."

    "Oh, you have steel plate armor?(Which was hard to get in that campaign) Here's fifteen half-orc raiders.

  10. I managed something interesting in my first ever experience as a GM. It was in MERP, and I had a very vague idea of how to maintain a feel for Middle Earth.

    So, when the players had finished their first adventure I took a look at the treasure chest at the end. It contained a paltry amount, I felt, since I had the hoard of Smaug in mind. So I multiplied everything by ten!

    Also, since one of the PCs was a dwarf, who really adored Gimli and those dwarven craft skills, I decided to give him a milthril mail shirt. Yes, at level one.

    This all had the effect of turning my campaign into something very character driven, since nobody had any use of money for the next few years in real time! Personal goals was all that was left to entice those PCs to go adventuring...

    Quite unintentional!

  11. I no longer believe in Monty-haulism being a bad thing. Aren't all those items in the book so players can get them? The dm just needs to be confident in his own ability to handle the unique situations that arise as a result of powerful items. I think too many dms are afraid to give out cool stuff, and as a result they are missing out on a lot of fun.


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