Tuesday, July 1, 2008

RC Hacks and House Rules: Page 226 - More Treasure!

The next random number takes us to page 226, still within Chapter 16: Treasure.

A couple of Treasure related charts here, but the one that really stands out as potentially much more useful than it initially presents itself is the Average Treasure Values Table.

Here we have a breakdown of Treasure types A-M (Lair only) by their average values in gold pieces. When I was younger, I always had an absolute blast generating treasure using the charts on the previous page. Having never owned the Monster & Treasure Assortment accessories, I instead made my own.

Classic D&D Hack:
I had a small container of index cards with alphabetic dividers A-V, with a dozen or so pre-generated treasure hoards waiting between each letter. I was always fairly meticulous about designing my treasures for adventures, but having a bunch of “DM Approved” hoards to hand out at a moments notice, definitely saved some time when players decided to sidetrack-down the lair of a Random Wilderness Encounter.

In the top right corner of each of these cards, I scrawled the overall gold piece value for the treasure for Experience purposes, but never in my many years of Classic did I ever bother to consult this Average Treasure Values Table to see how “close” I was with the average.

My first thought after studying this table was somewhat akin to a mental forehead slap. While the hours I spent throwing down percentile dice on the preceding charts were definitely fun, I could cut out some serious prep time by simply building this kind of Random Encounter coin out of these averages1.

Let’s take the Medusa: Lair Treasure Type F

The average value of this treasure in gold pieces is 7,600. Although the coins indicated in the treasure table for lairs are in the thousands, we can break this down any way we wish:

200 platinum
2,000 gold
4,000 electrum
5,000 silver
10,000 copper

But wait! Sharp eyes may have noticed my math is missing a thousand gold. That’s where a quick d1000 comes in handy. I rolled a 464, which gives me some more gold to play with and “uneven” the numbers of the smaller coins. The remaining 536 will even out the gold and above. This option is great for sticklers that prefer organic hoards that are random down to the last copper piece. Since the denominations of coins are mostly metric, this adjustment process is pretty quick. Just watch out for that pesky electrum.

Another way this table comes in handy is when planning character advancement. The Medusae in my Rules Cyclopedia are only worth a paltry 175 experience points apiece. But add in the average treasure value of 7,600 gold pieces and now we’re talking some actual advancement for low to mid-level parties. Most DMs prefer to intuitively adjust treasure and experience awards on the fly, but this table could serve as fairly useful guides for beginners who are trying to design by-the-book adventures with character advancement in mind. Locate the Treasure type that is most inline with how many experience points you would like a given adventure to reward (remember to divide it by the party), then simply locate a monster that has that treasure type. This sort of backwards design seems rather strange to me, but I could see it being useful.

Also on this page we have a few more tables pertaining to another type of treasure. Any Dungeon Master worth his or her salt can look at the following list of words and be relatively comfortable with them:

The DM wears many hats: actor, storyteller, puzzle-designer, world builder, and yes, even amateur gemologist. Although I prefer to encrust my gems on large, unwieldy surfaces to encourage time-consuming prying (more Wandering Monster!), gems are still a staple of the fantasy treasure hoard. Getting to know your gemstones a little better is quite easy with access to the internet. Familiarizing yourself with a few more gemological terms and expressions as well as having some visual inspiration can really help make that dreadfully boring “500gp ruby” a thing of the past.

1. Since these averages do not include the value of magical items, and for magic items, the only pricing information in the Rules Cyclopedia pertains to creation (which is only a rough indicator of actual value). This means that the DM can’t easily just “buy” magical items to place in a hoard using the Average Treasure Table values. This is just as it should be, providing a few extra steps of deliberation before plunking down that Horn of Blasting.
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