D&D Next (5E) Schrodinger's Loot




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  1. #1

    Schrodinger's Loot

    So the system for placing magic items in the latest playtest packet associates the power of the magic item with the relative difficulty of the encounter for the PCs, rather than the absolute difficulty. This is crap.

    e.g. Two adventuring parties, one average level 1 and one average level 8, both venture out to destroy some skeletons. The level 1 party returns with better loot than the level 8 party. Why? They're fighting the same enemy in the same place. Or the Baron of the nearest town is choosing which party to strike a deal with: support for defeating the skeletons in exchange for a cut of the profits. They're going to consider choosing the lower level party to maximize the loot gained. It's just a terrible way to do it.

    I see two solutions:
    a) You can bring back treasure types for monsters, thereby associating loot directly with the absolute difficulty of the monster.
    or
    b) Drop the direct link between treasure and monsters, and just associate both with a dungeon level (preferably denoted with Roman numerals!). Dungeon level can refer literally to a level of a dungeon, lower levels being more difficult; but can also be adapted to refer to the difficulty of a more scripted adventure, or non-dungeon adventuring area -- e.g. The Haunted Forest is a level IV area, "The Heir of Destiny" is a level III adventure, etc. Dungeon level does not rise in lockstep with character level: characters should level up once or twice each dungeon level. This allows them an opportunity to display their new power against the same caliber of opponents.

    As for how to associate monsters and treasures to dungeon levels, why not use the rarity system here: the rarity of monsters and magic items is relative to the dungeon level in question. Monsters and magic items are most common at the dungeon level at which they're balanced, and then there's a bell curve of increasing rarity at dungeon levels above and below that level. Maybe some monsters and items don't become more rare at more difficult dungeon levels, but get upgraded in potency, like larger orc patrols and stronger healing potions. The rarity of a monster or treasure does not have to be derived purely from its power; it can also reflect story elements. E.g. basic monsters can be more common at all levels than some of the wackier monsters, independent of their difficulty.

 

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    It's either a refuse, or a way to have playtesters test the lowest items more.
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    Yep, I mentioned this effect in another thread.

    Have you noticed, also, that the "Magic Item Rarity" table lists levels of character for which the different "rarities" of item are "appropriate"? Does this mean that, if you roll 71+ for the items of a 3rd level party tackling a "tough" encounter, you have to ignore any possible "Rare" items, because those are for characters of level 5 and above (according to the "Magic Item Rarity" table)?

    The whole distribution system seems to be poorly thought through, to me.
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    Personally, I don't see what PC level has to do with anything. The skeletons have 'this loot'. If you beat them, you get it. Simple.

    So I guess I am agreeing with your assigning the monsters loot. But I would do this ahead of time anyway, so I can deal with the system as is, though it is not the ideal.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Connorsrpg View Post
    Personally, I don't see what PC level has to do with anything. The skeletons have 'this loot'. If you beat them, you get it.
    Of course this is what happens in the fantasy world, but those tables are kind of a "meta-rule" i.e. a tool for adventure or encounter design.

    It's the same as random encounter tables. It's not that the orcs "are" and "aren't" in the forest at the same time until the PCs pass by.

    More specifically, the purpose is to maintain a default average while at the same time "randomize" each encounter treasure. If those tables were in the final product however, it would mean the default is pretty high magic by my standards. But anyway I generally prefer to "theme" treasure to each encounter and circumstance so I'm unlikely to use those random tables often.
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    In general, I don't think that trying to use the abstract rules of a game to run scientific experiments on what the concrete reality of that game world is, is a good idea.

    Two different parties who (in theory) go on the same adventure would find the exact treasure that is, and was always there. From their point of view, it's not and never really is a variable. In the "reality" of the game world, the wave form collapsed way back when the person who was filling up the treasure chest decided what he was going to leave. In the reality of the game however, the mechanics decide what's in the treasure chest the first time the story takes meaningful look inside.

    Likewise, the Broker-Baron isn't going to be able to factor in all those game mechanics because they're only abstractions that exist if you're outside the game looking in.
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    I would expect that if a party of eighth levels were in an area where the monsters were easy then they should in fact get crap for loot.

    I'd be more inclined to want to associate a certain treasure type with each monster but I guess in the interest of streamlining monster stat blocks this was implemented instead.

    I guess I could see this system being a problem with a strong party fighting a low HD dragon and finding junk treasure, but hey it was a young dragon and couldn't really collect a decent hoard before those adventurers went in and murdered the poor thing.

    The system presented reminds me of leveled loot lists found in video games though.

  • #8
    My main preference is to have treasure and magic items associated with creatures, not the party level.

    Just like in 1e and 2e, each monster static bar will have treasure line with corresponding tables in DM, I would also like the tables to have a scale from low magic to high magic.

    Linking magic items for character levels stinks from linking character progression to having magic items and that defeat the entire "bounded accuracy" and "magic items as reward and not entitlement" arguments.

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  • #9
    I like the idea of treasure types as a balance on the item rarity by character level mechanic. Tougher monsters required tougher heroes to kill them and loot their stuff, so tougher heroes find the better items.

    That said, I think it should be an option - just one possible way for a DM to cut out a degree of planning and rely on a table if he desires. I hate having to plan out treasure unless its an artifact that serves a role in the plot. But any random treasure system needs to be adaptable to a DM's preferences.

    It's funny to me that a lot of "old hat" stuff (treasure tables, item and creature rarity, lower ability bonuses) that got abandoned in 3e is turning out to be pretty useful in retrospect and finding its way back in. It's almost like that point where as an adult you realize your parents were right about a few things after all. That's not a dig on WotC. I think the entire D&D community is going through it.

    Reminds me of an episode of Freaks & Geeks where the dad realizes one of his daighter's friends is a drummer and exposes him to jazz techniques. The kid has this revelation about this music that he had always thought was uncool and starts to appreciate the craft as opposed to the flavor.

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    I dislike associating magic with difficulty. Magic items are made by people for other people. They get lost or thrown away or fall into the hands of creatures when adventurers die or in raids and such.

    I see magic that is found in dungeons or at the bottom of lakes or even deep pits as wind fall and never give them out with a hoard of treasure just because the hoarder was something tough to fight. In fact those creatures are likely the least likely to own items since they are most commonly braindead insects slimes or other monstroscity that wouldn't collect stuff anyway.

    I'm not going to even entertain putting a magic weapon in the room with ten fire beetles just because they are a difficult fight for a first level party. Fire beetle glands are it for treasure no matter how many of them there are. Just like a wyrmling dragon is going to have a nice tidy pile of goodies even though it was slaughtered in one round by a party of tenth levels.

    You are as likely to find a ring of the ram on the finger of a skeleton in the bottom of a spiked pit as you are in the treasure box of the orc chieftain.

    All I need are some basic tables to roll randomly on with some guidance as to the kinds of things a critter is expected to have in it's possession and I will take it from there.

    D&D is a role playing game with real people running it not an arcade game where junk falls to the ground when a mob disappears from play.

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