5E How to adjudicate coin counting, gathering, and item valuations - how much time taken, what skills used?
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  1. #1
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    How to adjudicate coin counting, gathering, and item valuations - how much time taken, what skills used?

    I need some simple rules/mechanics for time spent counting coins and valuating treasure items.

    In the past I generally hand-waved this but in this campaign time and coin are important resources that have to be tracked. With that in mind, and in the interest of geeking out and thinking too much about trivial things, here are my questions and preliminary conclusions.

    1. How fast can someone count coins and are there any skills that could improve that speed?

    Besides being adept at making rough estimates (see next section), adventures would likely have a lot of experience counting out coin. They would know that you can almost as accurately determine the number of coins using weight as by manually counting one by one. They may even know how to predict total values from samples. They would likely be able to count coins much more quickly than the average person.

    I am not finding a lot of information on line. In this video discussing money counters at a Chinese bus company, the counter take 1 minute and 40 seconds to count out and bundle 100 bank notes with an error rate below 0.005%. Counting coins, when error rates can be higher and when they don't need to be neatly organized, should go much quicker. There are many videos on Chinese money counters (this lady is amazing) but they are all using bills.

    So, if you have 10,000 coins - how long does it take to determine that?

    My preliminary ruling is - nobody counts to the coin in the dungeon and it still doesn't matter. Adventurer's are good at quickly estimating the number of coins (see number 2, below), which they are can verify with some sampling/weighing during short and long rests (see number 3, below).


    2. How would you handle "rough guesses"?

    I'm thinking a straight-up INT check. I don't want to make a complicated table to determine DC, I'll just come up with a DC on the fly based on the number of coins, whether they are in a container or scattered, and whether they are a single type of coin or multiple types mixed together.

    I'm also thinking of making a "rain man" feat, that allows the character to instantly know (one action) the number of items it can see, but I'm not sure it is useful enough to matter given how coin counting plays out in the game.

    But, why bother? Generally, if you say there are thousands of copper pieces, the exact number is not going to matter when the players make a decision whether or not gather it all or leave it because it isn't worth the encumbrance.

    3. Would you allow coin counting and item valuation during a short or long rest?

    I would say yes. I like the idea of combining the two. The party finds a safe place to rest, heal, eat, and count/valuate their treasure. Because of this, worrying about time to count is even less important. Just assume that they will make time to get exact counts and give the players the numbers up front.

    CONCLUSION FOR COIN COUNTING BASED ON 1-3

    So here is how I handle it in game. I assume characters are good at estimating coin amounts and that they verify during rests. So I just give the numbers up front and will not bother with rolls or tracking time for coin counting.

    What is REALLY important is the time needed to GATHER all the coins you want to take. For this I go with rough estimates. If coins can just be dumped from a chest into a bag of holding, that will just be an action. If they are scattered over the floor, maybe it takes 10 minutes. If the coins are strewn through rubble, plant growth, or the party is picking out the gold and platinum and leaving the copper from a large mixed pile of coins, then maybe that's an hour or more.

    And that's about it.


    4. How do you handle item valuation in your game?

    Xanathar's gives hints at how the handle this. Proficiency with Jeweler's Tools gives your the ability to "Identify Gems. You can identify gems and determine their value at a glance."

    From this I read that a highly-skilled character can valuate certain items with one action. If you have skill in an appropriate tool, you might not need to make a roll. If you don't have an appropriate tool proficiency, you have to roll, usually using INT (Investigation) but History, Religion, and Nature could all be helpful, depending on what is being valuated.

    I don't see any specific feats that help, other than skilled and prodigy, which are helpful in that they allow you to take more skills.

    I'm also surprised that there are not any backgrounds that really help, other than by giving your skills or tool proficiencies that could be helpful. I'm thinking of creating two new backgrounds: fence (variant) and auctioneer. These backgrounds would have advantage on all skill checks make to valuate items.

    Based on this, my initial thoughts on how to resolve valuations of various categories of items are given below.

    Jewels, Gems, and Precious Metals

    If you have proficiency in jeweler's tools, you successfully evaluate any jewel, gemstone, precious metal with one action, no skill check required. If the item is particularly exotic a roll may be required. Note: this doesn't detect fakes. An investigation check using your jeweler's tools proficiency is still required to determine if an item is genuine or not. How long that will take and whether access to a lab or special materials is required is up to the DM, but I would generally rule that only a few minutes are needed.

    Smith Tools can act as jeweler's tools for common precious metals.

    Without an appropriate tool proficiency, a roll is required. INT (Investigation) is the default, but INT(History) or INT(Religion) could also be used depending on the nature of the item being valuated.

    Art Work
    A tool proficiency only helps for types of artwork that involved such tools.
    • Calligraphers Supplies = valuate decorative scrolls, illustrated/illuminated/display books
    • Cartographer's Tools = determine whether a map would have value to collectors or researchers and how much it is likely to sell for
    • Gaming Set = valuate similar gaming sets
    • Glassblower's Tools = valuate glassware, glass beads, stained-glass windows, decorative glass figurines, etc.
    • Jeweler's Tools = valuate jewel-decorated items, statues and figurine created from precious materials
    • Leatherworking Tools = valuate decorative saddles, leather carving, and other leather-based art
    • Musical instrument = valuate similar instruments
    • Painters Supplies = valuate paintings and drawings
    • Potter's Supplies = valuate pottery, ceramic figurines, and similar works of art
    • Smiths Tools = valuate decorative metal items
    • Weaver's Tools = valuate tapestries, costumes, and other woven artwork
    • Woodcarver's Tools = valuate wooden figurines, fancy wooden tableware, and other wood-carved art items


    Without an appropriate tool proficiency, a roll is required. INT (Investigation) is the default, but INT(History) or INT(Religion) could also be used depending on the nature of the item being valuated.

    A DM may require more time and research to valuate some items, even with an appropriate tool proficiency.

    Furs, Hides, Skins

    If you have proficiency in leather-working tools, you successfully identify and valuate any hide, fur, pelt, skin or similar item, no skill check required. If the item is particularly exotic a roll may be required. Again, a DM may determine an item is so rare that further time and perhaps access to special equipment, material, or references is required.

    Weaver's Tools can act like leather working tools for wool and hairs used as fibers for making cloth.

    Without an appropriate tool proficiency, a roll is required. INT (Investigation) is the default, but INT(Nature) could also be used.

    Other
    The above are for where valuating tends to be more common and important, but the same general rules can be used for any item, applying the appropriate proficiencies. Smith Tools can allow you to automatically evaluate metal armor and weapons. Weaver's Tools can do the same for clothing. Leatherworking Tools for leather armor, saddles, etc. Cobbler's tools for footwear. And so forth.

    Anyway, what are your thoughts? For those of you who do anything other than just telling the players the value of items, how to you handle valuations?

  2. #2
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    I have a list of "exploration tasks" that more or less take 10 minutes of time to resolve for a given area of the adventure location (about a 1000-square foot area). When a player undertakes a particular task, it usually falls under one of these general categories. "Loot" is one such task which includes searching for, gathering, assessing, appraising, and storing any found valuables. If the loot is hidden, there might be an ability check to resolve actions to find hidden objects, but that's about the extent of any dice resolution there might be here, generally speaking. I freely give the value of the item in exchange for spending the 10 minutes as usually I'm checking for wandering monsters every 10 minutes. So there's a meaningful trade-off here.
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  3. #3
    Evaluation of items is a really good question that I was asking myself. I definitely agree that tool proficiency should be auto success.

    Im going to go with a secretly rolled DC 15 Investigation (Intelligence) check with 10% off on price for every point of failure. Odd result means overvalued and even result means undervalued. DC 20 for really hard stuff like ancient relics of a fallen empires and rare gems. Advantage if identifying an item of your race or ethnicity. It gives rogues the shining light in treasure and creates an antique roadshow effect if they roll badly and the vendor officers then 10 times the expected value. Lol.

    This method combined with the proficiencies above mean that players get chance to make calculated guesses while expert vendors with the right tool skills will be better at valuing.
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    If the party has a pile of loot, but are pressed for time, I'd suggest using Passive Investigation to allow them to find the more valuable stuff in a short amount of time. A quick chart, with <10, 10-14, 15-19, & 20+ to determine how much good stuff they might find. If they want to spend more time, I'd probably have them make Int/Investigation checks for basically the same thing, but for a much higher amount (since they're taking time).

    I think that even if time isn't a factor, players probably aren't going to spend time to count their loot until they rest. Generally we'll just say "we'll take what we can" if there's more than can be reasonably carried. Depending on level, copper and silver are often left first, with large art objects only being taken if they seem very valuable. In general I think that Investigation is the primary skill to determine value, with some tools being useful as well (possibly using them in combination per XGtE).
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    I had a spell called "count" in an old edition that did just what it said it did - it counted whatever you wanted to count within range, whether it was grains of sand or coins.

    How long does it take to count 10K coins? For an intelligent person, about an hour assuming that coins of a similar type (gp) have a similar size. It is just a sorting and stacking exercise. I can do 100 coins in a minute - easily. I'd allow it during a Short Rest or as part of a LR. It isn't taxing.

    As for item valuations, I either give PCs a valuation for 'liquid' goods, or allow them to estimate with a proper skill or ability check. The better the check, the more information they'll have. However, art valuation is not an exact science. If they sell it themselves, it is a negotiation and there might be some luck involved in the number of buyers, etc.... Generally, they hire a broker that sells it for them for a cut.
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    1. Counting coins? I wouldn't really consider that a skill or a special ability...it's just something that anyone can do if they take the time. So if the party wants to get an exact count of more than a hundred or so, I require a short or long rest and then I just give it to them. Until they spend that amount of time, I only give them rough estimates..."a few hundred silver coins and about twice as many copper," for example.

    2. Rough guesses? I give those away for free, using a passive Perception check to guide me. If they want something more accurate, I require additional time and other skill checks (something like an Investigation check, or a short rest).

    3. I guess I already answered this. :-)

    4. Usually the players are fine with stuffing all of this treasure into a bag and taking it into town to be appraised and sold. We usually do this business offline by e-mail, between gaming sessions. So this doesn't really come up.
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  7. #7
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    10 minutes for a quick divvy-up.
    1 hour short rest for proper evaluation, attunement etc.

    For gems & jewelry that have listed values in the adventure I tell the players those. These are pretty much a pseudo-currency. For more exotic stuff like spices & furs I might require an Investigation check, Tool Proficiency check, etc.
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  8. #8
    There was a day when I worried about these kind of details. Then I realized it was wasting valuable time and I gave up. I assume during a short rest they can search bodies, gather loot and the like. Since Adventure League rules make 8 hours of gameplay equal a bag of holding then we don't worry about most of the loot. Valuable Statues are another deal as are odd shaped valuables but as long as I hear a good idea I let it slide.

    So far the players have come across a Helm of Teleportation and they are renting a room in Waterdeep in the nicer part of town. They each take a huge object, teleport back to the room and leave them there until they have time to deal with them. I figure the loot phase shouldn't be harder than the combat phase. In my experience too much detail in the looting phase kills the campaign.
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  9. #9
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    We only bother with exotic goods.

    Coins, precious metal bars, gems, trade goods have more or less fixed price.

    There can be roll called for value of some artwork but that is rare.

    We look into the weight of the loot so strength has a role to play in the party.

    You cant carry along 200.000 coins of various type without huge str in all party members.

    also when you get prices to silver standard, you remove the need of platinum or electrum and have:

    1GP=100SP=10.000CP and then you can eat, drink and sleep for a day with a single silver(or less). Then a small chest of gold is a real treasure.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Graves View Post
    There was a day when I worried about these kind of details. Then I realized it was wasting valuable time and I gave up. I assume during a short rest they can search bodies, gather loot and the like. Since Adventure League rules make 8 hours of gameplay equal a bag of holding then we don't worry about most of the loot. Valuable Statues are another deal as are odd shaped valuables but as long as I hear a good idea I let it slide.

    So far the players have come across a Helm of Teleportation and they are renting a room in Waterdeep in the nicer part of town. They each take a huge object, teleport back to the room and leave them there until they have time to deal with them. I figure the loot phase shouldn't be harder than the combat phase. In my experience too much detail in the looting phase kills the campaign.
    Well sure, and that's how I've run my games for the past five years. But my current campaign is an old-school-inspired dungeon crawl that is using 5e with a variant GP=XP rule. Resource and time management are really important. I'm not so much looking for fidelity but rather finding workable rules of thumb that support this tactical approach.

    I realize that some players would run from this style of play, but this the game my group decided to play.

    Still, even with this style of play, in the end, I'm still handling valuations and counting the same. The only thing that I'm doing different is being a bit stricter about the time it takes to "only gather the GP" from a pile of mixed coins, etc.

    The real change is enforcing encumbrance, but calculating the weight of coin is simple enough to do on the fly. The other big change is strict tracking of time and religious wandering encounter checks. Eventually the party will reach a level where these things are less of a constraint but they are significant tactical challenge at this stage (early Tier 1).
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