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

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
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.
  • Calligrapher’s 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?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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.
 

TheSword

Explorer
Evaluation of items is a really good question that I was asking myself. I definitely agree that tool proficiency should be auto success.

I’m 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.
 
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).
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
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.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
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.
 

S'mon

Legend
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.
 
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.
 

Horwath

Adventurer
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.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
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).
 
Hmm... This is where you want to use ten sided dice to roll each digit in the amount of coins. Instead of 3d6X100 do d3,d10,d10. All the better to make math more annoying!

I'd say carrying the merchants scale is the fast way. Carry pouches of relatively similar size, sweep in handfuls of the same color coins (worry about light quality here...) weigh each bag, make a note on the bag of the weight and toss it into the pouch of holding. Keep track of the individual bags "Gold 3 lbs 10 ounces" "Silver 5 lbs 3 ounces" Copper... Who want copper, it costs more to count than it's worth. Electrum should be melted down and cast as sling rounds... Platinum gets hand counted.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Yes, merchant scales make more sense as there would not be a great deal of standardization, especially in troves with coins from multiple realms and ages. What will matter is the weight of precious metal. But against, role-playing that is kinda boring. I just assume they will do it during rests and downtime. But I make sure to impose a cost in time to gather the loot. Mostly handwave it. I probably estimate time needed on the high end of what most DMs do, but on the low end of what it would take in reality.

My kids are home for the rest of the week because of parent-teacher conferences. I'm tempted to (1) have them count them, divided by type and then (2) dump on a hard surface like the kitchen floor and see how quickly they can pick them all up and show them in a bag.

It would be hard to get the smaller amount spread around than just shoveling from a pile so extrapolating from a few hundred coins dumped on a floor should allow for a decent conservative estimate.

I'll report my finding here.
 

jayoungr

Hero
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.
Don't forget the bard's Jack of All Trades and the rogue's Expertise and Reliable Talent. Both of those can boost a PC's Investigation bonus (or History, Religion, etc.) considerably.
 

the Jester

Legend
This is all stuff I handwave. "It takes you about an hour to gather and count the loot." It's like uneventful travel- there's no need to make it take more than a few seconds of real time unless you're somehow advancing another agenda or world-building.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
When I re-did my skill list for my campaigns, I added 'Commerce' as a skill. Now proficient characters can add that to any INT, WIS or CHA checks I call for if it has anything to do with collection, appraisal, haggling or any other financial query.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
This is all stuff I handwave. "It takes you about an hour to gather and count the loot." It's like uneventful travel- there's no need to make it take more than a few seconds of real time unless you're somehow advancing another agenda or world-building.
Which is what I'm doing for the most part. Is is the "it take you about an hour" is the important part. Time to gather loot is important in my current campaign due to random encounters and the like. To keep things simple, I think I'll typically look at the nature of the loot and determine if it will take an action, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour. These are the important lengths of time to determine how many random encounter checks or whether you can sneak in and out with loot, avoiding an encounter.

Assessing the value of artwork and special items, however, remains an important skill. If you are limited by time and encumbrance, you'll have to make hard choices on which loot to take and which to leave. But they don't get XP for such items until they sell them (convert to coin), so it don't really need to track the value as it is ultimately determined in the market. It leads to some antiques roadshow surprises and disappointments.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
When I re-did my skill list for my campaigns, I added 'Commerce' as a skill. Now proficient characters can add that to any INT, WIS or CHA checks I call for if it has anything to do with collection, appraisal, haggling or any other financial query.
Hmmm... is this a new skill on everyone's sheet or is this a feat someone can take. If a skill, wouldn't it be associated with a specific attribute, i.e. Intelligence. So you would call for an Intelligence (Commerce) check?

Seems to make more sense as a feat. Anyone with this feat can add their proficiency bonus to any commerce-related skill check, such as check called for when appraising items or bargaining to buy or sell something. But it seems like most players wouldn't want to spend a feat on it.

Instead, I would probably make it a feature of a Background. Someone with a "Merchant" or "Fence" background can use this "Commerce" ability.

How, exactly, is it used in your game? What does your skill list look like and how does it operate compared to the standard 5e skill list?
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Hmmm... is this a new skill on everyone's sheet or is this a feat someone can take. If a skill, wouldn't it be associated with a specific attribute, i.e. Intelligence. So you would call for an Intelligence (Commerce) check?

Seems to make more sense as a feat. Anyone with this feat can add their proficiency bonus to any commerce-related skill check, such as check called for when appraising items or bargaining to buy or sell something. But it seems like most players wouldn't want to spend a feat on it.

Instead, I would probably make it a feature of a Background. Someone with a "Merchant" or "Fence" background can use this "Commerce" ability.

How, exactly, is it used in your game? What does your skill list look like and how does it operate compared to the standard 5e skill list?
I already have and always will use the variant rule that does not assign attribute to skill. So I re-did my skill list for all players that got rid of some skills that are unnecessary for this variant rule use, and added in new ones that had space available. So for instance... Acrobatics was removed from my list, and players instead make Dexterity (Athletics) checks. Sleight of Hand was removed and players instead make Dexterity (Deception) checks. Intimidation was removed and players instead make Strength (Persuasion) checks.

Culling my skill list of the little-used skills allowed me to add in new ones for subjects and categories of things that I feel the game benefits from. One skill about handling money (Commerce) is one. A skill about the nobility and high-society (Etiquette) is another. And one about people and actions in low-society or the common folk (Folklore) is another. Then because I don't assign ability scores... how a PC interacts within that category determines what the pairing is. I tell the player which ability score is being used... they tell me if they have a skill that is applicable and how what they are doing makes the skill applicable. And sometimes I might allow for multiple skills to possibly apply.

Remembering the standard of a specific nation would be an INT check, and they could then apply Etiquette. Trying to convince a duke of something would be a CHA check, and based upon what the player does or says they might be able to apply Persuasion or Etiquette to it. Figuring out that the king's staff wizard isn't who he says he is would be a WIS check, and maybe they could apply Insight, or Arcana, or Etiquette.

I don't use feats for these things, because feats don't show up often enough to warrant these kinds of character-defining traits. Plus, no one in my games uses feats for characterization defining things, as they usually are already playing their characterizations and don't need a feat to exemplify it. If a PC is an actor, they will have already been playing as an actor and don't need to wait until 4th level to take a feat that shows it off. Likewise, if someone is good with money they aren't going to wait until 4th level to take some sort of Commerce feat. Instead, I make fiscal use a skill that allows anyone who wants it to take it from the very beginning. And obviously if you have a Background that is focused on it (say Guild Merchant), then it is an option to select when you take the Background.

For me... using money is too important a part of adventuring to not have it have a more important place in the game. And the skill list allows that importance to have a place.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
So, ok, mostly we assume exact tallies and examinations occur most often during rests or downtime or during commercials (we ride for half a day, taking regular breaks". Those often can take advantage as multiple folks join in and unless it's something exotic, it's usually gonna fall into automatic Int checks.

In the event of a need for immediate need it's usually gonna not be a detailed study but a quick glance, so we use a Wisdon check with perception, investigation or some specific proficiency (tool) if it seems appropriate.

That said, after watching a session practically derailed by a botched magic item loot scene that just got drawn into far more chaos than it needed to be, I am certain I wont be making common loot sorting more of a role.
 

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