D&D General What do you do with mundane treasure details?

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Looking at random treasure tables or the hoard descriptions in adventures, you find lots of somewhat detailed descriptions of jewels, trinkets, sometimes even coins. I don't refer here to magic items or macguffins or quest items. Rather I just mean the mundane treasure which value is mainly in its superior portability to gold, things like "a pair of fine jade earrings in the shape of owls with garnet eyes (60gp)" or "brightly painted wooden articulated snake toy (5gp) " and the like.

In my experience, after a hoard is parceled out, rarely does the description of those items ever matter. Only their value matters when they get cashed in at the nearest town's "Ye Olde Shady Fence & Treasure Exchange." And if only their value really matters, then why bother?

So a few questions to start with:

- Do you actively use descriptive mundane treasure text elsewhere in the game? Or is it just needless filler to you?

  • As a GM, do you automatically provide published descriptions on to players, or just say "200 gp in jewels, enough to fill a small sack"?
  • Do you ever change descriptions? Why?
  • Have you ever used mundane treasure descriptions to drop clues? impact PC/NPC relations? exploit or gauge player reactions? Anything else?

- As a PLAYER, do you pay attention to mundane treasure descriptions? Do you ever refer to them later?
 

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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I had been describing random stuff in detail in the 5e B2, but there is just so much of it. The party probably either has, or will, switch over to a total of something like 'gp value after we get back to town".
 

Irlo

Adventurer
I sometimes enjoy describing the treasures but my players don't seem especially interested, so it's frequently wasted effort. I'm not even sure they're reliably recording their finds. They probably could put them to use, to prove the success of a bounty or to prokove an enemy, but they don't do much of that.

As a player, I'm always on the look-out for mundane treasures that could be useful as rare material components for spellcasting or a nifty little accessories for my character.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
  • As a GM, do you automatically provide published descriptions on to players, or just say "200 gp in jewels, enough to fill a small sack"?

I provide descriptions since the PCs rarely have a way to know exactly how much gems and jewelry are worth. The descriptions help differentiate them before values are determined and allow PCs to determine if they want to keep something for their own collection (like wearing those jade owl earrings).

Sometimes I will say something like "60 semi-precious stones of various kinds" but they still need to determine the value. They have a fence they trust since no one in the group is much of appraiser by skill, background, or inclination.

I also have varied values based on where they try to sell it. Trying to sell some platinum and diamond brooch that once belonged to an ancient emperor's paramour in some small town means you won't get nearly as much as it it worth or not being able to find a buyer there at all. (The benefit of their fence is that he can send out word through back channels and get the best price minus a service fee).

Heck, once coin amounts near or surpass a thousand I don't tell the players how much they have unless they specifically take the time in the dungeon (or wherever) to count it all. Once they found such a big pile of copper pieces I told them, tell me how much you want to take and I will tell you how long it takes to collect it all - since assumption was it was too much for them to carry all of and it was only copper.

  • Do you ever change descriptions? Why?
Sure! Reasons range from: whim, thematic sense, too valuable (or undervalued) for their level, etc. . .

  • Have you ever used mundane treasure descriptions to drop clues? impact PC/NPC relations? exploit or gauge player reactions? Anything else?
Definitely! For example, one of my current groups found an old but lightly damaged painting among some garbage/treasure and determined the artist was an ancestor of a local noble, who was unknown in life but had become a valuable collectible in death. The PCs used the painting to create contacts with that family and awarded to them as a gift to gain their favor.

Earlier, they had found an ornate gold locket beneath the armor of a hobgoblin mercenary they defeated. It held a tiny painted portrait of her wife - which served both to change their perspective on hobgoblins - and later they met her wife (also a mercenary) creating tense stakes for why she wanted the party to pay once she found out these were the people responsible for killing her wife (they killed her too). The locket was also an early clue of a plot regarding a large number of said mercenaries having been moved into the area on a semi-permanent basis, hired by unknown forces.

The above mentioned brooch (called "Brooch of the Lich-Bride") has provided an avenue for giving them some ancient lore and a possible source for more very valuable treasure in the future.
 

Gems and such I'll usually just list a lump gp amount unless there are any particularly valuable ones. Art objects are lightly described.

One of my players in my current campaign actually seems to prefer non-valuable items that fit his general theme of being a long death Monk, like a necklace of Pixie skulls.

I'm thinking in my next campaign I might add a simple homebrew subsystem to encourage PCs actually choosing to wear or otherwise display treasures instead of just converting them to currency. Displays of wealth (and what form they take) could influence NPC attitudes towards the PCs.
 



Looking at random treasure tables or the hoard descriptions in adventures, you find lots of somewhat detailed descriptions of jewels, trinkets, sometimes even coins. I don't refer here to magic items or macguffins or quest items. Rather I just mean the mundane treasure which value is mainly in its superior portability to gold, things like "a pair of fine jade earrings in the shape of owls with garnet eyes (60gp)" or "brightly painted wooden articulated snake toy (5gp) " and the like.

In my experience, after a hoard is parceled out, rarely does the description of those items ever matter. Only their value matters when they get cashed in at the nearest town's "Ye Olde Shady Fence & Treasure Exchange." And if only their value really matters, then why bother?

So a few questions to start with:

- Do you actively use descriptive mundane treasure text elsewhere in the game? Or is it just needless filler to you?

  • As a GM, do you automatically provide published descriptions on to players, or just say "200 gp in jewels, enough to fill a small sack"?
  • Do you ever change descriptions? Why?
  • Have you ever used mundane treasure descriptions to drop clues? impact PC/NPC relations? exploit or gauge player reactions? Anything else?

- As a PLAYER, do you pay attention to mundane treasure descriptions? Do you ever refer to them later?
This is one of the reasons why I like to use pre-made settings with a good wiki (or wiki equivalent). I use Mystara, but could easily apply to Forgotten Realms et al.

I like to mention where treasure could come from, if it makes sense that the PC would know. I'll just attach a piece to a place. It's a good way to introduce different parts of the setting outside of the adventure. Usually the players just shrug their shoulders and "whatever" it, but sometimes it'll peak interest. In that case I'll copy&paste some info and send it to that player.

All in all, it's not a big thing. Just a bit of nuance.
 

aco175

Legend
I find a lot gets hand-waved in my games. I might tell the players that they find 50gp, 50sp, a gem worth 100gp, and a gold necklace with gems worth 500gp. At some point the group is back in town and the player tracking treasure just tells everyone they each get 165gp and 14sp. It could be better, but I want to focus on other areas.
 

I find a lot gets hand-waved in my games. I might tell the players that they find 50gp, 50sp, a gem worth 100gp, and a gold necklace with gems worth 500gp. At some point the group is back in town and the player tracking treasure just tells everyone they each get 165gp and 14sp. It could be better, but I want to focus on other areas.
I find that, I general, there are a lot of things I'd ideally like to do in a campaign that I either never get around to or they fall by the wayside over time because the bookkeeping doesn't seem worth the final result (it doesn't help that I also have a hard time organizing the extra details).
 


J.Quondam

CR 1/8
I find that, I general, there are a lot of things I'd ideally like to do in a campaign that I either never get around to or they fall by the wayside over time because the bookkeeping doesn't seem worth the final result (it doesn't help that I also have a hard time organizing the extra details).
Yeah, that's been my experience over all, as well.

That said, I have had some decent luck by handing out index cards (for mundane and magical treasure other than undifferentiated coin) with brief description and a code number which references a spreadsheet on the DM's side. The physicality of the cards* seems to keep it in the players' minds, and the spreadsheet is easy enough to build/maintain as I develop the adventure.

It's worked fairly well, and on occasion even caused a player or two to do a double-take, "Wait, what is this that I've been carting around all this time?"


* Of course, that face-to-face gaming. Not sure what I'd do for online play.
 


Lakesidefantasy

Adventurer
I don't automatically provide the detailed descriptions of mundane treasure, but I do when I can. Sometimes I read the Table and I'll pass on describing those details if it seems like we would not be interested.

I do like to determine the types of gems because those can be important when it comes to spell components.

I will change descriptions of mundane treasure of it serves my purpose, but that's true with any aspect of a published adventure.

Quite often the little details of mundane treasure descriptions come up clues in both published adventures and my own creations. In the past I have described daggers and such as having stylized imagery that reflects the owners religious life.

In my current Wild Beyond the Witchlight campaign each Player's character has a ticket to the carnival, and each ticket has a number, and each ticket number contains 8s and 3s, because that's just the way the Witchlight rolls.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I dont give out gold coins, just ‘wealth’ but I do describe valuable items they might find like
  1. the necklace depicting an owl with sapphire eyes which is probably an emblem of House Mavhinne OR
  2. the wyvern skull has red crystals growing from its eye sockets and down over its snout, Or
  3. the portrait is of a young boy dressed in a finely brocaded yellow suit - its the missing part of the ‘Three Princes’ Triptyche commisioned by the Old Earl of Arwych as a gift to the Queen .
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
GM *crafts a careful list of treasure with evocative description of the dragon's hoard
Players: yawning "OK, OK we got it, how many GP is that?"
GM: sighing "That's 5,183 gp 7 sp and 3 cp".

[weeks later]

DM: "To complete the ritual, you'll need to put on the alter a chryselephantine reliquary of Lathander, adorned with at least three sapphire."
Players: "we had one of this sh... in the loot, didn't we? Let's buy it back!"
DM: "unfortunately, it has been bought by a cleric and adorns now his chimney. Commissionning an artwork of this magnitude in express time will set you back... 10,000 gp at least!"
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
I'm reminded of the campaign in 3.0 I played a dwarf sorceror. His familiar was a rat, and he believed he was a Rat Shaman - he was a little addled to say the least.
The DM was rolling random loot, and a 300gp tapestry came up. My character decided/was confused and took it for a dashing cape to wear. That started a character trait of just taking weird loot simply for effect. He ended up with a weird feathered cap to go with the tapestry. We were level 1 so that 300gp wouldve been spent better other ways but... nope. It was his cape.
 

I made a loot generator in Excel. That way I can hand them a sheet with coins, goods, and gems / jewelry.

I do keep track of encumbrance, so they usually just throw away the copper aces. The goods they might take, depending. The goods are relatively generic so they get an idea of what they want to deal with. Once they found a crate of fresh parchment that the magician absolutely adored.

Since I (mostly) automate it, I do have specific gems and jewelry, although the form (ring, pendant) I determine on the fly. They have an understanding that 500-1000 mark gems will find ready buyers with magicians and clerics. When bargaining with a fae queen one of the players got excited when they looked at their sheet and said "ah HA! Platinum and sapphire earrings FTW!"
 

- Do you actively use descriptive mundane treasure text elsewhere in the game? Or is it just needless filler to you?

  • As a GM, do you automatically provide published descriptions on to players, or just say "200 gp in jewels, enough to fill a small sack"?
  • Do you ever change descriptions? Why?
  • Have you ever used mundane treasure descriptions to drop clues? impact PC/NPC relations? exploit or gauge player reactions? Anything else?
Yes. That filler provides a lot of flavor for the world. Without the descriptors its just another generic D&D world.

I love the idea of using treasure to provide clues, and have done so in my world. My dragons are slightly different from the norm, one treasure item is a book that helps describe those differences so that the smart character doesn't have to keep rolling and just knows those differences.
 


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