Friday, January 25, 2013

Divvying the Treasure - Who gets what, why?

The topic of dividing the treasure got a lot of play back in early editions of D&D. AD&D had (of course) a whole series of different ways of dividing it. Gary Gygax divided a whole section of his intro materials in B2 to the subject.

Even modern games have taken a shot at it - GURPS Dungeon Fantasy devotes a couple of paragraphs to it in DF2.

Back in the day, we went round the table in some kind of order - usually diced - and people took what they wanted. One especially memorable trio of players in my junior high days would do this for all non-coin treasure, nevermind magic items. They were the kind of guys who'd take a wolf pelt cape over a suit of magic armor because their guy would look cooler in the cape.

Recently, my players have taken a more collective approach. Money is divided evenly. Magic and special non-magic items are given the person who is best suited to use it. If it can be used by multiple people, they tend to come to some kind of agreement on who deserves it or needs it most.

There is occasional moaning about giving good stuff to people who didn't come on the adventure, but it has been known to happen that way too. After all, that magic sword might save your character if you give it to the character of the guy who missed that session and let him use it. Other times they just sell it and say, oh well, you missed it. More the latter than the former in my current dungeon crawling game.

I'm curious how other folks do treasure division. One of the types in the old AD&D books or one of the broad methods in DF2? Some other way of doing it?

And if you've got a preferred method, any special reason why?


  1. In the two games I play:

    GURPS DF: The guys are very specific about how this is done. We figure out the cash value of all treasure as if we were going to sell it. So default of 40% of face value, but if we roll well, the value goes up. Everyone gets an allocation of the cash value. We then lay claim to found items, which count against your share. Disputes or multiple claims have been handled through discussion amicably.

    Actual Pathfinder: We get stuff and give it to who needs it. We treat money as common and spend it on items and our pirate ship as required. Very socialist, but socialism works in small groups. :-)

  2. Almost every time that our PCs have found big treasure, there are one or two characters present when the actual loot is discovered. The really good stuff has been fairly compact, and in every case so far, the discovering character(s) pocketed that loot for themselves. In every case but one, the character has reconsidered later. Even in the one outstanding case, it is arguable that the swiped treasure ended up being used for the benefit of the group as a whole. But the initial reaction seems to be toward narrow self interest.

    The amazing thing to me, that I cannot imagine having happened when I was younger, is that the other players are not overly bothered whenever this happens. They are starting to look at it like it is standard operating procedure! When a character sheepishly produces some magic item that is worth most of the haul, and suggests that another character might make better use of it than they can, all is forgiven. When I was playing in junior high, there would have been hard feelings.

  3. I'm hoping my players hit on this system (and so I hope they don't read this):

    Monetary value of treasure, excluding magic items, is divided as soon as it is realized. Until such a time as that, it is held in escrow by the group.

    Magic items are owned by the group corporation and leased on a case-by-case (read: adventure-by-adventure or even session-by-session) basis. IF they are consumable, it is understood they are to be used for the good of the group, at the discretion of the current lessee. (You don't have to pay for that healing potion we found in the lich's tomb, but we expect you not to up and waste it.) Until such a time as a majority of the corporation decides to liquidate the magic items owned corporally, they are not considered to have a monetary value; at the time of their liquidation every member of the corporation gets a share according to their standing. Usually this means a share for every PC and half a share for each henchman, or whatever the arrangement is.

    This has a couple advantages: magic can always go to the person most likely to use it, and isn't tied to a character, so if the Barbarian is back in town, he doesn't keep his Belt of Giant's Strength - we give it to the Knight for this adventure. Additionally, magic items don't drain out of the party when characters leave; no character has a claim to anything he didn't buy himself.

    I haven't actually seen this in play, but I got the idea from Beedo's players - apparently they do this in his Gotic Greyhawk campaign.

    1. I think you'd have to suggest that one. I never heard of such a system until I read it here. I could see lots of problems with that - you can't solo adventure, you have to deal with "well, where is the magic greatsword between sessions if I don't carry it?", you have people creating or bringing their own magic items, and probably more I'm not thinking of.

      It can work, but I think it can only work with a definite and defined group, which has a group goal. With ad hoc adventuring groups, or those with divided motivations, I expect it could break down easily.

  4. I'm really glad you wrote about this, it's something I've been meaning to write about as well!

    In the old days our group ran a pretty brutal "if you find it, you keep it." loot system. It was a clunky and unfair system but the players liked it at the time and would often buy and trade between each other.

    That eventually gave way to a group loot system where one player carried a bag of holding just for the "group loot." The group would talk about what gear to sell and what to use. Surprisingly, the system didn't work too well because players would often take "trash loot" because they had an empty slot. "Oh, I don't have a ring so I'll take that ring of endure elements."

    (On a funny note, we had a new player at one point mistake the pronunciation. He thought it was a "ring of indoor elements." He was disappointed the first time he tried to make it rain in a dungeon.)

    What inevitably happened was that the players taking the trash loot would sell it off later and upgrade their own equipment, but not give anyone a cut from the sale. The players were not pleased.

    The group currently runs a group loot system where they keep a running tally of items issued. Now if a player takes a +1 sword in one game and sells it after the next, they still have to split the money with the group.

    The system works well, but it has it's own flaws. Casters seem to suffer a bit because they are pumping out potions and wands to benefit the party but don't get any monetary return while fighters and rogues keep raking in the gold.

    We may be on the verge of a "caster union strike" if things don't iron out soon!

    Great article!

  5. I like to run sandbox games and offer no guides to treasure distribution and in fact encourage the PCs to play it out and come up with an agreement for their specific party. I think party politics is a huge driver of roleplay, especially in more dungeon crawly loot gathering games where there is little external intrigue, and enjoy the banter as the group adopts a mercenary creed or organizes as a collective or pleads the case for lopsided sharing. its fun seeing a player who was a very mercenary character in one game play the character arguing for collective access to resources in another.

    1. I don't enforce any rules, either. It's up to them. It's interesting how people work it all out, and if it's by person or by character.

  6. My recent groups do standard stuff. One gives the magic to whoever could best use it and splits cash evenly, dicing to resolve conflict. The other appraises each magic item and anyone who wants it buys it from the party. Sale prices for items go into the pot of gp everyone splits at the end. Conflicts were resolved via auctions paying to the pot.

    But the AD&D group I learned to play in - my father's campaign, which he started in college - actually used Patrick Halter's method. We did it for 15 real-time years of weekly gaming. It does strange things to corporate accounts.

    Each PC got a little stipend of gold each adventure to pay expenses like food, clothes, arrows, oil or whatever. The rest went to the treasury. We chose the most honest player who didn't mind the work to be party treasurer and he kept stock of every valuable item, who carried it or where we stashed it, and where we'd found it. The rest of us stayed clear of the mess until we needed something. As far as we know, he was utterly scrupulous about the whole thing. We also appointed a secretary for notes, a cartographer for maps, and rotated party leadership each week.

    The game started in the early 80's (My best estimate; I know it started before my parents were married) and lasted until around 1999-2000. I joined in 1994, after growing old enough to play. I don't recall any gigantic Monty-Haul loot piles, but 15 years of playing once a week swells a treasure hoard something fierce. I caught a look at the treasurer's notes near when we retired. Not every line was a magic item, but he had 10-15 pages (both sides) in a 3-ring binder. The first line read approximately: "7,000,000 gp". When we retired the game, there were 9 of us at level 13-16 with around 2-4,000,000 XP each. It's at least in the right order of magnitude.

    The PCs worked for the Duke's Secret Service for many years, and had arrangements at his castle to leave the treasury in the vaults. Add to that some bags of holding found over the years, and we never really had to sell much magic. Finding buyers usually drew unwanted trouble, and with no magic shops selling more than scrolls or potions, we needed little cash until we hit name level. So most every magic item no one wanted just ended up in the treasury. You requisitioned magic or large sums of cash from the treasurer if you needed some, and the party gave it the thumbs up or down. When new PCs joined the company (Plenty of deaths, new players, and alternate PCs over the years), their first stop was the treasury to see if we had anything stashed away for them to use.

    We eventually sacked a castle that we liked enough to move in, and we ended up stashing the party treasury in its deepest vault. We protected it with the most devious traps, toughest goons, and strongest wards we could scrounge up. Our absent or alternate PCs and henchmen would hang out there to help the area and protect the hoard. We dropped a good chunk of the gold on a village, a tower, some barracks, or a temple on site each time a PC hit name level. Honestly, if we weren't a legally recognized agency of the Crown at that point, I think we would have been raided on a nightly basis by hopeful adventurers. As it was, we still had people try to break in every few adventures.

    I honestly had no idea this kind of thing wasn't a standard until I met people from other gaming groups in college. In retrospect, though we totally should've been on Hoarders: Dungeon Edition or something.

    1. Cool. Thanks for the long explanation, too.

      By the way, your blogger name sounds like one of the nicknames they give the main guy in "Space Mutiny" on MTS3K. :)

    2. No coincidence. I love that movie.

    3. If I have to make up another DF guy, it's going to be a barbarian named "Bolt Vanderhuge."

  7. I'm only in one active game right now, and I'd describe our system as the "lazy method." We let the GM keep track of these things for us, we give the player who need or can best use something the items that we find (that the GM spends zero effort on concealing are specifically tailored to the needs of specific players) and we pool the remainder to buy healing potions and pay for needed goods and services.

    It's all very laid back, but this is much more of a beer and pretzels group than one interested in hardcore role playing.


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