Thursday, 19 July 2012

Towards a More Simplified Corpse Robbing

Being of an unashamedly lazy nature when it comes to GMing duties, I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to simplify loot generation. This is particularly true when it comes to 'pocket money' treasure carried by wandering monsters, NPCs, etc.

Problem: My loathing of Classic D&D Treasure Type tables (too damn fiddly and involved by half).
Solution: steal and a adapt a simpler, more intuitive treasure generation method.

Reading Advanced Fighting Fantasy recently -- the original pocket paperback AFF, not the Arion Games 'printed on sheets of beaten gold' re-release -- I happened upon a table I just wish I'd known about/remembered when I was working on Small But Vicious Dog.

Behold, in all its glory, the original version of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy random treasure generator:
d6    Treasure
1    -
2    1-3gp
3    1-6gp
4    2-12gp
5    Special Item   
6    1-6gp + Special Item

Humanoid -- d6
Monster -- d6-1
Undead -- d6-2
All Others (Animal, Bird, Insect, Magical Creature) -- d6-3

2d6    Special Items           
2    Enchanted Axe: +1 skill
3    Potion of Invisibility
4    Magic Sack: 5 items weigh as 1
5    Silver Arrow
6    1-6 jewels, 10gp each
7    1-3 gems, 25gp each
8    Scroll of ESP
9    Healing Potion
10    Cursed dagger: -2 skill
11    Poison potion
12    Magic Sword: +2 skill

Clever innit? Presence, quantity and quality of loot generated with a couple of d6 rolls and reference to only two tables. A treasure system simple and intuitive enough that even the dozy kids can see how it's supposed to work. What a difference from the opaque gabblestorm of Classic D&D Individual Treasure Types (HC: I-VII in Labyrinth Lord, TT: P-V in BECMI, J-Z(?) in AD&D) which had anything up to a dozen or more separate die rolls and gave you no way of telling at first glance roughly what a creature may be carrying. I know which system works better for me in the midst of play...

Simply adapt the Special Items sub-table to the D&D magic item types, add a couple of house rules for higher HD monsters, and that's my new go-to 'monster pocket money' swag table:

Individual/Non-Lair Treasures Revised 

d6    Sweet, sweet loot!
1    -
2    1-3gp
3    1-6gp
4    2-12gp
5    Special Item   
6    1-6gp + Special Item

Humanoid*     1d6
Monster     1d6-1
Undead        1d6-2
Animal**, Conjuration*** or Lowlife**** 1d6-3

* Anything with intelligence, a culture and the potential for acquisitive habits.
** Beasts mundane, giant and prehistoric.
*** Elementals, golems, animated statues, invisible stalkers, etc.
**** A broad monster type from BECMI's Creature Catalogue. Lowlife covers creatures which are "...non-intelligent and have a very simple lifestyle." (CC, p3) - Plants, Bugs, Worms and Goos.

Special Items? Roll 2d6 on the subtable to determine type, then resort to the customary magic items tables:

2d6    Special Items
2    Ring
3    Misc. Weapon
4    Misc. Magic
5    Jewel (1d100x10gp)
6    Gems (2d20x10gp)
7    Non-magic items*
8    Scroll
9    Potion
10    Swords
11    Armour
12    Rod/Wand/Stave

* Keys, faction identifiers, plot coupons (roll on the Vornheim "What Has It Got In Its Pocketses?" chart or nearest local equivalent), non-magic gadgets and gizmos, etc.

  • Multiply cash by total HD of creatures defeated. So knocking over 5 bugbears out for a stroll will net you 15 x whatever you roll on the random swag chart. Sometimes this will be 0gp, other times the party will end up with a bag of cash and maybe a shiny thing.
  • Cash value is gp equivalent only. You can dish it out in copper, silver, platinum, even electrum (*spit*) if that floats your boat.
  • You only even find one instance of Special Item per encounter, usually in the hands of the biggest, burliest monster present. If magical that item will probably be of the lowliest power for its type.
That's the entire non-pre-placed treasure system reduced to 3-4 die rolls. Maybe a couple more if you roll 'scroll' or 'intelligent magic sword' on the item type sub-tables.

This mod does increase the probability of discovering magic items in the possession of WMs substantially from the baseline D&D Treasure Tables. But then again, only two types of wanderers (Humanoids, Monsters) have even the possibility of carrying Special Items, which keeps the sheer Diablo-ness within semi-reasonable bounds ("Why exactly were the beetles carrying magic boots?"). Of those random items two-thirds will be either a bit of extra cash, non-magical gear, or one-shot items. As for wandering undead, summoned entities and the clean up crew, they're now wildly dangerous and dirt poor.

Thoughts? Criticisms? Demands that I actually finish the job before posting?


  1. Love it. Exactly the sort of thing I've been meaning to do myself for years now. Thanks.

  2. There is much wisdom to be found in that old game. I always found that special items table charming in its specificity; where did all those single silver arrows come from?

  3. @James: Ta. It's not a dealbreaker, but Treasure Types do bug me. Nice to know I'm not a lone gibbering voice for once.

    PS: More Avandar plz. (*prod prod*)

    @Kelvin: The silver arrows probably come from the same goblin sweatshop in Port Blacksand that makes all those dodgy 'display purposes only' daggers.

  4. The new AFF book has a very simple treasure table too - using 2d6 to create a probability curve. There's a column for 'coins', 'treasure', and 'magical items' - only a 10+ produces a magical item. Modifiers are suggested, from +8 for a Dragon to -6 for a Goblin.

    However, the 'treasure' table is the neatest, as it suggests that large amounts of the wealth of a hoard be found as objects d'art, spices, etc. It's not particularly detailed, but it reminds you to swerve away from what it is all too easy to do - have every monster or NPC's wealth entirely in cash. In D&D, PCs are essentially burglars - you take the TV as well as the cash!


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