The day is coming to an end and I find myself waiting on the sales department, so…
Allow me to explain one of the fundamental problems I am having with the development of a comprehensive treasure table. Keep in mind that this stems from insisting, constantly, that there be a rational logic in the simulation aspect of my game, so that whatever treasure might be found, there is a reason why it is there.
Let us consider the average goblin. The monster manual indicates that our goblin (and I’m not looking at the MM right now, so I’ll come back and fix this later) either a set amount of copper or a set amount of silver on its person. And that is it. Siss-boom-bah, kill the goblin and take its coin.
However…while we are sloughing away with this paltry, pathetic amount of coin, is not the goblin’s sword or mace worth considerably more money? Even if the mace is old and shit, it’s still probably worth three times as much as the pathetic copper I’ve just taken. And how about the belt it hangs on? What about the helmet and shield? What about the leather armor—even if it doesn’t fit me or you, a suit of any leather armor can be cut and split into soles for boots or made into thongs—how much would a cobbler pay for 5 pounds of raw leather? Ever priced leather in the real world? And what about the goblin’s boots? How many children are running around without footwear? The goblin’s pouch is worth several coin according to the equipment list. And if you note the player’s handbook, the goblin’s ichor (brain juice) is a spell component.
Where, exactly does it end? Just how much “treasure” does a goblin have on it? Where do you draw the line, as a DM? If I’m going to dress up a goblin so that it has the appropriate amount of treasure on his person, how much is too much, or how much is enough?
Look, a player has to pay (let’s say, because in my world it depends on what city you’re in) 10 g.p. for a pike. That takes into account the difficulty in fashioning a straight 18-foot pole (try it sometime) so that it can be used without breaking it. The materials are not the expensive part. I can’t simply assume that the pike in the hands of our friend goblin is worthless. If it works at all it bespeaks of craftsmanship, which means the old “well it is old and cruddy” argument doesn’t fly. During the combat I’m not applying negative modifiers to the goblin’s weapon when he attacks. Which means it’s a pole arm legitimately and it ought to be worth 10 g.p. in experience. Okay, it might be a little shorter for a goblin, so lets say 6 g.p. That’s still worth more than a paltry collection of silver coin.
The same argument holds for the leather armor, shield and helmet. They may look like shit, but if they give the goblin a 7 AC, then the have the same intrinsic value of your sweet-smelling defensive battle gear. How come my character can’t pay for all this “worthless” stuff and have the same AC he enjoys by paying ten times as much?
So we’re talking about a conservative 26 g.p. per goblin, not 2 to 12 crummy silver coins. Plus boots, backpack, clothes, copper holy symbol, probable minor junk like bone dice, playing cards (goblins get bored to), some sort of knife for cutting its food, a tinder box, torches, a waterskin, a small copper pan for eating/cooking, a tool for picking its nose and probably a collection of piercings with copper jewelry that it has out of vanity. These are things that practically every goblin would have with him on patrol…we’re not talking about stuff you wouldn’t carry yourself as your character. Odd goblins in a troop might additionally carry things like rope, grapples, wood axes, a carpenter’s hammer, spikes, a smoking pipe, an ice axe in snowy climes (along with snowshoes and ski poles), netting and shit knows what else. We’re talking 15 to 20 items per goblin, minimum, most having a value at least as much as 10.5 c.p. (the average for a J-type treasure) or more.
Suddenly as a DM creating a rational treasure table you have to somehow account for all this crap, or else turn a blind eye to it. For me, it would mean making some 200 cards of junk every time a party kills 10 goblins. As well, most parties don’t want to haul cartfuls full of various junk home even if it is worth 400 g.p. in totality. There is a mindset players have where they will kill 10 zero-level heavy footmen, pocket the 23 gold coins collectively found in their belt pouches and blithely leave behind the 10 suits of chain mail worth 750.
If you want sanity as a DM, you have to pick option B: “Please, ignore all this that you find which would cost your characters hundreds of gold pieces if you were to buy it as general equipment, since I’m compensating for that by giving you three nice shiny gems worth 100 g.p. each. No, all of their clothing and equipment is worthless…even though that worthless sword five minutes ago hit you a critical wound for 18 damage.”
That is the way everybody plays.
I have struggled for eighteen months now to build up some kind of system of standardized carried gear, tailored for level/power of the creature concerned, with the expectation that if the party can’t see the value of the gear, to hell with them. Do you think that a universal system, one which does not require an individual treasure table for every kind of creature in the bestiary, could be created?
I thought so for a time. So far it has escaped me. But I continue to pound my head over the problem, and over the other problem besides, the one I haven’t mentioned yet:
What treasure, logically, should exist in this part of the world?