DMing Tips: Spending Party Loot


Greetings, today I bring a discussion which my fellow DMJon (who has commented on many of my posts) and I had on players’ loot in D&D. Both Jon and I agreed we liked that magical items were rarer in the current edition of D&D. No longer were players expecting enter a sizable settlement and buy magical items, or carry around dozens of +1 items to try to sell for gold, because this was no longer essential to their success. Instead, magical items are truly something rare and exciting, something to be, well, treasured. However, this does create a problem, with the lack of magical goods to buy, what should parties spend their hard earned loot on?

I have come up with a few solutions to this dilemma, but first I have to state my policy on treasure. In my games, I always attempt to give my party just enough to feel rewarded, but still feel the pinch when buying a lot of goods. If the party begins flashing too much cash in a large city they may be targeted by pickpockets and thieves. Often, merchants will not have the gold available to pay anywhere near full price for valuable art, gems, and jewelry, with the party lucky if they get 25% value. In my opinion, when it comes to treasure, less is more. I would rather my party feel poor and look forward to loot, then feel overly wealthy and not be impressed with rubies. This may not work with every party, but it works with mine.



Right, so things for characters to spend their hard earned loot on:

-Over coasted goods. Often, if my party is in a small village, or the wilderness, the weapons and goods available will be much more expensive then listed in the Player’s Handbook. I explain that the Player’s Handbook is a cost guide for a city, so while a city may have several blacksmiths, a town will have one or none, and few if any swords or suits of armor. Because of this, a sword in a small village costs a LOT more then in a city. In comparison, food and other goods like that will be cheaper, same with inn rooms, ect.

This helps gives a sense of realism to your world, but it also separate low level characters from their treasure, as they will often be looking for small weapon changes, or more arrows, ect. You can pair this with equipment used by enemies often ending up damaged and unusable, maybe even party member’s gear breaks with critical misses, requiring more future purchases.

-One use magical items, such as healing potions and scrolls. These items should still be very rare, but in larger settlements a few could be available, for a large price. I like to make my healing potions at least 300 gold.

I have found that these one off items give the party some tools to deal with a variety of situations, healing potion if the healer gets knocked out for instance, but since they are one use they do not over power the party.

The party may not want to pay the exorbitant prices, in which case the seller could request a specific favor, sparking of a mini adventure.

-Information and hirelings. Both of these are resources that can be extremely valuable to a party. Imagine having a doctor who follows along with the party, for a fee, stabilizing party members after (or during for a higher fee) combat, but refusing to fight himself, or a Fletcher who keeps the party supplied with ranged implements.

If the party is trying to find information on something, rather then just giving information with a Investigation check, have the party find a source of information, but have them play the encounter out. Often these informants will require an exorbitant fee for their services. Some solid diplomacy can decrease the cost, but not eliminate it. Perhaps the gold spent on information reveals the location of a magical artifact, allowing players, in a fashion, to buy magical items, but they then have to delve into a dungeon for them.

-Encourage your players to invest in their characters’ goals. If you players mentions forming a thieves guild in passing, encourage them to do it, not only will this help invest them in the game, but it will be a great opportunity to use treasure. The same can be done if your player wants to make a mercenary company ect.

The key here is to make sure the investment feels worth it, the guild, business, ect needs to give something back, be it meat shields, reputation, more treasure, a combination.

Long term character improvement also goes along with this. Many of my players eventually ask how to get more skills, a new language, weapons training, ect. I will often allow the players to explore this potential; however, hiring a trainer takes time and a LOT of loot. A skill takes about 80 days to trains and 500 gold. This can be scaled to your campaign. It could also be tweaked for the goal, learning Infernal would be much more difficult then say Elven in an elf dominated kingdom.

player logic

How do you handle players wealth? Do you view them accumulating too much being a problem? What do you think of my strategies?


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