Mark S. Cookman
In a previous post we examined some ways to add different kinds of treasures to the adventuring party's hoard. In this post we are going to look at some real treasures that are troublesome to the party in some way or another. As stated in the previous post, these suggestions are meant to be used infrequently to spice up and expand the description of treasures obtained by your RPG party. Treasure is supposed to be fun, so don't over-use these tricks. Even though treasure is supposed to be a reward, all experienced adventurers come to know a sad truth: sometimes a treasure is just more trouble than it is worth. What follows are some examples.
Too Heavy / Too Bulky / Too Cumbersome
Too many teasures honestly fit into this category. Consider the treasure hoard in the picture above, the solid gold statue on the left weighs about 1200 lbs and the sarcophagus of the duck-emperor on the right weighs about 350 lbs empty. Both of these treasures would be worth a great deal more intact than they would be if they had to be broken apart for transport. The same applies to the fantastic stained-glass horse, but realistically most adventurers would NOT take the time to remove such treasures themselves. Other items that fall into this same category include large tapestries, golden candleabras, gem-studded mosaics, and golden or bejewelled ceiling moulding; beautiful to look at, undoubtably valuable, but nearly impossible to monetize unless you are willing to oversee the systematic removal and cataloging of every item.
Too Many Questions
Sometimes even legitimate treasure can be difficult to get any real money out of because of circumstances. For example, if a local gang is known to wear a certain style of armor, then businesses that pay protection money to that gang won't buy that armor no matter how masterfully-crafted it is. Owning the armor would be nothing but trouble for them. Another example of this, the party attempts to vend a golden idol that they do NOT know the significance of and ALL of the locals believe it is an icon of acursed evil. In one campaign that I played in, the imperial government rigidly controlled the artifacts of past civilizations. This made even the coins the party took from the dungeon unspendable in town (except on the black market) because even though they were gold and silver, they didn't have the right shape or markings to be legal coinage and were recognizable as historical artifacts. Lastly, remember that lots of money, flamboyant armor and equipment, and especially items from different cultures and/or technologies, tend to push commoners towards fear and fill adventurous souls with greed and thoughts of where they might get such things. Adventurers that have discovered a rich dungeon are much like miners in the wild west during the gold rush that have struck a rich vein of gold. They don't want people from town "jumping their claim".
Value vs. Trouble
Wise adventurers learn to evaluate all treasure in terms of the comparision of potential value against the potential trouble of acquiring / owning such a thing. Let me show you what I mean by this. If the party defeats a group of bandits who had little treasure, but all had good-quality studded leather armor, then the group must decide whether they think the 10 - 15 gp per set of armor is worth the time and effort of stripping the dead bodies. Often this comes down to a matter of levels. Low level parties scramble to get the gold to equip themselves properly, while high level parties are already equipped. High level dungeon delvers are usually looking for big treasures and unique items; they aren't trying to save enough gold to buy a crossbow. Here are some other examples of treasures that might be more trouble than they are worth:
The bugbears were pulling a cart full of scale mail and pole arms. There is about 800 gp value in the cart; it weighs about 700 lbs.
The amazing giant plant coins of the elves in Nantor Glade are worth more than 10,000 g.p. each, but they can't be transported and only have value to those that live in the Glade.
You find a medallion of draconic favor among some bones of a former adventurer. The script on the medallion seems to indicate that it exchangeable for a favor from a dragon. Are they transferrable?
Is It a Treasure?
Sometimes there are items that could be treasures, if you look at them in the right way. Here are some examples of what I mean:
Maps to Unknown Lands
Bank Notes (Outstanding Loans)
Letters from Big Bad to a Lieutenant
A dusty Sage Library
A cabinet full of spell components
A collection of fancy clothes
1d6 Rescued prisoners
I hope that you have seen how it is possible to give your PC's a vast hoard of treasure, yet still control how much of it they can actually "bring to market". Remember, sometimes a treasure is just more trouble than it is worth.