Posts Tagged With: Treasure & Loot

How could I forget buttons?

This weekend we went to the Field Museum of Chicago to see the Vodou and the Vikings exhibits (plus I managed to catch the Bunky Echo-Hawk exhibit as well). We really went for the Vodou exhibit (and it was amazing!) but the Viking had some nice pieces and had me thinking about jewelry and loot in my fantasy game.

And I realized that I had forgotten buttons, of all things, on my chart – one of the easiest and most ubiquitous ways to display wealth and ostentation! I use a system of my own design for this sort of thing – one that rates items by “coin equivalent” (based very, very roughly on metal mass) but then pegs the value of that coin to the social class the item comes from. So, for example, Commoner items are rated in Copper while Royal items are rated in Platinum. It also gives a rough idea of the metals that said items are made from – I do the same thing with clothing.

For what it is worth, I do a very similar thing for gems – and then rate them according to both quality and size. I also have a rating system for woods so that I can figure the value of wood carved objects.

This whole process, along with the valuation of raw/trade goods, lets me come up loot that is more than just a mound of coins. It can be kind of a pain for the players (all together now, “Awwwwww….”), but makes a ton more sense as far as I’m concerned.

It also represents a world where people tended to wear their wealth as much as (or more than) they would store it as coins or trade bars – and where clothing would often get reused, and handed down, eventually becoming rags to be worn by beggars. But adventurers, unless in full “loot the city” mode with the supply train to support it are going to simply miss out on a certain, perhaps majority, portion of the potential loot in a location.



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Coins and Currencies

Though barter is common in many lands, for many transactions an actual currency must be exchanged. The Standard Monetary Unit of the Heartlands (and much of the Mortal Realms) is the Silver Piece, with Copper, Bronze, and Gold also playing a significant place in common use. There are other coins available, notably denominations in Electrum and Platinum, and moneychangers are more concerned with the purity and weight of the coin rather than the exact details of the coins origin –while the various coins are all of different sizes, there are always 50 coins to the pound.

10 Bronze to 1 Copper / 10 Copper to 1 Silver / 20 Silver to 1 Gold

2000 Bronze / 200 Copper / 20 Silver / 1 Gold

Beyond these basic currencies of Bronze, Copper, Silver, and Gold, the Elves also commonly craft coins of Electrum and Mithril (worth 5 and 100 Silver respectively), while the Dwimmervolk (and other Dwarves) use Platinum (worth 100 Silver apiece) for large transactions that require hard coinage rather than letters and lines of credit. Dwarves and Humans also commonly use Trade Bars, which are weighted and stamped bars of the various metals in 25 Coin, 50 Coin, 100 Coin, 250, and 500 Coin denominations.

Bronze Pieces (BP): Commonly known as a “Bit” or a “Bob” occasionally a “Farthing” for a 1 Copper coin, Bronze Pieces come in a variety of denominations – the single Bronze Farthing, the Two-Bit, the Three-Bob, and the Five-Bit or “Beggar” coins are readily available from countries both ancient and modern.

Copper Pieces (CP): Often simply called a “Copper” or a “Common” sometimes a “Penny” or “Pence”, Copper Pieces are the workhorses of coinage. They come in a five denominations, the Quarter-Pence Coin (worth 2½ Bronze Pieces), the Half-Pence Coin (worth 5 Bronze Pieces), and the 1, 2 (the Tuppence), 3 (the Thruppence), 5, and 6 (Six Pence) Copper Piece coins.

Silver Pieces (SP): The Silver Piece is the standard monetary unit used by merchants and kings. Commonly known as a “Mark” or a “Shilling” it comes in a wide variety of denominations – the Quarter-Mark (worth 2½ Copper Pieces), the Groat (worth 4 Copper Pieces), the Half-Mark Coin (worth 5 Copper Pieces), and 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 Silver Piece coins.

Electrum Pieces (EP): The Electrum Piece is commonly known as either a “Sun” or a “Moon” because of the common art used by the Elves who strike these coins. They are known to be found in denominations as tiny as a hundredth of an Electrum Piece (or Five Copper pieces in value) and as large as 20 Electrum Pieces (or 200 Silver Pieces in value). The Elvish fascination with artistic design and aesthetic s trumping any limit to the number of denominations – some of these designs end up being worth far more than the weight of the Electrum, many actually being considered small works of art instead.

Gold Pieces (GP): The Gold Piece is rare outside of the purses of nobles, rich merchants, and flush adventurers. Generally known as “Crowns” or “Dragons” (and by some as “Dwarfs” because of the greed that Dwarves have for gold) it comes in a number of denominations. There is the tiny Florin and Double-Florin coins (worth 2 and 4 Silver respectively), the Crown, Half-Crown, and Double Crown coins (worth 20 Silver, 10 Silver, and 40 Silver respectively), as well as the Sovereign (worth 5 Gold or 100 Silver), Half-Sovereign (worth 2½ Gold or 50 Silver), and Quarter-Sovereign (worth ¼ Gold or 25 Silver).

Platinum Pieces (PP): Almost exclusively minted by Dwarves (and a few Elves), the common man can go his entire life and never see (or perhaps even hear of) a Platinum Piece. For those that use them, they are often called an “Imperial” because of their ties and uses in large exchanges on the national and international stage. They are found in Quarter-Imperial (25 Silver), Half-Imperial (50 Silver), Single Imperial (100 Silver), Double-Imperial (200 Silver), and the “Imperial Fist” (sometimes known as an “Imperial Gauntlet”) worth 500 Silver. When used in large transactions or as a “unit of account” the Imperial Lux (shortened to £ in accounting), valued at 250 Silver, is commonly used.

Mithril Pieces (MP): The only race that “mints” Mithril Pieces are the Elves, and it is more accurate to say that they are engraved instead. The Dwimmervolk generally snap them up as soon as they can and convert the majority to more utilitarian objects, but some remain in circulation for a variety of reasons and they are always welcome by those merchant wealthy enough to deal in them. They are most commonly referred to as a “Star” and come in varieties as varied as their Electrum Pieces.

Other Known Currencies:

The elves are also know to carve “coins” out of materials usually reserved for jewelry – Bangles, Precious and Semi-Precious Stones, even Magestones and Gemstones – creating tradable objects d’art.

Goblinkin and various Barbarian Tribes use plundered coinage rather than minting their own, but also use Hacksilver and Chaingold. Hacksilver is silver jewelry and bars that is made so as to be easily cut apart in 1 Silver Piece increments. Chaingold is heavy gold chain of high purity that is made so as to be easily disassembled, each link being worth 1 Gold Piece (or 20 Silver).

In Ith, Bronze and Gold Pieces are common, as well as a variety of beads of Ornamental, Semi-Precious, and Precious Stones. Rings (Finger and Body) and Slaves are also used as a common currency, along with livestock. Among the common folk barter is quite common.

In Khitain, Bronze, Copper, and Silver coins are common, while plaques of Jade and Imperial Jade (Valued at Copper and Electrum) are also used. As perhaps the most interesting innovation currency printed on paper or imprinted into porcelain is not only used but well accepted among the common populace also.

The Shadowlands is perhaps most noteworthy in having essentially no established currency system of its own, using plundered and traded coin from elsewhere, along with barter. The Ebion Council does issue tokens of Black Iron or Steel (rarely Hematite or Black Adamant) as reimbursable trade units for specific trade goods (usually mounts, weapons, or provisions) or services (healing, shelter, sex work, etc). The Dwarrow trade in pearls that they create, and this is also used across the Shadowlands as a common form of currency.

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Basic Magical Armor and Weapons

So, I have a game with a relatively high magical content, and the “east” availability of these materials reflects this. These rules owe a fair amount to the years I spent running a home-brew game engine. In that system, there was little in the way of +X weapons and instead it was either the quality of the forging combined with the characteristics of the materials, plus other enchantments (Flaming, Frost Brand, Holy, etc) that determined its characteristics. This itself had it’s root in the 1E DMG which described the various +’s of weapons and armor as various types of metallic alloys.

When I went back to AD&D (and now 5e D&D), these continued over (since it was now a well-established part of the campaign world. I actually think these work even better in the “bounded accuracy/low magic” sensibility of 5e. A couple of things to remember, I use a Silver standard, you can probably use Gold instead without messing with the game balance too badly if you use a Gold standard. This stuff is intentionally expensive because it is always “nominally available” if you are looking for “better stuff to buy” to beef up your character


Adamant: One of the rarest and strongest of materials, weapons made of Adamant are considered Enchanted and gain Advantage on all attack rolls against non-Adamant armor and automatically do double damage dice. Armour made of Adamant is Resistant to Slashing, Bludgeoning, and Piercing weaponry and is Resistant to and creates Disadvantage for non-enchanted weaponry. Weapons and armour made of Adamant have half the normal EV, and are always considered to have the Finesse quality. A single weapon or ten pieces of Ammunition can be bought as Adamant for the cost of 4000sp. Armor made of Adamant costs double the standard amount, to a minimum of 8000sp. When saving against destruction it has a +5. Availability: Exotic

Black Adamant: An even rarer form of Adamant from the Shadowlands, weapons made of Black Adamant have all the properties of Adamant with additional properties as well. Weapons made of Black Adamant are also able to strike Disembodied spirits in the Astral and Ethereal Realms. Black Adamant armor also grants Resistance to and Advantage against Necrotic damage and spells. A single weapon or ten pieces of Ammunition can be bought as Black Adamant for the cost of 5000sp. Armor made of Black Adamant costs double the standard amount, to a minimum of 10000sp. When saving against destruction it has a +5. Availability: Exotic

Bronze: An uncommon metal for use in weapons and armor in these Ages, some ancient or ceremonial weapons and armor remain in existence and use, and some especially primitive cultures may have not yet developed better smithing techniques. Bronze weapons have Disadvantage against other metal armours, as well as natural hides and scales that are AC15 or better. Weapons of other metals always have Advantage against armor made of Bronze. It’s single benefit is that it does not rust and is not ferrous (and thus susceptible to magnetic effects). Armor and weapons made of Bronze costs double the standard amount. When saving against destruction it has a -2. Availability: Town

Cold-Iron: A relatively common form of special material, it can have a variety of effects to those creatures Vulnerable to it. Armor made of Cold-Iron grants Advantage against magic of the Fae, and Advantage and Resistance to abilities and damage from creatures of the Dearth. A single weapon or ten pieces of Ammunition can be bought as Cold-Iron for double the normal cost. Armor made of Cold-Iron costs double the standard amount, to a minimum of 100sp. Availability: Town

Cold-Silver: Uncommon though not exactly difficult to make for skilled smiths, this is an alloy of both Cold-Iron and Silver and has the properties of both. A single weapon or ten pieces of Ammunition can be bought as a combination of Silvered and Cold-Iron for five times the cost or a minimum of 250 Silver. Armor made of Cold-Silver costs double the standard amount, to a minimum of 500sp. Availability: City

Hematite: A very rare material from the Shadowlands, weapons made of Hematite are considered Enchanted and always have Advantage against Undead or Dearth, and do double damage dice against the same. Armour made of Hematite grants Advantage against Undead and Dearth spell-like abilities, and Advantage to saving throws against and Resistance to Necrotic damage. A single weapon or ten pieces of Ammunition can be bought as Hematite for the cost of 3000sp. Armor made of Hematite costs double the standard amount, to a minimum of 6000sp. When saving against destruction it has a +2. Availability: Exotic

Orikalcum: A bright and shining, coppery-golden alloy, Orikalcum has significant anti-magical properties and is greatly feared by mages everywhere. Weapons made of it are considered Enchanted and are the Bane of highly magical and magic-using creatures (spell-casters included) – this means that these weapons have Advantage against and do double damage dice against such creatures. Armour made of Orikalcum grants Advantage on all saving throws against magic or spell-like effects, as well as providing Resistance to all damage done by magical effects. A single weapon or ten pieces of Ammunition can be bought as Orikalcum for the minimum cost of 2000sp. Armor that is made of Orikalcum costs double the standard amount, to a minimum of 4000sp. Availability: Exotic

Moonsilver: Also known as “Truesilver” this metal is a luminescent silvery metal of great strength and resilience. It addition to having all of the properties of Silver, weapons made of Moonsilver have Advantage against Shapechangers and Lycanthropes, also gaining double damage dice against such creatures. Armor made of Moonsilver causes the natural attacks of such creatures to be at a Disadvantage, and provide Resistance to those same attacks. A single weapon or ten pieces of Ammunition can be bought as Orikalcum for the minimum cost of 1500sp. Armor that is made of Moonsilver costs double the standard amount, to a minimum of 3000sp. When saving against destruction it has a +3. Availability: Exotic

Mithril: Considered by many to be “the king of metals” and prized by Dwarves and Fae alike for it remarkable properties, Mithril is extremely popular and is probably the most commonly encountered of the Exotic materials. Weapons made of Mithril have Advantage against non-Enchanted armor. Armour made of Mithril is Resistant to non-enchanted Slashing, Bludgeoning, and Piercing weaponry. The EV of armor and weapons made of Mithril is a quarter normal. A single weapon or ten pieces of Ammunition of Mithril can be bought for 500 times the normal cost with a minimum of 1000sp. Armor that is made of Mithril costs double the standard amount, to a minimum of 2000sp. When saving against destruction it has a +4. Availability: Great City

Silver: Very easy to get ahold of, Silvered weapons have a variety of effects on creatures that are Vulnerable to them, notably Lycanthropes. Armour that is Silvered gives those same creatures Disadvantage when attacking if they are using natural weapons (again notably Lycanthropes). A single weapon or ten pieces of Ammunition can be bought as Silvered for double the normal cost. Armor that is Silvered costs double the standard amount, a minimum of 200sp. When saving against destruction it has a -1. Availability: Town

Truesteel: A popular alloy in use across the Realms, Truesteel actually comes in a variety of different alloys that are used by various groups (such as the shimmering golden Sunsteel in use by the Society of Light or the dark Shadowsteel in use in the Shadowlands). Weapons made of Truesteel are considered Enchanted and armor made of Truesteel has Resistance to Bludgeoning, Slashing, and Piercing damage from non-enchanted weapons. A single weapon or ten pieces of Ammunition of Truesteel can be bought for ten times the normal cost with a minimum of 500sp. Armor that is made of Truesteel costs double the standard amount, to a minimum of 1000sp. When saving against destruction it has a +1. Availability: Great City

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Economics, Equipment, and Availability

I’ll be posting some rules for weapons and armor made from a selection of metals, most (but not all) of them also considered “enchanted” when and if such a thing would matter. The list includes not just a description of effects, but also refers to my “availability codes” for equipment.

Years ago now I took a page from the Pendragon RPG which has separate equipment lists for “Standard” areas and another for  “Great Cities” (essentially London and Camelot), essentially forcing the characters to certain areas if and when they wanted certain items because that is the only place they were available. I experimented with a variety of systems over the years, but when I really sat down and hammered out an economy I drew deeply from the Pendragon well, along with looking at systems such as Harn for other inspiration.

The first thing I did was do research living expenses and wages across a number of eras, and eventually decided to peg the daily wage of a standard mercenary (aka “an adventurer”) at 1 Silver per day, the cost of a standard (long)sword at 30 Silver (a full month’s wages), a Laborer’s wage a 2 Copper per day, a bottle of table wine at 5 Copper, and a days worth of Bread at 1 Copper (a day’s worth of Dried Meat is also a Copper, Dried Vegetables is 1 Bronze). All other prices were essentially figured out using pegging things to these prices either using real world analogies, or simply eyeballing it, keeping in mind the difference between ancient and modern economies.

Using this system, a laborer can eke out a very poor existence assuming that they keep working and are supplied someplace to sleep by their employer – if not then space in a field or a stable is usually 1 Copper, the Common Room of an Inn or Tavern is 2 Copper a night, and a Private Room is 5 Copper ( a Private Suite is 1 Silver, sans any other amenities). Interestingly it took very little work to adapt the 5E “Living Expenses” to this system.

Given the “Wild West Mining Town” trope that Lost Mine of Phandelver has been running with, I decided that it is also working under semi-typical inflated prices. In this case merely doubling prices, with some slightly tweaked availability of mining related  equipment from the normal “Town” gear.

In any case, a large part of what I wanted was to have a relatively exhaustive list of equipment, but also make it clear that some things were rarer than others. As a result, on my equipment list (and associated documents) items are noted as being available in Villages (generally less than a hundred people), Towns (anywhere from couple of hundred people to upwards of 1500 people, usually 600-800 inhabitants), Cities (smaller cities ranging from 1500 to 2500 people, larger cities from 2500 to 5000 inhabitants), Great Cities (10,000 or more inhabitants), or as Exotic. You can always find things from a smaller population available in a larger population center, but the reverse is not true (and such items are invariably inflated in price considerably when they can be found).

Exotic items are exactly that, treasures from the Shadowlands or Faerie, especially hard to craft items, especially rare herbs or spices, etc. These are technically available anywhere that you can find a seller – but that is much more likely in a City or Great City.

It sounds like this was a great deal of work to set up, and in some ways it was, but is was also just the sort of world-building detail-work that I enjoy researching and chewing on. It also starts to build up a certain Gygaxian Naturalism into the campaign world.



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