Possibly Stupid Questions Regarding Loot

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(3.5; I am DM.)
Maybe this is dumb, but I'm interested on other people's preferences and any official rules I may be aware of (or too brain-dead right now to remember.)

With my players, I've never had a problem. I've tried to follow what the DMG says regarding acquiring wealth, and if they are doing too well, I cut it back a bit, and if they're doing poorly, I throw in a few more g.

My questions, though:

1:
DMG 51, Table 3-3: Treasure Values per Encounter
Is this supposed to be per character, or, as I assume, (and have always done as such) per encounter overall, which are "supposedly" designed for 4-person parties?

2:
Let's say you're going by-the-book for loot values, AND predetermining your treasure. Do you count items as their market price, or as their sale price (1/2 market price.) Considering that a lot of the items are specifically going to be sold, not used, this is a big issue since I use a lot of classed NPCs as foes (whose market value of equipment is in line with what a PC should have, and thus far exceeds the loot they should be worth fopr their Encounter Level.)
1) Total encounter, not per level.
2) Market price, not sale price.

Those are both spelled out in the DMG; I just don't remember exact wording or page.
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I do, however, have one last lesson on this subject. That last one? The only build in this post that can one-shot average opponents[by dealing twice as much damage as they have HP? I would argue that it is not optimized. Why isn't it optimized? Because it's overkill. Overkill is NOT optimizing. This means that there are portions of this build dedicated to damage which can safely be removed and thrown elsewhere. For example, you probably don't need both Leap Attack AND Headlong Rush at the same time. You could pick up Extra Rage feats for stamina, feats to support AoO effects, feats that work towards potential prestige classes, and so on. However, you could also shift our ability scores around somewhat. I mean, if you're getting results like that with 16 starting Strength, maybe you can lower it to 14, and free up four points to spend somewhere else - perhaps back into Charisma, giving you some oomph for Intimidating Rage or Imperious Command if you want. You can continue to tune this until it deals "enough" damage - and that "enough" does not need to be "100%". It could easily be, say, 80% (leaving the rest to the team), if your DM is the sort who would ban one-hit killers.
Tempest_Stormwind on Character Optimization
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When she meets CJ's mom?
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Pretty much as I figured, thanks. Though, I am still interested to hear from anyone who might bend point #2, which sucks because I either have to under-equip the NPCs, find some jerk way to prevent the PC's from getting their goods, or make up for it with a defecit later.

Guess the PC's will be fighting a lot of treasureless foes next adventure.
1.  Treasure from an encounter is based on the encounter and how many, or how strong, the PCs are shouldn't matter one bit.  If the group runs into an EL 4 encounter those should average 1200gp regardless of if there is just one PC or eight PCs and if those PCs are 1st-level or 8th-level.  The game assumes that is split into a party of four but parties with fewer numbers would find a given EL more difficult and those with more would find them easier so things should balance out.  Bigger groups typically should face higher ELs although those encounters shouldn't really have stronger creatures but instead have more of them.

2.  Market Price although there are some other things you should note.


  • The table you refered to shows the AVERAGE that the stated EL produces.  Some encounters at that EL will produce more treasure while others may produce siginificantly less.

  • NPC equipment has its own table which is SIGNIFICANTLY lower then what a PC should expect to have based on the Wealth by Level table.  This value IS normally higher then average treasures for a few reasons.  First is that it will/should be used against the PCs so there is more work earning it (granted you should always predetermine treasure and then use anything useful).  Secondly, it is assumed that the PCs will be selling a lot of it which they can not use.  The third thing is actually related to the first two and that is it should contain consumables which are then used against the PCs.


It is this last point where you really need to pay attention.  When you equipe an NPC you could/should give it some powerful one shot items and have it use that to bring it's stuff up the "PC level" instead of giving the NPC permanent magic items.  If I want the NPCs to be using "magic weapons" against the party I'm more likely to write them up with some Oil of (Greater) Magic Weapon instead of giving them all permanent magic items which can really inflate PC wealth.  An Oil of Greater Magic Weapon (+2) coating a Masterwork weapon costs 1500 gp but will function like an 8000 gp +2 weapon for eight hours which should give it enough time to be used against the PCs.  Using Wands with a limited number of charges is also an idea to "power up" NPCs without leaving the PCs in a monte-haul situation once the encounter is over.
 
Pretty much as I figured, thanks. Though, I am still interested to hear from anyone who might bend point #2, which sucks because I either have to under-equip the NPCs, find some jerk way to prevent the PC's from getting their goods, or make up for it with a defecit later.

Guess the PC's will be fighting a lot of treasureless foes next adventure.

I see you were posting this while I was typing my response and I hope my extended take on point #2 helps.

Now maybe using "consumables" to provide big boosts to NPCs comprable to what they could get with permanent magic items fits your definition of "some jerk way to preven the PC's from getting their goods" but that is really what has to be done to stay within the rules but not give the PCs all the wealth they could ever dream of.  In theory you could also use equipment that is really the wrong size (PCs usually have a hard time using weapons and armor for large creatures) but that doesn't help much as they'd probably be selling most of it anyway.
 
Table 5.1 on page 135 of the DMG might also be very useful to you.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

That table (Character Wealth by Level) is used as a measure of the PC's wealth and has NOTHING to do with the NPCs or how much wealth encounters should give except to say if the PCs are "rich" (need to lower treasure awards) or "poor" (need to increase treasure awards.)

If you equip the NPCs the PC fight using this table their wealth will skyrocket unless those are the only thing they fight for a level that wards treasure.

When creating NPCs the table to pay attention to is a few pages earlier on p.127 of the DMG.  Although the NPCs start with a bit more gear by 3rd level they are as close as they ever get to being equiped the same (2,500 gp for the NPC and 2,700 gp for the PC) and from here forward the PCs should have a lot more stuff then an NPC.
That table (Character Wealth by Level) is used as a measure of the PC's wealth and has NOTHING to do with the NPCs or how much wealth encounters should give except to say if the PCs are "rich" (need to lower treasure awards) or "poor" (need to increase treasure awards.)

If you equip the NPCs the PC fight using this table their wealth will skyrocket unless those are the only thing they fight for a level that wards treasure.

When creating NPCs the table to pay attention to is a few pages earlier on p.127 of the DMG.  Although the NPCs start with a bit more gear by 3rd level they are as close as they ever get to being equiped the same (2,500 gp for the NPC and 2,700 gp for the PC) and from here forward the PCs should have a lot more stuff then an NPC.



That's not what I meant. I mean 5-1 is a guide as to how much wealth the PCs should approx. have.
E.g.: The characters are level 12, but have over 100,000 gold: you should probably be a little more stingy with loot and definitely not more generous.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

I'm sorry if there is any confusion and/or perceived hostility here.  I just wanted to make sure that 'the rules' were clear because I have see DMs who equip NPCs according to those tables and then wonder why their PCs have so much wealth.

Now if you really want/need to equip an NPC at that level it is possible but then there will be a lot of no-treasure encounters required to make things balance out.  I know NPC equipment seems pathetic when compared to PC wealth but some of that can be made up for by using those cheap, one-shot boosters that aren't really cost effective for PCs over many encounters but which work great for an NPC.

I'll agree that if you see 12th-level PCs with 100,000 gp of wealth it may be time to cut back a little unless they are about to make 13th-level with its 110,000 gp expectation.  A 12th-level NPC should only have about 27,000 gp worth of equipment and once defeated may only leave the EL 12 "average" if the PCs sell everything they get from it at half price.
 
Let me use a specific example as to why I find this whole issue somewhat unsatisfactory in the way it's written in the DMG.

Let's say I have a 4-player party (so it's the default norm.)

I want them to fight a CR 5 Barbarian NPC. I go to chapter 4 of the DMG to build a barbarian. Presumably these tables jive at least somewhat with an equal-level PC's wealth.

That CR 5 Barbarian defaults to a +1 breastplate and a masterwork melee weapon. Before I even figure in the mundane ranged item (worthless) and the 2500 g in other wealth he should have (overwhelming at this level for PC treasure,) I figure that the market value of the breastplate is 1350g and the masterwork weapon is at least 300g. The Encounter Level for a single CR 5 monster is 5, and table 3-3 on page 51 shows an Encounter Level of 5 is worth, on average, 1600g.

Well, that's not so bad, I don't give him the other gear or money, he's still a good challenge, and I'm only up 50g.

But then... now I want them to fight TWO CR 5 barbarians. Now the fight is worth 2700g. That's not too bad yet, that's an EL 7 encounter and those are worth 2,600g. But a four-on-two fight isn't much, especially if my PC's are higher than level 5. 3 CR 5's are an EL 8 encounter, and those are worth 3,400g...but my barbarians are worth 4950! THis is already after I've thrown out 7500g they should have in wealth ("they have really nice houses back home!") and a mundane weapon for each.

The problem only gets worse from here.

Now, I suppose I should have clarified, I am an experienced DM and I have dealt with this issue before, and successfully.

It just honestly, really irritates me. I'm running a campaign now that has mostly classed NPCs as the enemies, and the only ways to really work this long-term are:

* Underequip the NPC's (thus making them weaker.)
* Don't let the PC's get most of the expensive items off of the NPC's (d-bag move on the long-term.)
* Periodically send the PC's on extremely low treasure, high-experience side-quests (not exactly satisfactory or well-liked by me or my group.)
* Create artificial reasons why the PC's can't sell items or can't afford to buy items (I can do this now and then, but again, d-bag move on the long-term.)
* Create "quest-related" costs for the PC's.
* Demand how some of the money be used (castle development??)

I will get through this, I always have. Again: I just find it really aggravating that there isn't a set-up for a campaign of this type, which should be obvious because a lot of high fantasy isn't just men fighting monsters, it's noble politics and peasants and bards and crap like that.
NPCs are basically just high-treasure challenges for their level, just like the monsters with double or triple standard treasure.

If the party frequently fights high-treasure monsters for the majority of their encounters, they'll end up with more treasure than normal, while if they have a lot of low-treasure encounters, they'll end up with less treasure than normal.  It's not really a problem that's specific to NPCs except for their high-treasure nature (though on the plus side, NPCs are more likely to use some of their expendable treasure).

The standard game design has you fighting a range of encounters, some with a lot of treasure, some with none, but that doesn't just include encounters that consist of killing monsters and taking their stuff.  Protecting peasants, dealing with bards, and playing politics don't necessarily pay out in loot in the same way, nor do things like deadly traps or devious puzzles.

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Well, all things being equal, the next adventure for my main PC group will be high on experience, low on loot, and high on intrigue and RP to make up the difference in perceived gain. I don't have a problem with that...I don't even have a problem with high-loot campaigns. My last 2e campaign was a Monty Hall-type, but that broke down when my level 8, 6-man PC party killed a demigod.

Ergo, my adherence to the loot/level limits, since the end game for my current campaign is a raid-type, 8 character "boss run."

I guess really I want balanced play until level 20...after that, if my PC's wish to continue, it's a lot easier to use the open rules for epic play to create a balanced fight for any level of abilities/loot. CR is a nice idea but really it doesn't work as written.

But I guess that's really the charm of D&D. Sometimes, wise choices and clever planning can completely decimate a challenge I have placed; indeed, smart role-playing and decision-making can even invalidate any difficulty, or even an entire plot I have built, and I may have to react to something I never considered.

And that is why I play D&D. As much as I love VG RPG's, no matter how non-linear they are, they can never replicate the anything-can-happen nature of D&D. As a story-teller, I enjoy when PC's break my story because it lets me, the DM, actually role-play beyond the notes I've made.

It'll all work out in the end.
Let me use a specific example as to why I find this whole issue somewhat unsatisfactory in the way it's written in the DMG.

Let's say I have a 4-player party (so it's the default norm.)

I want them to fight a CR 5 Barbarian NPC. I go to chapter 4 of the DMG to build a barbarian. Presumably these tables jive at least somewhat with an equal-level PC's wealth.

These tables are not close (at least at higher levels) to what PC wealth is for the stated level.  They ARE about what the "NPC gear value" table on pg 127 will give you and as I mentioned before the two tables come closest to matching at 3rd-level so you're not that far off.
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That CR 5 Barbarian defaults to a +1 breastplate and a masterwork melee weapon. Before I even figure in the mundane ranged item (worthless) and the 2500 g in other wealth he should have (overwhelming at this level for PC treasure,) I figure that the market value of the breastplate is 1350g and the masterwork weapon is at least 300g. The Encounter Level for a single CR 5 monster is 5, and table 3-3 on page 51 shows an Encounter Level of 5 is worth, on average, 1600g.

Well, that's not so bad, I don't give him the other gear or money, he's still a good challenge, and I'm only up 50g.

But then... now I want them to fight TWO CR 5 barbarians. Now the fight is worth 2700g. That's not too bad yet, that's an EL 7 encounter and those are worth 2,600g. But a four-on-two fight isn't much, especially if my PC's are higher than level 5. 3 CR 5's are an EL 8 encounter, and those are worth 3,400g...but my barbarians are worth 4950! THis is already after I've thrown out 7500g they should have in wealth ("they have really nice houses back home!") and a mundane weapon for each.

The problem only gets worse from here.


The NPC tables in the DMG don't produce the most cost effective equipment for them but I'll say you are being cheap with those NPCs and to remember that the Encounter Treasure lists an "average" take.  As Slagger mentions NPCs are often "high treasure" encounters.  Also remember that some of that NPC wealth should be consumed during the encounter and that unless the PCs can use everything (which is doubtful if they keep running into these encounters) they will only make half of that.  This can easily get the gold conversion down to something close (2075 before taking out consumed items) to that average.
Now, I suppose I should have clarified, I am an experienced DM and I have dealt with this issue before, and successfully.

It just honestly, really irritates me. I'm running a campaign now that has mostly classed NPCs as the enemies, and the only ways to really work this long-term are:

* Underequip the NPC's (thus making them weaker.)
* Don't let the PC's get most of the expensive items off of the NPC's (d-bag move on the long-term.)
* Periodically send the PC's on extremely low treasure, high-experience side-quests (not exactly satisfactory or well-liked by me or my group.)
* Create artificial reasons why the PC's can't sell items or can't afford to buy items (I can do this now and then, but again, d-bag move on the long-term.)
* Create "quest-related" costs for the PC's.
* Demand how some of the money be used (castle development??)

I will get through this, I always have. Again: I just find it really aggravating that there isn't a set-up for a campaign of this type, which should be obvious because a lot of high fantasy isn't just men fighting monsters, it's noble politics and peasants and bards and crap like that.


1.  NPCs ARE "under equiped" when compared to the PCs.  As I mentioned the tables in the DMG really aren't the most "efficient" way of spending NPC loot and making smarter choices can give the NPCs near PC powers without actually giving them anything close to PC levels of treasure.

2.  Don't give your NPCs expensive items unless you want your PCs to have them.  I'll point out how "extra little things" can really boost an item's price expecially when dealing with arms and armor.  I will also point out that the Magic Item Compendium has repriced many items to bring them more in line with when they should be available and how useful they are.

3.  Low treasure but high XP adventures can be a very good thing.  It certainly helps break the "kill things and take their stuff" mentality that often sets in with this type of roleplaying game.

4.  I'm maybe not a big fan of the artificial restrictions on buying/selling (although I keep the settlement requirements in mind) but those last two points are actually ideal for burning off (or even just awarding) extra cash in the first place. 

Although it can be problematic you may also be able to limit how much treasure the PCs can take from the NPCs simply by making some time limits and enforcing encumbrance levels.  If we go back to your 5th-level barbarians it is going to take the PCs some time (and possibly future repair costs) to take that armor if they need to bug out quickly; at 30 pounds each carrying out all that armor will also weigh down groups unless/until bags of holding and such are too common.