Treasure Parcels

I’d been debating a lot on how to handle treasure and the magic item economy in general. Here’s how I’m leaning toward (but, I’ve also posted on Ben Robbins’ blog on how he handled it to get some insight)…

Basically, the shops inside the town have nearly any mundane equipment or weapon you can think of. Mundane equipment is easy to come by in the town and there are three shops for components (for rituals and alchemy), weapons and armor, and supplies. All of these goods unfortunately are marked up 40% (the maximum suggested in the DMG on pg. 155). I attribute this to the long haul across the sea to get to Port Havenholde and the dangers involved. Nearly every piece of equipment is imported.

When it comes to magic items, the weapon shop and the component shop carry magical items up to 5th level. Beyond that, it’s just too pricey to stock (I mean, afterall most adventurers die well before they reach those amounts of gold). In addition, there is only a 30% chance (I just came up with this number on the spot) the shop will have a particular item and this fluctuates – generally a character will have a chance to roll this once per session they play. Magic items are indeed included in the 40% markup.

Now, this has some big impacts on character equipment. For one, the Alchemist and Enchant Magic Item feat and ritual are going to become very useful. They allow the creation of those items at the base price instead of the 40% markup it’ll cost to buy the item on the open market. This might create situations where everyone and their brother just asks Joe the Wizard to make items for them – is that something I want? What if Joe decides to make some for his clique but no one else? This could create disparity among the player pool.

Secondly, characters may not have the items they want to make their characters uber-optimized. They might have to wait several sessions for that shop to stock the item they’re looking for (if they ever do – although you can special order an item and it’ll be there in six months). That is, unless they pay someone with the ritual caster or alchemist feats to make it for them. Interesting.

I’m going to be flexible about how much I stick with this plan. I like it for now, but I’m going to reserve the right to change it on a whim.

Another aspect of treasure to discuss is the distribution of treasure for encounters. I’ll most definitely use the parcel system for 4th Edition, but I’m considering using a random generator for the magic items. This might create some odd treasure, but in the long run I think it might create an interesting dynamic between characters looking for certain items. One group might find an item they have no use for – so they divvy it up to a random person or something and that person might trade it down the line for something someone else finds. I’m not sure exactly how effective this will be.

A couple concerns: How will groups divvy up magic items? Will the parcel system be based on the encounter difficulty, the random table or dungeon level, or the party level (lowest PC or average?)?

These are some things I’ll have to think about.

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1 Response to “Treasure Parcels”


  1. 1 Tommi August 25, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    I would simply place the treasure in the dungeons, letting players decide what to do with it. Sandbox games are self-balancing in that if the player characters get powerful, they can simply engage stronger opponents and if they are weak they can engage weaker enemies. Further, should any one PC get overtly powerful, then the player would have to continuously face boringly weak encounters (that others can survive) or face powerful opponents alone and die horribly. Lone 4e characters don’t work.

    Summary: Don’t worry about balance. It will likely take care of itself. Place treasures along monsters and sometimes in hidden locales or caches.


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