Treasure Hunting in Dungeons and Dragons
Treasure: The Object of an Adventurer's Affection
If one were to ask any Dungeons and Dragons player why they play, a common response would be that it's for the adventure. And that's true for many players.
The thrill of taking on a difficult quest with friends is a huge draw for those that seek out adventure games like D&D. Still, the rewards—the treasure that players gain from defeating tough monsters, or finishing seemingly impossible quests—should certainly be given their rightful place among reasons for playing adventure games.
Rare and powerful magic items that significantly enhance player character abilities are extremely valuable to players that have just defeated powerful creatures to acquire them. Treasure is a reward for players that have done something to warrant a prize.
Some Dungeons and Dragons players will go to great lengths to acquire treasure. Maybe it's the most appealing aspect of the game to them, or maybe they want to role-play a character who is mesmerized by treasure. Whether it be a rogue who lacks morals, or a dwarf whose eyes sparkle at the sight of a gemstone, the treasure hunter in oneself is easily acted out in an adventure setting.
Dungeons and Dragons, and many of the games that came after, have a fairly standard catalog of item types that chest contents might be composed of. Players aren't particularly fond of finding mundane treasure. Not that there is anything wrong with the more abundant types of magical items found in a treasure reward. Many of them, especially in greater quantity, are quite useful. But it's the more unique items that treasure hunters are really after.
Common Treasure Examples
Coins: Coins are the most common treasure type that adventurers will find. Dungeons and Dragons normally uses coins issued by one government or another. The denominations, in order from least to most valuable, are copper, silver, gold, and platinum. Other metals, including electrum, are used in some rule variations. But the four above are the mainstays that explorers will generally find in D&D, and other similar games.
Gems and Jewelry: Most explorers breathe a sigh of relief when they find gems and jewels instead of coins, simply because coins weigh more. Some rule variations don't count coinage as weight the adventurer must carry. But some variations do.
A vast pile of fairly worthless copper coins can become a burden rather than a reward. Replacing that pile with a valuable gemstone, or the like, is a helpful option for those granting dungeon rewards.
For the treasure hunter, gems and jewelry are both considered welcome gifts. Some gems are used in arcane exploits. The crafty adventurer that knows where to sell these types of gemstones, for the highest prices, will usually be happy to take them and let the other adventurers divvy up the rest of the spoils. And then there are those that simply lust jealously after the sparkle of a valuable emerald or ruby.
Magic Treasure Examples
Potions: A potion is normally a small draught of liquid contained within a glass bottle. Drinking the liquid will normally cause a beneficial effect on adventurers. Some potions have numerous doses while others have only one. Because the primary concern for Dungeons and Dragons players is staying alive, potions of healing are considered a welcome gift.
Treasure rewards often include one or more potions. Most aren't considered valuable, but there are some types, often called something different like elixirs or phials, that can produce very potent effects on players who drink them. The player planning to drink a potion would do well to know what the potion will do to them before drinking it. Not all potions are safe to drink, and some are meant for specific characters. Also, some rule variations, including the online version of Dungeons and Dragons, do not require potion identification; the potion's name is given to the player upon possession.
Scrolls: Sheets of parchment with magical attributes are scrolls. The most common image of scrolls is that of a rolled up piece of ancient and brittle paper. What's important is what's written on the scroll, not the paper itself. Arcane words can be applied to paper to create scrolls that, when read, produce a desired result. A sleep scroll, for instance, can be read aloud and the reader will then be able to cast a sleep spell on opponents. In some cases, the spell cast from a scroll will be weaker than a scroll cast by a magic-user.
Wizards use scrolls to transcribe new spells into their spell books. This means that some scrolls are quite valuable to certain wizards who don't have the spell in their books yet. For the treasure hunter, most scrolls are sold cheaply, or given to casters that can use them. They just don't bring the value worth the trouble of finding someone who would pay decently for them. The exception, of course, are powerful and rare spell scrolls. These scrolls would be quite valuable.
"There are many rings in this world, Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly."
J.R.R. Tolkien's Gandalf, speaking to Bilbo about how dangerous it is to carelessly wear a magic ring. From Tolkien's novel, The Fellowship of the Ring (Allen & Unwin, 1954).
Magic rings in Dungeons and Dragons are no different. It's simply unwise to wear a ring without knowing what magics might be intertwined with it. Though most rings grant their wearer powerful abilities, some can, as in Tolkien's Fellowship, consume the wearer.
Some rule variations, as specified for the other item examples, do away with the player needing to identify the magic effects of an item. When you acquire a magic ring in Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO), for example, the name of the ring and its abilities are made known to the player.
D&D rings are valuable to treasure hunters. They have an excellent resale value, and will often fetch higher prices than other items with the same magical effect. Some rings aid player characters that want to use less common methods of finding treasure. Invisibility rings, among other rings that aid players in making themselves less visible, are one type of ring that can appeal to players wishing to use stealth rather than brawn to gain access to places where there might be something valuable hidden.
How to Be a Successful Treasure Hunter
There are usually many opportunities for adventurers to find treasure in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. At higher levels, treasure rewards might become less frequent, but they are certainly worth the wait. Players, in both the online and tabletop versions of D&D, can improve their odds of getting better treasure by adhering to a few simple guidelines:
- Work well with others. This advice might seem contrary to what a rogue might follow. But working with others, regardless of your class and character traits, will help you to overcome greater challenges. By defeating a dragon rather than a group of trolls, for example, players will almost certainly be rewarded with better quality items. Thinking along these lines, and taking on quests that challenge full parties of adventurers, will greatly enhance player's chances of acquiring items that make them glad they came on the adventure to begin with.
- Get all the treasure. The reason that adventure parties aren't composed solely of formidable and musclebound fighters is that such an array lends zero adaptability to the group. Many dungeons have secret doors, traps, hidden rooms, locked or trapped treasure chests, and a wide variety of other obstacles. Getting into groups that are ready for anything will increase the odds that you will find interesting treasure rewards. Treasure that has sat undisturbed in a sealed and hidden room for centuries might have immensely powerful items among it.
- Know what's going on in the world you adventure in. Online D&D players, especially, will find this advice helpful. There are events in DDO, and this could apply to some Dungeon Master's campaigns, that yield unique items that can't be found elsewhere or at other times. There are several events that run for various lengths. During these events, players can trade items dropped by monsters ('drops') for some unique and rather powerful gear.
Clever wealth-seekers will collect items during DDO events and sell them for a large profit. During Festivult, the DDO winter holiday event, players can find festival coins in treasure rewards and sell them to collectors. These coins, especially the gold ones, are sought after by higher level players and they are usually willing to pay well to get them.
There are many ways to enjoy Dungeons and Dragons. For the player that has decided that their character is going to make acquiring rare and powerful treasure their top priority, it's there, waiting, but it's always a challenge to walk away with it in one piece.