09
May
10

pillaging by the numbers pt 1

They are excited because they found the perfect gift for Mom

Rather than spend time with my mom, I have gone through the B/X monster roster and cross-referenced with the treasure tables.  Tom Moldvay helpfully estimates the expected value of each treasure type (B45), which I’ll reproduce here.

Table Expected Value Critters
A 17000 (magic!) Centaur, Men (Expert set), Mermen, Bandit, Troglodyte
B 2000 Caelica, Hydra, Nixie, Berserker, Bugbear, Carrion Crawler, Ghoul, Halfling, Wight
C 1000 Blink Dog, Devil Swine, Hellhound, Treant, Gargoyle, Gnome, Goblin, Harpy, Lycanthrope (any), Minotaur, Neanderthal, Ogre (+1000 gold), Owl Bear, Giant Rat, Thoul
D 4000 Cockatrice, Displacer Beast, Dryad, Manticore, Mummy, Purple Worm, Troll, Gnoll, Hobgoblin, Orc
E 2500 (magic!) Cyclops (+5000 gold), Giants (any, +5000 gold), Gorgon, Griffon, Spectre, Wraith, Wyvern, Doppelganger, Elf
F 5000 (magic!) Basilisk, Chimera, Salamander, Vampire, Medusa, Shadow
G 25000 (magic!) Dwarf
H 50000 Dragon (any), Dragon Turtle, Sea Dragon
I 800 Roc
J 25 Kobold
K 125
L 250 Rat, Stirge
M 15000
N 0 (magic!)
O 0 (magic!)

Some caveats:

  • I’m only considering the “lair” treasure types
  • This chart only lists the expected value of by-the-book treasure.  YMMV.
  • The chart only mentions magic items if odds are more than 15%.
  • I also have calculated treasure-per-hit-dice-of-encounter, but I’m not sure how to present the data as there are several “special cases.”  Maybe later.

Anyway, with those cautions in mind, here are some points of interest:

  1. So . . . Dwarves, eh?  I hear they said bad things about your parents.  Let’s get ‘em!
  2. Men have great treasure, but in the Expert set it’s usually found in heavily defended wilderness camps.
  3. Giants too have pretty good loot but, dang, they are Giants and their lairs have zillions of beasts.
  4. Of the usual suspects Troglodytes have the best treasure by far.
  5. A lot of dangerous monsters – Djinn, Efreet – have no treasure in B/X.  In fact, treasure is generally better among the Basic monsters than in the Expert set.
  6. Treasure Type C is a headache.  Either the critters have lots of Hit Dice or enjoy significant special abilities, or the pushover critters are extremely numerous.  Either way it’s a fair amount of work for pretty meager reward.
  7. Treasure Type F seems to be largely reserved for critters that can one-shot your sorry ass; even Chimeras and Salamanders are pretty tough.
  8. Several of the sea monsters have pretty good treasure, but how are you going to collect it?
  9. A lair of regular ol’ Rats has, on average, 10 times more treasure than a lair of Kobolds.
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15 Responses to “pillaging by the numbers pt 1”


  1. 1 Chawunky
    May 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Regarding point 9: Clearly, the Rats are careful investors.

  2. May 9, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    It’s gotta be something like that!

    Check that out, though. You’re a party of low-level adventurers. You encounter a lair of Kobolds. Do you brave 6d10 wimpy monsters for a grand total of $25 split among PC’s and hirelings? No, you do not: even the wimpy monsters roll well sometimes, and by the law of large numbers you’re in for trouble. Not to mention Tucker’s Kobolds.

    So the ironic result is that although they’re extremely weak monsters, the smart play when confronted with Kobolds is to run away. They’re just not worth the effort.

    (On the other hand, they’re about 58% likely to break and run once somebody dies, so maybe that alleviates some of the hassle. Still, figuring out your plan of assault on the lair will likely take a lot of table time for almost nothin’.)

  3. 3 Bargle
    May 9, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Kobolds seem perfectly built for party resource depletion with little reward on the back end.

  4. 4 Greengoat
    May 9, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    It always seemed to me that the RAW methods for assigning treasure to monsters (or vice versa)seemed the most broke out of all of BX’s rules. Also linked to our much discussed advancement issues as well with character won GP -> XP.

    Nice post James.

  5. May 9, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I wonder if the treason the Trogs have so much loot is because Gary gave them a prominent role in D1: Descent into the Depths of the Earth?

    @Greengoat,

    Yeah, there’s little rhyme or reason to the chart. When I GM, I almost always feel bad for PC’s when I’m rolling up treasure: “Wait, they fought a wraith and all they’re getting is $200? No way, I’m bumping that sucker up into the next tax bracket. Like . . . with a jewel. A MAGIC jewel.” That’s not against the rules, but it does muck up expectations (and therefore player strategy).

    @Bargle,

    Yeah, agreed. They’re not as much of a screw-job as the Killer Bees, but I still pity the group that has to face them. What a drag!

  6. 6 N.
    May 10, 2010 at 12:20 am

    “So the ironic result is that although they’re extremely weak monsters, the smart play when confronted with Kobolds is to run away. They’re just not worth the effort. ”

    Treasure in D&D works like the free market under perfect information? Inherent in each transaction, participated or seen, is its power to signal value? As above, transparent to the act of fighting kobolds is the understanding that they won’t have much treasure.

    There is no Dow Jones Industrial Average in campaign worlds… or is there? Does it become common knowledge, muddied over pints of grog and the embellishments of campfires, that there is a floating kind of index understood by adventurers in a certain area:

    “Arrr! There be rumors of a treasure type G to be found in those hills… arrr… So does Brown Dougal think, but it could be type D, bespeakin’ a Manticore or Purple Worm. Hain’t seen no signs that Dwarves be likely… we be creatin’ a chart of some kind.”

    This seems like trouble in a static world. Dungeons are like Collateralized Debt Obligations that have only been obliquely rated by their looks and placement but are stuffed with god-knows-what. Unless you’re able to deal with the bankrupted properties (kobolds) you won’t get the special remuneration of the other beasties. It comes linked together. I can envision insurers selling dungeon shares just outside entrances.

    There was an old Dungeon I have stored away with a Kobold encampment — just looked it up, Dungeon 18: Tallow’s Deep by Steve Gilbert & Bill Slavicsek for AD&D lvls 4-7 — where via traps they ran pretty much like Tucker’s Kobolds. In this case treasure should be ramped up according to their danger. Whenever I visit my parents’ again I’ll dig it up.

    A reason for kobolds’ poor treasure is probably that they keep getting their asses kicked. 1/2 HD? Yikes, they’re as bad as thief PCs! I’ve always liked the idea of pooling treasure, once generated, after a dungeon has been put together. What intelligent races have figured out the magic treasure? What treasure has been bargained/absorbed/traded/stolen by tougher creatures?

    So I guess I’m suggesting an additional mechanism to modify treasure drop percentages according to increased danger. In the ‘Stock the Dungeon’ section on p. B52 there are chances to face trapped rooms containing treasure, or even empty rooms containing the same. How does this system handle Unguarded Treasure?

    Good stuff, but I fully plan on

  7. 7 Chris Newman
    May 10, 2010 at 12:44 am

    I shall now been known as Tavis’ game as Chrystos Dwarf Hunter!!!!

  8. May 10, 2010 at 1:13 am

    @N.,

    Given all of the funhouse wackiness of early D&D play, I don’t think any of your examples are too zany to work. Hell, even the “Dungeon Street Journal” (at least they have an excuse to use woodcuts) is more plausible than the Lurker Above.

    Besides, since long-time players have sort of internalized these expectations, why not long-time adventurers?

    I love the idea of dungeons as CDO’s. That stupid Wizard who went around creating Owlbears and Mimics must be the Paulson of Greyhawk.

  9. May 10, 2010 at 2:23 am

    “Treasures are determined randomly or chosen by the DM.” — There should be no presumption that monsters will have the treasure types indicated in the book. Rejecting the treasure tables outright and determining the contents of every hoard yourself is a perfectly legitimate use of the rules as written.

    Also, while kobolds can’t have magic items according to the treasure tables, if you do assign them magic items, they can use them. Giant rats are not known for their ability to wield a sword +1 or operate a wand of magic missiles!

  10. May 10, 2010 at 3:42 am

    @Eric,

    “No presumption” seems a little strong.

  11. May 11, 2010 at 2:07 am

    I’m torn between pointing my players this way and hoping they never find out in case they decide to quit playing.

    For the 9 mos. I was running mostly Moldvay generated dungeons, things were terribly, terribly bleak in the Black Peaks. Then we switched to published modules (B2) and old Dragon/Dungeon magazines, and suddenly treasure! And levels!*

    * Full disclosure, we also started carousing so the evidence is a bit muddied…

  12. May 14, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Cr0m, I’m not surprised. During the stocking phase of Moldvay, they don’t mention installing “special treasures” as well as “special monsters,” though that’s included in the Mentzer version. I think these “special treasures” would invariably end up dwarfing everything on the Treasure Tables, because otherwise your players would be so frustrated that they would kill you.

    Back when I was running a Black Peaks game w/o those special treasures (“who needs em?” says I) a fairly generous haul was about 250 XP per player per session. Crushing!

    I did notice that your gang has been cruising lately, getting tons of stuff – good for them, no matter how it happened!

  13. May 20, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Published adventures and rampant carousing. It’s the only way.


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