Forms of Treasure

There are many different kinds of treasure. Some of these are obvious, their approximate value known to all. Others are less easy to spot, their value more difficult to determine.

The simplest treasures are items of set value--gold, silver, platinum, and copper coins. Virtually anyone can tell the worth of these. Those with a trained eye can assess the value of semi-precious and precious stones, both cut and uncut. A trained jeweler, goldsmith, or silversmith can appraise man's work in precious metals--plateware, necklaces, brooches, tiaras, bracelets, rings, and other pieces of jewelry. Tradesmen can evaluate the handiwork of their craft, be it enamelware, blown glass, statuary, or delicate embroidery.

Overeager adventurers can easily overlook vast treasures in the form of common goods. Few pay attention to bolts of fine linen, stacks of sable marten fur, casks of wine, or tons of raw iron ore, yet these can be worth great fortunes. Not every fortune shines, glitters, or can even be touched.

What if the characters find a sheaf of cracked papers in an ancient horde, and one of the papers turns out to be a long-lost land deed? Is it valuable? Could the characters use it to enforce a claim? Documents granting land, privileges, titles, offices, and rights of taxation (or freedom from it) are all valuable. The characters may not wish to become land-owners, but they can certainly find some merchant willing to pay cash money for the right.

Finally, there are magical items, desired and coveted by virtually every player character. These items give the character power beyond his level. They excite the imagination, and fill the campaign with mysterious wonder and romance. Carefully chosen and carefully awarded, magical items add an exotic element important to any AD&D game.

The DM places, awards, and controls the treasures that appear in his campaign. The amount of treasure, both monetary and magical, the characters receive will have great effects on the development of the campaign. For this reason, several questions should be answered before play begins:

Is the world poor in magical items, such that the discovery of a simple potion will be seen as a great reward? Or is it rich in magical items, such that the player characters will have many and will use them often just to survive? Will their supply of magical items be so great as to render them all but unstoppable?

Will the player characters be forced to undertake dangerous adventures just to have food from day to day, or will they have so much wealth that their adventures will involve those of the highest levels of society and power? Will the characters have too much money, making them difficult to coerce, bribe, threaten, or even challenge? Will they be poor (and, possibly, depressed and frustrated)?

Only the DM can answer these questions. And answer them he should, for they will shape the campaign as surely as any other single factor.

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