Placement of Treasure

One given in the AD&D game is that there is a significant amount of treasure (monetary and magical) that is not circulated in the society. These treasures are not used to purchase goods or pay for services. They do not collect interest in banks (a foreign concept to the age, anyway). They do not represent collateral used to secure loans or maintain prestige. They are not the underpinnings of monetary systems. They are just piles of unused treasure, apparently forgotten, their potential unrealized. By normal standards, this is an illogical situation. So, just why is there so much treasure laying around?

Now, it is not important to create a detailed background that goes into the economic theories of dragon-hoarding or the supply-and-demand trade structures of dwarves. But it doesn't hurt to look at some of the basic premises behind all this loose treasure. Take these three related premises:

Premise #1: Long ago the world was a wealthier place, since all this money has been taken out of circulation.

Premise #2: Once the world was more culturally advanced, since only an organized society can control things like minting on a large scale.

Premise #3: The world has fallen into a dark age, since now these same hoards are eagerly sought after by adventurers and there are few governments able to mint such amounts of coinage.

From these premises, the DM begins to create a background for his campaign world. Here are some possibilities:

Once in ages long before the present time, there was a Golden Age of learning and culture. (It could have been the Reign of the Elven Lords, the Empire of the Dwarves, the Great Age of Peace, the Time Before the Coming of Man, or the Rule of Good King Haring.)

Then came a great disaster and evil times. (Suddenly the Dragon-Fire began, the Sinking of the Gruen Mountains occurred, the Darkling invaded, Man arrived, or Therope usurped King Haring's throne.)

Now, the world is slowly beginning to recover from this disastrous time, but much of what once was has been lost. There are hidden treasures of bygone ages, ancient ruins, forgotten wonders, and mighty magics now lost.

Ancient civilizations, now in ruins, are the source of many of the treasures adventurers seek. Of course, there are also new treasures being made and amassed. some of which are ripe for the picking.

Other deductions could be made and different premises reached from the same beginning. The ones given above provide a broad range of excuses for adventures, both for the players and the DM. Recovering that which was lost leads to all manner of possibilities: treasure maps, ruined empires overswept by desert, legends of powerful wizards with spells now unheard of, magical devices of unknown function, relics and artifacts from the previous age, even greater powers no longer worshiped.

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