Planned and Random Encounter Treasures

It is important for the DM to distinguish between placed treasures and those found with random encounters. The scale of the two is vastly different.

Monster descriptions in the Monstrous Compendium differentiate between treasures found in a creature's lair, den, or base and those carried by individuals. Treasure gained through a random encounter will be smaller than treasure gained through a planned encounter. If a random treasure is larger or more significant than a placed one, the players are going to remember and value the random encounter more than the plot.

Treasures should be used to build the adventure, develop a plot, and reward intelligent and daring play. If they just appear randomly, not only is the DM throwing away a useful adventure-building device, he is threatening his overall campaign. In general, a large treasure should be a planned part of an adventure, a way to motivate players, or a goal to be achieved by the characters.

And remember, as important as treasure is, it need not be the sole motivator for a story. Indeed, there are times when it will be unimportant to the adventure. In these cases, the plot doesn't need the outside motivation of cash to interest the players. Still, small rewards should still be made available to the players. A treasure reward, no matter how small, gives the players the feeling that their characters are succeeding and moving ahead.

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