Hoard Mongering

Hoard Mongering

Coins!“Congratulations! You slay the dragon.”

“Sweet, we loot its lair!”

“Unfortunately, you’re nowhere near its lair. Looks like you’ll have to settle for the XP.”

“Forget that! Our cleric casts find the path. We will not be denied triple treasure!”

“Oh dear…”

Player characters can be a greedy bunch. What is a GM to do when an unexpected turn by the players or a disproportionate random encounter leaves the players with far more money than they should have? Why tax it, of course!

If you don’t want to do too much troublesome math at the table, taking 10% of the party’s income is the simplest in math terms: Take the total treasure, move the decimal one place to the left, and take that much (so, if the party rakes in 17,000 gp, the tax would be 1,700 gp).

But, what do you name this tax? It should have a world-based reason for being there, right?

If your campaign setting doesn’t have specific taxes in place already, you might need to come up with a name and a quick scenario as to how this tax is being collected. The following table can be used to come up with a name for a tax or fee. Pick something that sounds good to you or, if you want something random, roll 2d10 to get your result.

First d10   Second d10  
1 Carucage 1 Charge
2 Common 2 Duty
3 Custom 3 Fee
4 Excise 4 Fine
5 Feudal 5 Geld
6 Gate 6 Price
7 Inward 7 Rate
8 Poll 8 Relief
9 Poor 9 Tax
10 Road 10 Tithe

As for scenario, consider one of the following, or let the words in the table above guide you in coming up with a scene to play out:

Word Spreads: After killing that dragon (or other well-known hoard-loving beastie), the adventurers might brag about their success, which could bring all manner of actual tax collectors around—plus some folk who are pretending to be tax assessors so as to dupe the heroes out of their recent gains. How this plays out is up to you, but having both sorts of folk attempt to gather taxes on the same day? That could be a priceless bit of roleplaying fun for your group.

Need vs. Greed: Not everyone is as well off as the heroes might be. The next time the characters stop at a temple or even a town or city, they might be approached to give some of their earnings to bolster a benevolence fund. In this case, some of the words choices in the table above are more appropriate than others. Those in charge of the fund might even attempt to show the heroes just how they’re helping the poor and needy by bringing these folk directly to the attention of the player characters. This particular scenario could also serve as an excellent way to introduce a new adventure hook, so along with the tithe or relief fund that these characters donate to (maybe), a service might be requested, leading the heroes into their next big adventure!

5 thoughts on “Hoard Mongering”

  1. These are neat ideas. I especially like the idea of two different tax collectors showing up the same day!

    My idea: cursed treasure. You can’t do this too much because the players have earned the treasure and they will hate you, but it can lead to great adventure hooks…or “that sure is a lot of coinage, too bad it is worthless now”. The coins are from an ancient empire and made of a strange substance. The empire still exists in some form but is far away. I smell a road trip adventure!

  2. My favorite method is to give treasure in a non-liquid form:

    –valuable gems that must be appraised (for a fee), then haggled over with an expert jeweler.

    –a rare historical artifact only worth something to a collector in another city.

    –a letter of credit drawn on a bank in another kingdom.

    –shares in a silver mine that currently has a kobold problem.

    –the hide and parts of a slain magical beast that have to be sold to various unsavory magical types all in different locations and who all want them on the cheap.

    –magical weapons and armor that bear the obvious trappings of evil which put off potential buyers.

    A more useful variety that still requires some player effort:

    –magical ink and parchment (free gp value toward making scrolls)

    –flasks of various magical elements reduced to their pure forms (free gp value toward making potions)

  3. As James mentioned, non-cash treasure can make the world more interesting, and also add an element of role-playing. Often I use commodities (silk, pelts, etc.) as part of a treasure hoard, especially bulky ones. These can create all sorts of issues, from mere transport and assessment, to finding a buyer and possibly legal issues if there are legal monopolies on some goods. Also, I prefer to reward players in kind. Having favors owed and goodwill established can be far more useful in many campaigns than a purse full of coins.
    One thing I have also noted over the years, is that treasure hoards in many published modules are huge, even at low-levels. 1st-level characters frequently earn 100gp to 1000gp for an introductory adventure, which turns the characters into parvenues who buy out the whole equipment section of the book. Typically, I reduce published treasures by at least a factor of ten, if not more.

  4. James Wylie is exactly right. Any decent sized treasure horde should have far more interesting things in it than just coins (despite that wonderful scene at the end of The Hobbit movie).

    And, as John alludes, there is nothing wrong with “downsizing” a treasure. I’ve been bumping down the coinage in the Treasure Tables for years: Copper substitutes for silver, silver substitutes for gold, and gold substitutes for platinum. When platinum is called for, I usually add in a couple of “odd coins of ancient design”. If the players take the time to find the right buyer, they can sell these rarities as if they were fine jewelery. Otherwise they are just “funny” coins that make merchants look at them suspiciously with a raised eyebrow.

    However, I keep the *prices* listed in the handbooks. This way the players can still live extravagantly well on their “normal” treasure intake, but they don’t go from dirt poor to stinking rich in the span of one expedition.

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