This is Osvaud. If you are not Osvaud, then you should ask yourself how a smart guy like me let you get your grubby hands on his diary? I mean, face the facts… I’m an immortal super genius with enough magical power to make solars soil themselves. What sounds more likely: I wanted you to read this thing because I am messing with you, or you’re some one-in-a-million special snowflake capable of getting something I actually care about keeping?
That brings us to today’s topic: treasure.
Adventurers are a covetous lot by nature. They love putting on airs of righteousness, but that rarely extends to stealing my stuff. I haven’t met a paladin yet that won’t act like a donkey with a carrot if you wave around a holy avenger. Plus, all the Captain Crusaders get awfully loose with the ethics when it comes to looting corpses or declaring salvage rights. Maybe, that dark lord or lady had a family, you jerk! Whatever happened to making sure someone’s next of kin gets their crap when they kick it? Just once, I’d like to see some upright champion of the law check to see if their latest murder victim had a freaking will.
Anyway, if we go to all the trouble of building an elaborate trap- and monster-filled basement, it really stinks if nobody ever dies in it. If you want to lure greedy losers into your lair, you’ve got to bribe them. This can be a pretty significant upfront investment of time and money but can actually end up paying off in the long run. Turnabout is fair play, and few groups are showing up at the door empty-handed. After you murder them, you get their stuff and are arguably more morally justified.
The key to good treasure distribution is to give them something worthless but awesome seeming right away. Don’t go too pricey, or they’ll just cash out and leave. Maybe even try to get a good look at the group and have a few options on hand made to specifically appeal to certain individuals. The point is to convey the image that the place is loaded down with sweet treasure, and they just have to keep pressing forward through all the death traps to collect.
The important part is riding that narrow line between too neat to sell and not super situationally useful. It can be especially funny if they get so caught up in their new toys that they try to use them even though it’s ridiculous. Like, give them a carpet of flying in a cramped dungeon or a mask of the skull when all your henchmen are undead. Another fun trick is to give half of a really awesome magic item. It implies that they’ll find the other half if they press forward. Like one boot of teleportation or a single ring gate.
And don’t just fill the dungeon with cursed items. It was hilarious that one time, but they kept getting wise to it and rage-quitting.