Hack & Slash Master is trying to make his players more interested in his non-coin treasures. What he comes up with seems a little bit strange and complex; item sets that create variances in the worth of individual items in terms of both coin and XP and uses something that reminds me of a JRPG Monster/MacGuffin Hunting Job board.
What struck me as odd, though, based on the example of his players being uninterested in his non-coin treasure, was that he would tell his players up front what the non-coin treasures were worth.
“An example of me handing out treasure:
DM:”You open the steel coffer by clicking open the last pin on the Clip Chest Deadpin lock, and find a pile of mixed coins, so—”
P1:”We start counting out the mixed coins.”
DM:”Do you want to do that? It will take a turn.”
DM:”Ok, you find 10,971 silver pieces, and 27 platinum pieces, A white marble gameset, 13 badger pelts, A granite helm with an inverted 5 point star diamond inserted in the top, A pewter girdle engraved with concentric circles, and a shiny black sheepskin leather suit of armor.”
P1:”We cast detect magic”
DM:”The leather armor glows, it’s magical.”
P1:”How much are the items worth?”
DM:”The helm is worth 6,529 gp, The girdle is worth 3,656 gp, The gameset is worth 2,400 gp, and the beaver pelts are worth 3 gp each.”
P1:”Ok, no one needs leather armor so we go back to town and sell it all.”
I just wasted everyone’s time. I could have just said, you find 15,856 gp in assorted treasure. Players often don’t even want to keep the magic items, if they aren’t immediately useful.”
The easiest solution, I’d think, would be to stop telling players up front what their treasure is worth.
I think the root of his problem is that there is no mystery or anything of interest to his non-coin treasures when they’re stated up front to merely be a condensed ball of X Value. What could’ve been cool things that players would want to hang onto and find out more about have been reduced to their GP. That game board and that helm are actually awesome treasures, but telling the players what they’re worth right up front removes any of the cool mystique that non-coin treasures possess. Because they players know that it’s a just a 6,529 GP Helm and a 2,400 GP gameset, they’re not asking “Whose helm was this? What game is this? Does anyone still play this game?”
Unless a player character was a professional jeweler, I would NEVER tell him the value of a gem or piece of jewelry. Unless the player character was a professional antiquities dealer or scholar, I would NEVER tell him the value of an ancient treasure. Players can either hang onto non-coin treasures or not, but if the treasure is a mystery, they will be more interested in hanging onto it and finding out more about it.
In my own game, there have been several mundane treasures found and held onto; since I’ve been running modules that have been repurposed to fit my game’s world, I’ve fudged a bit on what the original items were or may have been, but I try to make them a part of the world. A silver tankard with engravings isn’t just a 100 GP mundane treasure; it’s a glimpse into the past of the wicked elves who would drink out an implement covered in depictions of horror and sacrifice. If players don’t immediately know the coin value of non-coin treasure, suddenly any treasure they find could be important, either within the dungeon as a key of sorts or simply a clue to the mystery of the setting’s past.
The goblin ranger in my B/X game still has the silver dancing puppet (otherwise merely a 300 GP treasure) that he found in the Maze of Nuromen just because it was so dang creepy and weird. As such, I’ve had the opportunity to work it into a more significant story element (during the thief’s near death vision of the evil elf wizard, the puppet began to dance within the ranger’s backpack). Similarly, that cool engraved helm belonged to someone and the players should want to know who it was, why it was made, and that game? How did it play? Is it still played? Maybe a cool old wizard sage guy had a similar set once and would love a new one. Treasure can’t JUST be treasure, otherwise players WILL be immediately bored with it.
Non-coin treasures really do have the most potential to keep your players interested in your treasure hoards, but they need to be engaged beyond just being told how much they can sell the items for, otherwise you’re just stocking your dungeons with vendor trash.