Wednesday, January 15, 2020

GM Tricks of the Trade

How to spice up your treasure from Troll Lord head Stephen Chenault

#1: Use More Potions: This is a treasure that does not appear at our Thursday night game nearly enough. Despite that, potions are unsung heroes of the gaming table. They are good for the GM, the character and game play. They are essentially one of spells. Characters can have them, carting them all over creation, then use them by drinking them. Suddenly they are healed, have more strength, turn invisible, or what have you. The player gains the benefit of the item (and the experience) and this is good for the player. But the effect is temporary, and soon enough wears off, so it has no greater impact at the table than at that moment. Also, the GM doesn’t have to worry about players hoarding too much magic, and can give other magic freely. This allows a good avenue for characters to earn experience points as well. It also has the added benefit of surprising the GM. You will soon forget what they have and when they pull it out of their pocket, it will catch you by surprise!
#2: Let Them Roll It: After a long grueling campaign, adventure, or game, it is often a bit of fun to allow the players to roll their own treasure. Have them roll whatever dice are called for on the various tables and shout out what they get. It sort of puts the game even more in the hands of fate. It's just a lot of fun too. It doesn’t always work as you may need to draw up certain treasures or they are pre-rolled for you in an published adventure or what not. But for a nice change of pace and in the spirit of letting the dice decide the character’s fate, let ‘em roll it themselves. This is especially fun for younger players, puts a whole new element of chance into the game, and as with rolling a critical hit, it can bring elation like you’ve never seen to the table (frustration too, but no one wants to dwell on that).
#3: Use Treasure as a Millstone: Use treasure to drive the game in directions players don’t expect. Too much treasure can weigh a party down, slowing their movement, allowing monsters to pursue or find them. It can be noisy and flashy, drawing the attention of NPCs or monsters still. A trunk of 4,000 gold pieces is heavy. Even after the party divides it up, it can be heavy and slow party members down. A magical lantern that shines wherever it goes attracts all manner of beasts. Couple this with terrain and you can build a whole night’s adventure moving treasure form point A to point B. Getting 10 bags of gold dust across a river can be risky and challenging.
#4: Mix Your Coin Up: Somewhere in the back of my head I remember that it was Lydian King (from the Anatolian Peninsula) who first created coins. It was done (and I’m scratching my memory plate here) in order to mark gold that was his and to allow it to be ported easier. Take this concept in every which direction. Mix your physical treasure up. Make it dust, rods, bars, raw chunks, flakes or coins of differing nations and kingdoms. A group I ran at Gamehole discovered long six-foot bars of gold they had to figure out how to cut up and carry (they left over half of it). Mixing the coin up into whatever shape and form adds another level of play to the game. It also, for those into world building, adds a level of realism to the game that helps ground players in the world you are sending them through.
#5: Make the Reaping a Whirlwind: Make gathering the treasure no easy task. Tie it to the monster, its lair, its habits or its abilities. Make it so that gathering the treasure is an encounter in and of itself. Or mix it up, allow the players to discover the treasure first and then they have to gather it before being discovered. The most ready example I have is what I did with a white dragon’s treasure. The party found it in the ruins of an old castle. They slew the dragon guarding it, but quickly realized there was more than one. But the treasure was frozen beneath a mound of ice. The dragons were not simply lying on a horde of gold and magic, but rather breathing upon it, freezing it beneath and into sheets of ice. It made for some frantic play as they extracted the harvest without destroying it, all before the creature’s mate returned.  But this can be done almost anywhere. Creatures tracked back to their lair where more of the creatures lie. Treasure hidden. Treasure trapped. Treasure stolen by others while a battle unfolds. Treasure scattered in fields of bones. It never hurts to make the last act of a heroic tale to be the scouring of the horde, so the reaping is all them more joyful.

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