LOOT! We all love loot right? But how does loot work?

There are eight schools of thought(That I know of) on handing out loot; micro-preplanning, pre-rolling, delayed micro-preplanning, delayed pre-rolling, deadlining, and destiny drops, Vidya game loot sploders, and what’s up my butt?

Micro-preplanning is the school of thought for DMs that are strict on details and have every encounter planned out to the T before the players ever get within 10 miles of the encounter. This means you know an encounter will have 5 goblins, and you know that such an encounter should have 793 gold and 2 silver worth of loot so you prebuild each goblins loadout down to the last bolt to make sure if the party does a full cavity search on all five goblins they will get exactly 793 gold and 2 silver worth of loot, minus what ever is broke during the course of the fight such as potions, bolts, javelins, or what ever else might break.

Pre-rolling is fairly less strict, it involves encoutners being preplanned but extra loot aside from the creature’s primary gear being rolled for on various loot tables. This results in more diverse and more unpredictable play. After all, that CR 1/2 goblin can end up with a +1 sword now. Or a minor wondrous item. These random loot options leads to a possible change in the creature’s behavior as they now have an unusual asset available. It gives the player’s something extra to think about. Why does this goblin have a +1 sword? Goblins can’t make such things… can they? They are just mook. They should not eb able to think or learn or do special things right? Or a wand of magic missile?! This leads to flavor. It also sometimes leads to danger. Might mean you can’t take your own rolls as law. May need to reroll or.. just pick something other than what the dice say. All creatures have a part of their statblock called ‘Treasure’ which suggests how much you should roll for them, or how you should split things up if you are purchasing for them.

Delayed micro-preplanning. Much like micro-preplanning this means buying all the items by hand to make sure the encounter has all the loot it should, but with a twist. You slide the strictly planned loot back 1 encounter. So if your party fights 5 CR 1/2 dire rats, they get no loot. Rats have no pockets. So that 793.2 gold the rats should have dropped, goes onto the next encoutner which may be the goblins. Then the loot the goblins should have dropped goes to the next encoutner, and so on for the duration of the quest. Then.. the big loot pile that should have been on the boss instead is given to the party by the benefactor when they go turn the quest in. If any creatures from earlier fights escape, then you just deduct that portion of the loot from the next fight.

Delayed pre-rolling as you may expect at this point, is rolling for loot but pushing it all back 1 encounter.

Deadlining is perhaps one of the more frustrating ones but it sort of fits with the ‘lazy rules lawyer’ type of DM or the one that lives by the mentality of trying to cram at the last minute. In the DMG there is a table that shows what the expected wealth of a player is. This is what the value of their total ownership should be by the time they begin that level. So lets say that the expected wealth of a level 2 player is 4,000 gold. It’s not. Check the table yourself. But for this example.. that means the DM needs to make sure that before that player dings they have that much stuff. That includes the market value of all their gear, as well as their liquid cash, and adventuring supplies. This style of generating loot tends to lend itself to the DM having out very little loot along the way, then suddenly right at the boss fight trying to rush to do the math to see what the smallest amount of loot the DM can crap into your hands to make sure you have that 4,000 gold worth of stuff when you ding from the boss fight.

Destiny drops is one of the more pandering options. This is when the DM looks down a character’s sheet, and sees an out of date item that needs upgraded, then purposefully makes sure that exact upgrade ends up in the next loot pile. While this is not a bad thing it does begin to feel transparent if it happens a lot. The players will also learn (and exploit the fact)that if they complain about a weak item enough they will get an upgrade for it automatically.

Vidya game loot sploders is when the DM rolls for the loot after the party defeats the encounter. This gets it’s name because it follows video game logic, or lack of logic. Fight that wolf and.. it drops a +2 flaming sword? Where did it keep the sword? Why did it have a sword? Or that goblin drops a Sword of Three Wishes.. a very powerful magic item. But it didn’t have a long sword when we were fighting it. Why wasn’t it using it’s best weapon? Why was it using trash when fighting for it’s very life? That could have saved it’s entire tribe from being wiped out. That orc had a necklace of fireballs… why did it never use that? or it’s 17 potions.. Or the archer with 4 arrows of greater slaying for the exact race the party is made up of. It’s good loot, nice drops… but it rapidly will slap the players right out of any measure of immersion if they are pulling magic items off of creatures that didn’t have magic items until the moment they died. By the counter point, if you try to loot a mob and you have to constantly slap the DM to remind them that THIS THING JUST STABBED ME WITH A SWORD I WANT THAT SWORD because the DM is forgetting that the weapons it was swinging is legit loot too.

What’s up my butt is a style of loot generation where the DM just.. hand waves loot. You ask what the creature has because you are searching it. Your DM then makes a zombie noise ” uuuuhhhhhh braaaains… err I mean.. five gold. ” If you fight 17 goblins and they all have exactly 5 gold each.. That’s a sign the DM is pulling it out of their butt. The mobs have no flavor, they are just XP bicsuits with just enough gold to shut you up.

Of course, I do realize that the point table do tamper with some DM’s plans. But they are there to increase player engagement, to grant the players an extra layer of interaction with the world and such. Still, this post isn’t intended to call anyone out. This is food for thought. Chew it. Try it. Make joy.

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