Monday, June 18, 2012

Scrambling for the Loot

Keith Davies has a great post on card-based looting, written in reponse to a Google+ comment of mine.  My basic concern is that I want some quick and easy rules for how long looting a place takes and how much can easily be hauled away, particularly when the scenario involves some sort of time constraint.  Does the party grab whatever is handy?  Do they focus on the obvious high-ticket items or poke around for concealed treasure?  If the player says "I dump my pack and quickly refill it with whatever I can grab" then what ends up in their pack?

The latter case I thought quite a deal about for the Caves of Myrddin expeditions.  There was a reasonable chance that the dragon's hoard could be found while the beast was away, but it could come back suddenly.  I actually worked out ahead of time the proportion of silver to gold to platinum that a hastily filled pack would yield.  A spreadsheet could make that an easy task for any big treasure pile: plug in the numbers and Bob's your uncle.

Keith's deck-based solution sounds fun, though filling out a bunch of index cards ahead of time would be a bit of a chore.  And I kinda like the idea of having a big ol' stack of cards that I would break out for special occasions.


  1. What about using a normal deck of cards? Then you could make a chart to assign different treasures to different cards, and only thing that would change would be your assignment table.

  2. Either one should work.

    The index card solution is the most work but stands the chance to be the most visceral. I can easily imagine, for a major encounter (such as a story arc climax), actually tracking down images to use on the cards and pushing the entire thing through the printer... but that's more work than I would likely do most of the time.

    Mapping playing cards to a table works too, and can make for a lot less work, but it means you're looking up the cards in the table to see what you're dealing with. This is still tenable if you manage to form some kind of relationship between the cards and the values. For instance, number cards are 'silver'-scale treasures and face cards are 'gold'-scale treasures, suits might indicate general sorts of items (spades are weapons and armor, diamonds are gems and jewelry, hearts are wondrous items, clubs are wands, rods, staffs, scrolls, and potions).

    [you're kidding, the spellcheck in browser recognizes 'staffs' but not 'staves'. Laaaame]

    So you might more or less automatically discard everything under five (copper-grade stuff like sacks of copper and mundane weapons) but keep spades higher than 7 (generally masterwork or otherwise special weapons). Clubs of any kind might be kept -- lower values are alchemical items, higher gets into potions and scrolls, face cards are wands and staffs.

    ... I totally need to expand on this at home. Evernote catch, will post tonight or tomorrow.

  3. As Notorious BIG once sang, "Gimme da loot! Gimme da loot!"

  4. Anonymous11:35 PM


    I just had a thought about this sort of thing. Rather than creating specific cards ahead of time that tell the player exactly what they got (elven sword + 1, 3200gp, rope of climbing) you could have general cards that you keep reusing. The players grab what they can then you translate their cards via the actual treasure list. If a player says they are looking for something specific then you could let them draw a couple more than the others and they can have the item they want if they find it, otherwise they get the last item they grab.

    e.g. Dragon's Horde (I didn't roll it)
    3200 gp
    7900 sp
    5 rings
    1 ring of protection
    8 swords
    1 sword +1

    Then you would grab from your card collection:
    32 x 100gp cards
    79 x 100sp cards
    1 x necklace card (jewelry card?)
    6 x ring cards (ditto)
    9 x sword cards (weapon card?)

    You decide they have enough time to grab three cards. The fighter says he is looking for a sword, the thief says he is just grabbing stuff.

    The thief just grabs three cards. The picking should probably go around the table one by one to be fair. He gets a gold, a silver and a ring. So he has 100gp, 100sp and you roll 1d6 to see which ring he has.

    The fighter gets to look at five cards. His first is silver so he ignores it and keeps looking. His second is gold which he also ignores (put back in the deck). The next is the necklace, he can stop looking here and take the necklace if he wants but he decides to keep looking so throws it back. His fourth is gp again which he ignores. His final pick is sp so he ends up with 100sp. Too bad buddy.

    I guess you would have to decide how obvious items were, e.g. a magic carpet rolled up in the corner or flat underneath all the other stuff (it wouldn't be in the deck then). Finding rings would be almost impossible in a pile of coins so maybe you can't look for small things specifically, or less cards or something. Are the swords on display or jumbled up with the other stuff? Then the fighter could just grab three swords (you nice DM you).

    Chests could be worth 5 or 10 cards because they are so big or heavy to move when full. So in the above example you tell them that there is also a chest. They don't have enough time to grab the chest this time since they can only grab 3 cards each but they need 5 to get a chest. If they had have teamed up then they could have used their combined 6 cards to get the chest plus one other pick.

    You could also use this for other big items. e.g. a gong worth 15 picks. They know it is there so go straight for it. You describe them dragging it towards the exit, working out how best to carry it etc (hmm, it's heavier than you thought). Oh oh, the dragon's coming back. They don't have enough time to get it to the exit, do they grab something with their remaining picks, try to put the gong back?


    p.s. I wrote this before reading the post you linked to. Maybe I should read that first next time.
    p.p.s. You could do this easily in Excel I guess and use the random number function to find out what they pick. i.e.
    1-32 gp
    33-111 sp
    112 necklace
    113-118 rings
    119-128 swords

  5. Anonymous2:01 PM

    Love the amount of work that's gone into this, and I will totally be stealing it to reduce my own amount of work, but just thinking about it reminds of a great description in a Hackmaster (TM) book I think I still have kicking around somewhere about the levels some people will go to, if they have the time, to loot a room. Seriously, they were using high level magic spells to grind up the stone floor and run it through a sieve for trace rare elements. Made me smile at the time, but mainly because I was happy that most of my players are no where near that bad.

  6. Maybe too simple abstract for you. This is how I handle this (and most things).

    1. Ask every player looting to roll die (d6 or d20 depending on whim/granularity feel is needed).

    2. Go around table and ask each player what they were looking to get? (Just filling my sack, looking for gems, searching for the Sword of Greyskull)

    3. Higher rolls equate to better results. With more specific searches having increasing chance of turning up nothing e.g. Specific item in large hoard requires 20 and results in nothing 1-19.

    4. Roll for wandering encounter / bad thing.

    5. Return to step 1

    I either have a list of items and general amounts of treasure in hoard or I make stuff up as I go along.

  7. There's an awesome post or comment on a blog somewhere within the last month or so that talked about playing with actual real-life time and giving the party only x amount of minutes to loot and scoot.

    It was in the context of a trap, where one member of the party had to insert their hand into a trap to turn a wheel (a la Indiana Jones) giving the other members of the party who wanted to make the journey a chance to enter the trap, keeping it open for some arbitrary time. After negotiating the intricacies of the labyrinth the reached the treasure room and could either just grab fistfuls of loot to carry out or could take more time to examine the treasure. Doing so, however, cost precious time and could end up with them getting stuck permanently in the labyrinth if they didn't make it back out in time. It was played in real-time so they really did only have 15 minutes to navigate the other traps, fight monsters, etc.

    Would be a pretty easy thing to use that same scheme with the loot cards (or dice) to allow them to look through the hoard methodically (draw 10 cards to simulate careful looking but it takes 10 minutes) or draw 3 cards (to simulate stuffing your pockets willy-nilly) but only takes 3 minutes and allows you a better chance to make it back out alive.

    I wish I could find that bloody post...