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Rewarding "treasure" instead of gold

At the start of a new campaign, I always ask the party if they want to find random treasure (art, relics, heirlooms etc.) or just basic gold. It's funny - even though we're usually a pretty min/maxing group, we tend to prefer the varied treasure items, even though it's disadvantageous in every way:
• More bookkeeping for the players
• More pre-emptive work for the DM
• Actually results in less wealth for the party, since sometimes we keep sentimental or strange treasure instead of selling it

But it's just so much more interesting and fun to find ruby-eyed dragon chalices or ancient paintings of floating castles, not to mention they spark countless roleplaying opportunities. Players tend to remember treasure items they become emotionally attached to, and usually try to use them or bring them up later in the campaign. It's quite fun to see treasure you gave out many levels ago resurface, sometimes at critical moments.

Also, if the players have any sort of "home base" to actually display these treasures, they'll probably keep most of the random junk they find as mementos of their adventures. And even if they don't have a base of operations, I've seen players willingly give up the monetary value of treasure just for fun, such as keeping (and wearing) a fancy platinum belt buckle instead of selling it.

As a DM, this is one of the planning steps I enjoy most. I love coming up with weird, unexpected treasure items that the players would never expect, but still "fit" in the fantasy world. One of the stranger things they found lately was a shag rug carpet in a dragon's den, woven of lustrous "lunar silk" (whatever that is) and aurumvorax fur. One of the players IMMEDIATELY claimed it for his house. They've also kept a set of inscribed ceremonial swords which they later gave to a standoffish noble to win him over to their side.

I haven't purchased this book, but I've heard great things about the mundane treasure found in The Mother of All Treasure Tables.

Here's some quick tips for fast treasure items:
• Take a regular item and make it plated/lined with a valuable metal, or made out of exotic material. A bowl becomes gold-plated, or made out of ironwood, felwood, the remains of an ancient treant, etc.
• Flavor treasure for where the players found it. A kuo-toa temple my party recently infiltrated had decorative wall frescos and murals, so the party found a large set of glowing, luminous paints which were quite valuable due to their unusual nature & rarity.
• Idols, statues, and paintings depicting plot hooks are a great way to give treasure AND hints at the same time. Finding a small idol of Bane in a bandit's pack? Nothing noteworthy. But when they find a duplicate idol weeks later in an old merchant's bedroom? Suddenly relevant!
• Add minor magical properties. A mug that cleans itself, a tablecloth that never wrinkles, a bottle that cools its contents. Nothing that would count as a magic item, but would make a mundane item worth much more expensive/valuable. Plus, it's more creative opportunities for the players! Chances are, they'll find some fiendishly clever (or just weird) uses for such items.
• Magical/rare parts, metals or ingredients make nice treasure finds too. A block of pure mithril can be sold to the blacksmith, or maybe the party's fighter will run with it and see what can be made from it.


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