This post by Donald the DM
You’ve done it! After weeks of planning, hours of struggling, and an epic climax that couldn’t have played out more perfectly, the Villain has been slain! With a last rasping grasp he falls, clutching his bloody side, his words lost in his death rattles. As the darkness reascends and the light shines into the once tainted realm, you reach down and grasp the ancient artifact at your feet. Lifting it high, the trophy for your long fought struggle, you now obtain…
… a +1 Longsword.
There’s no quicker way to ruin a climax than failing to maintain immersion when awarding loot. The reward at the end of any grand adventure should have some tangible weight to it to accompany the feeling of accomplishment. Today we look at making loot more memorable for your adventuring party.
First, whenever your have a villain or even challenge that you’ve spent time writing into detail, spare a few additional sentences to make the reward a little more meorable and worthwhile as well. For example, it isn’t “600 gold coins”, it’s, “A waterlogged chest filled with crusty doubloons, many from far off lands, valued together with an appraise check at 600 gold.” Both instances have essentially 600 gold coins, however the second makes the treasure tangible, more real, and even allows RP opportunity if players remember that the coins are likely of pirate origin.
When introducing treasure items, give each one two sentences. The first should describe the components that are unique to the physical body of the item. The second should give a unique flavor to the item, giving it a hint of a story or past. For instance, it isn’t a “+1 Longsword”, it is “An ancient blade of exquisite craftsmanship, shining in blue steel, sharp to the touch despite its age. The hilt is badly scarred, though the blade itself is virtually unblemished.” Both are functionally simple +1 weapons, but the second has meaning now to the players.
Further, you can go a step further by presenting a token to the player. Perhaps you hand an index card with the stats written on it, for the players to trade the item between themselves. Perhaps you print an image similar to the item you wish to describe, so to give it a real visage to associate with. Perhaps you go even further, presenting an actual small prop to another player for a supreme artifact, such as a thrift store gem for the Soul-Gem containing a Deity’s Spirit! The possibilities are endless.
By no means should every single item in an adventure be this detailed, such an undertaking would be unbearably cumbersome to players and DM alike. However, by giving special attention and flavor to a few choice bits of treasure, you will make your stories all the more memorable, and your players all the more invested.
What are some of the most memorable items you’ve ever looted or rewarded as loot? How did you make them standout for the story? Share your adventures in the comments below! Remember, every Wednesday Night is RPG Night at Pawn & Pint. Mention this article at the Door and you will receive a House Rule Coupon that allows you to Re-Roll 1 Dice in your game that night! And as always, DM’s play for Free!