Who's Got the Treasure?
The next question relating to treasure hoards is just who assembles these
treasures and to what end? The answer can be divided into two simple categories,
the unintelligent and the intelligent creature. Unintelligent creatures here
refers not to those totally mindless beings, rather to those of animal nature for
whom wealth has no meaning.
Unintelligent Creatures: Few unintelligent creatures set out with the intention of amassing a fortune.
Such treasures grow by chance and happenstance.
The remains of victims dragged back to the creature's lair may include what
fortune, arms, armor, and magical items that victim was carrying. These, unsavory
and indigestible, could be thrown aside or scattered among the bones and
refuse of previous meals.
Fortunately for adventurers, most animals have some sanitary habits and
regularly clean their dens of refuse, creating small garbage dumps just outside their
doors. Thus, the unwanted litter from the aerie of a giant eagle could be
scattered around the base of its tree, while the remains of a cave bear's kill
could be found somewhere near the opening to its den.
At the same time, animals (and animal-like monsters) often have a fascination
with the strangest of objects. Packrats and magpies are known to carry off
shiny objects, pet ferrets will carry off pennies and shoes, and birds will weave
all manner of things into their nests. Thus it is possible for virtually any
item of interest to be found in the lair of a creature.
There won't be many items in a lair, since few animals make an industry of
such gathering. However, the nest of a giant otter might include a set of leather
armor and fine silks for bedding material, while the nest of a roc could have a
magical rope woven into it.
In the rarest of instances, the creature could actually eat its treasure,
though hardly by design. This is most often the case for creatures lacking the
limbs to separate the edible from the inedible and especially for those with
voracious appetites. Sharks' bellies have been known to hold such strange items as
license plates, suits of armor, hubcaps, and other indigestible bits of metal. In
adventuring, such instances should be limited to beasts with massive maws
(purple worms, killer whales, and gelatinous cubes).
Finally, there are a few creatures that actually feed on items others consider
treasure. The beast may eat gems or precious metals. Of course, such creatures
are not likely to have a sizeable hoard, and treasures found by them will not
remain around forever.
Intelligent Creatures: Here, the DM can begin ascribing emotions and motives. Intelligent creatures
may hoard because of greed and avarice. They may do so for social status or
material comforts. Indeed, many normal reasons can be given. However, the reasons
are not always clearly apparent.
While a hobgoblin may kill and steal to gain a treasure he can use to become
the chief of his tribe or to buy goods from unscrupulous merchants, what are the
reasons for a dragon to build a treasure hoard? Dragons don't go into town and
buy goods, and they don't pay builders to construct homes. They just don't
seem to have any use for the vast sums of money they collect (and collect they
For dragons and other intelligent creatures, the DM must create more bizarre
and alien motives. Dragons may hoard treasure because they are obsessive about
such things. They may have the notion that they are the guardians and recoverers
of those things of the earth. They may simply feel it is their right to
possess all that they can. Within their own relationships, the size of a hoard may
have some bearing on the perceived might of the creature. It could even be that
the wondrous beauty of treasure items brings an inner harmony and peace to the
Even for those intelligent creatures with understandable motives, things are
apt to be a bit different from normal. A hobgoblin society is vastly different
from that of humans or most other player character races. Hobgoblins don't go to
cities and spend money on palaces, fine drink, and elaborate gardens. Their
expenditures are apt to be much more brutal or mundane. At the same time they do
not have an economy as developed as that of human society. Perhaps they need
vast sums of money because the price relationships are so bizarre.
Weapons may be astronomical in price and armor outlandish. Powerful chieftains
may demand regular gifts and tribute from their underlings. Such payments may
be made eagerly since death is the alternative. Indeed such a system of gifting
may be culturally ingrained, each warrior attempting to prove he is still fit
to be a member of the tribe.
Everything above notwithstanding, it isn't necessary to justify every hoard in
existence. However, doing so provides clues about the size of a treasure and
how the owner might react to someone trying to snatch it.
A dragon might take an extreme view of anyone taking even the slightest amount
of treasure from its vast pile. A hobgoblin might go berserk if the characters
attempt to rob him. The hobgoblin's companions might take little interest in
their friend's problem. The player characters represent a threat, but after all,
each hobgoblin must prove he can defend himself.
On the other hand, looting the chieftain's treasure room would almost
certainly lead to upheavals within the tribe. The chief is bound by the same customs as
his warriors, and if he can't protect his treasures, he doesn't deserve to be
chieftain—at least by this particular philosophy.
Intelligent monsters will take precautions to guard their treasure that would
never dawn on unintelligent beasts. The hobgoblin chieftain isn't going to
leave his treasury unguarded.
Furthermore, he isn't going to trust his own guards, either, and so is likely
to have the treasury rigged with at least one (and probably several) dangerous
traps. Should he be so lucky, the chieftain will even have a trained guardbeast
or two to discourage thieves.
Even a lowly hobgoblin warrior is going to make an effort to protect what is
his. If his horde is small, he may carry his wealth with him at all times. He
may bury it where only he can find it. He may place it in a trapped and locked
chest, preferably one that is chained to the wall or floor. This is not a society
with an overabundance of love and trust, after all.
A dragon, at the other extreme, may simply consider his reputation sufficient
deterrent. Certainly this is true while the dragon is present! (And player
characters should never just come across an unoccupied dragon hoard.)
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