Treasure Types

Treasure comes in many different forms and sizes, ranging from the mundane to the exotic. There are of course coins of copper, silver, gold, electrum, and platinum. But precious metals can also be shaped into gilded cups, etched bowls, or even silverware. Characters know the value of coins and will have no difficulty establishing their worth in most cases. However, ancient treasure hordes may contain coins no longer used. It may be that these can be sold only by their weight. Objects made of valuable metal are even more difficult to appraise. Either the characters must find a goldsmith who can value the item and a buyer willing to pay a fair price, or these too must be melted down for their metal. In large cities this is not too difficult. There are always appraisers and fences handy, although getting full value might be difficult. (Accusations of theft are another small problem.) Characters must be aware of cheats and counterfeiters though. An apparently valuable bowl could actually be base metal plated in silver. The metal of coins could be debased with copper or brass. Weights could be rigged to give false prices. Characters must find merchants they can trust.

Gems are another common form of treasure and here player characters are even more dependent on others. Unless the party has a skilled appraiser of precious stones, they're going to have to trust others. After all, those red stones they found in the last treasure could be cheap glass, richly colored but only marginally valuable quartz, semi-precious garnets, or valuable rubies. Again, the player characters are going to have to find a jeweler they can trust and be watchful for cheats and scams. However, truly tricky DMs might present your characters with uncut gems. These are almost impossible for the untrained eye to spot or appraise. Most characters (and most players) are not going to realize that a piece of unremarkable stone can be a valuable gem when properly cut.

Perhaps the most difficult of all treasure items to appraise are objects of artistic value. While gems cut or uncut are valuable, their worth can be greatly increased when used in a piece of jewelry. Gold is valuable by weight, but even more so when fashioned into a cup or pin. Dwarven craftsmen from hidden communities practice the finest arts of gem cutting, while gnomish artisans in earthen burrows labor away on elaborate gold and silver filigrees. Ancient elven carvings, done in exquisitely grained woods, stand side by side with the purest of statues chiseled by man. All of these have a value that goes far beyond their mere materials.

But artistic creations seldom have a fixed value. Their price depends on the player characters finding a buyer and that person's willingness to buy. A few large cities may have brokers in arts, merchants who know the right people and are willing to act as go-betweens. Most of the time, however, the player characters have to go to the effort of peddling their wares personally. This requires tact and delicacy, for such items are seldom bought by any but the wealthy and the wealthy often do not like stooping to business negotiations. Player characters must carefully avoid giving insult to the barons, dukes, counts, and princes they might deal with.

Finally, there are the truly unusual things your character can find--furs, exotic animals, spices, rare spell components, or even trade goods. As with art objects, the values of these items are highly subjective. First the player characters have to find a buyer. This is not too difficult for everyday things, such as furs or trade goods, but it can be a tremendous enterprise if you have a spell component that is useful only to the most powerful of wizards. Next the PCs must haggle about the price. Furriers and merchants do this as a matter of course. Others haggle because they hope the PCs do not know the true value of what they hold or because they themselves do not know. After all this, the PCs might be able to sell their goods. However, if you enter into this in the true spirit of role-playing and see it as part of the adventure, the whole process is enjoyable.

(See also
Table 84: Treasure Types in the Dungeon Master Guide)

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