I don’t understand Treasure

I don’t understand Treasure

Ok, I have a confession to make. I love DMing, but I am terrible at giving out treasure. I don’t know why, but somehow it escapes me in the narrative. Sometimes I end up going two or three games without handing out any treasure. Or my players kill a tough foe and search the body and this happens:

Player: What do I find?

Me quickly panicking: Um… A gum wrapper and ::rolls random dice:: 1000 gp?

Player: Really?!

Me, now sweating: Why, is that too much, too little? You tell me?!?

I think I’m bad at treasure as I play 5e because I was used to the way treasure distribution was handled in older editions of the game. There was a “treasure type” right there in the monster stat block that directed you to the appropriate chart. For example, a Thri-Kreen had treasure type Q, which meant it would drop 1d4 gems. Simple.

Compared to that, the way 5e handles treasure somehow felt vague and confusing to me. Gemstones and art objects had detailed charts with what felt like no context, there was an overly simplistic item value chart, and the charts for individuals never listed any magic items. Only the hoard table had magic items. So, do they mean my players have to fight an army or a dragon before they can get a health potion?!

I’ve been trying to figure this out for a while, and recently did 2 things that are helping me change my treasure game, and I wanted to share them with you. First of all, I went back to chapter 7 in the DMG on treasure and actually read it! I realized that the 5e tools for treasure aren’t bad, they’re just laid out in a way that wasn’t intuitive to me. The gemstone and art objects are ancillary charts that fill out listings that come later in the chapter (maybe it would have been better if they hadn’t listed them first?). The Magic Item Rarity chart doesn’t just give a vague price point to magic items, but is intended to be used as a guide to explain which rarities your players should encounter at which level…and it’s super helpful.

Now when I look at the treasure charts, I use the Hoard chart to fill the dungeon or adventure for the day. I use the Individual chart to determine how much of the treasure a particular creature has and take cues from the story to show me where items should be.

I’m understanding the treasure tables, and have gotten some treasure set up in my game, but I realized that I still needed a little more help when I’m in the game because there’s still a lot of information to use and process quickly. So, the second thing I did was find some online tools to help. Both Kassoon and Dunjon have some great treasure generation tools. It just takes a few clicks and you’ve got a pile of shiny treasure to reward or tempt your players with. I’m all about making game prep quick and easy, and the tools on these sites absolutely do that.


My treasure game still isn’t perfectly on point, but I’m getting better! If you struggle with treasure, I hope this helps you too.

See you next Friday and until then, may the dice be ever in your favor. 


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