So my players just hit level 5 and I knew that the cleric was going get Revivify as part of her subclass. So for the next encounter I made sure that I put a collection of diamonds that would allow her to cast the spell a few times in the future and then some left over for people to fight over.
For a later fight I was trying to figure out what weapon the boss would use so I looked at who had magical weapons and decided that since our rogue has a normal weapon still that I would give this boss a magical rapier.
At 3rd level I made an encounter/trap/puzzle for the wizard player. An old wizard and his warlock friend had stolen a chest of goods and the deed to a noble estate almost a thousand years ago, they bled out in a cave after being hunted down by knights. The wizard, moments before death, figured that one day some adventurer would try to claim his spellbook. To spite them, the wizard casted a Glyph of Warding that would trigger upon a person touching the spellbook and it would cast Tidal Wave which in his mind would drench the person and hopefully if it was a rival wizard, ruin their spellbook and scrolls. Now my party wizard has a magical spellbook so I know this trap wont harm their spellbook but it will give the impression that their decision to get a magical spellbook was worth it.
As much as I love just letting random tables decide what goes into the loot, having a few curated items (around 20%) will help make the party actually want the loot that is around. If all they find are a random number of silver pieces and potions of climbing then they will just view all the loot they find as things to sell so they can buy the things they really want. Not only does this make magic items and treasure feel less cool since they are basically no different than GP to them but also buying a magic item from a shop is way less cool than finding it in a dungeon or on a NPC.
I call this the 20/80 rule because I think its a good balance between random loot and curated loot. Obviously if you roll random 100% of the time its going to be swingy and some times frustrating or underwhelming. If you curate all the loot then it will feel like you the DM are just handing things out to the players, or your mind will melt after writing a paragraph of lore and figuring out the family lineages of dead noble houses for each +1 sword the goblins happen to have laying around in their cave.
I don't know if this was all obvious or not to everyone already but I know that early in my DM career I would have a habit of giving away OP custom magic items all the time or rolling for random crazy loot quite often. My response to that was to then just roll everything randomly and I found that this was not very interesting or fun. So now I treat loot like I treat NPCs more or less, a few are obviously important to them and the rest are random as appropriate for the setting/situation.
I think this approach also changes the perception the players have, so now if they get random loot they are more likely to wonder how it can be useful instead of how much can I sell it for. You basically sprinkle in some flavoring on a few items and then the players will season the rest of the them for you, if that makes any sense.
It really doesn't take too long to do this and remember you are the DM and you can just make a long list of items before handing them out slowly, adding them into the world as you feel fits. You don't have to plan every chest out now, just plan the list of things that CAN go into the chest now. This will save you from having to make up new loot on the spot and also make it so that you can instead use your improv for adding extra flair to the items in the loot. You designed a magical sword that was meant for killing vampires, but since you designed it the players have joined the vampires? Now you can improv some flair in the moment and say its Vampire Bane the sword that was used in an attempted assassination on the vampire lord but the plot was foiled and now it has been passed down from generation of royal executioner to generation as a symbol of the vampire court's authority. Do you need to figure out why it was in the chest now? No, not unless the PCs can figure it out in the moment. Remember, if the PCs don't know something then you don't have to either… just make sure you do figure it out when the time comes, probably at 2am the night after the session if you are like me.
That all being said, here are some great random generators that I use for inspiration or to fill in the 80% of other non curated loot:
Hopefully something in there was useful for yall, I am working on my personal perchance generator for NPCs and items and more and will likely post that when I polish it up more.
TLDR; If you are going to have 5 things in a chest, one of them better be obviously useful for one of the party members beyond cash value.
Edit: spelling and grammar.
- How to deal with detecting magical objects?
- Questions regarding the Order of Scribes Awakened Spellbook feature (NOT the damage changing stuff)
- Friendly reminder to give your wizard players spell scrolls and spellbooks
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "The 20/80 loot rule, make your loot interesting without too much extra work." specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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