Wednesday, May 3, 2017

3600+ Treasures (Monkey Business design post)

Yesterday drivethru surprised me by going live with Monkey Business after less than one work day. Talk about fast ... Anyway, today, after over 94 downloads (thanks a lot, guys!), I'm a bit less panicked and I thought I'll start a series of posts about the procedures in MB and how to use them. The first will be the Jungle Treasure Generator. Enjoy!

The thing about treasure tables ...

Well, going with the D&D Rules Cyclopedia here, I'd say they are at least cumbersome. I mean, I definitely had all kinds of attention when I read some random loot to the players. Even when rolling the results live at the table, I saw only concentrated faces and lots of scribbling. But that might have been the huge amounts of gp, to be honest. Players do take that seriously.

There's two things I found lacking, though: (1) it took ages to get results and (2) while you got lots and lots of variety, they usually lacked all kinds of flavor and depth (bonus: going pure random would often result in ridiculous results ... we had phase spiders with a  boat once!). So a DM would have to roll that beforehand. But that'd mean that he couldn't use random encounters ... unless he prepared the whole list. And honestly, who would be crazy enough to do something like that?

Well, not me, that's for sure. So when I sat down to write Monkey Business, one of the first things I knew I needed to have in the final product, had been a jungle treasure generator of sorts. It needed to be fast and bring flavor to the table. It's one of those things you can spend way too much time with. This is what I came up with:

Open in new tab for better readability! Strange fact:
it looks better in the pdf ...

One roll: treasure, flavor and even Quest Items!

So you roll 4 dice (2d20, 1d8 & 1d12), the d20s will give you a descriptor and a general category (I just use the left d20 for the left column and the right for the right column ...). The sum is your base gp value, but that might get modified by multipliers. Now either the d8 or the d12 will get used for column 3 (materials) while the unused die will either give a number of doses, the usability of an item or just make it even more valuable (as another multiplier, no less).

There are several benefits from handling it like this. For one, it's just one roll and reading the result. Easy. Than it has a high level of variety (3600 variants, and that's not taking different doses or usability into account). Usability brings yet another aspect to treasures other than indicating if the group could do more with it than just selling: it might end up being quest items!

It doesn't even mean that the characters need to be aware of that fact (in true sandbox fashion), it just means that the item has a meaning to someone out there beyond its money value, which definitely can come in handy for a DM at some point. But it is a good reason to send characters around, looking for ruins and what-not.

Finally, using descriptors and general terms in conjunction with all kinds of material will just give a DM a general direction (and curses!). He'll still have to decide what exactly the characters find. This is where the flavor comes into play. As DMs we are used to making judgment calls about almost everything in a game and the main question is always: what makes sense right now. This being a jungle setting, the hard data resulting from the roll has to manifest as something that fits. Describing a result like that will automatically add flavor to the game and makes a whole lot more than 3600 results possible.

I'd even say that no treasure will be alike that way ...

It needs a bit improvisation to work, but, as I wrote above, it's nothing a DM wouldn't do anyway, so it really shouldn't be a problem. The real boon is that you'll end up with individual and colorful treasure every time. And if the group realizes that there's real money in exporting those treasures, you'll have a whole different thing coming (like real treasure hunters).

All flavor: a Hawaiian hand-weapon made
out of wood and shark teeth! [source]

Sure, why not. We'll say the characters are in a dense jungle area, exploring some ruins and they find:

[d20s: 3, 7, d8: 8, d12: 1] = an ancient, small accessory made out of pelt (usability 1, value 38 gp)

I'd say this is some sort of hairy and holey pouch made by the long gone inhabitants of those ruins. Since the usability is so low, I'd say it was designed to hold something unusual, a meaning lost in time. It has some value for being very old and I'd say it could fetch maybe 10 times as much sold to a collector outside the jungle.

[d20s: 17, 8, d8: 6, d12: 8] = a rare big accessory made out of iron (usability 8, value 156 gp)

That's an interesting one. Big, made out of iron AND quite useful. A cage comes to mind, maybe. Yeah, I'd go with that. The group finds an iron cage in those ruins, something former visitors have left behind for some reason or another and it's a thing not often seen in a jungle (it being rare and all that, maybe slaver accessory? conquerers?). This thing is still fully functional and could sure come in handy one way or another. A bit bulky, though.

[d20s: 7, 11, d8: 4, d12: 8] = a cursed tool made out of predators (usability 8, value 30 gp)

Now that's something. A tool made from a predator ... the fangs of some beast are an obvious choice here ... I'd say it's the cursed set of torture tools made out of bone and teeth. The former owner had been an evil witch doctor who found his end in those ruins ... maybe in that very cage the characters found earlier. As a curse I'd go with some light forms of possession and the urge to torture someone. Or something like that.

You get my drift and I'm pretty sure all of you could have come up with different treasures like it. There is a somewhat detailed result and you apply it to the situation. Work with what you have, add to it as you see fit and you are good to go. Some you'll be able to prepare, some you'll have to roll up randomly, but you should be good either way.

More Monkey Business

I hope this was informative and give you an idea what to expect in Monkey Business (at least a small part of it). Either way, I also hope you got some ideas and found something useful here today. This is about sharing tools and concepts, after all.

The next thing I'll showcase here on the blog will be the ruin generator, as most questions so far had been about that one. The important thing is, that tables can do so much more than randomizing 100 results. They can interact and produce something unique and complex from nothing more than a roll of some dice.

And that's that. I'd recommend googling some tools and materials used by native tribes all over the world to get an idea or two. Other than that, I'd like to point out that it's quite easy to use those tables for any other kind of setting, maybe with a bit tweaking, but basically you could use this for a different background and just by taking that into account, you'll get different results.

If you liked this, you couldn't go wrong checking out the module it's from: Monkey Business. It's a PWYW procedural junglecrawl and there's more like the above where that came from ...


  1. Can't wait to look at monkey business. Sounds pretty great!

    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy it :)

  2. I did get a chance to kind of look through it, what with work and family pulling me around. IT IS HUGE!!!! And useful right out of the gate. I noticed lots of fun stuff just browsing through it. You put a lot of work into this this Jens, and it shows!

    1. Thanks, Ripper! Yeah, it escalated a bit ... I wanted it to be as complete as possible and that's not even all I wanted to have in there (I wanted to add monkey classes, for instance ...). I might end up writing a supplement for the module :) Have fun with it!