(DMs) How do you handle loot?

I’m relatively new to Burning Wheel (I’ve DM’d a half-dozen sessions or so). Everything is great so far, and everyone is starting to get the hang of it, but I feel like I’m lacking in the loot area. I’m from the DnD realm where there a things like Loot Tables everywhere. I don’t know if I’m after a BW table, per se, I think it’s more of a question of how you (the royal “you”) handle Loot/Magic Items/etc. in your Campaigns.

Thanks in advance!

Loot isn’t really a thing in BW. That said, most riches or treasures could be described as either Cash or Funds, both of which are described on page 374 of BWG.

Magic items are a little trickier. I tend to not think of them as things you find randomly. At best, you might find a weapon with a 1D advantage for being exceptionally well-made or balanced. Or maybe it has VA when a normal weapon wouldn’t. Truly wondrous things are the subjects of adventures. The Magic Burner has the rules for creating items of power and relics, and some examples of them.

Gotcha. I recently purchased a copy of the Magic Burner, so I now (even more so) eagerly await its arrival.

Thanks for your speedy reply and help. Appreciate it!

No problem! Have fun playing!

I’d rarely give out more than 1D in cash for a haul of loot, maybe 2D if it’s something immense. 3D if you slay the oldest dragon, who has amassed his hoard since the dawn of time, and take every last ring and goblet.

Giving out tons of stuff in BW tends to do bad things because getting gear is an important thing. Resource tests for even simple gear are often difficult for poor characters, and having to get the gear you want isn’t trivial at all.

I think that’s rather conservative. (Well, maybe less so if you’re talking about spreading it across many PCs.)

IME, 3D cash is enough to stand a good chance of making what would normally be a Difficult test. Unless the characters are rather wealthy already, that’s pretty much just one sword or bow or riding mount or bit of armor. But then it’s gone, win or lose.

Why do you need loot, anyway? Do they have Beliefs about it? Or Beliefs that it could challenge, either in the getting or the using of it?

Pro*tip: Write beliefs about loot. Especially when you’re starting out. A belief about some tool you desperately need (e.g. to practice your trade) or money for some grand venture is a great way for a new character to hit the ground running, which is exactly how BW wants you to start games.

I did it and it was awesome in play.

    • I am sooooo not pro. It’s not even funny. You’ve been warned. :slight_smile:

Well, it’s important if it’s important, right? If your game is about getting stuff, then having all the stuff is going to ruin that. If your game is about killin’ trolls, then a modern attack helicopter is going to ruin that. But you can certainly tell great stories about rich characters and troll-hunting helicopter pilots.

If your PCs discover a fabled treasure like Smaug’s hoard or Tutankhamen’s grave goods, fun! The game won’t be about treasure hunting anymore, but what do they do with that stuff? Who wants a part of it? Burning Wheel handles everything that comes after better than D&D, in my opinion.

As for how much money to hand out, I think you should try to have a visual idea of what each level is. This is roughly what it is to me:

1D cash: one or two small coins. What you put on the table to buy a meal.
2D: a handful of small coins. What you take with you to the market when you shop.
3D: a small bag of small coins, or a couple large coins. Walking around money for a wealthy person.
4D: a fist-sized stack of coins. A lower class family’s savings.
5D: a smallish gold bar, maybe.
6D: a large bag of mixed coins, head-size. A year’s income for a farmer.
7D: a small coffer of coins.
10D: a large coffer or small chest.

Beyond that I’d only make funds.
3D fund: a large chest.
5D: oxen laden with gold. The tribute of a king to an emperor.
10D: a room filled with treasure. The ransom of Atahualpa.
15D: Smaug’s hoard.

I think if you have the dragon’s hoard, the game is no longer about getting stuff…it’s about keeping stuff.

I think the Dragon Hoard our Burning THAC0 characters won was a G10 Fund. At the same time, we were allowed to make one Loot-wise roll each to find specific items such as a Grey-shaded axe, a set of mithril mail, etc.

At the other end of the spectrum, we typically didn’t get any loot from the foes we beat, by default. We had to ask for a Loot-wise roll to scrounge up 1D of cash when we wanted such. Ten of Swords’ list is pretty good for Loot-wise obstacles. Failed Loot-wise tests are an awesome way to introduce cursed items, btw.

In BW, there are no throw-away magic items. Each should be the reward from an adventure or the result of a test. Each should be unique and mean something to the character.

Finally, since you’re coming from D&D, here’s an old thread where I made BW equivalents of famous D&D magic items. They’re for BW Revised, but I think most work with Gold as is.

IIRC there was a post a few years back imagining the devastating economic consequences of from just having the body of a slain dragon lying around, let alone it’s hoard. War of the Five Armies type cataclysm.

I like this so much! (Also, do you have some example Obstacles?)

In the case of looting guys you beat up (rather than the treasure-hoard example above), what led to you to choose Loot-wise over a skill like Scavenging or Appraisal?

This is all great (especially the link from Kublai, by Kublai). I’ve used the Resource Table in the book for all of my money-loot needs, but I now have a much more realized image of what Magic Items can really be in BW.


I do believe both those two items were Ob10. I recall needing to spend a Deeds point on my base skill of B6. Stormsweeper is the GM and maybe he can confirm.

In the case of looting guys you beat up (rather than the treasure-hoard example above), what led to you to choose Loot-wise over a skill like Scavenging or Appraisal?

Because it’s a wise, we can use it in other ways such as establishing facts about an item’s ability, determining where in the room the jewels might be secreted, or knowing the source of the strange coins found in the cache.

And because Loot-wise is more specific in its scope, loot-related obstacles will be much lower than the broader Scavenging. And really, Scavenging is meant to find things you need right then. Not really for finding loot to buy things you need at a later time. For instance, you’d use Scavenging on a battlefield to find pieces of armor that you would use Mending or Armorer to put together a patchwork set that you could sell for 2D at a later time. Loot-wise would just allow you to find a 2D gold ring on that same battlefield.

Appraisal technically doesn’t allow the creation/establishment of loot, just knowing the value of loot that’s already there.

I’m glad you like them. If you search through the forums using “magic item”, you’ll find lots of great ideas. I find great fun in the translation. Like the Master Sword from Zelda!

Loot has been difficult for me as well. Since resources are more than just cash on-hand, and since even most five LP characters have, at most, one or two dice of resources, I hesitate to give out cash for killing humans and the like. Also, IRL, there are very real consequences to killing someone, even in self-defense, so I discouraged my players from going on killing sprees.
The game allows for a healthy amount of character-generated loot, however, in the form of antecedents and enchanting gear. So our system is based on that. Rather than just having a creature that inexplicably has 2D cash lying around, they can bring back a carcass (or piece of one) and either sell it to an enchanter or keep it to enchant themselves. He generally pays in a “check” equal to the highest trait point cost of the creature. So they can either get a check towards advancement for selling it (for players who want to grow their resources) or they can spend the “check” on applicable cash (an Ob 4 check could net 2 cash dice for players who need a quick cash infusion). It’s worked so far.

While I admit I oversold my anti-Cash position, I still maintain that if you’re using Resources you don’t want to undervalue it. End-running the system by using other skills for acquiring most of your stuff strikes me as non-ideal for many games. I’d much rather have the characters expend effort to build up Cash and Funds dice for the big purchases, and especially for succeeding on a few tests so they get out of the 0-1 Resources pit and acquire some actual, reliable Resources that can survive some tax and slowly creep up.

IME, the thing is that you still have to maintain your stuff. Even 10D cash isn’t gonna allow a character with Resources B2 to actually own a longship (you’d very quickly end up with a busted ship and no crew).

Not that you should just give out 10D cash all the time, of course. That is a ton of money! But, without Resources underpinning it, basically the only thing that cash really avails you is stuff that’s fairly portable and doesn’t require maintenance. (So, okay, there’s a bit of a risk there that you’ll end up with “murderhobos” if you hand out too much cash.)

EDIT: Okay, major caveat: a lot of cash dice can pretty easily be turned into a moderately-sized fund with the Resources rules. At which point they do go a pretty long way.

Here’s a thread from a while back that might add something: