Hoards & Other Treasures is the next edition of Small Bites. It is different from the others because it is not talking about a character archetype or a location, but about loot and treasure in general. I make no secret of my love of treasure, but what’s actually valuable to a GM?
Let’s take an example. There’s a music video in which a famous guitarist (not his video) is sort of playing with a small golden skull. Golden skull! With or without gems in its eye sockets (ruby? obsidian? garnet?), this is the kind of treasure that adventurers should love. But if they decide to cash it in - what’s it worth?
It depends. You hate that answer; I know! But how are you cashing it in? If you melt it down, it is still valuable as gold. If you stole it, selling it as is might be a bad idea, so melting it down and making it unrecognizable might be the smart play here. So you need to know what it is worth simply as raw gold.
But it is clearly an artistic piece. Some craftsman made it, and that craftsmanship is worth something. So it has a crafted value too. But what if it is a historic treasure? Indiana Jones found a golden skull and it was valuable, not only because it was gold and it was pretty (come on, it was pretty!) but because it was the idol of that tribe. So to an art dealer it might be worth one amount as a work of art, but to a museum it might be worth far more. So the GM needs to know the base value, the crafted value, and the collectible value.
But when the adventurers sell it in the city, who do they go to? Well, it sounds like a smelter, an art dealer, or a museum curator. Who then? Assume it is a sword - not an artistic sword - just a sword. Well you can still take it to the smelter and sell it as scrap steel. You can take it to the weapons smith and sell it as a serviceable weapon, but he may not want to sell swords made by other people. For all he knows it has a fault in it that could get a good customer killed. You can take it to the peddler who will sell it somewhere along the road. You could sell it to the pawn shop, the second hand weapons store, an adventurer you meet in a bar, open your own used weapons shop and sell it there, etc.
These are the “normal” things an adventurer could do with loot. Because of that, we will typically present the base or materials value of something, along with two others: 1) The “at source” cost is what we often call the wholesale price. It is intended to represent what you would pay if you went to the manufacturer of this item in his workshop outside the major city. It is the crafted price. In most situations, this would be what the adventurers would get for the item if they sold it. 2) The “in the city” price is the retail price. It is the price the adventurer would pay if they went to the shop and bought it, which means it would be the price the adventurers could sell it for if they had their own shop. Owning a shop is expensive. You need to pay salespeople, rent, furniture, and a whole bunch of other stuff. You also have to pay the taxes and tariffs. You also want to make some money for yourself so you can eat. This is really important as the “price list” for what characters are paying when they just wander down to the weapons shop to buy their weapons.
But we just skipped the collector’s value. What happened there? Well, we use to put that in our charts, but so often it is the same as the crafted price, that we felt we were wasting space. Most charts are tough enough to read. Eliminating the column would have made them easier, but instead we just added “in City” to make the loot guide a price guide as well.