Over on his blog, Coyote has a post about the difficulties of treasure in RPGs, be they face-to-face or computer.

As far as the live versions go, treasure, when handled properly by the DM, isn’t much of a problem. The best stuff is always found as loot after a hard-fought battle.

Most of the goodies my various live-play characters acquired came in that way. Shopping was done mostly at the start for basic equipment. Treasure was paced carefully (most of the time) so there was something for everybody, but not all at once.

When we look at CRPGs, though, the situation changes dramatically. Every town has at least one shop, and players expect to be able to buy things there. Otherwise, why bother with gold?

At the same time, they also expect to find Neat Items in treasure hordes after fighting monsters. Few games can get the balance right.

For example, when Mordred finished Fate, he had seven million in gold in his pocket, ruining the fit of his magic robe. And annoying him greatly, as there was nothing much he could buy with that, except maybe some extra fame.

Many of you recall that problem in Diablo, with piles of gold sitting around the town square of Tristram. Nothing suitable was in the store, and the piles just kept growing.

Might & Magic addressed the problem by requiring training for each new level, and that training had to be paid for. So at least there was something important to do with the money.

On the other hand, if you ran out of money, frustration set in, because the characters couldn’t advance. Then you’d have to go looking for encounters to build the bankroll, which meant more experience, and more levels to train. So that was a partial solution only.

As it is, most CRPGs shower you with items, many – if not most – of which are useless for your character, and end up being sold. So now you have money, but nothing to buy. Or not enough for the thing you want.

This is where live gaming has the edge. The DM knows what each player has, and can adjust treasures accordingly. The goodies keep up with the game difficulty, but don’t get out of hand, or end up being useless.

That also means each item acquired will have a longer “lifespan” before being sold, and is thus more important to the player.

This is a rarity in CRPGs. Players are always looking for the better item, be it in a treasure horde or a shop. But the play style in computer games is also much different.

You can have more combats in the space of a couple of hours than in several sessions of live play. The game itself forces constant upgrades to meet the increasing challenges.

Coyote wonders if there’s a solution to this problem. So do I. Offhand, I can’t think of any CRPG where the balance between money and items was a good one. In most of them, I ended up with far more gold than I could spend.

Filling shops with Neat Items wouldn’t work too well. There’s no point in buying that nifty Sword of Destruction +10 when you come across the +50 Sword Of Instant Death in the lich’s treasure horde.

So read his post, and see what you think. Is there a way to do this?

The Treasure problem on Coyote’s blog