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To cut a long story very short, the campaign's opening story ends with the following: The party's mentor, master, and "step-father", a level 18 neutral evil wizard who dabbled in shadow magic, is dead, and the members of the party are his heirs. I know what the wizard had on his person—but he has a fortified house in a nearby city, with a well equipped lab and a rich library. The party has access to this house, and I'm not going to rob them of it completely.

Without rereading half the DMG and other books: How could I quickly come up with a relevant (and not totally random) inheritance/treasure that makes sense? And what do I let a level 4 party keep from it, and how do I take away the rest or at least limit their access?

I know it's not your regular way of acquiring treasure and so on, but

  1. Story and its relative credibility has always been a priority for us,
  2. I haven't DMed DnD for a long, long while, and yet
  3. I do not have too much time to prepare, unfortunately.

So, I need a quick and dirty method that produces plausible results, nonetheless.

(Are there semi-random treasure generators out there, perhaps?)

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Was the wizard part of a guild? I ask because having a mage guild step in and claim parts of the estate as belonging to them would allow you to randomly generate treasure and anything you don't want the party to have could be claimed as "guild property" and not truly owned by the wizard. –  Leezard Nov 20 '12 at 21:30
    
He was, indeed, though the guild wasn't developed to any real extent. An excellent point and idea - thank you! :) –  OpaCitiZen Nov 20 '12 at 21:52
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8 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Choose whatever looks appropriate, plus a few flavourful items for theme, from TreantMonk's Guide, and Bunko's Bargain Basement. Choose flavourful items that will prove to be macguffins for your campaign.

He explores all the magic items someone would have. An 18th level wizard will have 3 categories of items. "Junk I collected," "Stuff that's applicable to what I do," "Awesome quest MacGuffins."

We're looking at "Junk I collected" to be easily accessable, and everything else to be hidden away in quest locations.

In a spreadsheet, set aside 440,000 GP. This is an 18th level wizard's wealth by level. In contrast, the party wealth should be around 20k. The handbook lists most prices, so simply note down the item and how much it costs until you've spent about half your gold, fill the rest up with weapons of legacy or other notable items. Then, take 10% of the items (I'd say chosen randomly) and have them "out in the lab." Which the party, if it finds them, can just pick up. Everything else is stored in the series of interlinked vaults that the party can raid of they want to.

The Normal Effective Wizard will have, on him,

Ring of Feather Fall, Ring of Enduring Arcana, Headband of Intellect (+6), Amulet of health (+4), Metamagic Rod of Quicken (lesser), Metamagic Rod of Extend (lesser), Metamagic rod of Silent Spell (lesser), Heward's handy haversack, Heward's fortifying bedroll, a (good) metamagic rod.

This is his "walking around" equipment. Plus a "travelling" spellbook (http://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/18374/760) of useful spells.

We'll assume that he has dropped at least 100k into infrastructure (which is, itself, loot). In fact, a home base could make an excellent legacy, and a touchstone to your campaign. Give it a few semi-friendly ghosts, a horde of semi-magical servants, and suddenly it has character and (to a large degree) safety.

Grab a few items from Tome of Magic as curiosities (drop in a vestige tooth or two, just for sheer WTF, and some of the items in the shadow area), and top it off with 5 or so level 10 loot rolls, representing the quite literal loot he's taken off people.

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You can leave stuff that isn't important lying around. It's possible/likely that he'd have a few basic pieces of treasure lying around as mementos. +1 spears, swords and other exotic weapons are pretty much decoration to an 18th level wizard.

The big stuff should be in a vault - something that is going to be difficult for other people who aren't of a similar or greater power level than the sire. That can easily be a campaign goal for the group, finding out how to open the interdimensional treasure vault that contains the bulk of their inheritance.

As far as quickly generating the treasure just let the party use their wealth-by-level to choose the items they would want. Encouraging them to pick offbeat and interesting abilities may help.

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Combine this with the guild/debt collectors (did he owe an extra-planar entity money?) also trying to find the vault, and you've got a long-term campaign conflict as everyone tries to beat the PCs to the vault, or worse, use them to get to it. –  SevenSidedDie Nov 21 '12 at 0:52
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Taxes/debt collectors/guild should get the majority of the wealth.

Give the group a couple of minor utility magic items. Create a story about 1 or more of the party members witnessing the wizard use them in an interesting way.

Give each member 1 or more magic weapons/armor of level. Being their mentor and 18th level, surely he knows the party well and knows what kind of things will help them while he is gone. This can work especially well, if the wizard knew his death was imminent.

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Most people don't keep piles of gold under their beds, especially when they're as wealthy as a Lvl 18 character. Furthermore, wealth doesn't need to mean gold pieces either, but can be tied up in all kinds of assets. Finally, the wizard is evil. That gives us a lot to work with. Here are a few suggestions:

  • The money is safely tucked away in investments. Caravans, gambling dens, or wherever else you put money in your world to evade taxes. This can make it hard to access the money. For example, if much of the money is tied up in a caravan, it will take a while till they sell all their stuff, which means that the money isn't instantly accessible - and maybe the caravan needs protection or rescuing (=adventure hook). Alternatively, the investment banker may be trying to run away with the assets (=adventure hook), or the access to the money may be tied to some bizarre conditions that the party has to meet before they are considered worthy - remember, the wizard was evil and a mentor, so this would be his final evil chuckle from the grave (=adventure hook).

  • The wealth is, in fact, the books (or maybe in archeological treasures, or whatever else the guy loved to collect). They're some of the rarest, most obscure works about magic that have ever existed. While it is extremely dangerous and expensive to obtain such treasure, selling it for quick cash would be near impossible - you have to somehow advertise that you're in possession of a work of forbidden lore without alerting the authorites, and without getting killed and robbed near instantly (=adventure hook - also maybe some message arrives that there is that final tome that completes the Wizard's collection, but alas, it's on a remote island etc. etc.). Of course, the really valuable books would be heavily guarded by monsters and traps, with the entrance of the dungeon behind a hidden door in the library (=adventure hook).

  • A bit less universally applicable: the wizard doesn't actually have much treasure, since he spent almost all of it attempting to turn into a lich and become immortal. What he does leave, though, are detailed instructions on how to get there, there were just a few spell ingredients missing. If the party swings that way, the campaign could become about them turning into liches themselves.

In short, I wouldn't give the party anything immediately (except a bit of cash, or a bunch of +1 weapons that have been gathering dust in an attic - these weapons can turn out to be much more powerful over the course of the campaign, if you want), but rather use the lure of the treasure as a motivation for your campaign.

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Since you're letting them keep the house, assume that the house's basic fixtures can't be liquidated. Use magic effects if needed to enforce this (if they start prying up the copper bannister, have an illusion of the wizard appear and warn them to stop or face dire consequences). This includes things with sentimental or plot value that can't be sold (bedspreads, old books, dangerous pets).

Look at the Treasure Values per Encounter table on DMG51. Level 4 parties should get 1200 gp per encounter. Look at the number of encounters you have planned in the near future that would be hard to assign treasure: fights against animals, nonintelligent creatures, non-combat encounters, and other ones that wouldn't leave loot behind. Lump the recommended rewards for those encounters into an inheritance. You can also look back and see if there were some encounters that you maybe should have given treasure for that you didn't.

Say you have five encounters coming up that wouldn't result in treasure; give them 5 x 1200 gold, or 6000 gold in the inheritance. Anything else was confiscated by the tax collectors, given to other heirs, or trapped away in a puzzle vault like Simon Gill recommends.

An alternate approach that takes a bit more math: figure out what the party's total wealth should be using DMG135 and compare that to a quick calculation of the party's actual wealth including magic items. You can give them enough gold to make up the difference, since that will just bring them up to the recommended amount of assets.

If you don't want the inheritance to be entirely in gold, use some of the gold to buy art objects, magic weapons, jewels, and other stuff. The tables on DMG55, 216, and 222 will help. I'm also a huge fan of wondrous items for kooky wizards (DMG247).

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I'd probably use this for an adventure springboard. It'll buy you some time, and you can then decide later how much of the treasure is left for the players. Examples include:

  1. Theft. Have a thief (or, better yet, Thieves' Guild) waltz in and help themselves. The PCs can go and fetch the treasure back, but some or most of it may have been used up or sold. You don't necessarily have to use actual thieves for this, a Mages' Guild or a powerful warlord or mercenary may be interested in the loot from an insanely powerful wizard. The players find some small, level-appropriate treasure with the promise of more as they become more powerful and catch the thief.

  2. Dungeons. This one is so old, it essentially comes with a beard, but the wizard may have built defenses around his wealth that now stop the players from getting the powerful stuff. A series of tunnels under/in his house, some monsters, problem solved. Use a random generator (examples are here and here, but you can find many others with a little Google-fu) if you're low on time. Some generators are for different systems or system-generic, but if you have a basic layout and a random encounter/treasure generator, that's a session planned.

  3. Explosions! Any other catastrophe will suffice. Basically, after the wizard's death most of his more powerful items will be either destroyed or made inaccessible. This stops the players from getting any that are too powerful, and they can discover more later if you want them too.

Basically, you shouldn't rush the giving of valuable treasure. You can cause a lot of trouble (a druid in one campaign I ran got his hands on a Staff of Thunder and Lightning, which can deal 6d8 damage, in a D&D 2nd edition campaign and butchered his way through all the challenges I'd set up, due to me being half-asleep when I rolled for treasure and not realising what I was giving him), and it's probably best to make players earn it anyway. Try making them advance a little before they get it, or limit how much to a little more than level-appropriate for a bit of a buzz on their part without making them demigods.

For actually deciding which specific treasure to award, give them some coins and valuables, and then figure out ways to slowly drain the excess wealth again (over 3-4 sessions, I'd suggest) if you find it to not help enjoyment of the game. In terms of magic items, look at your campaign, which items will be useless, which items will stop the fun, and then look at what's left. You know your players best - maybe one really wants a item that isn't too powerful but quite high level. Give them something they'll enjoy without starting a Monty Haul campaign.

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A lvl 18 wizard is gonna be rich. Killed a dragon last month rich. Mountains of gold, jeweled artifacts, rare spellbooks, fine clothes, magical items. We're talking richer than riches beyond your wildest dreams rich.

But he's more paranoid than an ancient dragon about his loot. There's that little trap, the one that only he knows about. The trap that teleports everything into another dimension, or the bottom of the sea, or {insert favorite demi-plane here}.

When the PCs inevitably trip the trap, they only have time to keep what's in their hands. But there's a clue, a possibility of recovering the treasure, if they're brave enough to follow it...

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If you're interested in making this a location-based adventure, consider checking out The Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions (pdf), a Lamentations of the Flame Princess supplement which would easily work with D&D 3.5. It's a collection of rules, suggestions, and lists (lots of lists) for creating a wizard's now-abandoned stronghold of magical research.

se•clu•si•um
n. pl. se•clu•sia

  1. A place to which a wizard withdraws from the world to pursue mastery.
  2. A place of magic and plasms and grotesques and horrors and treasures and doorways to other worlds.
  3. A place which, when abandoned by the wizard but with its treasures and dangers remaining more or less intact, is a terrible and antic catastrophe in process.
  4. A place which makes for marvelous location-based adventures.

What exactly is in a seclusium? Well, there's a list for that! The book walks you through creating the grounds and populating it with people, places, and things.

In its “vulnerable” phase, a wizard’s seclusium nevertheless has:

  • A wizard, but he or she is in some form absent.
  • Guardians, but they are no longer intent.
  • Portals to other wizards’ seclusia.
  • Portals to alternate spaces or other modes of being.
  • Portals to other places of wizardly significance.
  • Long term guests or prisoners of the wizard, whose needs have now gone unattended.
  • Evidence or remains of previous treasure-seekers and interlopers.
  • Remains of the wizard’s endeavors, including dangerous failures and promising experiments.
  • The wizard’s trappings and treasures.
  • Under some circumstances, remnants of the wizard him- or herself, embodied or dis-.
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