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This is probably a silly question, but I am new to D&D and am unclear on a few things regarding equipment and armor, specifically as it relates to dead monsters.

Lets say that a creature is listed as having leather armor and a short sword in its stat block. When that creature dies, can it be "looted" and a PC obtain that equipment? Or does it need to be explicitly stated in a "treasure" component of an encounter or adventure?

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5 Answers 5

Yes, but it's almost always pointless.

4th Edition has a different conception of items/treasure than do previous games. Treasure, as a component of character, scales greatly with character and is worth very little outside that context. The astonishing increase in purchase costs for common enchanted items means that non-enchanted items are, in my experienced, always glossed over unless they're relevant to the plot.

Functionally speaking, any unanticipated looting that players engaged in should, technically, be subtracted from future treasure parcels. (Make sure to subtract the correct amount though (i.e. the sale price of the item.) Usually, this effort is also not worth the effort.

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"Treasure, as a component of character, scales greatly with character and is worth very little outside that context." It might just be me, but I am having great trouble understanding this sentence. –  ioanwigmore Jan 22 at 18:36
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Yes, sort of. There are no rules for it, but you can do so anyway. However... you probably shouldn't, which is probably why there aren't rules for it.

D&D 4e has these things called treasure parcels, which you've probably heard of if you've opened the Dungeon Master's Guide. They advise the DM in the quantity of magic items and wealth which should drop each level. Sticking to these numbers is hugely important for D&D 4e, since the mathematics the system is built upon rely on you getting more or less exactly that stuff.

This is very different to how previous editions of D&D worked.

So you could loot those enemies for their equipment. However, to keep things within the bounds the game expects, if you're collecting helmets just to sell them to NPCs, the DM should treat those helmets as a portion of the total monetary treasure you're going to get from your treasure parcel. It's probably more useful to get that monetary treasure in the form of actual money or small (but valuable) gemstones than in the form of a hundred helmets stuffed into your packs.

Pinching magic weapons and armor and potions, however, is probably fair game, since if you can loot that stuff to begin with, that's probably your DM's method of handing you some of your magic items and potions from your treasure parcels for that level.

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So in corollary the player characters shouldn't actively try to make money, because the DM is responsible for making sure they are always as rich or poor as the level requires? –  Philipp Jan 22 at 11:50
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@Philipp basically if players are actively trying to make money, it almost makes the GM's job easier, he doesn't have to drop treasure parcels as often as he can adjust the treasure outlays to the player's activity/success in their ventures –  wax eagle Jan 22 at 12:33
    
@Philipp They can go ahead and make money, yes, like wax eagle pointed out. But they shouldn't just pick up everything they can sell for a gold piece or two, since the GM will be responsible for dropping better stuff for them. –  Jonathan Hobbs Jan 22 at 13:11
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It depends on your party, your DM and whatever sort of house rules apply; as well as a great deal on your character. Yes, perhaps the cost gets taken from the end treasure parcel but your kleptomaniac half-elf bard has no idea that that could even be a thing nor do they care. Sometimes your DM can go with this, dropping things they want you to have--bag of holding, empty vials, etc--some of which could be important to the quest. But, if your character has a trait like this or you would like your DM to introduce important plot points like this talk to them and your other party members. You never know, sometimes people aren't quite as willing to have looters on the party or just want the full treasure parcel at the end.

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What is part of the treasure is what stands out but everything else is accessible in the limits of the fiction. Boots, clothes, scales, fur, body parts, weapons etc. Their value will always be negligible compared to what it's in the treasure section. If you make an NPC with a valuable item, it should be in the treasure section.

For instance if the characters must defeat a powerful dragon and take its heart for some ritual or bounty, the heart should be part of the treasure section. If the characters want to bring scales as well and try to sell it to the local smith so he can make dragonscale armors, then sure. Just don't forget that whatever has values to the players is part of the parcels.

I completely disagree with Jonathan Hobb's statement that you shouldn't do it because there's no rule for it. Don't discourage your players for trying to make money by selling their defeated enemies boots...just make them realise that there's a big magic shiny sword worth taking instead.

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Pen&Paper RPGs are based on the idea that the player has the freedom to make their character do whatever would be in-character for them to do in that situation. It is then the job of the game master to either decide the outcome of that action or come up with an in-universe reason why they can't do it. The rules are there to give the DM a guideline how to handle common situations which occur often during common play sessions. When a situation occurs which isn't covered by the rules, the DM can make up whatever they find plausible.

When a player-character just killed a foe which was described by the DM as having a sword, and the player asks to take this sword, the DM would either have to allow them to take it, or make up some in-universe reason why they can't or shouldn't.

When the DM doesn't want the players to strip every goblin they slay, they could come up with a number of techniques to discourage them:

  • The enemies equipment is of very low quality. It's much inferior to what the players have, and no trader would buy them.
  • The design and markings on the equipment clearly say who the previous owner was. No trader would buy them because they would know where it comes from.
  • The equipment of the enemies is magically bound to their owners. It disintegrates to dust the moment they die (the DM might pull this one once when there is a good explanation for it. It shouldn't be overused).
  • Encumberance rules. You could carry a dozen rusty swords and bloody leather armors with you, but the weight will affect you negatively.
  • The enemies have horrible personal hygene. Their clothes have a horrible stench and seem to be infested with various parasites. Searching, taking or (gods forbid) wearing them would require a fortitude-safe or reduce the characters stats. Are you sure you want to examine them closely?
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Please don't give a general answer to a question with specific system tags unless you can make direct references to why and how it's a good idea for that system. –  wax eagle Jan 22 at 12:35
    
The first paragraph describes only a limited subset of Pen & Paper RPGs - the entire genre is not based on that idea. –  Jonathan Hobbs Jan 27 at 22:36
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