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In the past, I generally try to send the PCs off on a quest "yadda yadda yadda, kill this and I'll give you 200 gold!"

However, this time, my PCs went off without any quest and entered a cave. I designed the cave and put some Ghouls in there. The ghoul Bestiary entry says they have standard treasure. So I'm a bit at a loss as to how to handle this. Does this mean the Ghouls carry around the treasure?

Like what? Gems? Ingredients? What would a ghoul have?

What do you generally do for these situations where a creature has treasure but it isn't really a creature in your head that would have a big hoard of shiny trinkets like a dragon might?

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For this specific instance, ghouls could very easily have treasure on their person - whatever treasure they had on them when the ghouls killed them. It could also be in the non-raised half-eaten corpses laying around the cave. –  Wolfman Joe Apr 24 at 19:08

3 Answers 3

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You are allowed to interpret the treasure score vaguely.

The literal approach to awarding monster treasure is to have each monster possess the treasure written in its entry on its person, much as a video game RPG tends to work. However, you do not have to take this literal interpretation. Consider combining the value of multiple monsters worth of treasures and awarding treasure of equal value in other scenarios, such as the following:

  1. NPCs grant a reward for the quest

    This could be most similar to your original example of, "I'll pay you X for completing this quest," but it can also be much more involved. The treasure amount can be applied to an unrelated NPC, or added to the value of a villain, for instance.

  2. Items of value can be found in the same general location

    Simply redistribute the worth to other areas of the dungeon. This can be similar to the treasure hoard pile you spoke of, but the items can also be present for any number of reasons.

The real take-away is that as long as you distribute the same approximate amount of wealth, you can do so in any way you wish, in whatever scenarios and with any pretense that you wish. Get creative with it.

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Great answer. I have always refused to have monsters that wouldn't logically have treasure drop it. #1 is my general approach and my players get most of their money from rewards from the quest giver. #2 works often with some large treasure left in ruins, but you have to get through the monsters too. Also, sometimes the monsters are treasures. Components of exotic creatures are always needed by some mage or alchemist or even cleric. Or there may be a bounty for proof of death of a certain type of creature. –  TimothyAWiseman Apr 24 at 15:57
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#2 doesn't require ruins, only corpses of prior adventurers. –  Mooing Duck Apr 25 at 0:20

To build on the answer from @Southpaw Hare.

The old answer for non-sapient monsters is to have a corpse in their lair which has some treasure on/around it. Either a previous adventurer, or a trader are common. Also, as @GMJoe points out, Ghouls specifically eat dead, old flesh, they're likely to drag corpses from where they kill them, or from graveyards back to their lair. The pathfinder wiki on ghouls says they "often bury their victims for a while to improve their taste" before eating them.

For Undead you can have them still wearing something valuable from when they were alive, or have something about them which has their name and address (a letter from a lover, family, or guild perhaps?) and have those people give a reward for their departed's proper burial, or perhaps there's a bounty for the corpse because they were an outlaw. All of these can also be applied to corpses found in a Ghoul's lair.

You can also just add it somewhere else close in the area for an unrelated reason, such as having the underground equivalent of a bower bird have a nest with some jewels the PCs can take, or something else valuable which the other denizens in the area wouldn't take or destroy for some reason, perhaps the PCs have skills help them recognize it where the locals wouldn't.

Alternately, as @Southpaw Hare said, you could just not worry about it and add the treasure to a later encounter where it makes more sense, but I'd suggest being careful about keeping records of that kind of thing.

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Remember that ghouls are reasonably intelligent, and since they're typically robbing graves anyway... –  GMJoe Apr 24 at 3:10
    
I particularly like the idea of making the pre-zombie creature relevant somehow. Zombie? kill it and move on. Zombie of a nobleman? Investigate! –  EnvisionAndDevelop Apr 25 at 12:32

Just one more idea: the creature itself is the treasure i.e. the players sell some parts of the creature. E.g. you can sell the fur/skin for clothes, poison for poisons or antidotes, literally anything for magic ingredients etc. This is also a common pattern in (mmo)rpgs although most of the times you get coins+the creature's parts; dragon age even has a special inventory for those items.

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