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I am running the Starter Set Adventure (Lost Mine of Phelvander), and the majority of enemies have weapons and armour. For example every goblin has a scimitar, a shortbow, and leather armour.

When the PCs defeat them, do they obtain these as items?

I ruled at the time that armour is rendered useless by the fight but weapons can be looted. (And then the first NPC shopkeeper they met swindled them horribly, so that worked out OK). But I would prefer to know what the rules have to say on the subject, and I can't seem to find an answer.

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No doubt some will disagree with me, but I think it needs to be said that, in a role-playing game, this generally isn’t the purview of the rules. The rules may have something to say about the value of such items—as 5e does. But anything on a defeated monster is always subject to being looted. And it doesn’t happen unless the players say that their characters are doing it. –  Robert Fisher Aug 12 at 15:29

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They can, sure. But the BD&D rules are quite explicit that they typically have no value.

In general, Weapon and armor used by monsters are rarely in good enough condition to sell (BD&D p 42).

So they can collect them, they can even use them, but no, merchants won't buy them unless they are particularly pristine.

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Do note the specification of "used by monsters", anything used by a humanoid creature is not covered by this rule. –  Red_Shadow Aug 12 at 16:35
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@Red_Shadow That is actually not as obvious as it seems and might not be true. But note "usually": the DM can rule according to sense that someone's arms/armour are in good/salable condition. –  SevenSidedDie Aug 12 at 16:53

5e PHB pp.144:

As a general rule, undamaged weapons, armor, and other equipment fetch half their cost when sold in a market. Weapons and armor used by monsters are rarely in good enough condition to sell.

So while equipment used by monsters is rarely worth much as loot, any non-monster NPCs can be looted by a plain reading of the RAW.

Whether you consider a goblin a monster is the next question, but for what it's worth spells like dominate person/monster draw the line at humanoids.

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We have a question about the NPC/monster distinction actually. The upshot is that "monster" in D&D almost always included enemy humanoids. –  SevenSidedDie Aug 12 at 16:55
    
@SevenSidedDie, interesting, but for 5e there's no explicit RAW distinction yet that I know of. –  Hassassin Aug 12 at 20:30

As wax eagle says, they can be used as loot, but rarely in a condition to sell.

However, that doesn't mean they're useless to pick up. For example: a shortbow can be used as a fire drill, while a sword could be melted down to the base metal when you're in a village (think swords to ploughshears). Leather armor can be turned into strips, although these might not be as good quality as strips made directly from leather.

In general, while they might not be accepted by a merchant, you can still use them in their base materials, or process them. You might also find a militia in a nearby town that could have use for second-hand equipment. The items won't be worth that much, but you can still often find a buyer for it.

Note: the above explanation is not RAW as requested. however, not all the rules are known yet, so it's possible that there are rules concerning this that aren't found in the available rules thus far.

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+1, but you mean "that doesn't mean they're useless to pick up" (without the 'not'), I assume. Can't suggest it as an edit, not enough characters :-/ –  Angew Aug 12 at 14:06
    
Note the rules-as-written on the question. If you are referencing D&D 5e rules, please include the source. –  Miniman Aug 12 at 14:43
    
I don't know if there is a rule that explains this, and if it exists, where you can find it. However, since D&D 5th edition hasn't been officially released yet (we only have a starter set and a print-friendly display) we don't know the complete rules yet. I'll amend the question to clarify that it's not exactly RAW. –  Nate Kerkhofs Aug 12 at 15:00

By the letter of the rules, yes you can loot the goblins for their leather armour and scimitars.

In my games I try to keep a small degree of realism as often as possible. This is made easier by my group being made up of larpers and re-enactors. Anyone who has actually worn armour and carried a real sword and shield knows that they are HEAVY. carrying several sets in addition to your own would rapidly leave you unable to walk, let alone fight.

Also you can point out to your players that to get the goblins armour they will have to undress them. That may discourage them. :P

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Traditionally, the term "monster" in D&D has referred to any creature encountered while adventuring, even human NPC's! Although this usage is not, to my knowledge, currently in vogue, I would rule that the term monster is still broad enough to incorporate hostile humanoid creatures such as goblins and orcs. These type of creatures don't care about maintaining their equipment (they would just rather plunder some when their current supply wears out). On the other hand, human (or elf, dwarf, etc.) enemies probably do have nice equipment that can be looted and sold.

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You might want to cite the passage in 5e that deals with this, and connect your advice to it directly as an extrapolation. (Since this Q has the [rules-as-written] tag on it.) –  SevenSidedDie Aug 13 at 2:39

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