4 added 16 characters in body
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There are many ways to give treasure to players that you can activate/deactivate depending on how the players overcome the encounter. If you tie the encounters to the story, and if you tie the equipment to the story, there are plenty of opportunities for reward other than looting.

Make random encounters not quite random - For example, instead of stumbling upon 2d4 goblins in the forest, stumble upon goblins attacking a caravan. If the players kill the goblins, they can loot them, if the players scare off the goblins through some elaborate illusions and successful bluff checks, they either get gold from the caravan, or they get to guide the caravan to the next town where the local chief is so overjoyed to see his daughter safe and sound that he gives out a sword of +2 killing.

Put the treasure next to the enemies, not onto the enemies - I'm not particularly fond of "I loot a wolf and I find a sword of +2 killing". How does this even make sense? Also, why would a band of goblins carry all their spoils from previous raids with them? Much more likely, the goblins have stashed their gold at their camp, and if the players scatter the enemy, they will later stumble upon the abandoned goblin camp, where the goblins forgot a chest in their haste.

Hand out the equipment up-front Say that the players have successfully saved that caravan. Now they're hired as bodyguards, because obviously their method works. However, the caravan leader notices their shabby gear, and fears that the PCs will not be strong enough to guide the caravan through the valley of certain doom. So they equip the players with new shiny gear that they can keep if they do a good job.

EDIT to respondIn response to the specific examples in the question Assume I'm a GM desperate to give treasure to the PCs (why would that ever happen, srsly); how would I deal with the four examples you provide?

  1. You take the shortcut, you find the treasure, which has been magically augmented by the treasure you were supposed to get from all the enemies (note: in my games, you would most likely not have gotten much treasure from the enemies, anyway)

  2. The gnolls leave, and when you look through the remnants of their dinner (some unlucky kobolds) they were having while waiting for you to leave, you find a hidden pouch in the discarded leather armor of the kobold leader, containing $treasure.

  3. The goblins take a liking to the hobbit, and point him to a bag of loot they carry with them; mostly farm equipment, but also a rusted holy axe of smiting (how did a "villager" get that?). They tell you guys to help yourselves, but that you'll own them a favor.

  4. Either somebody is glad the living spell is gone and gives you stuff for it, or, as you close the vault door, you also hear some kind of rattle, only to find out that part of the treasure is hidden inside the vault door.

There are many ways to give treasure to players that you can activate/deactivate depending on how the players overcome the encounter. If you tie the encounters to the story, and if you tie the equipment to the story, there are plenty of opportunities for reward other than looting.

Make random encounters not quite random - For example, instead of stumbling upon 2d4 goblins in the forest, stumble upon goblins attacking a caravan. If the players kill the goblins, they can loot them, if the players scare off the goblins through some elaborate illusions and successful bluff checks, they either get gold from the caravan, or they get to guide the caravan to the next town where the local chief is so overjoyed to see his daughter safe and sound that he gives out a sword of +2 killing.

Put the treasure next to the enemies, not onto the enemies - I'm not particularly fond of "I loot a wolf and I find a sword of +2 killing". How does this even make sense? Also, why would a band of goblins carry all their spoils from previous raids with them? Much more likely, the goblins have stashed their gold at their camp, and if the players scatter the enemy, they will later stumble upon the abandoned goblin camp, where the goblins forgot a chest in their haste.

Hand out the equipment up-front Say that the players have successfully saved that caravan. Now they're hired as bodyguards, because obviously their method works. However, the caravan leader notices their shabby gear, and fears that the PCs will not be strong enough to guide the caravan through the valley of certain doom. So they equip the players with new shiny gear that they can keep if they do a good job.

EDIT to respond to specific examples Assume I'm a GM desperate to give treasure to the PCs (why would that ever happen, srsly); how would I deal with the four examples you provide?

  1. You take the shortcut, you find the treasure, which has been magically augmented by the treasure you were supposed to get from all the enemies (note: in my games, you would most likely not have gotten much treasure from the enemies, anyway)

  2. The gnolls leave, and when you look through the remnants of their dinner (some unlucky kobolds) they were having while waiting for you to leave, you find a hidden pouch in the discarded leather armor of the kobold leader, containing $treasure.

  3. The goblins take a liking to the hobbit, and point him to a bag of loot they carry with them; mostly farm equipment, but also a rusted holy axe of smiting (how did a "villager" get that?). They tell you guys to help yourselves, but that you'll own them a favor.

  4. Either somebody is glad the living spell is gone and gives you stuff for it, or, as you close the vault door, you also hear some kind of rattle, only to find out that part of the treasure is hidden inside the vault door.

There are many ways to give treasure to players that you can activate/deactivate depending on how the players overcome the encounter. If you tie the encounters to the story, and if you tie the equipment to the story, there are plenty of opportunities for reward other than looting.

Make random encounters not quite random - For example, instead of stumbling upon 2d4 goblins in the forest, stumble upon goblins attacking a caravan. If the players kill the goblins, they can loot them, if the players scare off the goblins through some elaborate illusions and successful bluff checks, they either get gold from the caravan, or they get to guide the caravan to the next town where the local chief is so overjoyed to see his daughter safe and sound that he gives out a sword of +2 killing.

Put the treasure next to the enemies, not onto the enemies - I'm not particularly fond of "I loot a wolf and I find a sword of +2 killing". How does this even make sense? Also, why would a band of goblins carry all their spoils from previous raids with them? Much more likely, the goblins have stashed their gold at their camp, and if the players scatter the enemy, they will later stumble upon the abandoned goblin camp, where the goblins forgot a chest in their haste.

Hand out the equipment up-front Say that the players have successfully saved that caravan. Now they're hired as bodyguards, because obviously their method works. However, the caravan leader notices their shabby gear, and fears that the PCs will not be strong enough to guide the caravan through the valley of certain doom. So they equip the players with new shiny gear that they can keep if they do a good job.

In response to the specific examples in the question Assume I'm a GM desperate to give treasure to the PCs (why would that ever happen, srsly); how would I deal with the four examples you provide?

  1. You take the shortcut, you find the treasure, which has been magically augmented by the treasure you were supposed to get from all the enemies (note: in my games, you would most likely not have gotten much treasure from the enemies, anyway)

  2. The gnolls leave, and when you look through the remnants of their dinner (some unlucky kobolds) they were having while waiting for you to leave, you find a hidden pouch in the discarded leather armor of the kobold leader, containing $treasure.

  3. The goblins take a liking to the hobbit, and point him to a bag of loot they carry with them; mostly farm equipment, but also a rusted holy axe of smiting (how did a "villager" get that?). They tell you guys to help yourselves, but that you'll own them a favor.

  4. Either somebody is glad the living spell is gone and gives you stuff for it, or, as you close the vault door, you also hear some kind of rattle, only to find out that part of the treasure is hidden inside the vault door.

3 added 1182 characters in body
source | link

There are many ways to give treasure to players that you can activate/deactivate depending on how the players overcome the encounter. If you tie the encounters to the story, and if you tie the equipment to the story, there are plenty of opportunities for reward other than looting.

Make random encounters not quite random - For example, instead of stumbling upon 2d4 goblins in the forest, stumble upon goblins attacking a caravan. If the players kill the goblins, they can loot them, if the players scare off the goblins through some elaborate illusions and successful bluff checks, they either get gold from the caravan, or they get to guide the caravan to the next town where the local chief is so overjoyed to see his daughter safe and sound that he gives out a sword of +2 killing.

Put the treasure next to the enemies, not onto the enemies - I'm not particularly fond of "I loot a wolf and I find a sword of +2 killing". How does this even make sense? Also, why would a band of goblins carry all their spoils from previous raids with them? Much more likely, the goblins have stashed their gold at their camp, and if the players scatter the enemy, they will later stumble upon the abandoned goblin camp, where the goblins forgot a chest in their haste.

Hand out the equipment up-front Say that the players have successfully saved that caravan. Now they're hired as bodyguards, because obviously their method works. However, the caravan leader notices their shabby gear, and fears that the PCs will not be strong enough to guide the caravan through the valley of certain doom. So they equip the players with new shiny gear that they can keep if they do a good job.

EDIT to respond to specific examples Assume I'm a GM desperate to give treasure to the PCs (why would that ever happen, srsly); how would I deal with the four examples you provide?

  1. You take the shortcut, you find the treasure, which has been magically augmented by the treasure you were supposed to get from all the enemies (note: in my games, you would most likely not have gotten much treasure from the enemies, anyway)

  2. The gnolls leave, and when you look through the remnants of their dinner (some unlucky kobolds) they were having while waiting for you to leave, you find a hidden pouch in the discarded leather armor of the kobold leader, containing $treasure.

  3. The goblins take a liking to the hobbit, and point him to a bag of loot they carry with them; mostly farm equipment, but also a rusted holy axe of smiting (how did a "villager" get that?). They tell you guys to help yourselves, but that you'll own them a favor.

  4. Either somebody is glad the living spell is gone and gives you stuff for it, or, as you close the vault door, you also hear some kind of rattle, only to find out that part of the treasure is hidden inside the vault door.

There are many ways to give treasure to players that you can activate/deactivate depending on how the players overcome the encounter. If you tie the encounters to the story, and if you tie the equipment to the story, there are plenty of opportunities for reward other than looting.

Make random encounters not quite random - For example, instead of stumbling upon 2d4 goblins in the forest, stumble upon goblins attacking a caravan. If the players kill the goblins, they can loot them, if the players scare off the goblins through some elaborate illusions and successful bluff checks, they either get gold from the caravan, or they get to guide the caravan to the next town where the local chief is so overjoyed to see his daughter safe and sound that he gives out a sword of +2 killing.

Put the treasure next to the enemies, not onto the enemies - I'm not particularly fond of "I loot a wolf and I find a sword of +2 killing". How does this even make sense? Also, why would a band of goblins carry all their spoils from previous raids with them? Much more likely, the goblins have stashed their gold at their camp, and if the players scatter the enemy, they will later stumble upon the abandoned goblin camp, where the goblins forgot a chest in their haste.

Hand out the equipment up-front Say that the players have successfully saved that caravan. Now they're hired as bodyguards, because obviously their method works. However, the caravan leader notices their shabby gear, and fears that the PCs will not be strong enough to guide the caravan through the valley of certain doom. So they equip the players with new shiny gear that they can keep if they do a good job.

There are many ways to give treasure to players that you can activate/deactivate depending on how the players overcome the encounter. If you tie the encounters to the story, and if you tie the equipment to the story, there are plenty of opportunities for reward other than looting.

Make random encounters not quite random - For example, instead of stumbling upon 2d4 goblins in the forest, stumble upon goblins attacking a caravan. If the players kill the goblins, they can loot them, if the players scare off the goblins through some elaborate illusions and successful bluff checks, they either get gold from the caravan, or they get to guide the caravan to the next town where the local chief is so overjoyed to see his daughter safe and sound that he gives out a sword of +2 killing.

Put the treasure next to the enemies, not onto the enemies - I'm not particularly fond of "I loot a wolf and I find a sword of +2 killing". How does this even make sense? Also, why would a band of goblins carry all their spoils from previous raids with them? Much more likely, the goblins have stashed their gold at their camp, and if the players scatter the enemy, they will later stumble upon the abandoned goblin camp, where the goblins forgot a chest in their haste.

Hand out the equipment up-front Say that the players have successfully saved that caravan. Now they're hired as bodyguards, because obviously their method works. However, the caravan leader notices their shabby gear, and fears that the PCs will not be strong enough to guide the caravan through the valley of certain doom. So they equip the players with new shiny gear that they can keep if they do a good job.

EDIT to respond to specific examples Assume I'm a GM desperate to give treasure to the PCs (why would that ever happen, srsly); how would I deal with the four examples you provide?

  1. You take the shortcut, you find the treasure, which has been magically augmented by the treasure you were supposed to get from all the enemies (note: in my games, you would most likely not have gotten much treasure from the enemies, anyway)

  2. The gnolls leave, and when you look through the remnants of their dinner (some unlucky kobolds) they were having while waiting for you to leave, you find a hidden pouch in the discarded leather armor of the kobold leader, containing $treasure.

  3. The goblins take a liking to the hobbit, and point him to a bag of loot they carry with them; mostly farm equipment, but also a rusted holy axe of smiting (how did a "villager" get that?). They tell you guys to help yourselves, but that you'll own them a favor.

  4. Either somebody is glad the living spell is gone and gives you stuff for it, or, as you close the vault door, you also hear some kind of rattle, only to find out that part of the treasure is hidden inside the vault door.

2 added 149 characters in body
source | link

There are many ways to give treasure to players that you can activate/deactivate depending on how the players overcome the encounter. If you tie the encounters to the story, and if you tie the equipment to the story, there are plenty of opportunities for reward other than looting.

Make random encounters not quite random - For example, instead of stumbling upon 2d4 goblins in the forest, stumble upon goblins attacking a caravan. If the players kill the goblins, they can loot them, if the players scare off the goblins through some elaborate illusions and successful bluff checks, they either get gold from the caravan, or they get to guide the caravan to the next town where the local chief is so overjoyed to see his daughter safe and sound that he gives out a sword of +2 killing.  

Put the treasure next to the enemies, not onto the enemies - I'm not particularly fond of "I loot a wolf and I find a sword of +2 killing". How does this even make sense? Also, why would a band of goblins carry all their spoils from previous raids with them? Much more likely, the goblins have stashed their gold at their camp, and if the players scatter the enemy, they will later stumble upon the abandoned goblin camp, where the goblins forgot a chest in their haste.

Hand out the equipment up-front Say that the players have successfully saved that caravan. Now they're hired as bodyguards, because obviously their method works. However, the caravan leader notices their shabby gear, and fears that the PCs will not be strong enough to guide the caravan through the valley of certain doom. So they equip the players with new shiny gear that they can keep if they do a good job.

There are many ways to give treasure to players that you can activate/deactivate depending on how the players overcome the encounter.

Make random encounters not quite random - For example, instead of stumbling upon 2d4 goblins in the forest, stumble upon goblins attacking a caravan. If the players kill the goblins, they can loot them, if the players scare off the goblins through some elaborate illusions and successful bluff checks, they either get gold from the caravan, or they get to guide the caravan to the next town where the local chief is so overjoyed to see his daughter safe and sound that he gives out a sword of +2 killing.

Put the treasure next to the enemies, not onto the enemies - I'm not particularly fond of "I loot a wolf and I find a sword of +2 killing". How does this even make sense? Also, why would a band of goblins carry all their spoils from previous raids with them? Much more likely, the goblins have stashed their gold at their camp, and if the players scatter the enemy, they will later stumble upon the abandoned goblin camp, where the goblins forgot a chest in their haste.

Hand out the equipment up-front Say that the players have successfully saved that caravan. Now they're hired as bodyguards, because obviously their method works. However, the caravan leader notices their shabby gear, and fears that the PCs will not be strong enough to guide the caravan through the valley of certain doom. So they equip the players with new shiny gear that they can keep if they do a good job.

There are many ways to give treasure to players that you can activate/deactivate depending on how the players overcome the encounter. If you tie the encounters to the story, and if you tie the equipment to the story, there are plenty of opportunities for reward other than looting.

Make random encounters not quite random - For example, instead of stumbling upon 2d4 goblins in the forest, stumble upon goblins attacking a caravan. If the players kill the goblins, they can loot them, if the players scare off the goblins through some elaborate illusions and successful bluff checks, they either get gold from the caravan, or they get to guide the caravan to the next town where the local chief is so overjoyed to see his daughter safe and sound that he gives out a sword of +2 killing.  

Put the treasure next to the enemies, not onto the enemies - I'm not particularly fond of "I loot a wolf and I find a sword of +2 killing". How does this even make sense? Also, why would a band of goblins carry all their spoils from previous raids with them? Much more likely, the goblins have stashed their gold at their camp, and if the players scatter the enemy, they will later stumble upon the abandoned goblin camp, where the goblins forgot a chest in their haste.

Hand out the equipment up-front Say that the players have successfully saved that caravan. Now they're hired as bodyguards, because obviously their method works. However, the caravan leader notices their shabby gear, and fears that the PCs will not be strong enough to guide the caravan through the valley of certain doom. So they equip the players with new shiny gear that they can keep if they do a good job.

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