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A goblin tribe struck a deal with my players to team up against a powerful common enemy. In exchange, they split a hoard of treasure between them 50/50.

However, when it came time to decide what to give the goblins, the party re-negotiated. They argued that goblins wouldn't have a use for the treasure, opting to give the tribe more of the currency in exchange for more of the valuables. I decided it was a fair deal since goblins couldn't easily sell a platinum tiara to the nearest jeweler.

In retrospect, I have no idea what a goblin would do with gold or finery. What is a simple, lore-friendly answer to how primitive monsters/NPCs deal with gold and treasure?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What exactly stops them from selling the tiara to the nearest jeweler? Even primitive races understand trade (even if they get the shaft in negotiations), after all they're doing it with the players. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Oct 26 '17 at 17:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ The lore of which I am aware indicates that goblins are unwelcome among the common folk. It is not the goblins who refuse to deal with the jeweler, but the jeweler who refuses to deal with them. To clarify, could it be it the goal of some goblin raiders to acquire treasure and then fence it? If it is typical for them to deal with civilization, their concept of material worth would be completely different. Unless they have their own discrete goblinoid economy. \$\endgroup\$ – MonkeyKB Oct 26 '17 at 17:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Goblins have found that hammered-in-place gold coins work much better than gum wrappers in their improvised laser. \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Oct 27 '17 at 11:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MonkeyKB It's true that many traders are unwilling to deal with goblins, but many traders are very willing to deal with large piles of treasure. You'd be surprised how many traders are willing to put up with one for the sake of the other. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Oct 27 '17 at 12:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like to demonstrate that even creatures like goblins have local economies and communities and lives beyond just being run through by your players. I've introduced many people to RPGs, and one of the first adventures I dangle in front of new players is a mission that originally sounds like a simple pest control problem, but ends up being really complex and nuanced and demonstrates that these are thinking, feeling creatures the are alive in the world they inhabit, with their own lives and priorities and wants in life. Goblins most certainly could find use for a tiara! \$\endgroup\$ – L0j1k Oct 29 '17 at 21:23
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Treasure isn’t just money, it has inherent value on its own. No one will take you seriously as a goblin king without a proper jewel-encrusted crown and an evil-looking magic sword to beat up your foes with. Since goblins are not known for their crafting skills, any luxuries or jewelry or magic items are going to come from treasure.

If I was a goblin chief, I might prefer a silver tiara (depending on how it looked) to a pile of gold because, while I could use that gold to buy food or weapons, there are other ways to get those things. The status and reputation that would be gained from a finely crafted crown are much more valuable.

Plus it looks awesome, which is not an insignificant thing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This, yes. The value gold had in the real world before industry was mostly because it looks awesome. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 26 '17 at 19:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Bling is bling in most cultures \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Oct 26 '17 at 23:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also remember the historical aspect. When the little goblin younglings ask Chieftain where that platinum tiara is from, he will tell them the glorious story how their tribe defeated that powerful enemy with little to no help from the PC party and then used their awesome negotiation skills to talk the PC party into giving the tiara to them. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Oct 27 '17 at 9:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ooooo! Shinies! \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Oct 27 '17 at 10:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even for this, there's an OotS that is relevant: giantitp.com/comics/oots0434.html \$\endgroup\$ – DvdZee Oct 27 '17 at 14:12
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All that is necessary for gold coins to function among goblins as they do among humans is:

  1. Gold is rare
  2. The gold content of coins is verifiable
  3. Goblin tribes are social and intelligent enough to trade with each other

At that point, goblins can happily (or viciously, as may be their wont) use other peoples' gold coins as markers of value for trade. What would they trade? Other things of value to goblins, whatever those might be in your game-- slaves, weapons, shiny rocks, food, etc.

No doubt goblins mine gold from "civilized" races much like "civilized" races mine gold from the earth. Conveniently, it comes pre-coined.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "Conveniently, it comes pre-coined." Which is an advantage to living higher on the food chain, as it were. \$\endgroup\$ – Wayne Oct 26 '17 at 19:47
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Goblins participate in trade with other evil creatures, including evil members of non-evil races. Using gold or jewelry as a currency in such trade is limited only to all intelligent creatures, not just good ones.

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I expect you cannot generalize here. Many societies have assigned little or no value to precious metals, and may have no concept of coinage. Currency is usually present when a group's social system expands beyond a size where everything can be tracked mentally (real barter is rarely simple trade, it usually involves sequential transactions and thus 'credit', which money evolved to track).

It certainly stands to reason that goblins participate in some larger coin-based economy, but it isn't assured, its more of a setting issue than a hard and fast rule kind of thing. Even if goblins DO like coins, that doesn't mean they won't want a tiara more.

Frankly I'd go with the rule of fun, and maybe some dice tosses if you simply want to let things fall where they may.

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Let me highlight first, my answer is a kind of fuse of Derek Stucki's and divibisan's, and enhancing it.

Goblins can have great use of finery. The 2 most easy case is a black marketeer trader at high societies (not just humans), and giving special role for the item.

By the might of storycrafter, you can pose any acquirable item as valuable mcguffin for goblins.

They might consider that tiara as key item to get something.

  • It can be the long lost tiara of Aria Maklank, whose kingdom sometimes traded with these goblins earlier, and the goblin leader do know the importance of this jewel.
  • It can be the falsely considered superpower item of the "Snowqueen". Has no power, but the goblins do think so it has.
  • Specific trading item for specific buyer. "Artsy rugs! Diedon tall humans like arty rugs! Arty rugs are better than shiny rocks!"

Basicly any item can become the most valuable thing in the world for them, only question is why they consider it valuable TO OWN.

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