I am looking for a method that allows me to determine how much of the predetermined loot in an area the party is able to actually find/get.

Say the party is looting some bodies in a hurry before the next wave of monsters descends. I would like to determine how much loot they can grab before they have to move on.

Are there any rules that allow me to determine how much of the loot they are able to get from all that is available?

If not, are there any homebrew solutions that would allow me to do this?

I want a method that has some flexibility in what is found, but ideally without as much of a "skill gap" as an actual Investigation roll has.

Well-tested homebrew is acceptable, but must be backed up with personal experience.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Mar 28, 2018 at 17:11

5 Answers 5


Loot/treasure should be the reward of another task, not a task itself.

You've already decided what the maximum amount of treasure you're comfortable with them getting. What is the point of "Well, I allocated 1000gp, but you only rolled 14 instead of 15, so you get 300gp instead"?

The players don't know what they missed out on, so why are you planning for it?

If you require "hidden" treasure, then I suggest things that are not checks.

When you describe the room (as a part of a greater habit of being more descriptive), describe inconsistencies. This allows the characters to solve the puzzle, rather than the dice.

Example: Exhausted after your fight, you take a moment to regain your breath. Blood from the slain orcs flows slowly to the south wall, glistening in the light of a nearby brazier.

This invokes the players to notice something odd "wait, what do you mean flowing south? Is there something there?".

No roll required for you to interact with them. They search the wall and you tell them that they find a door, revealing and old, banded chest holding 1000GP or whatever.

If you're dead-set on variable loot based on dice....

(which I disagree with)
Add multiple dice together for a bell-curve. 3d6 works well enough (I've used 3d20, but didn't like how much math I had to do). The loot you "want" them to have being between 8 and 13, then more or less lucky loot being closer to the outer bounds of 3 and 18.

One Caveat - Time

If there is a time constraint, then feel free to allow one (or all) of the players to make a roll or two. Then, the time doesn't allow them to keep trying.

Example: You slay the orcs in the room, but in the distance you hear an alert horn. You know that you need to get going, and soon. While a few seconds to look over the bodies probably won't kill you, taking any longer might. What do you do?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 4, 2018 at 11:22

First off, stick with a golden rule:

If there is no penalty for failure, don't make it a roll

If the party has plenty of time to go over the corpses, then let them find and take everything. Unless the orc is purposefully hiding the watch that was passed down from their great-grandfather where the sun don't shine, let the players have all the reward they deserve.

However, if there is a possibility of failure, or the party has a constraint: use logic, not dice.

The example in the question is looting bodies between skirmishes.

No more than two characters can examine a single body

  • Any more and they start hindering each other.

Consider what is easily available versus what would take time

  • Clothes and armor would take time to remove. I would double the time listed for Donning and Doffing listed since the wearer isn't helping.
  • A recently used weapon would fall next to the body and be easy to just pick up. Other weapons would be strapped down and require more effort.
  • Ammo would be in a container (quiver, bag, etc) attached to the body. A single use might be easy to grab, but getting the whole lot would need longer to remove.
  • Monies can either be in a convenient pouch or secreted into a pocket or fold of a cloak. Keys are the same; either on a belt loop or hidden in a pocket.
  • Jewelry is easy to take off, but can only be done one at a time. You can't take off 3 rings in one action. Although chopping off the whole hand is always an option.

You get the idea. Don't forget the search itself will take time.

Dead bodies are not mannequins

  • Unless your attacks pinned the enemies to the wall, they are all laying in various poses on the ground. This means characters need to be on the ground too. As a DM, if you want to add some tension, you can add the "prone" condition to the characters. They have to be down on the ground next to the victim in order to through pockets/pouches, flipping them over to get the quiver strapped to the back, etc.

Normally, this isn't an issue, but now they players are under the gun and need to make hard choices of what penalties they are willing to accept. Stay longer searching, or wait to the last minute but can only move half speed to cover.

Now, instead of searching, characters have the option of just dragging bodies somewhere more convenient. Movement is reduced but it may be quicker and give non-fighters a chance to look more thoroughly while the battle rages around them.


No RAW rules on loot

Chapter 7 of the DMG covers treasure, but there aren't any RAW rules on determining how much you give or how they discover it. That's going to be table dependent.

A different way of looking at Investigation checks.

At my table, we generally develop what items/gold will be made available prior to the actual gameplay. This allows you to develop your loot and then use the Investigation check at the end of your encounter not to determine what they find, but who finds what first.

You determine what loot gets found first

You can order what items are found in descending order you determine your treasure.

Low rolls may not find anything left

Depending on what loot is available and the size of your table, there may not be enough to go around by the time the lowest rolls have a chance to find something.

Avoiding conflict

This takes the metagaming of multiple rolls to find completely off the table. You don't need to argue/determine a system for allowing multiple rolls, you simply have your treasure and let the players determine who gets first pick.

But what if I don't want to give everything away!

Then you can have certain treasure options require certain values. It's using the DC system for being able to find it. THe players don't even know what's there or what isn't there, it's not about rolling more,it's about the skill to find it. Everything was predetermined, you're just combining who picks what when and can add the layer of was it available to find.

  • \$\begingroup\$ (regarding your last point) A really interesting interaction with this actually. If the looty loot of lootness (or whatever) has a search "initiative" of 18 and everyone rolls under that, then the players don't realize they're actually making search checks rather than search-order checks. \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Mar 28, 2018 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 Yup, everything lives behind the screen. It's a mechanic that avoids metagaming but still provides a feeling of not giving everything away. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Mar 28, 2018 at 15:26

There are no real rules for something like this it will be up to what you feel works for your game.

Options I have seen and/or used are:

  1. Minor loot tables for individuals, like the giant's bags in Against the Giants, this is similar to what you already sort of do. They all have a chance to have certain things randomly.
  2. Simply rolling that the individual has x number of coin.

Bottom line is that if there is not a time crunch (and they spend enough time at it) then they find it .

However, if there is a time crunch (which seems to be more the question) I typically see what is available and make a decision on the fly.

Example: If the party is looting and they were smart enough to post a lookout and they see critters coming and want to avoid them I consider them distracted at that point, giving them disadvantage on rolls. If they should find something I usually just let them grab it and go, within reason. If the item happens to be loose coins they can grab a handful or two (I roll percentage of how much they can grab).

If they do not have time to look every where, it is simple they have to make choices and if they choose not to look somewhere that has something in it they simply don't find it. It is really ok if they don't get every single piece of treasure in a dungeon, in fact it is more realistic (I know that word is shunned around here) but it goes to the belief of the story.

For individual treasure I do something similar and put out a little list of what coin denominations the critter could possibly be carrying. Then if they search they just find it. Unless there is something specific like false boot heel or something which I usually require them to declare. I will hint at it though if they have high enough passive perception. Again mostly no rolling.

For hoards and over all adventures:

I decide where things are and the party decides where they will look.

This system I use is mostly out of the book. Each set of monsters has individual treasure and the biggers ones might have hoards. I roll on the tables as normal in the DMG.

What I have noticed though is that all the modules I have read, run and played through have little caches in places. So (and this might have been suggested by the AngryGM or similar post) I take the overall level of the module or adventure I write and roll hoard treasure for the whole thing. Then I place them in weird spots (some might be in plain sight others not so much).

Characters only find what they look for and only if it is in where they look.

Example: I am running a variant on a classic module and there is a broken chest in one of the rooms. The chest is closed and has some papers and clothing inside. Our rogue searches inside the chest. I make some rolls and tell him that he finds nothing. He then moves on. What he doesn't know is that if he had moved the check he would have immediately seen a little cubby door and inside were 5 gems and a magic ring.

I typically don't allow a single roll for an entire room, I go with five foot areas each taking a variable amount of time based on difficulty of the search and their roll. If the rogue in my example would have just moved the chest there would have been no roll necessary and they would have found some nice stuff for a first level party.

I always use Perception(Wis) for this as Investigation(Int) has a different meaning. I think the two get muddied quite a bit escpecially for rogues.

I don't rely on rolls in so much as what they find but rather whether they find it. It is really ok if they don't find something that is there. It was really hard for me to not suggest to the rogue to move stuff around, especially since we had a long conversation about skill rolls based on an article by the AngryGM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question has undergone major edits. Check over your answer and make any needed edits. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2018 at 14:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seems like overkill to have the PCs roll 30 times to search a 25'x30' room. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2018 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NuclearWang The point is that they don't have to, if there is no time constraint and they say they want to search the whole room, they find whatever is there (usually). If there is they have to make a choice, fireplace, bed, search for loose boards... opportunity costs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Mar 28, 2018 at 15:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NuclearWang AngryGM has a wonderful post on skills and traps. The latter can easily be applied to searching for loot. You don't typically search a blank wall unless something "points" you in that direction like skid marks or discolored boards etc. Do you search an open floor or the hearth? \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Mar 28, 2018 at 15:34

This is how I run loot. I use both old and new systems, and also base the amounts on circumstance.

The party finds a dying woman on the side of the road, she has been poisoned. She tells the party that a group of bandits kidnapped her child.

Option 1. Party finds the camp, rushes in, slays all the bandits to find the child dead in the cell from a stray arrow during the battle. Party will receive anything on the bandits bodies, plus a nice little bandit stash. When coming back to the mother who has cured herself using nearby medicinal leaves. She sobs but thanks the party for the closure.

Option 2. Party finds the camp, sneaks in and stealthily kills all the bandits and rescues the child. Party will receive anything on the bandits bodies, a nice little bandit stash, plus a 3D20 random gold amount, when returning to the mother she died from the poison. The mother has 10gp on her body assuming your cold hearted enough to pull the child off her body to claim it.

Option 3. Party heals the mother first, then does everything in option 2. The party receives everything in option 2 except when they return to the mother, the mother rewards them with a magical item or 2d20 more gold.

Now the players HAVE NO IDEA what the possible loots are so they are not upset, all I do as the DM is rough these things out before we play in prep. The players receive ALL the loot that is originally possible. However I still roll for gold, but only for the unknown bonuses.


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