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Introduction

As a relatively new DM I've adopted players rolling Investigation when attempting to loot corpses and chests, because I see other Dungeon Masters doing that as well. But since I roll for loot on certain NPCs/chests beforehand, I don't see the relevance of players always investigating for loot.

Issues

Often rolling for loot seems tedious and too time-consuming, because my players tend to want to loot each and every corpse they leave in their trail. They agree that the current looting process breaks the momentum of our encounters too much. So I'm thinking of dropping the whole 'roll for loot', unless there's specific items (such as a key) to be found or unless the player character explicitly wants to acquire information from the body. While writing this question though I realised it's unclear to me whether there's a ruling on requiring players to roll for loot.

Are there guidelines for how to speed up the looting process for a PC when attempting to loot corpses, chests, etc? Do players actually need to make a roll for loot or is this optional? I also accept answers based on successful personal experiences.

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There are no guidelines.

DMG 133, emphasis added:

The following pages contain tables that you can use to randomly generate treasures carried by monsters, stashed in their lairs, or otherwise hidden away. The placement of treasure is left to your discretion. The key is to make sure the players feel rewarded for playing, and that their characters are rewarded for overcoming dangerous challenges.

...

A Treasure Hoard table helps you randomly determine the contents of a large cache of treasure, the accumulated wealth of a large group of creatures (such as an ore tribe or a hobgoblin army), the belongings of a single powerful creature that likes to hoard treasure (such as a dragon), or the reward bestowed upon a party after completing a quest for a benefactor. You can also split up a treasure hoard so that the adventurers don't find or receive it all at once.

Therefore, you can have whatever system you want for finding treasure, and PCs are not required to roll anything to find treasure. In fact, the rolled loot doesn't even have to come from the monster itself, and can just be part of the eventual reward that the PCs get for completing the quest.

Personally, I've ruled that PCs automatically find all of the loot as long as they are not in some urgent situation, and I automatically convert all generic loot to gold. As you've experienced, there's little benefit to making looting more difficult, and it tends to slow down the game significantly.

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There isn't really a "looting process" as a game rule, making this question rather ambiguous.

It is entirely up to the DM what loot an individual creature or hoard contains. There are tables in the DMs guide for a DM to roll on if they wish to randomly determine this, but they are free to simply choose. This could easily be done ahead of time when the DM is creating the adventure (at least, that's what I tend to do).

5th edition tends towards the hoard containing the main bulk of the treasure (such as magic items) with the loot tables for individual creatures tending towards simply money and gems. But it is up to the DM, again, if they want an individual creature (such as a 'boss') to be carrying any of the hoard treasure or making use of any useful magical items from the hoard's treasure.

As indicated in the answers to the other questions (like this one) in the comments, there is no rule for looting a body. The PCs simply say they are grabbing anything of worth and the DM says what they find.

The exceptions would be (a) if there is a time constraint and the DM wants the PCs to roll to see if they find something before X happens or (b) if the creature has specifically attempted to conceal something on his person, e.g. in a hidden pocket.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In the case of b) you run into a similar issue as with perception checks. If looting does not usually require a roll, but this time it does, the players know there's something special here. This could be a pro or a con depending on how you want to play it. \$\endgroup\$ – Timbo May 16 '18 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Timbo If time isn't a factor I figure it as a take 20--thus I know what they can spot. No need for a roll giving things away. \$\endgroup\$ – Loren Pechtel May 17 '18 at 5:09
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The way characters find loot in 5e is up to the DM. I use the rule of searching for loot vs looting. If they are grabbing loot from a place they know that loot is, they get the evident loot. If they are searching for loot or searching for non evident loot, they roll investigation.

Typically, if they are looting an enemy or digging through a chest or some other obvious "pile of loot is here" without time restraint, they should just get it.

However, if the chest has a secret compartment, the enemy a secret pocket, they are looking through a difficult area/turning out a room, or there is a time constraint, you can use an investigation check to determine what they find. If they don't call that they are searching beyond a pat down, I use their passive investigation.

I usually set this up beforehand, with different degrees of success. Searching through the piles of bones in the back of a ghoul's cave, my party rolled investigation to see if they could find valuables left over from the corpses. There were 3 different DC's set for the different treasures available. Often times, these checks reveal nothing more than a couple coins so no one tries to double down on a failure.

But, as mentioned before, it is up to the DM. Rolling for everything is what I started doing, but I now try to stay away from rolling a lot because that turns looting into having the wizard/rogue use their higher modifiers to loot all of the bodies and spends a lot of extra time. In addition, it allows for a failure with a low roll, and the entire party will know that they missed something and try to go back and double down on looting.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Congratulations; the only answer for this question yet to mention difference between hidden loot and obvious loot. \$\endgroup\$ – can-ned_food May 16 '18 at 23:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course, it would probably be best to do such looting in two passes — if the players want to bother poking around when you tell them something like “There appears to be a hidden compartment here.” \$\endgroup\$ – can-ned_food May 16 '18 at 23:16

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