There a couple of incidents involved, one of which happened previously, and another of which is occurring now.

The first incident

The first incident happened when my Life Cleric (level 6-7) found a magical sword (Sentient Sunblade). My character did not have the proficiency to use a longsword and we had a bunch of characters that do have the proficiency (a Bard, a Paladin, a Warrior, and a Ranger). Still, I felt that my character had a claim, as he did the "heavy lifting" on acquiring the sword (turning and defeating the ghost guarding the sword).

The problem was when the group discussed the distribution, the following occurred:

First, the session came to a halt over the discussion of who gets the sword. All 4 sword users discussed who should get the sword and the DM washed his hands, to the point of declaring the sentient sword had no preference over who got to use it. To solve the impasse, I took my claim for the sword and declared I would lend the sword per session on a rotation until my character got could use it properly (and I planned on learning the proficiency via feat - which I did end up taking), so I roleplayed this as my character reluctantly lending the sword each session to the other sword users.

The next session, one player (lets call her Vanessa, which is obviously not her real name but a pseudonym for the sake of clarity) seemed to get into her head that she is the Master Looter, so she declared that her character stole the sword from my cleric when he was "asking for spells" (read: I was setting up my spell list before the start of the game), no rolls or nothing, and gave it away to the character Vanessa felt deserved it (this third player later gave me back the sword after I became upset).

My reaction

This... made me react a bit more strongly than the situation deserved perhaps; I was angry that Vanessa would force her will upon my character and decided my cleric was pissed and refused to follow the party to a cavern (under the excuse of guarding NPCs).

Once they came back Vanessa said her character would slap my cleric until I told Vanessa that my cleric would retaliate, so Vanessa took it back and only said that her character was disappointed, my comeback was that my cleric did not care about her disappointment (I feel I was being petty at that moment but it really angered me that she forced her way of doing things upon my character).

After the game, I had a bit of a discussion with the GM and he told me the Vanessa would be punished, though he was not clear in which way. The next session Vanessa's character got an alignment penalty (from LG to TN) because she found a cursed amulet that caused a madness roll that she failed (so removable with a restoration spell), though Vanessa seems to resent her punishment, I can tell because of some snide comments when my character gets trounced in combat.

It's been months since this happened. After the scene, the sword users were free to choose a reward and got weapons equal to or better than the sword, so it's not a current issue.

The second incident

Now the same series of events seems to be likely to repeat itself.

I managed to beat an archmage at a betting game with a shield guardian at stake, everyone got a chance to play and I won it in the second round, thanks to a good roll. Despite my character winning and therefore having a valid claim, Vanessa's first and so far only comment when discussing who should have it was "not the cleric, of course", on a Facebook group.

I do not particularly care much for the shield guardian and would give it up if someone asked, but I do not want to back down when Vanessa wants to force her will upon my character, especially when it is my character the one that finds/wins these magical items, but I don't want to start drama either.

Generally in our group, we give the loot to whoever is better able to use it, otherwise is finders-keepers unless he/she wants to give up the loot. The sword was a special case because there was a 5-way argument between all of our potential sword users over who got it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 21:25

7 Answers 7


This is evidence of a dysfunctional gaming group, if these actions and arguments are typical.

Hi, Fincam. I recognize you're new here, and I am aiming for 'stringent' rather than 'harsh.' I sincerely apologize if I miss the mark.

But that said, I think you have a larger problem than you think.

I see not one, not two, but three people with varying levels and types of culpability. But before that, a preface: There are no formal rules for treasure division in 5e as far as I know. Nor are there formal rules for how a GM should insert him or herself into that process. These are matters rightly left to the domain of roleplaying, in my opinion. Therefore, so is this answer.

But one can definitely form an opinion about the roleplaying choices and GMing choices being made, which can and do influence the suggested course of action that will come at the end of this post.

Now then.

First, you: Yes, you were instrumental in finding the Sentient Sunblade. But by your own word the (apparently informal) rules of treasure division in your group are:

Generally in our group, we give the loot to whoever is better able to use it, otherwise is finders-keepers unless he/she wants to give up the loot. The sword was a special case because there was a 5-way argument between all of our potential sword users over who got it.

I'm not sure what the special case here was that led to your character's claim over it, though, since your character (again, your words) lacked the proficiency to use it effectively. The special case here, to be blunt, seems to be, "You really really wanted the sword."

So your character kept it. Apparently by fiat and apparently over the objections of the other characters and players. But more than just keeping it, you also decided you were going to loan it out on a session-by-session judgement, role-playing it as though this were an act of generosity on your part.

I've seen treasure disputes, some that seemed justified, some that didn't. I've never seen someone keep an object they could use sub-optimally at best only to loan it out every session. It reminds me more than anything else of PC clerics charging for healing spells. If I were a player on the receiving end of this, I would be very concerned that the sword would be 'awarded' to whoever did you the most recent big favor.

I am not saying that you personally had this scheme in mind, or that you would have done this. But this would definitely be on my mind and would definitely be unpalatable.

This is an example of a questionable role-playing choice with a clear and foreseeable consequence of annoying one's fellow players. This sort of thing (constant squabbling over treasure, or my example of charging for healing) are in my experience very well correlated with "My Guy Syndrome" on a player basis, or just dysfunctional groups in general.

Second, Vanessa: Even so, stealing the sword is arguably poor form even if done in character (although as an in-character response to another character in-character hogging an artifact... maybe not as poor form as it otherwise would be.) Stealing the sword outside the rules, however, is an escalation into just plain cheating.

Outside the context of the prior actions, I would have simply not acknowledged the theft unless and until I had heard the GM tell me it happened. With that context, I would have taken it as a sign of just how deep feelings were running.

Third, the GM: It's not entirely clear to me how Vanessa managed to steal the sword. It sounds like she simply declared it and the GM either acquiesced, or that it never came to the GM's attention in the first place. Regardless, as a GM, this is easy to stop by saying, "No, sorry, that did not happen. The possession of the sword is unchanged."

The punishment of the cursed amulet is also highly questionable because it is indirect and ad hoc, after the fashion of Gygax's "blue bolts" and "ethereal mummies." If the player were not complaining about it being a punishment, I would question whether the two incidents were linked at all.

But prior to that, during the original dispute, I would pointed out to all of you that what you are all arguing about is not a what but a who! The DMG says clearly on p214 that sentient magic items are NPCs in every meaningful way-- they are self-aware, have likes and dislikes, bonds (which may include goals) etc.

  • You are all arguing over possession of a sentient being.
  • You are loaning out a sentient being for use by others.
  • Vanessa stole a sentient being which your character had claimed possession of.

Some of those might be waved away as out-of-character, player level discussions. Yours cannot. Vanessa's cannot.

The least I would have done in the moment is have the sword point this out to the group at large during the original dispute (and frankly, it might not want to work with any of you.) I'd also rule on-the-spot that the sword requires attunement in order to prevent it being passed back and forth.

So here is how I would deal with the situation:

First, the gambling situation: There's not quite enough context to make a hard judgement call. In my mind, the question would be one of stakes: Were you all gambling serious and/or unique stakes? If yes, my sympathy would be with you, as you stood to lose something precious. If no, I would be inclined to treat your really good roll the same as the Paladin getting a critical hit in combat, which is to say, as a part of the group effort.

And in either case, I would advise standing aside on this one because no matter what you say about the sun blade not being a current issue, it is clearly a current issue in Vanessa's mind. Good gaming often requires you to take seriously the thoughts and feelings of your fellow players.

But that's not your real problem. Therefore...

Second, the longer term situation: You guys really need to address the long term problems affecting your game. And from here, they look like multiple examples of poor sportsmanship-- squabbling over treasure, grudge-holding, out-of-character cheating (or a remarkably inattentive GM) and bad GM calls.

You guys really need to sit down and work your way around to two things.

First, figure out for once and for all, how you're going to divide treasure, and in what circumstances it is applicable. I get it, it's not easy. Magic items are big, unevenly priced parcels with different utilities for each character. I've studied problems like these formally, and they are vicious. Solutions in the past that have worked for my groups include:

  • Converting the items to GP value and requiring the receiving character "pay" for them on possession. This tends to keep the same players from getting all the items because they run out of funds. This requires a little help from the GM, in terms of keeping the characters solvent enough that this works.

  • A second price ("Vickrey") auction, and then as above. This mostly solves the solvency problem since the players are setting the price.

  • Irreconcilable disputes are settled by selling the item and distributing the value evenly. This requires the GM to run a game where such objects are readily salable.

I have seen other groups come up with rotating schemes about who gets first choice on any given haul, but I have never made it work in any of my groups. And as a GM, I would never take responsibility for treasure disputes among the players. It is too easy to be perceived as playing favorites.

Second, you and Vanessa (and any other characters still nursing a grudge or taking part in these disputes) need to air your grievances, apologize to each other (and mean it), bury the hatchet, move on, and speak of it no more.

It's not that I predict this sort of thing will poison your game.
It's that this is demonstrably poisoning your game right now.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 17:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS: Both "judgment" and "judgement" are valid spellings of the word. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I did not know that! Although before I edited, there was also at least one instance of "judgement", so I'm going to justify it with "making it consistent"... Of course, Novak, feel free to rollback :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 23:39

I kind of feel you're in the wrong here.

You've written that your character found a really good magic sword, and you've written that four other members of the party had proficiency in it and your character didn't. And you've written that you decided to keep the sword and "lend it out" to people.

I have played in many D&D groups, and I can tell you that this is not how looting treasure is supposed to work.

The way looting treasure is supposed to work is: when the group finds treasure, the group decides who can best use the treasure. Often they take into account whether one character has a lot of treasure already. But you can't just say: "I opened the treasure chest, so I get all the stuff inside it!" That's always going to annoy people.

So it sounds like this other player is angry with you for doing this completely unreasonable thing, and the way she's expressing it is by -- well, all the things you've described.

You should apologize to the group for loot-hogging, and then you should initiate a discussion with the group about who would be the best character to use the sword, and then you should give the sword to that character.

Someday the group will find some valuable cleric loot, and you'll want them to give it to you. Don't set a bad precedent here.

To be super clear: just because you were the first person to lay hands on a magic item the group found, that does not make it yours. It is the group's magic item, and the group should make a decision about the best character to have it, and that character is unambiguously not you.

It would be a waste of a feat for your character to gain proficiency with this sword. Your character has other things they should be doing in combat, rather than swordfighting. Your character should not be a swordfighter.

If you feel like your character doesn't have as much loot as some other characters, that's a reasonable concern to have. You could bring that up with the group. You could ask them to let you have the bag of holding, for example.

But you shouldn't do it while holding their sword.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 21:18
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Once comments have been moved to chat - discuss in chat. Subsequent comments will be deleted. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 18:39

Talk it out.

Probably a situation that happens often at many tables. I think talking it out with the DM and the player all together can foster a bit more support at the entire table. Explain you and your characters idea for the sword, how its RP based and you are happy to lend it to others but in effect, its yours, as you have a claim to it. Same with the shield guardian. If you spent the effort and the time talking it out, hopefully the result is a better one going forward. This other player seems to have an issue with you or your character, but could lead to a nice RP session hashing it out. If everyone's intents/ideas/thoughts are on the table, its a better experience overall.

If you can't come to an agreement, possibly its up to the DM to create a final solution. Often I'm sure you've both given up "loot" for the good of the group so there is precedence to everyone sharing.

I don't necessarily agree with your DM giving out punishment, this can only alienate that player further and believe a frank discussion with the entire group is a much better solution.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 21:18

You need to talk to them explicitly, without making assumptions about other people's motivations.

It seems to me that multiple people were at fault here: no, the other player should not have kept the sword, but no, you should also not have kept the sword if you can't use it. If I was a player with a proficiency in a cool weapon that I could use, and someone else wanted to hold onto it until they could potentially use it, I would be pretty annoyed. If your party is playing as a team, and not just a bunch of loosely-affiliated murder-hobos, putting loot into the hands of the people who can use it best should be an obvious thing to do.

Assuming that the madness-induced alignment change is a punishment is an odd thing to guess at; if the DM wanted to punish the player with an alignment change for their behavior (which is a totally legitimate way to punish such behavior), they should have just done it.

Now, it sounds like you're trying to hold on to the shield guardian purely out of spite. This is not a good sign. This sounds like there's bigger issues in the group dynamic here-- both that the other player went to such lengths to get the sword, but also that you so staunchly refused to make a logical decision with the sword to begin with.

There needs to be an out-of-game conversation with this person AND with the DM to discuss the situation. Maybe she took it on herself to be the master looter to do what a master looter is supposed to do-- get items into the hands of the person who will be the most effective with them. Let me be clear: I don't think she was in the right to treat your character in this way, but quite frankly, you are both in the wrong. This speaks to a larger out-of-character issue with this other player that seems two-sided, both with her comments about how magic items should not go to the cleric and your assumption that her remarks during combat definitely mean that she is mad about being punished. However, I don't think that solving the looting issue will resolve this. There is some sort of interpersonal power play going on here. As KorvinStarmast suggests, it may be a battle of wills; it could be a number of things, and I don't feel that it's my place to psychoanalyze this situation any further than I already have. The looting is just the tip of an interpersonal iceberg, and if you don't figure it out, you're gonna sink this campaign.


A few points.

First, keeping a weapon you don't know how to use because it's "cool" is definitely 'odd' based on any experience with games I've ever played. Not necessarily 'right' or 'wrong', just exceptionally unusual. This may have contributed to the other player's decision making process.

Second, the other player stealing your stuff and giving it away? That's a dick move. No question there. The fact that the DM apparently allowed it without a roll, and the other player initially accepted it? That's a sign of a bigger problem.

Third, the in-game punishment for a player's dick move is a) ineffective, and b) almost certain to result in that player getting bent out of shape, which seems to have lead to...

Fourth, if your character won an item in game through actions in game, then your character has the rightful claim to that item. It is up to you (via your character) as to whether or not you wish to give up that item. Not anybody else.

Fifth, the other player, saying your character shouldn't be allowed to have the item your character won? That's them doubling down on being a dick because their character got 'punished' in game for their decision, as a player, to be a dick.

The Result

As it stands, 'V' is likely feeling put out because she got a slap on the wrist for her in game behavior regarding the sword, and is attempting to retaliate by taking away the shield guardian your character won in-game. Things are only likely to snowball unless you, V, and your DM can have an adult, productive conversation about what's going on.

Let's look at this from an in-world perspective for a moment.

Swords aren't usually the weapon of choice for Life Domain clerics, and you have cantrips that will be better melee attack options (mechanically-speaking). With that in mind, why (in character), does your character want a weapon they aren't proficient with, and can't become proficient with without a long period of training (the expenditure of an ASI to purchase a feat to gain the requisite proficiency)?

If you can explain your character's desire for the weapon in terms other than 'a sentient sun blade is cool', then you might be able to disarm the situation before it goes any further. But really think about it from an in-world perspective, not just to come up with a post-hoc rationalization for the desire.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would like to point out that the sword thing has been resolved when at the end of the scene the sword-wielding characters got equal or better items. But if you want an "in-character" explanations, part is that my character did the heavy lifting defeating the ghost and the second part is that my character is a cleric of the life-domain, his god is Torm, a benevolent warrior god. \$\endgroup\$
    – user51855
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 23:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW: all being "non proficient" means is that proficiency bonus is not added to an attack. The cleric can still fight with the sword. @Fincarn: did you add that last sentence into your question's background/set up? That RP aspect doesn't solve the tension at your table, but it certainly supports the idea behind how this sword fits this character. Have you raised that point in your discussions with your group? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 13:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ficarn, the immediate 'loot distribution' aspect of "the sword thing" may have been resolved with the newer items, but the underlying issue clearly has not, or 'V' still wouldn't be trying to take more treasure from your character. This is an out-of-game issue manifesting as an in-game one. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast On the RP aspect, yes, but the game is being played a bit fast and lose on that aspect, still since I have a bit more experience I chose Torm since the beginning of the campaign. \$\endgroup\$
    – user51855
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 16:29

As already described in Dan B's answer, the normal way to distribute loot is to decide which character can best use it, and give it to them. It doesn't matter which character opened the chest, the discussion from the start should have been who would best be able to use it - putting you in charge of 'distributing' it was not a good choice for several reasons.

To clarify - it was not right of the other player to decide, for themselves, that they would steal the sword from you. You are right to be upset at this - but clearly they were not satisfied with this arrangement in the first place.

Not to mention - using a magical weapon like this requires magical attunement in 5e, so being a 'sword distributor' doesn't even make sense in terms of pure game mechanics.

In short - no matter your reason for wanting the sword, this is a poor idea and will not work out in the long run. You should open discussion with your group about who should have the sword, and understand that there will always be chances for you to find more magical weapons.

Remember - at a certain level of wealth, each character should be able to just buy a magical sword if they don't have one - so the need for this overly complex arrangement is minimal.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Not sure why this is being downvoted - is there something blatantly wrong? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 15:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't worry overmuch about it. People are allowed to disagree, and indicate that disagreement with downvotes. Other people may agree and upvote. It's just the nature of the beast. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 15:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fincarn I've edited my answer to take a more neutral stance on the matter - to be clear, the arrangement that was reached is poor planning even without your stake in the matter. There's no way that having a 'sword distributor' was ever going to work out in the long-run. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 16:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fincarn There's no need to shout. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fincarn If you have additional information about that situation that you believe changes the meaning and responsibility, and that you think answers may need to know to answer correctly, put it in the question. I note that this 2nd justification for keeping the sword has not been mentioned in the question at all. Aside from that point about what is practical, don’t shout at others or otherwise take uncivil actions on the site. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 17:13

First off, there are many philosophies about how GMs should interact with their group. If your group's GM hands out punishments for characters violating their alignment, then lets work with that.

Secondly, anything said outside of the gaming table and/or outside of the bounds of in game actions is off limits. So her comments in the FB group have no bearing for in game reprisal.

Thirdly, please take no offense when I say we are only getting 1 side of the story. Our responses will be based on that one side with some assumptions thrown in.

You didn't spell out who SHE was, but based on the statement you said she received an alignment penalty from LG to TN I am going to assume she is the Paladin in the party. Stereotypical paladins are very leadership oriented, head strong, and serious. Read the entry for paladins in the PHB and you will get a glimpse into the mindset they have. They are not driven by the pursuit of wealth or fame. They are driven by a higher purpose and their extensive military training has them seeing party members and items as tools to be used efficiently to attain that end. It is possible that she is just playing her paladin by that mindset. You all are her subordinates and she is allocating party resources to attain the most efficient party structure.

I have to make the assumption that your GM punished her for stealing the sword from you. I don't know what oaths the paladin took, but stealing is not a lawful act and could very well be a violation of her oaths. A change to her alignment is a bit extreme but its the GMs call.

If you won the shield guardian lawfully, then lawfully its yours. If the group helped you get into the position to win the prize, then they rightfully are entitled to a portion of that prize. If the paladin is see this as a group victory then she is doing things right in her eyes, if maybe just a little rudely.

Ultimately, you need to ascertain if its HER personally or if she is just RPing her character so you can clear up any bad feelings between players. Its bad group dynamics to have her RP like this, but its definitely an opportunity for in game character and party growth.

As to finding and distributing loot, remember its a group effort to get to that loot. You solely are not entitled to anything that the collective group worked together to find.

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    \$\begingroup\$ She is a warrior, but one that specializes in using a bow and buffing (through the battle-master specialization). She wasn't even in the running for the sword. \$\endgroup\$
    – user51855
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK good to know. Seeing as the majority of my answer is based on the assumption she was the paladin, i will erase my answer. The rest of my answer not dealing with paladin is identical to what everyone else is saying. \$\endgroup\$
    – Semada
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 17:04

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