27
\$\begingroup\$

A player left my group recently. It was mutual and not-unexpected, and during the last session, the character left for an unspecified purpose.

The character (lawful-good wizard) who left had a few magic items:

  • A powerful necromantic artifact.
  • An evil necromancer's spellbook.
  • Miscellaneous scrolls & potions

These items were not an integral part of the story, and I feel OK letting them disappear together with the character. Since the player was a little problematic, I don't want the focus of the next sessions to deal with his character - I would like the spotlight to be on the players who remain.

However, It seems my players feel they are missing out on the monetary value of these items and wish to sell them to the highest bidder.

I would love some advice on how to handle the wizard's inventory and some generic advice on how such cases are usually handled in-game.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Just to explain KorvinStarmast's most recent edit, a question cannot be specific to [dnd-5e] and [system-agnostic] at the same time; it's one (meaning any game system, dnd-5e in this case) or the other (not specific to any game system). However, since it was originally closed for having neither, now having either such tag should be good enough to get this reopened. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 28 at 13:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a very good question! However, I do think that having this be a system-specific question (as it is now) will get you better answers. It is much better to ask about a problem in the context of the game you are actually playing (D&D5e) then to make it artificially broad especially since different RPG systems can treat players leaving, items, and money-earning very differently. Now, people can answer with 5e rules and context in mind. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Aug 28 at 13:25
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ What level is the party? The cash value of a lot of items, even magical consumables like scrolls, tends to fade as the party levels up and the stakes rise from immediate concerns like survival to the epic challenges of higher level characters. \$\endgroup\$ – aherocalledFrog Aug 28 at 17:25
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Behacad Please don't answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Aug 28 at 22:37
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Please remember that even subjective answers need to be backed up. A good answer here will recommend a course of action that is supported with either personal gameplay experience or something they've seen. But the goal is to get an idea and talk about how it went (pros/cons) and not just generate ideas. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 29 at 15:28
50
\$\begingroup\$

To me the problem seems to be that the other players think that they gained treasure as a team and divided it up according to some measure of 'fairness' and 'need.' So when one player leaves, they think that their joint loot is up for redistribution. That's a very pragmatic approach, and perhaps you should discourage it to encourage in-character gameplay (that's assuming you want such a thing).

Assume that the character of the departing player becomes a non-player character. Especially if the split was on good terms, the player might even come back for a couple of sessions, down the line.

  • The NPC is settling down.
    • He will no longer be free to go dungeoneering at a moment's notice. There are other clients, ongoing projects, etc.
    • His wealth will be used to buy a house (with laboratory basement and/or wizard's tower).
  • The NPC is still favorably disposed to the party.
    • He might answer questions from his knowledge and library. (Of course asking the NPC must not be allowed to short-circuit the plot, but if the players think to ask the right questions they will be rewarded with useful clues.)
    • He might provide scrolls and potions if the specific item is required for the adventure, provided the players recognize this and ask. "We're going up against a something, give us a scroll of whatever."
    • He will use his artifacts and tools to help directly, within reason.
    • He might provide room and board in his house, etc.
  • On the long run, his contacts may become useful. A letter of introduction to a magical artifacts dealer. A name to drop when talking to a wizard.

Try to explain this 'deal' to your players. Try and make them understand that looting the corpse while it is still warm is not the best choice on the long run.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 15
    \$\begingroup\$ A former PC could also just be on their own adventures separate from the party, or have accepted a prestigious position with an influential faction. Such a character could give quests, need help, or show up at dramatic moments in the future. Naturally such a character is going to take their stuff with them. \$\endgroup\$ – aherocalledFrog Aug 28 at 17:13
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Of course the players "joint loot" also includes the stuff the remaining characters have, so they need to ask what are they giving to the wizard from the stuff they are carrying. \$\endgroup\$ – John Aug 29 at 17:23
15
\$\begingroup\$

I'll try to answer from just a slightly more general perspective, mainly exploring the issues outside of the mere sale for gaining gold, keeping in mind that you don't seem to care much about the fate of the character, rather than that of their items.

It entirely depends on you and your players

If they think they are being robbed of part of their progress as a party, since a character and all their findings are de facto disappearing, I feel they should have the right to claim some of that character's worth. Since the Wizard was a member of the party, his items were obtained with the contribution of everyone (more or less). One might argue that the other characters just gained something out of nothing, but this "nothing" is itself arguable, as I explained. Talk with your players about this: do they just want a boost in gold or do they feel deprived of their achievements? A sudden increase in gold might be a problem anyway, so you might want to balance that in some way or just prevent the PCs from getting their hands on the items.

Justifying the gain (or loss) of the items

It doesn't really matter if the players do not care at all about roleplaying in this context, but assuming they do, it might be quite awkward to simply have the items appear in the others' inventories, or have them lost due to the PCs vanishing from the world, as in a previous campaign of mine (mentioned later). You might want to spend just a few lines to simply mention what was of the character, without digging into details. You can have the Wizard killed in a tough "off-screen" fight, which is independent from the PC's background. Mourned by his fellow adventurers, his body is buried during a ceremony filled with grief, together with anything he held dear. The rest is kept by his friends (otherwise, everything is left in the tomb). If it fits the character, he leaves the items behind for his friends to continue their epic quest (otherwise, he keeps everything with him), while he retires to lead a life of study, or travel on a spiritual journey, or start a drug-trafficking business in a van with one of his students. In the end, whatever fits your story and doesn't feel awkwardly forced to anyone.

In the past, I had two players suddenly leave for personal reasons. No one complained about the loss of their inventory, mainly because there was no real reason for their PCs to leave and we felt that having them killed or whatever just to get our hands on their bags wasn't right. We also didn't really care about the roleplaying of such an event, so we outright had them "disappear" as if they had never been there in the first place and our characters would have no memories of them at all.

Gameplay-wise, however, those items may break the balance. You will have to deal with that, if you choose to handle them over.

Balance might be an issue

Fewer party members with more magic items (or whatever) might throw off the balance of the game. Speak with the players about this concern (if it really is). You might rule that the gone PC was the only one with the knowledge required to wield those items, others have to study/train in order to do so. Maybe one item is peremptorily out of the others' reach, as only a high level Wizard is competent enough for that, but they can still sell it. If you are concerned about the amount of gold they might make from the sale, aside from preventing the PCs from laying their hands on the items, you can make it more difficult to find somebody who would buy them, or even more, who would buy them at the just price. Maybe the other PCs have no idea of their real value. Perhaps they have no trouble gaining a fair amount of gold from the sale, but after that they won't find anything valuable for a long time.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ DnD 5e is generally a 'low magic' system. Unlike 4e before it, a player character's progression does not require magic items. The biggest effect on balance is the loss of the character, not their stuff, as now the party as a whole has fewer HP, spell slots, and attacks per round. \$\endgroup\$ – aherocalledFrog Aug 28 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aherocalledFrog As I said, they might be a problem. I'll emphasize that in an edit. Though your point about the loss of a character is absolutely sound, the DM doesn't seem concerned about the party having one less PC. \$\endgroup\$ – StackLloyd Aug 28 at 20:01
10
\$\begingroup\$

A realistic point of view would be that the wizard left with his things, especially if they were worth something to him.

However, since RP is mainly about having fun, and if the players genuinely feel like they're being duped out of the item, then maybe the wizard left his things (or got robbed or murdered?). This leads the party to a sub story of getting the things back.

Personally I would go with the choice that the wizard left with his things, especially if the only value that the things have for the party is monetary. The party has a lot of other ways to earn gold.

\$\endgroup\$
0
\$\begingroup\$

While he's left for an unspecified purpose it would probably help for you to have an idea of what sort of task he is setting out to do. Given that he's lawful good and carrying two powerful necromantic items, possibly he's leaving to hand them over to an organization that will make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands or to destroy them himself, or perhaps he's fallen under their sway and he's seeking to further the goals of the artifact.

While the players may feel like they are due some measure of the value of the items, they should also take into account that they've earned items as a result of his presence and as a result they may have items that they might not otherwise have. The remaining players would not like it if the others decided to take one of their items and sell it to the highest bidder for the gold.

It is natural for a lot of people to want to have more and feel like they are missing out when someone leaves, "What's mine is mine what's yours is ours". As the items are not required as part of the story, they belong to the wizard and are his to use as he wishes. The point that they simply want to sell them off to the highest bidder to buff their coffers is another reason for him to keep them and walk away, they have no invested interest in the items beyond monetary value.

If there is a RP reason why another person in the group would want to keep the item, whether it is to use, or to progress their own story then perhaps leaving items behind would be an option. Also consider anything that which the group purchased or made a specific point of getting be left behind, as those can be considered group items.

Something else to consider, and possibly one of the most important, is if they did keep the items, what is the impact of them doing so. If they sold them off to the highest bidder, is there an impact to them having more money than would be expected at their point of the story.

\$\endgroup\$
0
\$\begingroup\$

Fair share of the spoils

From both an in-game and out-of game perspective it matters how the "loot" was divided before that and whether the split was roughly equal or not.

If the leaving character holds something that far outweighs the rest of the loot (e.g. consider Bilbo Baggings leaving the "PC party" with the Arkenstone) then it could be justifiable to divide up the loot according to its value.

On the other hand, whatever claim the party has on the leaving wizard's items also applies the other way around; if the party is entitled to a (majority) share of the wizard's potions and scrolls, then the wizard is also entitled to a share of the value of that magical axe that the barbarian found, and of that shiny new armor the paladin is now wearing.

If the loot has been divided equally, then it's probably best not to bother, but if it's not, and you add up the value of all the loot the party has obtained together, it may well turn out that it's not that the wizard who owes the party something, but the rest of the party would have to pay the wizard some gold so that he gets his fair share of the common wealth.

In any case, the party should not expect to keep all of its common wealth if the party is splitting - any scenario where the wizard is prevented from leaving with something comparable to 1/[number of characters] of the total wealth is grossly unjust, and any lawful or good members of the party should not require that; and in a neutral/chaotic/evil party where the wizard would assume that they might be actually prevented from keeping their stuff, they would be expected to leave in secret, taking all their stuff and potentially robbing others as well.

\$\endgroup\$
-2
\$\begingroup\$

You must now balance the table...

Prior to the player leaving you were balancing the game based on the actual strength of the party. This strength is not wholly dictated by the number of players. Inventory accounts for (sometimes a very large) portion of a player's strength.

After the player leaves, you, again, have the responsibility of balancing the game based on the party's actual strength. Whether that is by augmenting encounters, redistributing wealth (strength) among remaining players, or a combination of the two is up to you.

Whatever you do, just RP it well and your remaining players will lose focus on these items and continue to enjoy the adventure.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour when you get a chance, and visit the help center or ask here in comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more information. Your point about the need to re-balance the remain characters is good but I don't see how OP is meant to do that in your answer. You also don't address what to do with the items the wizard left behind. If you can edit your answer to more directly address the question that was asked that would improve it. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Aug 29 at 0:43
-2
\$\begingroup\$

It's quite simple... Ask each remaining player if they would give up their hard-earned loot if the rest of the party decided not to accompany them any more, and instead went off adventuring without them.

I believe that in most cases, absent any formal agreement between the party members, that the response would be some variation on "Are you kidding? We all worked for that stuff, and what I have is my share... why should I give it back?"

The typical D&D adventuring party is rather similar to a criminal organisation such as a gang of pirates or a group of crooks banding together to pull off a heist. They may be required to cooperate in order to achieve their collective goals, but once those goals are achieved, the spoils are divided according to value and need... and that's that. Once divided, the spoils are the property of the person who received them. Regardless of the utility those goods may have to the party as a whole in the future - that's just a side-effect of the character's continued association with the party.

In the event that an adventurer remains with the party, and dies during an adventure subsequent to a division of loot after a prior adventure, his property may make the difference between life and death for the survivors, however, appropriation of another person's property may not actually be legal if they have NPC heirs... but adventuring is a profession of dubious legality, and such redistribution is typically expected - any of the party could die, and every member knows and accepts that in such circumstances that their worldly goods may be taken by their comrades.

There may be circumstances in which the tools used by the members of an adventuring party do not belong to them, and in the event that they leave the party, they are obliged to return said tools. Circumstances including the adventurers being employees of an organisation which supplies the tools of their trade and which has a legal claim upon the proceeds of their actions. Perhaps the adventuring party is an incorporated entity in which all party members are shareholders - for as long as each member remains a part of it - and all property is held in common as property of the party, and must be returned if any member leaves. However, the common thread with these circumstances is that all the players will be aware that they exist. The characters would have had to agree to the terms of employment or incorporation before they could be accepted into the party.

So, unless the players can say, legitimately, "We all agreed to hold the proceeds of our adventures in common" they have no legitimate claim upon the departing member's property. Of course, being adventurers, there is always the option of simply robbing the PC-become-NPC of his coveted property...

\$\endgroup\$
-3
\$\begingroup\$

At the end of the day, you and your players are playing to have fun. It sounds like your players are feeling frustrated that they're missing out on the retired PC's items. As the DM, you have full control over how to handle this. You can just give them the old PC's items!

I haven't dealt with retiring PCs yet, but I have had situations where my players asked for nice things or had opportunities to get a lot of powerful magical items at once. Unless I foresee that what the players are trying to get will likely cause problems at the table later, I prefer to give them what they want. I can always scale up the difficulty of encounters later on, and giving players nice things is fun for us all!

Other answers suggest ways of not giving the retired PC's items to your players to increase the sense of the game taking place in a real, breathing world. But remember that your players are at your table to have fun first, and verisimilitude is just a tool to that end. Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself what to do, but both redistributing the items and having them leave the party's possession are perfectly reasonable options.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Downvoters Why are you downvoting me? I truly believe that finding a way to give the party the retired PC's items is a good answer to the OP's question, and I backed up my answer with personal experience DMing similar situations. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin - Reinstate Monica Aug 30 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe it's because your answer could be unfairly summarised to "Always give the players what they want because it is fun, realism in your game always comes second!", which is a statement a lot of gms won't stand behind (me included). Mainly because a lot of players and gms feel that the challenges of the adventure is what makes it fun, working towards getting the huge treasures to later enjoy the fruits of your labour. Getting the items immediately utterly destroys that concept. \$\endgroup\$ – Hiplobbe Sep 18 at 10:35

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.