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Reading "What are Astral Diamonds Made of?" made me wonder: what is the most valuable treasure in the game per pound? I mean, treasure that actually does have a price, have a weight, and is printed in some rule book of one of the game's editions.

The value of loot per pound can be a practical consideration. We are using the variant encumberance rules when playing 5e that make it actually matter how much you can carry, especially if you are into stripping and selling of weapons and armor. In early editions like 1e, loot weight management was a major consideration, starting from the very start, when Gary Gygax' children in the first sessions of exploring Castle Greyhawk found a chest of copper pieces that was too heavy to carry off for their characters.

In 4e, Astral Diamonds are worth 5 million gp per pound. Has there been anything that is more valuable? (I am pretty sure, there is no more valuable, freely exhangable currency in the game, and appreciate that finding a buyer for high-priced magic poses its own, separate problems).

Someone mentioned the most expensive items in 4th Edition topped out at a bit over 3 million gp. I am not an expert on fourth, so I do not know what item that would have been, and what it would have weighed. If the item weighed only half a pound, it still would win on a pound-by-pound fight.

I first thought, a cache of high-value magical rings would work, like a bag of Rings of Elemental Command worth 200,000 gp each in 3.5e. However, 3.5e says "Rings have no appreciable weight". Artifacts have been priceless through the editions I looked at.

Of those things that allow you to calculate wight per gp (that is they have both a gp value, and a weight given), Chaos Diamonds weigh 1 pound and are worth 160,000 gp. An Iron Flask for 170,000 gp per pound is even dearer. Still, a long way to go to 5 million.

Another problem seems to be that in 3.5e weapon or armor enhancements allow one to create magic items of arbitrary value.

So, excluding constructed magic items, and using just nonmagical items or materials with printed in-game weights, or defined "finished" magic items as printed with printed in-game weights, what item with a price tag is the most valuable per pound in the game?


PS. The value of what a gp can buy differs between editions. I realize that makes it hard to strictly answer this question across all editions. I would be happy with an answer that addresses this edition by edition, or even one that addresses it for a single edition.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A bag of holding full of chaos diamonds. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2023 at 12:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Including magic items makes this question moot in several different ways for D&D 3.5 as, for instance, a magic dagger can be as magical as one can afford with no upper limit to its value except number of weapon special abilities available in the game. Consider limiting it to nonmagical items with printed in-game weights. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2023 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan That sounds like the answer to this question. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2023 at 15:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkovisonStrike It may be the answer, but, like Pun-pun, it's not a useful answer. Good on the question's edit for trying to excise such shenanigans. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2023 at 16:03
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OD&D/AD&D 1st edition: 1 in 10 million jewels

In 1st edition, gemstones can get extremely high value for very little weight. Encumbrance in 1st edition is measured in the equivalent encumbrance of a number of coins, or "cn",

Gems have a range in cn of 1-5, but no additional clarifications are given in terms of size or type. As such, we will be assuming 1 cn gems of high value. This converts to 0.1 lbs according to the PHB:

The conversion ratio of gold pieces to pounds of weight is 10 to 1

The most valuable gems are jewels (with a base value of 5,000 gp), and they have a 1 in 10 million chance of reaching 1,000,000 gp in value:

roll a d10 for each stone, and consult the table below:

[...]

1 | Stone increases to next higher base value; roll again ignoring results above 8. Stones above 5,000 gold piece value progress as follows: 10,000 GP, 25,000 GP, 50,000GP, 100,000 GP, 250,000 GP, 500,000 GP, and 1 ,000,000GP- the absolute maximum. No stone may increase beyond 7 places from its initial base value.

With a weight of 0.1 lbs, and a value of 1,000,000 gp, our gp/lb is 10,000,000 gp

BECMI: very large size, very good quality tristals

BECMI works similarly to OD&D and 1st edition in terms of encumbrance, and once again gems are our best source of value. A gem is 1 cn (which we'll call 0.1 lbs) in encumbrance. While the Rules Cyclopedia clairifies that gems don't weigh 0.1 lbs:

For convenience's sake, all gems have the same encumbrance value: one gem equals 1 cn of encumbrance. This is not so much a function of the gem's weight as of the gem's size and irregular shape, which make it inconvenient for carrying.

...we can use 0.1 lbs as an upper bound. According to that same chapter, the most valuable gem is a tristal:

Corundum, a mineral, is the substance of which rubies and emeralds are made. It may also be found in other colors, rare and usually transparent: golden yellow, deep violet, and brilliant orange. These gems are known as tristals. A tristal may have any value the DM chooses from 1,000 to 100,000 gp, but the average tristal is worth 50,000 gp.

From there, gems can vary in size or quality. A very large size, very good quality gem has a 64x value

With a weight of <0.1 lbs, and a value of 640,000 gp, our gp/lb is >6,400,000 gp

AD&D 2nd Edition: blackslings

The lightest items in 2nd edition are labelled as:

These items weigh little individually. Ten of these weigh one pound.

...so I looked through all four volumes of Encyclopedia Magica where magic item values can be found for items of this weight (no items of greater weight come close to the gp/lb value), and the most valuable of these types of items is a blacksling (p. 1119):

This powerful weapon is a light, wispy black sling, easily concealed amid or beneath clothing. Operating as a sling +3 (no damage bonus), these devices feel slippery. They are hard to snatch or steal... and cannot be use to tie things to creatures.

With a weight of 0.1 lbs, and a value of 90,000 gp, our gp/lb is 900,000 gp

3rd Edition: bracers of relentless might

The most valuable magic items in 3rd edition are epic magic items. While some of them break 5,000,000 gp, none of these are light enough. As such, we get the bracers of relentless might as our best option:

These bracers grant a +12 enhancement bonus to the wearer’s Strength and Constitution. The wearer is treated as two size categories larger than normal (to a maximum of Colossal) for purposes of combat-related opposed checks that apply a modifier based on size...

With a weight of 1 lbs, and a value of 4,384,000 gp, our gp/lb is 4,384,000 gp

4th Edition: Level 30 magic shuriken

Magic items in 4th edition have fixed costs based on the level of the magic item (from 1 to 30). Level 30 magic items have a value of 3,125,000 gp.

As such, we simply have to look for the lightest item that can receive a level 30 enchantment. This turns out to be shuriken (5 of them weigh 0.5 lbs) with either the flaming +6, lightning +6, or perfect hunter's enchantments (from the Player's Handbook I; other books probably have more options):

Flaming Weapon
You can will this weapon to burst into flame.

[...]

Lightning Weapon
This weapon crackles with dancing lightning.

[...]

Perfect Hunter’s Weapon
This weapon ignores cover and concealment when its magic is activated.

With a weight of 0.1 lbs, and a value of 3,125,000 gp, our gp/lb is 31,250,000 gp

5th Edition: arrows of slaying

We have two options for 5th edition using the magic item costs from the Dungeon Master's Guide. Highly lightweight Very Rare magic items, or somewhat lightweight Legendary magic items. To complete this we get either an arrow of slaying:

An arrow of slaying is a magic weapon meant to slay a particular kind of creature... If a creature belonging to the type, race, or group associated with an arrow of slaying takes damage from the arrow, the creature must make a DC 17 Constitution saving throw, taking an extra 6d10 piercing damage on a failed save, or half as much extra damage on a successful one.

With a weight of 0.05 lbs, and a value of 50,000 gp, our gp/lb is 1,000,000 gp

Note: If you would rule that arrows are consumables, this amount is cut in half. In this case, any Legendary magic item that weighs 1 lb would be equal in value such as a red wizard blade.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mary Yep, interestingly (if you adjust the 1st edition to be lbs), it increases by exactly 1 OOM each edition until 5th \$\endgroup\$ Jun 24, 2023 at 3:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, great Answer, thank you! I'll wait a day or two to see if someone digs up something esoteric for any edition, and then accept it, this is exactly what I was looking for. Interesting to see that the only edition to beat astral diamonds is 4th itself. You apparently needed them in that one \$\endgroup\$ Jun 24, 2023 at 3:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin In first edition, encumbrance was measured in 'coins', which is a unit of bulk, not precisely weight. 1cn = the bulk of one coin, what David's answer is calling a gp equivalent. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 24, 2023 at 13:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KirtnoQA4mewhilemodsstrike thanks. I have no experience in 1st edition so I just looked through the magic items in the DMG and the equipment section of the PHB. I'll edit when I get home in a couple hours \$\endgroup\$ Jun 24, 2023 at 17:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Senmurv I have Kirt to thank in the comments for filling in my 1e gaps, but yeah I also geeked out writing the answer \$\endgroup\$ Jun 28, 2023 at 13:04

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