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I am running the Starter Set Adventure (Lost Mine of Phelvander), and the majority of enemies have weapons and armour. For example every goblin has a scimitar, a shortbow, and leather armour.

When the PCs defeat them, do they obtain these as items?

I ruled at the time that armour is rendered useless by the fight but weapons can be looted. (And then the first NPC shopkeeper they met swindled them horribly, so that worked out OK). But I would prefer to know what the rules have to say on the subject, and I can't seem to find an answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If armor is rendered useless (and thus worthless) by the fight, then do you you also force the players to buy new armor whenever they PC got dropped to 0 hp in ANY fight? \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Mar 4 at 18:02
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They can, sure. But the D&D basic rules (p. 45, under "Selling Treasure") are quite explicit that they typically have no value:

Weapons and armor used by monsters are rarely in good enough condition to sell.

So they can collect them, they can even use them, but no, merchants won't buy them unless they are particularly pristine.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do note the specification of "used by monsters", anything used by a humanoid creature is not covered by this rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – Red_Shadow
    Aug 12 '14 at 16:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Red_Shadow That is actually not as obvious as it seems and might not be true. But note "usually": the DM can rule according to sense that someone's arms/armour are in good/salable condition. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 12 '14 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm a little late to the party, but humanoids are monsters in 5e, as explained explicitly in the introduction of the MM. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 '17 at 5:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer does not take into account the mending cantrip, though as a top level response it is valid. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 28 '19 at 17:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adeptus: It seems to match v0.1 of the player's basic rules PDF. That said, I didn't really see a benefit in retaining a link to an outdated version of the basic rules solely to keep the page number, so I added a link to the 2018 basic rules PDF and updated the page number (to p. 45). \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 22 '20 at 5:44
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5e PHB pp.144:

As a general rule, undamaged weapons, armor, and other equipment fetch half their cost when sold in a market. Weapons and armor used by monsters are rarely in good enough condition to sell.

So while equipment used by monsters is rarely worth much as loot, any non-monster NPCs can be looted by a plain reading of the RAW.

Whether you consider a goblin a monster is the next question, but for what it's worth spells like dominate person/monster draw the line at humanoids.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We have a question about the NPC/monster distinction actually. The upshot is that "monster" in D&D almost always included enemy humanoids. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 12 '14 at 16:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie, interesting, but for 5e there's no explicit RAW distinction yet that I know of. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hassassin
    Aug 12 '14 at 20:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ DMG page 4 defines "monster" as "any creature that can be interacted with and potentially fought and killed. Even something as harmless as a frog or as benevolent as a unicorn is a monster by this definition. The term also applies to humans, elves, dwarves, and other folk who might be friends or rivals to the player characters." \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 '17 at 2:13
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As wax eagle says, they can be used as loot, but rarely in a condition to sell.

However, that doesn't mean they're useless to pick up. For example: a shortbow can be used as a fire drill, while a sword could be melted down to the base metal when you're in a village (think swords to ploughshears). Leather armor can be turned into strips, although these might not be as good quality as strips made directly from leather.

In general, while they might not be accepted by a merchant, you can still use them in their base materials, or process them. You might also find a militia in a nearby town that could have use for second-hand equipment. The items won't be worth that much, but you can still often find a buyer for it.

Note: the above explanation is not RAW as requested. however, not all the rules are known yet, so it's possible that there are rules concerning this that aren't found in the available rules thus far.

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By the letter of the rules, yes you can loot the goblins for their leather armour and scimitars.

In my games I try to keep a small degree of realism as often as possible. This is made easier by my group being made up of larpers and re-enactors. Anyone who has actually worn armour and carried a real sword and shield knows that they are HEAVY. carrying several sets in addition to your own would rapidly leave you unable to walk, let alone fight.

Also you can point out to your players that to get the goblins armour they will have to undress them. That may discourage them. :P

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Since arrows are consumable, my players generally collect extra goblin arrows for re-use (by the halfling with the short bow; they would be too short to use with a longbow, and not suitable for a crossbow). Goblin armor is generally too scrappy to be of any value; their weapons are assumed to be of poor design, quality, or condition. (Yet this causes no reduction on their to-hit bonus or damage done, go figure).

One could extrapolate this to most other humanoid enemies (e.g. orcs, gnolls, bugbears) but I would NOT say the same for NPCs (such as guards, Redbrand ruffians, bandits) who, unless otherwise noted, should be expected to carry decent weapons and care for them properly, and definitely not for dwarves, elves, and especially Drow, who are known for their high-quality weapons or well-made armor.

I would also note that hobgoblins are specifically stated to "take exceptional care of their weapons, armor, and personal possessions" so I would treat them the same as human or demi-human NPC weapons and armor.

Thus for NPCs and hobgoblins (or other monsters with presumably more care for weapons, like Oni or azer or fire giants) I would give captured weapons the standard half-value worth, although personal preference might affect that (elves might not want dwarf or drow weapons, most demi-human races might turn up their nose at hobgoblin weapons, weapons from tribespeople or barbarians might be seen as "crude", etc.)

Certain unusual weapons, like those captured from demons or devils, might actually command a premium price, at least in a larger community where collectors of exotic weapons could be found. Other open-minded adventurers could also be in the market for weapons with special properties, like a flind's flail or ice devil's spear or kuo-toa pincer/mancatcher or sticky shield.

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PHB page 144 in the "Selling Treasure" section in the "Arms, Armor, and Other Equipment" paragraph:

Arms, Armor, and Other Equipment. As a general rule, undamaged weapons, armar, and other equipment fetch half their cost when sold in a market. Weapons and armor used by monsters are rarely in good enough condition to sell.

Per RAW, this means such items can be looted and used, but have no resale value.

End of the short-&-sweet "100% RAW" answer.

===================================================================================

That being said, also as per "RAW", the game is supposed to be, you know, fun?

Assigning a value of zero for what players often feel should be clearly very "typical" loot, that is not "fun", but "frustrating". And I am definitely not alone in feeling this.

It just doesn't make any sense, and can sometimes even feels as if the DM is imposing an "antogonistic" universe. Because, why should captured weapons be so totally and utterly worthless?

Not everybody is freaking rich and able to buy brand new stuff all the time. That family chief lording it over his farmstead of 30 people in back country, fearing recent goblin activity increases, wants to equip as many of his people as possible, right? He won't care about rusty dented swords and smelly patched up armors: as long as they work ok, he wants them! And he'd rather be able to buy several old weapons, than a single brand new one!

Same for a lot of citizenry that care a lot more about usability than looks reputation or prestige. A lot of people would rather save half price on some cheap dagger, than buy a brand new one. "Ooooh it's very rusty you say? So it's not safe to cut my meat with it? No problem because I'm going to use it to defend myself, not for making me samwiches! Ooooh but anybody I hurt might catch tetanos disease you say? Cry me a river, please? Just sell me the dang cheap dagger already."

Sure the cheap stuff will probably last a lot less long. Adventurers might need the best longer-lasting quality stuff, able to withstand fight after fight after fight. But for more ordinary people where if they are lucky they WON'T enter into a fight, ever, and if not, these are the kind of people that will still be glad that their cheap weapon worked just long enough to save their ass, even if only once.

So there should definitely be a "second hand" used weapons & armor market, and thus a few bargain stores here and there for them (in the less uppity parts of town of course). But noooo, as per RAW there can't even be "used weapons backstore bargain bins" anywhere.

RAW? Sure. But... making any sense? Please check out your brains at the enntrance.

This is just an instance where 5e went overboard with oversimplification. That is just a a rule that can easily penalize the fun instead of helping it.


I just do this:

[a] Looted arms have a short list of "quality" going from "New" to "Crap", determining ease or resale, and resell value too (and the worst quality stuff gives combat penalties).

[b] Players seem to care more about frequency of treasure, than actual amount per event. If they get one big whopping treasure once, but every other encounter they can get only next to nothing, they become frustrated, not happy. If the quest giver gives them a big end reward but on every other aspect (cash advance, free equipment, services, hospitality, etc.) he is a penny pincher that forces them to pay for almost everything by themselves, they'll end up hating the guy instead."We save his ass and yet he treats us like easily dismissed mercenaries not like the heroes that we are". So I lower "official module" treasure from the treasure hoard & the final quest reward, to increase the gold value of overall looting and quest-giver freebies.

[c] Instead of making enemy equipment worthless in value, I give them less "costly" equipment that has some resale value (albeit noot half). Since it often has a smaller combat value I just add a few more monsters if necessary.

[d] Replace some humanoid encounters with non-humanoid ones. Maybe combined with a terrain hazard. For example, instead of 3 frakking consecutive and samey-feeling goblin ambushes in the forest, one event is a quicksand patch home to some amphibious beast, another might be an angry mother bear attacking what she perceivbed as a threat to her child, and finally the goblin ambush.

[e] Replace some of the humanoids in the encounter, with non-equipment creatures that make sense. Say, instead of 6 goblins in the sewers, why not 3 goblins plus 6 giant rats? Same challenge, less lootable items.

The RAW Ruling for looting arms can be perfectly fine for a group that just wants to go quickly from fight to fight "video game style" without loosing any game time managing looting enemy corpses. But that is not a one-size-fits-all approach always good for all groups. Check what is fun for your group!

So, ultimately, Rule Zero: Adapt the rules as needed.

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Traditionally, the term "monster" in D&D has referred to any creature encountered while adventuring, even human NPC's! Although this usage is not, to my knowledge, currently in vogue, I would rule that the term monster is still broad enough to incorporate hostile humanoid creatures such as goblins and orcs. These type of creatures don't care about maintaining their equipment (they would just rather plunder some when their current supply wears out). On the other hand, human (or elf, dwarf, etc.) enemies probably do have nice equipment that can be looted and sold.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer seems to be discussing another answer, namely arguing the definition of monster, rather than answering the question. As such this may be better as a comment on another answer if you think this would improve it, or expand it to explain why the definition of monster is relevant to a direct answer to the OP's question. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 26 '20 at 16:37

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