We're a brand new gaming group. We ran our first session tonight. (I believe it is Keep on the Shadowfell, but I'm not positive.) We headed towards Winterhaven, encountered some Kobolds, and made our way to Winterhaven where we were tasked with a quest to clear out the invading kobolds.

Our DM, as well as our players, are all new to playing RPG's in general, although are nerds in their own right. Anyway, the concept of looting the fallen bodies of the kobolds came up, and at some point the DM distributed some of the gold reserved for the loot from the encounter. At another point, the DM told us one of the creatures had a dragonscale heavy shield and a shortsword. Our human fighter had just dispatched the creature and asked to loot the body. She's already carrying a greatsword. At which point does she become encumbered? I only own the HOTFL and our characters are redbox characters in general, with a few liberties taken.

So how is looting supposed to be handled? What are the official rules on this, and how is this generally played out if not according to the rules?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, re: kobolds. I'm so sorry. I'm so very sorry. I've endured that encounter a few times. It hurts so much. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 20, 2010 at 7:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Brian I've always wondered why that encounter is so difficult. My old DM & I played through it and got the impression that D&D 4e was far more difficult than it is. \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    Nov 20, 2010 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ We got into a discussion about whether or not the shortsword could be carried in addition to the greatsword that the character was weilding. We're all noobs, most of the groups play WoW so the RPG concepts are familiar, but not in context of D&D. My question while asking for specifics was really pretty general. We don't have any experienced folks to give us any ideas. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 20, 2010 at 18:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't tell what this question is asking, and the answers here indicate that the answerers can't tell either. One is about how the DM decides what loot to distribute, another is about encumbrence, and another is about how the players split up received loot. What are you asking? \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Mar 31, 2015 at 4:01

3 Answers 3


The idea of treasure in 4e is simple: the DM has a list of stuff and money that you should get that level.

The consequence of this idea is non-trivial, as it leads to quantum treasure. If you carefully loot all of the random "trash" from monsters, pry out the iron nails of the doors, and otherwise find enough stuff to load up a cart and haul it back to town: you'll get the value of x treasure parcels, depending on how generous the DM is feeling.

If you fail to loot bodies for "trash" items and only carefully take obvious magic items and other "treasure" ... you'll end up with the same amount of gold at the end of the level *. In the Gygaxian sense, encumberance is just there to threaten the players with if they are hauling around ovbiously too much stuff without appropriate hauling mechanisms.

From Carrying, Lifting and Dragging:

Adventurers carry a lot of gear. When that quantity becomes extreme, it might be enough to slow you down and otherwise hamper your capabilities. The amount you carry should rarely be an issue, and you don’t need to calculate the weight your character is hauling around unless it’s likely to matter.

To figure out how much of the dungeon furnishings you can carry around before taking penalties, use (as stated in the above link) strength * 10 in pounds. (A completely unrealistic number, BTW). exceeding that will slow you down by some amount. You can barely lift strength * 20 pounds, but then you're moving at best 2 squares per move action (you have the slowed condition.)

Looting, therefore, should only be done if the players actively enjoy counting rivets. (I sometimes actually do, though it tends not to be in games like 4e). At first level, grabbing items off of fallen enemies is actually kind of neat, though it very quickly becomes irrelevant when you have your own, magic, items. If a player wants to obsessively loot, let him or her, ask them to describe how they're storing the stuff not on their person, and treat it like a treasure parcel that has to be redeemed at the local blacksmith.

If the person wants "full value" for the iron bands, rivets, broken doors, and daggers that they collect, they are welcome to sell them at 20% to anyone who wants to buy, and have that value deducted from a future treasure parcel.

If you're interested in other treasure-abstractions, take a look at Penniless but not powerless 1 and penniless but not powerless 2 which explore a further level of abstraction (quite welcome, IMO) for 4e.

What your group should do is ask the DM, in advance, for the kind of awesome treasure that they want. The idea of wishlists is quite handy for the players and the DM and saves time all around. Then just don't think about the coincidence of finding the exact magic item you asked for, it breaks suspension of disbelief. :)

*This statement is less true for redbox, as treasure is randomly determined, but the idea remains the same, as the GM should treat the "load of trash" as a plot coupon for a treasure parcel. Quantum-treasure works, so long as you don't think of it like a simulation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the links to "penniless but not powerless". I'm waiting for the next two installments. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 20, 2010 at 18:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the OP is after more of a 'Can I carry X swords on me?' rather than "How much loot should we get/physically lift?" question \$\endgroup\$ Jan 5, 2012 at 13:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I gave a +1 for this being a good answer. I want to give another +1 just for the phrase "quantum treasure." \$\endgroup\$ Jun 17, 2014 at 21:39

So if I understand the question, right, you are asking about what is normally referred to as "encumbrance" in D&D - how much can a person carry?

The 4e rule for this is that you get 10 pounds (or 4.5 kilos) per Strength point. If you go over that, you're slowed. Over 20 pounds (or 9 kilos) per Strength point, and you have to drag the goods. Over 50 pounds (22.5 kilos) per Strength point, and you are immobilized.

Treasure parcels and distribution and whatnot are separate issues, but in terms of how much can someone carry, that's the dealio. So I'm sure the fighter (most likely) can easily carry all that. (Not have in hand or wield, of course, just carry in a big ol' rucksack of goods.)


The way that many gaming groups play, my own group included, is that all loot recovered goes into "party treasure". From this party treasure, any debts which a PC may owe the rest of the group are first deducted from that player's share of the loot, then the rest is evenly distributed as much as possible. For coins, division is easy. For gems, parties will typically set aside anything required for the casting of spells. Those gems remain a part of party treasure.

For items such as weapons, shields, rings, etc, it can get a little more complex. Players decide which items they might want. If more than one player wants the same item, there will have to be some negotiation between them to decide who gets it. In our group, the value of magical or powerful items is considered a part of that PC's share. If, due to the value of an item, a PC would receive a larger share than the rest, then the value of that overage is held as a debt to the party and the next time that the party divides treasure, that owed debt is then removed from the player's share before dividing up the spoils.

For example, if, in a particular encounter, there is a powerful sword that the tank wants that is valued at 1300 GP and the shares for everyone else end up being valued at 1000 GP, then that player who takes the sword owes the party 300GP. The next time treasure is divided, that player's debt of 300GP is removed from his share and divided among the other players before the rest of the treasure is divided up.

It takes a party "treasurer" willing to keep records for this to work well, but for the most part it has served our party and many others quite well.

Oh, and how much is too much? It's never too much. LOOT ON!!!

  • \$\begingroup\$ "anything required for the casting of spells" -- This doesn't really apply in 4e, as Rituals are generally abstracted to just requiring some gold cost worth of materials, not anything specific. Magic items and gold are also based on number of party members and level, such that you could simply give all players but one a magic item, and the remaining player enough gold to buy a magic item. The DMG also recommends that the players have a magic item wishlist, which makes distributing items simple -- was it on your wishlist? Then the GM meant for you to have it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian S
    Dec 10, 2013 at 22:29

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