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What is the meaning behind all of the treasure types monsters have listed in OD&D and AD&D? I know that Treasure Type A represents Humans and the things they collect, while Treasure Type H represents the gigantic hoard a dragon or other greedy large monster might collect, but what kind of monsters do the other treasure types represent?

I haven't been able to find as coherent a pattern with the others on my own. I list this for both Original (White Box) and Advanced (1st Edition) D&D since one grew out of the other. I figure the answers are similar enough that they could be answered at the same time.

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Analysis of AD&D treasure types.

There are considerably more monsters for AD&D so here is a doc that lists out each monsters.

A is no longer the Man Treasure Type, is not commonly used either being reserved for the Lich, Locathah, Men Bandits, Squid Giant, and Troglodytes

B to F are still pretty much like their OD&D counterpart with the same rough ascending order of value.

G is no longer just for dwarves. Elves are thrown in as well as a bunch of other creatures.

H is still the hoard treasure for Dragons. Interesting the white dragons don't get this treasure type. Along with the Dragons the Archdevil Geryon and the Guardian Naga have this treasure type.

I Interestingly the Roc has been removed from I but more creatures were assigned to this treasure type than OD&D. It also was used a lot with creatures with multiple treasure types, probably because of the Gem and Jewelry values.

Now to the new types

J to N are meant to be assigned to individual monsters. When listed as part of a lair it looks to be incidental treasure. This especially clear for the various varieties of Giant Spiders.

O and P are low value coin treasure types, O is copper and silver, while P is silver and electrum

Q is a used a lot and in conjunction with other treasure types, It is the Gem treasure type.

R treasure type is similar to G but without any magic items.

S is the potion treasure type

T is the Scroll treasure type

U is a high value treasure type with Gems, Jewelry and magic items. The elite monsters that get this are Orcus, Asmodeus, Tiamat the Chromatic Dragon, and interestingly enough Ixitxachitl Guards and Androsphinxs.

V is just magic items

W is similar to G and R but with map instead of magic items. It only used for the Men, Buccaneers.

X is miscellaneous magic items plus a potion, it been assigned to a lot of monster in conjunction with other treasure types.

Y is just gold pieces

Z is similar to H with a smaller number of magic items the monsters that get this are Men Dervishes, Men Nomads, and Will-o-the-wisp. Looks like there is a lot of wealth hidden underneath those camel sacks.

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Preamble

Key to your conundrum ("I haven't been able to find as coherent a pattern"), is there isn't a coherent pattern. At least not a systematic one. I'll endeavor not to repeat too much of what @Majestic12 has said with his answer.

Short Answer

Like Weapon Speed Factor (pp.68-69, 95 in the 2nd edition Players Handbook), or Weapon Type vs Armor Type Modifiers (p.90, Table 52 in the 2nd edition Players Handbook), the popularity of the Treasure Type tables/matrices can be illustrated with the following formula:

Not Used >> Not Used as Designed >> Used as Designed

So don't feel bad about failing to find meaning in them.

Long Answer

I've quoted below the explanatory page from the original Monster Manual for AD&D (1977, p.5). As a side note, this explanation for how to use the monster Treasure Type tables is paraphrased by Don Turnbull in the AD&D Fiend Folio (1979, p.7), is repeated nearly verbatim again in the Monster Manual II (1983, p.6) and, with the verbiage cleaned up a bit, it can also be found in the 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendium (1989, p.-).

TREASURE TYPE refers to the table which shows the parameters for various types of valuables which the monster in question might possess. If individual treasure is indicated, each individual monster of that type will carry, or possibly carry, the treasure shown. Otherwise, treasures are only found in the lairs of monsters, as explained above. Note also that although an encounter occurs in monster's lair, and the monster possesses some treasure type, this does not automatically mean that the adventurers will gain treasure by defeating the monster. Most treasure types show probabilities for various kinds of wealth to occur in the treasure of the monster. If subsequent dice rolls indicate that the form of treasure is not in the monster's trove, then it is not there, and it is quite possible to come up with no wealth (including magical items) of any sort in a monster's lair despite the fact that a treasure type is indicated. Finally, it must be stated that treasure types are based upon the occurrence of a mean number of monsters as indicated by the number appearing and adjustments detailed in the explanatory material particular to the monster in question. Adjustment downwards should always be made for instances where a few monsters are encountered. Similarly, a manor adjustment upwards might be called for if the actual number of monsters encountered is greatly in excess of the mean. The use of treasure type to determine the treasure guarded by a creature in a dungeon is not generally recommended. Larger treasures of a given type are denoted by a multiplier in parentheses (✕ 10, etc.) — not to be confused with treasure type X.

The bolded sections show Gygax's ubiquitous fondness for dice-induced randomness.†

The italicized section makes room for an important caveat — planned encounters ('creatures found in dungeons' to paraphrase Gygax) are an important general exception to using the Treasure Types table.

Quoting from the Fiend Folio (1979, p.7),

If dice rolls indicate that a particular treasure component is not in the monster's lair, it is simply not there; it is thus quite possible to gain no treasure from defeating a monster in it's lair, despite the fact that a treasure type is indicated.

Quote continues,

Treasure types are based on the appearance of a mean number of monsters of that particular type, as indicated by the "number appearing". In instances where fewer, or more, monsters of that type are encountered, the treasure should be reduced, or increased, in value.

These explanations create some problems for the thinking gamer.

First problem, as can be deduced from literally every published adventure and RPG game endorsed by TSR/Wizards of the Coast; there is always treasure to be gained from defeating a given monster in published adventures, table top or online. Why should this ever be different often enough for a home campaign to need the randomness and complexity of a Treasure Table?

Another difficulty is this method produces very swingy results and internally inconsistent results. Take kobolds‡, listed as having Treasure Type: J on each individual, with types O and Q (x5) in lair.

As you can see from the percentages given in the Monster manual appendix Treasure Types table, a kobold lair of 400 individuals has a 1-in-40 chance of having no treasure. A kobold lair of 40 individuals has the same chance, 1-in-40.

But kobolds are guaranteed to be personally carrying 3-24 cp each (treasure type J is 3-24 cp); even though 1-in-4 lairs will have 0 cp in the tribal coffers! What? That makes no sense. Must be 1-in-4 kobold tribes are thoroughly socialist (I kid but I trust you see what I mean).

Worse, in the case of zero lair hoard, even adjusting the lair amount upwards for a tribe well above the mean value, as suggested in the various monster manuals, gives no increase in actual treasure amount (multiply by zero gets you zero every time with real numbers).

Gygax rationalizes it all in "game logic" terms in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979, pp.91-93). A few choice quotes;

This is not a contradiction in the rules, but an admonition to the DM not to give away too much!

Assign each treasure, or lack thereof, with reason.

Thoughtless placement of powerful magic items has been the ruination of many a campaign. Not only does this cheapen what should be rare and precious, it gives player characters undeserved advancement and empowers them to become virtual rulers of all they survey. This is in part the fault of the writer, who deeply regrets not taking the time and space in D&D [a.k.a. OD&D] to stress repeatedly the importance of moderation.

AD&D means to set right both extremes [abounding PC wealth and killer dungeons]. Neither the give away game nor the certain death campaign will be lauded here.

In those instances where a randomly discovered monster has a nearby lair, and somehow this lair contains treasure, do not allow the dice to dictate a disaster for your campaign.

Take Away

Basically the DM is to use the Treasure Type tables by largely not using them.


Postamble

Beyond what this question asks are a few related outsider opinions about how the game has changed since it's inception. These opinions, while my own, have been gleaned through many long discussions with those who have played for decades and from reading through many old game products. Here goes...

You will find that questions around assigning monster treasure get even more confusing when considering the 2nd edition of the game. While some of the wiggle words are still there in the Monstrous Compendium,

If individual treasure is indicated, each individual may carry it or not at the DM's discretion

there is even more obvious direction to the effect that the DM should take more control over the game than dice rolls typically allow,

Major treasures are... most often designed and placed by the DM.

and a little later,

Do not use the tables to place dungeon treasure, as numbers encountered underground will be much smaller.

That last bit made no sense to me or anyone I talked to who played back in the day. Think about it, some of those monsters only live in dungeons so how could their numbers be "much smaller" than what is given in their description?

In the 2nd edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1989, pp.80-84), like the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979), there is considerable space devoted to thinking about treasure in one's campaign. It reads like something written in committee, a nice change of pace (maybe) from Gygax's turgid prose, but confusing in it's own way.

Quoting one little tidbit seen commonly whenever the "best" way to game comes up for discussion.

Now, if both DM and players enjoy a particular type of campaign and are having a good time, there is no problem to fix. However, more often than not, these two extreme adventuring styles lead to game problems.

That's pretty much the whole of the Dungeon Master's Guide, from any edition, summed up in two sentences! Is it not?

Then along comes 3rd edition, and it systematizes most everything about the game including monsters and their treasure. Rules Lawyering has always been a thing but now with 3rd edition the Power Gamer and/or Munchkin come into their own in ways that were not possible in prior editions.

The 4th edition levels the playing field by smoothing the highs and lows found in previous editions. Apparently most people found it stultifying since they left in droves; many going on to play the 3rd edition clone Pathfinder and many more going to other games/hobbies.

The 5th edition seems to have brought many of the old-timers back to the game and roped in many new ones besides. It uses more systematization than the original game but puts the focus squarely on the DM "owning" the campaign and (outside of the Adventurer’s League) tailoring it to suit the needs at the local table. It has some new ideas gained from 40 years of TTRPG playing but captures the feel that set Gygax's (and Arneson's) game apart from all the others back in the day.

In that vein, I'll give Gygax the last word, quoting from Dungeon Masters Guide (1979, p.7),

As the creator and ultimate authority in your respective game, this work is written as one Dungeon Master equal to another. Pronouncements there may be, but they are not from "on high" as respects your game... When you build your campaign you will tailor it to suit your personal tastes. In the heat of play it will slowly evolve into a compound of your personality and those of your better participants, a superior alloy... As the author I also realize there are limits to my creativity and imagination. Others will think of things I didn't, and devise things beyond my capability. As an active Dungeon Master I kept a careful watch for things which would tend to complicate matters without improving them, systems devised seemingly to make the game drag for the players, rules which lessened the fantastic and unexpected in favor of the mundane and ordinary.

So say we all.

† See for instance Appendix A: Random Dungeon Generation in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (pp.169-173), if you thought the Treasure Table was confusing.

‡ Not to be confused with Tucker's Kobolds, free PDF here as of 4-19-2016. http://media.wizards.com/2014/downloads/dnd/TuckersKobolds.pdf

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Well it is a multi part meaning:

The best chart I ever saw for this was in a DMG.. BUT was 2nd Edition DnD (Page 133 Table 84 since I had to find that damn chart so much in the old days). Pretty much that chart best sums it up in one place all nice and neat. Do remember that the chart while in 2nd Ed. was almost exactly the same as the previous charts just easier to find than the previous editions.

The letters themselves were type "A-I" were lair treasures while "J-Z" were Individual and small lair types. They had no meaning of "H = Horde" or "F = Fey" ...that just was people ideas that didnt know about the tables or assumed (When I first started gaming this was even told to me that H=Horde when I ran a game I found out it didn't. Stated this tidbit for any who may have been led astray).

Letter Meanings and Types:

1. A-I: These were creature that are well known to acquire larger amounts of good and treasure. Also by history of amassing enormous hoards.

2. J-Z: Individual creature or intelligent types. These are more or less smaller and sometimes with the knowledge that it needs to be easy to transport. You can have several of these types to make a larger hoard.

The chart itself was cleared up in 2nd but how it goes is when a creature has a letter you would look at the chart and roll a percentile to see if it had that item and work your way across. Once you found out what was there in thier lair/hoard you'd roll to see how much of the coins/gems/items or what type of item was in it.

So to answer your question:

The chart was varied and was made as a "General" idea of what was in a hoard/lair. The letters rank up and the higher they went the better the gear. Also if a "-" was in there. the DM most the time could choose if it was and how much of the items with a "-" was in the hoard. This way the DM could balance or increase the horde to meet a creatures idea of worth. (Tidbit: some of the original books even noted Smaug and the hobbits and the value of the hoard through these charts but had to be removed due to copyright issue. I have two of them as proof they had it in there ;) )

It was also a guide for people to have a quick idea of what a creature may hold but enough of a "variance" so none could "Expect" items or monetary amounts to be there.

This should tell you a pattern with the letters on "Treasure Type" and a separation of lair/horde worth as well.

Hope this helps

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It's important to understand that the Treasure types go back to the earliest roots of the game when the DM was expected to be randomly generating much of the gaming content. The tables are present in the earliest drafts of the game (Mornard Fragments, Dalluhn/Beyond this Point be Dragons Mss.) and are apparently Gygax's expansion of Arneson's Dragon type treasures (First Fantasy Campaign 77:89) to cover all monster types.

Originally the procedure for determining whether a monster had a treasure was to

Roll again for every room and space. A roll of 1-3 in those rooms or spaces with monsters in them indicates some form of treasure is present. A roll of 1 in a room or space which is unoccupied indicates that there is some form of treasure there

(D&D Vol III 74:7)

Thus only 50% of monsters had treasure, and the presence of treasure had to be established before the treasure itself was determined. In the usual case of a monster in its lair, The DM was expected to turn to the treasure types - we see this clearly stated in Holmes D&D.

As can be seen from the MONSTERS section, many monsters carry treasure or secrete it in their "lair," cave, or dungeon room. The treasure types are listed in the table below and descriptions and additional tables are given later. There are many more magical and wondrous items described in ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, and the Dungeon Master can easily invent treasure items of his own. The tables are designed to maintain some sort of balance between the value of the dungeon's treasures and the risks involved in obtaining it. It is highly recommended, for this reason, that neophyte Dungeon Masters use the tables

(D&D Dasic Rulebook 77:33)

So in the case of using a treasure type for a monster in lair, if the resulting roll turned up nothing - as was quite often the case - the DM would then use the "Level Beneath Surface" treasure table on the page 7, which was also to be used for unguarded treasures. (D&D Vol III 74:7)

The most important aspect of these tables, from a design point, was of course the magic item occurrence, which was very deliberately designed to heavily favor disposable and fighter oriented items, as Gygax makes clear in the DMG

This random determination table needs no explanation. Because of its weighting, and the weighting of the MAGIC ITEMS table, most treasures will have magic potions, scrolls, armor and weapons. This is carefully planned so as to prevent imbalance in the game. Keep potent magic items rare. (Increase scarcity by destroying or stealing what is found!)

(DMG 1e 79:120)

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Analysis of OD&D (original booklets only) treasure types.

Looking at the Original D&D treasure we see the following

B,C,D, E, & F are in order of increasing value. Although Treasure Type D & E are roughly equivalent, D has less potential value but greater odds, while E has greater potential odds but lesser odds.

A, G, H, I are all all special treasure basically assigned to only one monster each.

A: Men & Centaur and is divided into Land, Desert, Water subcategories.

B: Skeletons, Zombies, Wights, Hydras, Nixies

C: Ogres (+1,000 GP), Gargoyles, Lycantropes, Minotaurs, Pixies, Gnomes

D: Orcs, Hobgoblins, Gnolls, Mummies, Cockatrices, Manticoras, Purple Worms, Dryads

E: Giants (+5,000 GP), Wraiths, Spectres, Gorgons, Wyverns, Elves, Griffons

F: Vampires, Basiliks, Medusae, Chimera

G: Dwarves

H: Dragons

I: Rocs

WaysoftheEarth over on the ODnD discussion forum did a numerical analysis of the different OD&D treasure types. Like noted above the D & E treasure types are the oddity in the general progression from B to F.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Fantastic. This and your other answer are the kind of answers I was looking for when I asked the question two years ago. \$\endgroup\$ – WrongOnTheInternet Oct 11 '18 at 2:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry I didn't notice it back then. But glad you find it still useful. \$\endgroup\$ – RS Conley Oct 11 '18 at 3:04

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