As your adventure progresses, the party acquires loot from defeated enemies. Much of it will be immediately useful – gold, gems, weapons, armor. Some of the gear will be sold at the next opportunity. Other items, perhaps rare or unique artifacts, will be held as “Party Treasure”.
There are a number of reasons a party might hold on to items. In some cases, it is a short-term arrangement – collecting gear as the party progresses through a dungeon, with the intention to sell it off when back in town. Other times, there are sentimental or practical reasons – a weapon may not be useful to a character until she attains a Feat at a future level, or a heraldic shield may be a treasure of a lost kingdom and the party intends to return it to a royal heir when one can be located. Party Treasure may hold potions, scrolls, tools, or magic items, for use when needed.
Your campaign might have a consistent group or a party of occasional, drop-in players. This will raise the question of who among the players will track the items currently in Party Treasure, and who will hold on to the Party Treasure list itself.
For a group with variable players, or a group with forgetful players likely to lose the party treasure list, it’s all right for the DM to keep the list between game sessions. HOWEVER, the DM should not be the one to track party treasure for the group. As the DM you already have a lot to plan and organize for your campaign. After you have equipped enemies with valuables and the characters have captured this loot, that treasure is now the players’ responsibility. If they sell it, trade it, keep it, lose it…it is theirs to manage.
The party will decide who among them tracks the party treasure, who keeps the sheet (if it will not be in the DM’s care for safekeeping), and how the party treasure will be allocated. Disagreements that happen in-character (between selfish, greedy, idealistic characters…) will be resolved through role-playing and compromise and will add to the players’ experience in your game. Intervene only if these negotiations cause a row between players that disrupts your campaign.
Some issues the players may need to discuss :
- Will an item be held for the “first refusal” of a character whose player was absent for that game session ?
- Can characters borrow funds from party treasure to buy an item for personal use?
- Will Party Treasure funds be used to pay for food or lodging for the group or cash-strapped characters?
- How will the group decide who gets an item when two or more characters have an interest in it?
- Do absent or new characters get a share of existing loot in Party Treasure?
- Is there a “value equivalency” system that accounts for when one character takes an extremely expensive item as her own, leaving the rest of the party to share the much smaller proceeds from the sale of other items ?
Critically important is HOW and WHERE Party Treasure is carried. Before your party has the wealth or luck to acquire Bags of Holding, there will be the issue of how all of the polearms, plate mail armor, dozens of potions, Giant-sized axes, ten thousand gold pieces, ornate onyx statues, pavilion tents, tapestries, and a dozen Cloaks of Resistance are being hauled around by a horseless party of Halflings and wizards. The DM should set practical limits on how much treasure the party can drag along with them when lacking a reasonable means of conveyance. At times this will force the party to decide which items to keep and which to abandon.
Especially when Party Treasure contains Wondrous Items, scrolls, and potions, it is essential to establish where these items are – particularly during combat. Assuming that a reasonable Party Treasure horde is carried in a single satchel or backpack, this stash is either left on the ground during combat or is carried by one character.
Characters cannot remotely “reach into” Party Treasure and miraculously draw forth one of the Cure Critical Wounds potions therein, as needed. Nor may a Fighter, surrounded by zombies, decide that now is the time to use the Undead-Bane hammer kept in Party Treasure…when the party treasure bag is at the Rogue’s feet, thirty yards away.
The DM provides the loot as spoils of combat. It is the players’ responsibility to track Party Treasure and manage its contents. And to explain how they are carrying it and which character has it, to the DM’s satisfaction.