Whether you run a heroic fantasy campaign or prefer something gritty and dark, it’s likely that your players will look forward to the moment when their foes finally drop. Early in the career of any adventuring party, PCs start rummaging through the belongs of fallen opponents in search of loot.
As a GM, it’s fun to watch your players get excited to discover what treasures they have found. However, it can be a bit of a slippery slope. Gold and gems can feel too mundane to be satisfying, while too many magical goodies can throw your game into an unpredictable state.
I like to keep my players on their toes with unusual items that they are not expecting. By sprinkling in occasional pieces of unique loot I’m often able to spark the imaginations of my players, while also creating a reason for them to buy into the story at large.
This week I have compiled a list of 25 different items that your party might discover while looking for loot. Hopefully you can drop some of these into your game. You may roll a d100 and let fate take its course or peruse through and see if something strikes your fancy.
01-04 Treasure Map: This is straightforward. The map can be for something you already have planned or you can wait to see if they ever pursue it. Either way, their foe was carrying a map that marked the way to some great treasure. Will they become treasure hunters?
05-08 Mag of Marbles: A simple bag of marbles. The question here becomes “what will the party do with them?” Enterprising adventurers might use them as simple baubles to trade with creatures they meat, or perhaps they throw them to the ground while making a desperate escape. It’s fun to see what they will come up with.
9-12 Love Letter: Somehow the villain your party just dispatched came into possession of a rather steamy love letter. Who was it from? Has the author or the intended recipient met their final fate or are they simply locked away somewhere? Will the party try to find out or will they simply move on?
13-16 Wanted Poster: Rifling through the belongings of the fallen foe, the party discovers a wanted poster. The posted might feature a notorious villain, a “harmless” NPC that the party encountered a couple sessions ago, or even one of the PCs themselves.
17-20 Spyglass: If the system you’re using doesn’t happen to have specific rules for such an item, it’s easy enough to come up with something. Make it a worthwhile little trinket for your party.
21-24 Invitation: The party discovers an invitation for x number of people to a masquerade ball. There’s a lot you can do with this one. Perhaps the fallen opponent had been the invitee or perhaps they had simply come into possession of the invitation. Who is throwing the party? It could be the BBEG, an influential NPC, or perhaps the person who owns some MacGuffin that the party needs to acquire.
25-28 Key: An ornate key is found. There may be documentation included as to what the key unlocks, or not. The key might be useful in an upcoming adventure or perhaps it would give them access to unexplored areas that they had to pass by during a previous engagement. Alternatively, it may be a fragile skeleton key that would give them a percentage change to open any lock but likely break once used.
29-32 Bag of Toys: The party discovers a bag of finely made handmade toys. While they might fetch a decent price on their own, the party might gift them to the child of a landed lord, to gain favor. Perhaps they give them to the local street urchins who will then thankfully be their eyes and ears in the city.
33-36 Diary: A carefully wrapped diary is found. Who did it belong to and what secrets does it hold? Does the party use it for blackmail, sell it to the highest bidder, or return it quietly to the rightful owner?
37-40 Bag of Bones: Is this just a grisly discovery or does it give the party some valuable insight into something? What type of creature are the bones from? Do they carry any value with local alchemists?
41-44 Peculiar Coins: The party has never seen coins like these. Possibly they are oddly shaped or forged from strange new metal. Perhaps they are stamped with the visage of some horrible abomination.
45-48 Mislabeled Potion: This is the only item on the list that is magical. It has magical properties; it just doesn’t do what it says it does.
49-52 Bag of Caltrops: It’s fun to watch what the party comes up with for these. If your system doesn’t happen to have specific rules for these, it’s easy to whip something up. Something like: “Covers a 5’ square area. Creatures not moving carefully through must save or take 1-2 damage and be immobilized for a turn.”
53-56 Troop Movements: The party finds documents detailing the upcoming troop movements in a local conflict. What will they do with this information? They might use it to sneak behind enemy lines, win the favor of a local lord, or sell to the highest bidder.
57-60 Exotic Creature: The party discovers a small cage containing an exotic creature. Will it become a pet? Will the party sell it to a local noble? Does it simply become dinner?
61-64: Piece of Chalk: While perfectly mundane, I love seeing what my players will do with chalk. Are they marking subterranean passages with it, sharing with peasant children, or grinding it up into a fine powder?
65-68 Flamboyant Hat: Unbeknownst to the party, this foppish headpiece was recently stolen from a wealthy noble. Describe it as you wish. However, it will instantly be recognized in town if the party tries to sell it or wear it.
69-72 Fireworks: Party finds a bag of fireworks. This is another one where it’s just fun to sit back and see what the party finds to do with them.
73-76 Jar of Ink: This is a 1-quart jar of black ink, capable of making quite a mess. Let’s see what the party does with it.
77-80 Secret Map: This is a map of a local cave complex or building. However, all the secret entrances are labeled.
81-84 Important Missive: This piece of parchment details the most recent orders from someone. Perhaps it’s from your BBEG to one of his lieutenants. Alternately it could be from a guild leader taking action on one of their rivals.
85-88 Body: The party finds the remains of a somewhat famous person who was not known to be deceased. Will they go to the authorities, or would that risk them being blamed?
89-92 Tome: This musty old tome contains lore about something specific within your world. It could pertain to history, geography, or politics. There’s no need to flesh out the whole book. Just allow your players a % chance to find a relevant bit of information if they spend time reading through the pages.
93-96 Mystery Box: This appears to be a simple wooden box with the dimensions being up to the GM. While a mundane item, characters taking time to really investigate it will discover a finely crafted hidden compartment.
97-100 Inheritance: This final one is a bit of an homage to the classic The Enemy Within campaign for WHFRP. The party finds a notarized document claiming that the bearer is entitled to a large inheritance. No need to take the Warhammer route here but it obviously creates some fun moral questions for the party.
That’s all for now. Do you have any bits of mundane loot that you’ve handed out to your players to spur their creativity or help develop your story? If so, please comment below. I would love to hear what has worked for you. Have a great weekend and good gaming!