How do I correctly calculate how much loot to give at the end of a dungeon?


Rules Questions


So I'm building a dungeon for an upcoming game of mine but I'm a little confused as how to handle it, It's going to have multiple small encounters in it along with a good number of puzzles and traps however I'm a bit confused as to how I should handle all of that.

Let's say I have an APL of 4 and my party faces three separate combat encounters and for simplicity's sake, let's say they all were a CR of 4. My understanding is that the loot generally should equal 1,150 GP for a medium speed game per encounter right? Okay, then they face the boss encounter which will be a CR of let's say 6 which should have its loot be somewhere around the value of 2,000 GP.

So that would be

1,150
1,150
1,150
2,000

I want to give the party a bit of loot on their way through the dungeon but make the majority of their haul be at the very end in a treasure room, So how should I handle this? Do I add the total of all the treasure together for the final room for a grand total of 5450? Do I keep the spending separate and get loot out that's worth only as much as what could be afforded with each individual encounter? (So nothing worth like say 3000g) or am I doing this all wrong? Please help I'm struggling to understand this all.

Also while I'm at it I understand that Traps have CRs tied to them, Do they factor in to the total loot? And what about things like puzzles?

Thanks for all the help in advance.


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It seems like you are on the right track. Make a decision about how many experience points and gold pieces you want to make available to the party, and how much of what you make available you want the party to actually get.

Then distribute the points and treasure on your imaginary game board according to taste.

NihilsticBanana wrote:
Also while I'm at it I understand that Traps have CRs tied to them, Do they factor in to the total loot? And what about things like puzzles?

Sure. Give them credit for things other than killing things for the experience of killing. Unless, murder-hobo really is what you're about as a GM.


I think a lot of the suggested rules are overly complicated to an absurd degree. Here's how I do it:

Figure out the difference between the wealth they have and the wealth they're supposed to have next level.

Then, decide how much experience to next level the encounter represents (10%, 50%, etc.)

Find the percentage from the second step of the first step.

EXAMPLE: your lvl4 characters are right on track with 6,000gp. The average wealth for a lvl5 character is 10,500gp, so that's a difference of 4,500.

Now, say you want these characters to be 75% of the way to lvl5 by the time they're done with this dungeon. 75% of 4,500 is 3,375gp. So, this dungeon should have about 3,375gp worth of treasure per PC.

I find it easiest to do this a level at a time, rather than per encounter. That way, I can plan out the distribution and density of treasure beforehand and still be close to the mark. Large rewards, encounters with animals or traps, random tombs off in the woods--as long as you keep track of the total of your party's average current wealth and know what your target is, you're good.


I'd say a combination of Quixote and Scott Wilhelm's ideas is good. As Quixote says, decide how much they're supposed to have by next level, and then apply Scott's idea of sprinkling those ingredients however you see fit. It's fine to have some encounters with low/no treasure, as long as A) the other loot drops make sense (so no rat nest with a stash of +1 longswords, but maybe some shiny gems, etc.) and B) it still feels rewarding to do minor battles. Drop some low-level potions or consumables that don't add a lot money-wise, but could still be considered useful. You don't want all the loot heaped in one encounter, but it's fine to either front-load some treasure and not hand out as much in the next few combats (say, 2500 gp in the first combat, and around 500 gp in the next two), or vice versa. As long as the loot adds up by the end of the dungeon.

As an aside, I'm not a fan of leveling by XP. I'm much more a fan of "you've defeated this boss, or completed this story arc. As a reward, you've earned the next level." It prevents players from needless grinding and allows the GM to determine the pace of the game. I'm much the same with loot. Have they earned a bit of an upgrade? In that case, have a cool magic weapon. If not, here's some minor stuff to keep you happy, but not so destructive that you'll blow up my next encounters.


For me I would have 1150 gp for every encounter a APL:4 group has, regardless of CR.
However I wouldn't had it out at every encounter. I tend to pile it up and the put it in the dungeon where I feel it is appropriate. Some of it will be the reward given them by the local villagers for success. some of it will be random coins lying on the ground or in pockets, some of it will be the equipment of the monsters they kill, a good chunk might be found in a secret room and the bulk of it will be found with the "End Boss"

I also tend to use the average value magic items before coming up with anything specific. So Minor Item is 1000 gp of the treasure, medium=10,000go major = 40,000gp. If that Minor Item ends up being a +1 magic weapon (2000 gp value) that's fine, If the Medium item ended up bing a Pring of protection +2 (8000 gp value) that's fine too.

by and large it's worked out well. If their Wealth is lagging behind I can always throw in something extra. If it's looking like too much I can always be stingy or insert some non-money rewards like "Magical Blessing of +2 Sacred vs. Disease for the next year" or "you can learn 1 feat from the book of hideously overpowered feats"


Wealth By Level is honestly lower than what I'd expect characters developed through actual play to have. If you follow the guidelines for rewarding treasure per encounter the PCs should have an opportunity to gain much more treasure than what WBL would indicate.

Then again, all you need is to pay for 1 Raise Dead and a few Restorations to account for that extra wealth. WBL is a helpful tool for creating characters above 1st level, and judging if the characters in your campaign have too much wealth. As long as they aren't more than double WBL it should be fine. If they get beyond that...cut back on rewards, give them equipment they have to sell off for half value, or create a situation where the PCs should willingly split with some of their wealth. An easy way to do that is to give them some land they can't sell. Making a building isn't something that will bankrupt a party, but the players should willingly spend significant amounts of wealth on a non-adventuring property.

Anything that provides no advantage to adventuring shouldn't be counted in WBL. That includes hording gold! Gold only provides a benefit when you spend it.

As for distributing treasure, treat it like you would distributing encounters. Give monsters treasure appropriate to the type of encounter. Most traps don't have treasure, so move the treasure to another encounter. NPCs usually have more treasure than their CR would indicate, so put in some monsters that don't have loot (or trivial loot) so you can move treasure from those encounters to the NPCs.

Also its kind of a tradition to put some treasure in odd locations that the PCs probably won't explore. If they miss it, that is fine. If they find it...they find it. Stick a rotting leather bag full of diamonds in a well. Hide a pouch full of silver in a chimney. Have a spellbook hidden under a loose floorboard (DC 20 perception to notice). usually there is enough wealth given out that it doesn't cripple a party to miss some of it. Scattering wealth rewards people for being curious. You want curious players to both find trouble and rewards, because it is an adventure!


Quentin Coldwater wrote:
As an aside, I'm not a fan of leveling by XP. I'm much more a fan of "you've defeated this boss, or completed this story arc. As a reward, you've earned the next level." It prevents players from needless grinding and allows the GM to determine the pace of the game. I'm much the same with loot. Have they earned a bit of an upgrade? In that case, have a cool magic weapon. If not, here's some minor stuff to keep you happy, but not so destructive that you'll blow up my next encounters.

I'm in a campaign that is gonna start next March or so, and I was just talking to the GM about level progression. I talked with him about how Pathfinder Society doesn't work with regular Experience Points: you complete 3 scenarios, you gain 1 level. That means you play with your character 1/week, every week, it takes 33 weeks to get to level 12, and if PFS went up to level 20, that would take 57 weeks: about 8 months to level 12, a little over a year to get to level 20. A mutual friend of ours ran it like it took 2 adventures to get to level 2; 3 to get to level 3, 9 to get from level 8-9, etc. That would mean that adventuring 1/week without ever missing a week, it would take 4 years of adventuring to get to level 20. To my experience, campaigns don't last that long. Even if the group stays together, people get tired of their characters and want to create new ones.

My advice to him was to make 2 decisions to start with: what level did he want his campaign to reach by the end, and how long did he expect his campaign to run? If he wanted it to get to level 20 between March and December, that would like 1 level every 2 adventures.

I guess my next piece of advice is to practice running some combats and seeing how long they take, and work that calculation into how many combats to work into each session.


Meirril wrote:
Wealth By Level is honestly lower than what I'd expect characters developed through actual play to have. If you follow the guidelines for rewarding treasure per encounter the PCs should have an opportunity to gain much more treasure than what WBL would indicate.

Yeah, WBL seems like a good baseline for how much treasure to make available within your span of adventures, but I'd add more hidden or hard to get to reward superior play.


For me, a good homegame solution always seemed leveling every 3-4 sessions (so roughly what PFS does). Depending on how much you accomplish every session, of course. Every 3-4 sessions means you see progress and you don't get bored with what you have right now. Just a few sessions to show off your new goodies, then get new ones.

I've also been in a group that did 1, maybe 2 combats each session, just because we were just messing around a lot. I mean, I liked it, but it would take literal months to level, and that got boring really fast.


Scott Wilhelm wrote:

To my experience, campaigns don't last that long. Even if the group stays together, people get tired of their characters and want to create new ones...

...what level did he want his campaign to reach by the end, and how long did he expect his campaign to run?

I've run games that lasted a couple years, and one that went just over a decade, but most of the time, you're right.

Looking at a game in terms of number of sessions and desired end-level is essential to my process, these days.


Traps can have treasure, if you want them to. A pit trap in the middle of a hall could have a corpse at the bottom with valuable gear; a chamber with a Burning Hands trap on the wall might have said trap guarding a treasure chest hidden in the opposite wall. Treasure can be wherever you need it to be.

Also remember that WBL, while a handy guideline, is not the full picture. A PC at 4th level can be expected to have 6,000 GP worth of gear by WBL; they might, however, have a handful of consumables like Oil of Magic Stone or a wand of Forced Quiet with a few charges left in it that push them over that 6,000 GP goal line - per the PFSRD:

Placing Treasure wrote:
lists the amount of treasure each PC is expected to have at a specific level. Note that this table assumes a standard fantasy game. Low-fantasy games might award only half this value, while high-fantasy games might double the value. It is assumed that some of this treasure is consumed in the course of an adventure (such as potions and scrolls) and that some of the less useful items are sold for half value so more useful gear can be purchased.

The part I bolded suggests that some of those consumables are expected to get used through the course of the adventure so if they start with EXACTLY 6,000 GP at level 4 including those consumables when they use them in the course of an adventure they are now below WBL.

So I guess my point is, WBL is a guideline.

As far as where and how much treasure you place in your dungeon, the folks above give great suggestions. These are not, however the full picture. Consider the dungeon itself and its monstrous denizens. Could the PCs be taking Trophies from any of the monsters? How is the dungeon decorated? If the PCs used Make Whole, Prestidigitation and skills, could they recover furnishings, art objects, or historical gear from the site and make money from these? Finally, think about those traps; if one of them has, say, a crossbow in it could a PC dismantle the trap and take the crossbow?

If your players actually exploit some or all of these revenue streams, they might surpass WBL unexpectedly. If this occurs, will you pare down the gold and loot sitting in that treasure room at the end of the dungeon? What if they have already cleared the dungeon, looted all of the obvious treasure, and then scour the place for these alternative wealth sources?

You're planning a dungeon for APL 4. The final encounter is CR 6 so presumably the other 3 encounters will be between CR4 and CR5. Right off the top of my head from the Bestiary I can imagine a room containing a pair of giant scorpions nesting in one chamber. The entry for these monsters says Treasure: None however the section on Trophies suggests that a CR 3 monster is worth 150 GP. Perhaps their stingers could be taken and mounted? What about their poison? A single dose of Large Scorpion Poison is worth 200 GP and can be harvested using an optional rule and the Survival skill. So if the party clears the dungeon, comes back to the room with these monsters and it hasn't been too long (within 24 hours) they might be able to extract an extra 700 GP from this encounter.

Not much, but more than you were expecting. Almost enough for a level 1 wand. And that's just the monsters.

Imagine that the dungeon itself is an old tomb in a "Diablo-esque" design style with lots of old ironwork throughout. Now imagine that your clever players bring a bag of holding and scoop up 4 of those old ornate wrought-iron candle-stands? Using Make Whole and Prestidigitation they get them looking brand new; you might only give them the value of the iron (1 lb = 1 SP) but they might try to argue historic or artistic significance. If you relent that could x4 art objects worth maybe another 200 GP.

Again, these aren't HUGE amounts of gold but they can add up if enterprising players are willing to put in the work and time. I only mention any of this to illustrate the point that WBL can be a handy guideline but may not be a perfect number to shoot for.

I guess in the end, the rule that I've always followed is put treasure where you THINK it should be, even with traps and skill challenges, and don't worry too much about WBL.

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