This is Part Four of in a series re-examining treasure types in OD&D and discussing a possible mnemonic replacement.
Today’s topic: maps and magic items.
Unlike other treasure items, the monetary value of maps and magic items is not used in the treasure types at all. One obvious reason for this: the random treasure tables include cursed items mixed in with useful items. That’s kind of what you want, if you are aiming for an old-school experience: players never know if an item is useful or cursed based solely on superficial examination.
Instead, items are sorted by their general form and function, which is why I originally chose to assign one letter to each form:
- M for Maps
- P for Potions
- S for Scrolls
- W for Weapons or Armor
- X for Any Magic Item
But in way, this doesn’t make sense. Because:
Any time a treasure type specifically includes a Map, Potion, Scroll, or Weapon, it’s one added item of that type, over and above any other maps, potions, scrolls, or weapons that are rolled by accident.
In other words, “Any 4 + 1 Potion and 1 Scroll” may mean:
- 5 potions and a scroll,
- 1 potion and 5 scrolls,
- 1 potion, 1 scroll and 4 items that aren’t potion,
- Some other mix of 6 items that includes at least one potion and one scroll.
Since the only vowel code that makes sense for items is “unique” (u), it makes more sense to cluster all magic items together in one “word”.
So: 4 Xu+ps would be a better way to write “Any 4 + 1 Potion and 1 Scroll” than “4 Xu Pu Su”, because it’s more compact. Besides, the repeated “u” codes makes the code look repetitive.
There’s only one roll to see if a treasure trove includes maps and/or magic items, not one roll per potential item.
Again, the “4 Xu Pu Su” code would be misleading, because it looks like there are four rolls: one for four magic items of any type, one for a potion, and one for a scroll. It should actually be a single all-or-none roll.
You can still use M/P/S/W if there is only one item type. One example: pirates do not have magic items, but do have a chance for a single treasure map. This would be the code Mu.
Next week: dice and probabilities.
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