This post is my own musings and an extension on WD’s excellent post on monster design. Seriously, it’s good stuff. Go read it.
It occurred to me that you could extrapolate the idea into more than just monster design. Really, you could use this sort of thing as a through-line for everything in your world, but that’s an entirely different post. Instead, let’s take a look at a way you can use it to create unique and exciting treasure.
Keyword being create, not generate. We’re using spark tables and punnett squares (so much terminology) together to put constraints on our creativity in order to flex it.
Let’s get right to it:
There are three spark tables below: origin, theme, and twist.
- Origin refers to the original creators of the treasure. This table can easily be replaced with one of your own that fits your world better. For the default spark tables, all of this treasure is assumed to be gathered from lost or fallen civilizations.
- Theme is a constraint to tie all the treasure together.
- Twist is a wrench thrown into the whole works, either mutating the theme, origin, or some other aspect.
Roll on all three spark tables and combine your results. Now you’ve got the seed of the treasure.
Behold the default Treasure Square:
edit: In the comments below, Nick suggests and alternative default and it’s honestly miles better than mine. Instead of functional and decorative, try “clear adventuring purpose” and “esoteric purpose”.
Your job now is to consider the seed you’ve created and fill in each square, so you’ll have a functional piece of magical treasure, a functional piece of non-magical treasure, a decorative piece of magical treasure, and a decorative piece of non-magical treasure.
That gives you four pieces of treasure. What if you need more? If you’re working with a specific adventure where the origin is mostly the same, reroll the theme and the twist. Now just refill the squares once again.
|1||Sunlight allergic||Isolation||Requires sacrifice|
|2||Magical body augmenters||Pride||Invert the theme|
|4||Ruined by hubris||Fate||Specific owner|
|6||Struck down by the gods||Empowerment||Repurposed|
|8||Sorcerers that have mastered the elements||Faith||Purify the origin|
|9||Led by a wizard council||Order||Unease|
|10||In harmony with nature||Rebellion||Precious Metals|
|11||Insectoids||War||Corrupt the theme|
|12||Manipulated by charismatic leaders||Vanity||Expand the theme|
|13||Banished demi-gods||Beauty||Tells a stor|
|14||Prized artisans||Chaos||Secondary theme|
|15||Globe spanning||Control||Corrupt the origin|
|17||Lived on flying cities||Youth||Heavy|
|18||Ubiquitous magic amongst everyone||Love||Recognizable|
|19||Wrongly labelled as monstrous||Dreams||Purify the theme|
|20||A healing and wellness collective||Glory||Famous|
Alright, you want to mix it up. Combine the squares, so you have one piece of decorative and functional treasure and a second piece the same, but non-magical. Combine them in three ways. Combine them all into one, detailing out a legendary item that fulfills every single square.
Once you’ve done that, try creating new and exciting Treasure Squares by choosing two things from each Alternative Squares column (or by rolling 4d20).
|D20||X AXIS||Y AXIS|
Let’s do a couple, shall we?
Starting with the default treasure table and rolling on the spark tables we get:
- Magical body augmenters
- Requires sacrifice
|Functional||Telak’s Wreath||Telak’s Claw|
|Decorative||Telak’s Mirror||Statue of Telak|
Telak’s Wreath is a laurel wreath made of gold. When wearing it on your head, you’re able to control every aspect of your body: unless you want to, you no longer: bleed, breathe, eat, drink, or sleep. If you take it off, you can never wear it again. For each day you wear it, 1d10 percent of your body turns to gold. This does not reverse if you remove it. You can still use the body parts, but someone worth their weight in gold (literally) is rather lucrative…
Telak’s Claw isn’t magical, but it’s still useful. It’s a gauntlet made of interlinking plates of adamantine, unbreakable by almost all means. Installing it allows the user to use the claw as both a masterwork weapon and an unbreakable shield. Installing it is the problem—long screws need to be drilled through the flesh, connecting one side of the claw to the other running straight through the arm. It’s a bloody process that can be made easier with healing tinctures, but with the claw installed, the arm can never truly heal.
Telak’s Mirror requires a deep cleaning once a month. It must be washed in blood. It’s ten feet tall and fifteen feet wide, and made of an adamantine frame. Incredibly heavy and difficult to move. If it’s been washed in blood, the mirror will reflect the perfected version of anyone who makes eye contact with their reflection. This only works with the species whose blood washed the mirror—use rat blood, and it’ll only show you a perfect rat (whatever that means).
The Statue of Telak is a a fifteen foot tall full body marble statue inlaid with gold and silver. The person carved into the marble is incredibly muscular, holding a regal pose that looks down on the masses. It is incredibly heavy, difficult to move, and prying out the previous inlaid metal reveals the dark secret underneath—Telak themselves is inside and still very much alive.
For a second example, let’s generate an entirely new square randomly.
For the columns, we get:
For the rows, we get:
For the sparks, we get:
Let’s put together a treasure square:
|Hide||Spy’s charm||Messenger’s Knife|
|Curse||Spy’s charm||Messenger’s Quill|
The spy’s charm is a small ruby embedded underneath the skin, near the heart. Implanting it is dangerous, but when the operation is over, it’ll heal the skin over to remove any marks of its presence. Three things happen when the spy’s charm is over your heart:
- Any source of magic to locate you, discern your alliance, scry on you, or otherwise tell if you’re being truthful doesn’t work. You know that magic is being used on you, and you can send back whatever information you’d like to the wizard trying to figure you out.
- If you ever betray the person who implanted the charm, it unleashes a blast of magic fueled by your body, causing you to explode in a purple fireball. If you try to install the charm yourself it, it never activates and you can’t use the magic above.
- You can also manually trigger the explosion if necessary. You won’t survive, but anyone close by is in a lot of trouble.
The messenger’s knife is a small purple gemstone that glows with a shadowy unlight. If anyone within one hundred feet of you tries to send a message (through magical or non-magical means) you can secretly trigger the item. The message will not reach the recipient. (If it’s magical, the magician won’t know it’s been blocked. If it’s non-magical, the letter or means of the message will simply vanish halfway through the journey.) After using the knife, there’s a 1-in-6 chance that it becomes inert, unable to be used again.
The messenger’s quill is a small orange gemstone that glows with the same shadowy unlight. If anyone within one hundred feet of you receives a message (through magical or non-magical means) you can secretly trigger the item. You’ll immediately know the contents of the message, and can change it to whatever you see fit. (If it’s magical, the magician won’t know it’s been tampered with. If it’s non-magical, the message changes but the handwriting and seals remain the same.) After using the quill, there’s a 5-in-6 chance that it becomes inert, unable to be used again.
That’s it! Have fun and brainstorm some new treasure on some squares!
Did you enjoy this post? Consider signing up to the mindstorm, my semi-regular newsletter!