Tuesday 26 May 2020

B/X Loot vs. Danger

Continuing my investigations into B/X monster treasure, I wanted to understand how dangerous it is to get xp from different types of creatures. There are some well-known outliers - Dwarves have the high-density type G (which is unique to them), kobolds guard a pile of slag, and dragons have the chart-topping hoard "H". But where are goblins, ogres, minotaurs? Read on!

As a simple proxy for how tough a lair is to raid is, I used the creature's xp value, multiplied by the average number appearing in lair. For its lair gp value, I used the average treasure value of its treasure type.

With these numbers in hand, I have a fairly simple way to scatter the monsters across a graph of 'loot' vs. 'danger'.

Scatter plot of B/X monster lair danger vs. loot 
The graph mostly speaks for itself, but there are a few interesting critters.

One, kobolds are the absolute worst. They have substantially less treasure than normal rats! Kobolds carry type P, but this add insult to injury as you now have to go through their pockets to round out the miserable haul.

Moving up the left side of the cluster takes us on a tour of the easiest pickings - giant rats, halflings, carcass crawlers, bandits, dwarfs, troglodytes.

The right hand side of the cluster holds the creatures that make you work for slim pickings. Stirges, thouls, gargoyles, bugbears, ogres, and minotaurs. The minotaur is the toughest non-dragon creature on the graph, but it only has the same treasure as giant rats. That'll teach you to go looting in a prison!

Perhaps worst of all is the basilisk. If this chart is anything to go by, a nest of basilisks will leave you stone dead and dead broke.

Dragons are interesting because they all have type H. Red dragons are substantially tougher than black or (especially) white dragons, but they all have the same hoards.


  1. There's a further factor to consider: PC casualties per fight.
    E.g. In a fight against a Dragon, a typical party of 5 could reasonably be expected to lose 1 or more PCs, increasing the total value of the remaining shares. But in a fight against Giant Rats, all PCs are expected to survive. In a fight against a Minotaur, it could go either way. There's a sort of non-linear scaling factor to the "danger" axis then. Not one you could plot, but it's worth considering.

    1. Interesting, yeah. That's a big deal as far as danger level goes. That definitely seems like looking on the bright side, having to split treasure between a smaller number of survivors!

    2. Presumably the XP values capture that aspect of expected lethality to some degree.

  2. Cool stuff. All of this is making me dislike the Swords & Wizardry version of treasure (though I love S&W). Treasure based on total XP of the dungeon? Not sure I’m digging that.

    In a BX game I ran, a single giant rat almost got a TPK against a party of two characters. :-)

  3. I remember reading in the news once, there was this pill-mill operation in Florida, getting doctors to write unnecessary prescriptions for opiods, getting the patients to sell their pills to the drug dealers, the drug dealers then flipping them on the street for a massive profit.

    They made so much money that their cash-counting machines kept burning out.

    They also made so much money that from time to time they'd light an oil-drum of $1 bills on fire, because counting, bundling, and exchanging them would have cost more in wages per hour than they'd actually get from doing the labor of making those $1s spendable.

    I think about that sometimes, when I think about copper as a treasure type.

    1. That's an amazing tale.. what a strange world.

  4. Adventurers see the weird danger-to-loot ratio, go and check it out, die, leaving their loot behind. The shadows don't touch it, so there's just a pile of bones, weapons and coins surrounded by shadows. The ratio grows. More adventurers come etcetera