Treasure Distribution, The Ranked Picking System

One possible way to do Treasure Distribution for Dungeons and Dragons (or Advanced Dungeons and Dragons)...

The Ranked Picking System

Each time we gain treasure the players should rank in order of significance how much they want certain items.

For example let's say we find the following:
  • 1 wand of Burning Hands
  • 1 staff of Light (cleric or druid only)
  • 1 large shield +1
  • 1 potion of Extra Healing
  • 1 suit of plate mail (non magical, dwarven sized)
  • 1 suit of elvish chainmail +1 (human sized)
  • 1 riding horse, complete with saddle and saddlebags/etc
  • evil looking dagger +1, possibly cursed (detects of evil)
  • treasure chest containing over 2000 gold
Each player would then rank how much they want the item: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc... Any time there is an item your PC cannot use you should automatically put NOT INTERESTED when ranking their interest in an item. Ranking an item your character cannot use disqualifies you from getting the item. Everyone is automatically listed for a share of the treasure chest (unless you have a vow of poverty), but this will always be the last thing divided up and is always ranked at the bottom.

So for example Charles (Beldin) would rank the items like so:
  • shield - 1
  • dwarf sized plate mail - 2
  • potion - 3
  • horse - 4
  • human sized elvish chainmail - NOT INTERESTED
  • staff - NOT INTERESTED
  • evil looking dagger, possibly cursed - NOT INTERESTED
  • share of treasure chest - AUTOMATIC

Everyone would rank the items in a similar manner, and starting with the items which have the least number of 1s we then divide up the treasure.

If only 1 person wants the item, they get it automatically. If 2 or more eligible people want it, the players vote to decide who receives it (often with people voting based upon usability).

Before voting each player wanting an item can make a brief argument (30 seconds or less ideally) for why they are deserving of the item.

[Note - Characters do not get a vote. Players do. Effectively each player is in this on behalf of 1 main character.]

Once all the items with ranks of 1 have been divided up then we repeat the process for ranks 2 for any items that have not yet been distributed. Often most of the items will disappear during the distribution of Rank 1 items. However the difference now is that anyone who already received a Rank 1 item is exempted from getting a Rank 2 item - UNLESS there was nobody else interested in the item in the Ranks 2, 3, 4, etc. Thus it is possible for 1 player to receive two items, but only if nobody else actually wants it in the lower rankings. We continue down the ranks, voting and dividing up each item based upon desirability and usability.

The "Share of Treasure Chest" is divided last, but it is also unevenly based upon how many people received a higher ranked item. Anyone who received a Rank 1 item only gets 1/2 share, and anyone who received 2 or more items gets zero share of the treasure chest. Someone who received 0 items during the distribution of other items gets double the share of gold/etc.


If someone received an item, they would only receive a 1/2 share of the gold.
If someone received no items, they would receive a double share of the gold (effectively 4 times what someone would receive if they already received an item).

Ranking Strategically - Someone might look at the value of the gold and decide they're not interested in things like the riding horse and then decide to rank strategically, saying NOT INTERESTED in the horse or similar items, just so they can get a double share of the chest full of gold. Others might look at the horse as being useful and decide it is worth not getting a larger share of the gold.

Cursed Items - If nobody actually wants an item believed to be cursed the party should make an effort to either give it away, use it to bribe someone, deliberately lose it somewhere unlikely to be found, or attempt to destroy it.

Party Funds (Optional)

In order to pay taxes, tolls, food, stays at inns, bribes, repairs, Identifying magical items, etc it is recommended setting aside 1 share of party gold for Party Funds, which can be used to pay miscellaneous things that the party needs. Usually this sum would then be carried by various trustworthy members of the party.


While we're at it, let's quickly discuss a few extra topics that will inevitably come up during games...


Once a person owns an item it is considered theirs and theirs alone, unless they sell the item, trade it, give it away, throw it away, or destroy it. Items cannot be redistributed later if a second treasure is later found.

However if two players agree to trade an item, or one player agrees to sell an item to another for an agreed upon sum of gold and/or items, then this can be done privately (preferably outside of game time).

Players could also decide that they don't need two swords, for example, and then give away an item to another player (or give it to an ally, or henchman/hireling, or even as a bribe to a NPC). What they do with it is their choice and theirs alone.


PCs should be encouraged to write a last will and testament stating who gets their various items if their character should die. It should never be a situation where the party just automatically loots the dead character. The items could end up going to PCs, to NPCs, to be donated to an orphanage, or they might even insist the items are buried with them.


Thievery is certainly a real possibility, but would spell consequences for the thief when eventually caught. PCs who discover a thief might decide to attack them, might choose to punish them in some manner, or might simply refuse to aid the thief thence onwards (eg. leaving them to die). Items stolen once discovered would be returned to the proper owner. A severe and non-violent penalty however would be to take all magical items (or anything else considered valuable) from the thief and give them to the person who had been robbed, who can then use them, or sell/give away items at their leisure.

Missing potions and scrolls. Another problem. Harder to prove who took them and used them. Again, consequences should be swift and severe.

Players should make an effort to record where on their persons (or their horses) they are storing various items of value. Eg. Hiding a potion in their boot. Thus if someone is attempting to rob them they must declare where they are looking and the DM can check with the character sheet to determine where a particular item is hidden.

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