Excerpts Archive | 10/27/2008
Article Header Image
Excerpts: Hoards

In today’s Draconomicon preview, we look at sample dragon hoards, including using them as terrain, as well as tables of art objects worked into the wealth.

Fighting dragons is not for the faint of heart. It’s nasty work, and taking on a dragon in its lair might be the last thing a would-be hero will ever do. With the power a dragon has at its disposal, one might wonder why an adventurer would bother squaring off against such a terror when fighting goblins and orcs are far easier prey. The reason is simple: the dragon’s hoard.

Dragon hoards are legendary in the Dungeons & Dragons game world with good reason. Of all the vaults player characters plunder, of all the monsters they defeat, none of them grants the reward that defeating a dragon does. A dragon’s hoard is a thing of beauty: piles of fabulous coins, priceless jewelry, chests heaped near to bursting with precious gemstones, weapons, armor, and long-lost magic items. A hoard excites the senses, sparks the imagination, and provides a thrill equal to the vicious fight with the dragon.

The treasure that makes up even the lowliest dragon’s hoard is enough to keep a commoner comfortable for the rest of his days, while the larger hoards of great wyrms and ancient dragons could give a mortal coin enough to purchase a small kingdom. With all that tempation, it’s no wonder fools and heroes alike test their mettle against these creatures of legend.

Dragon Hoard as Terrain

A dragon’s hoard can be just what it seems—a pile of gold and items that will keep the PCs well stocked until their next adventure. However, a dragon’s hoard can be as much of a hazard as a deadly trap or as beneficial as a healing font. A hoard might interfere with movement, slash at foes that stumble into it, or make fighting atop of slippery gold coins a significant tactical error. These possibilities offer obstacles and provide advantages to make the battle in the dragon’s lair as memorable as facing the dragon itself.

Adding fantastic terrain elements to a dragon’s hoard does not affect the monetary value of the hoard, nor does it alter or modify any of the magic items. Instead, the dragon’s hoard and its unusual effects can be a result of the treasure’s composition. A stockpile of gold coins could interfere with movement, while a highly polished shield might temporarily blind a character standing nearby.

Size and Space: For the purpose of placing fantastic treasure hoards, assume that a treasure hoard covers 1 square for every 10,000 coins present. Additional items such as piles of weapons, armor, and large valuables can take up additional room. Dragons like to look at beautiful, interesting, or intriguing things from different perspectives, so arrange the hoard around the lair, placing the terrain as needed to make the combat engaging.

Fantastic Terrain Types

Come up with one of your own design or select a fantastic feature that works best with the treasures in the hoard from among those that follow. A hoard should have no more than one fantastic terrain quality per tier (one for a heroic tier hoard, two for paragon, and three for epic).

Combustibles: Some treasures are flammable. These include paper, scrolls, furs, and precious woods—in addition to such items as furniture, wagons, and carriages. All of those can go up in flames. Whenever treasure in a square of this terrain type is in the area of a close or area attack power that has the fire keyword, it automatically catches fire. Characters starting their turns in a space adjacent to flaming treasure take 5 fire damage at the heroic tier, 10 fire damage at the paragon tier, or 20 fire damage at the epic tier. Combustible treasures are destroyed when they burn. In addition, the combustion creates smoke, lightly obscuring the area within 2 squares of it. The fire and smoke persist until the end of the encounter, though a character can extinguish the flames in 1 square with a standard action to smother them.

Dazzling Treasure: A mirror, shield, or other shiny surface reflects and intensifies light shined upon it so that those nearby are temporarily blinded by its brightness. A character ending his or her movement in a square adjacent to dazzling treasure and within the area of a light source is blinded until the start of his or her next turn.

Distracting Prisoner: A dragon’s incredible charisma and the sheer terror it inspires can unravel the minds of those it holds prisoner. Some just weep and gibber, but a few come to see the dragon as their friend, protector, and champion, in spite of the fact that the dragon will most likely eat them eventually. So deluded are these fools that they might try to hamper or distract their would-be rescuers.

The first character to start his or her turn in a square adjacent to a distracting prisoner takes a –1 penalty to speed. Wherever the character goes, the deluded prisoner attempts to cling to the character and follow him. An affected character can escape the prisoner, leaving the prisoner standing where it is and removing the speed penalty, by succeeding on a DC 10 Strength check as a standard action. Otherwise, the speed penalty lasts until the end of the encounter or until the prisoner is slain.

Dragon-Cursed: Dragon-cursed treasure carries the maliciousness of its owner to such an extent that anyone that handles as much as a gold piece falls under a mild curse. A character in possession of dragon-cursed treasure while the dragon still lives takes a –2 penalty to all defenses until he or she discards the tainted item (throws it away to no benefit) or has a Remove Affliction ritual performed on him or her.

Shifting Piles and Slippery Coins: Loose coins can be treacherous to move through, since they create unstable footing. Each square containing treasure counts as difficult terrain. In addition, the dragon gains a +5 bonus to Perception checks made to hear intruders when they enter a square containing the treasure.

Vicious Treasure: As wondrous as a hoard can be, it can also be dangerous. Caches contain weapons, armor, and other sharp objects that can snag and cut the unwary. Any character who enters a square containing vicious treasure takes 5 damage at the heroic tier, 10 damage at the paragon tier, or 20 damage at the epic tier.

Sample Hoards


Parcels 1, 4, 6, and 10

  • A small leather bag holds 250 gp and sits next to a larger cloth bag, moldy and rotten, containing 240 sp.
  • An exquisite shirt of raven feathers hangs on a mannequin’s torso (250 gp). On the ground beneath it is a level 9 magic item.
  • A loose pile of 7,000 cp surrounds a heap of raccoon pelts (16 gp) and a level 6 magic item.


Parcels 4, 6, and 10

  • A large wooden chest holds 20 pp, 3,460 gp, 4,000 sp, and a small black bag containing 400 Bael Turathan gold triams (rare gold pieces).
  • A velvet pouch holds a sapphire (1,000 gp), an emerald (1,000 gp), a fire opal (1,000 gp), and a black pearl (500 gp).
  • A bolt of linen (160 gp) lies on the floor next to a ceramic jug that holds a gallon of purple ink (80 gp).
  • Another wooden chest holds a golden crown set with moonstones and pearls (2,500 gp), an adamantine ring engraved with a small prayer to Moradin (1,500 gp), and a level 16 magic item.


Parcels 4, 6, and 10

  • Entrapped in a shimmering cylinder of force is a rather angry-looking human with golden hair and sparkling skin. This prisoner is a divine emissary who has been trapped in the world for nearly a century. If the PCs free him, he rewards them with 45,000 gp and a level 26 magic item, and then departs immediately to report to his god.
  • A pile of 920 pp and 8,000 gp sits on the floor.
  • A small gray bag holds 8 ad, a coral ring fitted with eight small black diamonds (50,000 gp), and fifteen blue diamonds (5,000 gp each).
  • A darkly stained rug woven from vrock feathers is rolled up and leaning in a corner (50,000 gp).

Art Objects in Hoards

Defining Art Objects: When designing a new art object, you can use the following table and its attendant lists to generate art objects quickly. Start by picking a type of art object or rolling d20 to select randomly from those listed on the Art Objects table. Some types of art objects include lists to pick from to further define an object. Select from them if you want, or don’t, depending on the level of detail you need. Art objects with an (H) or (S) notation refer you to the item material lists—either the Hard Materials list or the Soft Materials list. Finally, if the art object includes any depictions or embellishments, you can select them from the Object Depictions or Object Embellishment lists.

Follow Us
Find a place to get together with friends or gear up for adventure at a store near you
Please enter a city or zip code