20 Bulky Treasures Difficult to Get Out of the Dungeon

The other day, I wrote an article about the Fallacy of the Adventurer’s Backpack. Loads of people read the article and I enjoyed very much the ensuing conversation. One reader waxed lyrical about bulky treasure and how is was fun to give the PC the challenge of actually getting such treasures out of the dungeon.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

 

I couldn’t agree more! I used to love that kind of challenge, in the Good Old Days. You know the thing: you’ve killed the dragon, now how do you deal with it’s hoard? With mountains of coins (hopefully), suits of armour worn by less fortunate dragon hunters and other bulky treasures, sifting, sorting and carrying away the treasure could be an adventure in itself.

With the near death of encumbrance, such challenges have faded away. That’s a real shame. So with that in mind, behold: 20 piece of bulky treasure difficult to get out of the dungeon:

  1. A 10-foot square tapestry hangs on one wall. The tapestry depicts a bucolic woodland hunting scene, is worth 50 gp and weighs 120 lbs.
  2. A cast iron chandelier easily 5 ft. across hangs from the ceiling. It has five arms forged to depict writhing dragon heads. Within each dragon’s open mouth writhe magical, heatless flames. A long metal rod leaning against the wall enables the user to open or close each mouth, to increase or decrease the amount of light. The whole is worth 200 gp, but weighs 75 lbs.
  3. A huge giant’s breastplate has been pressed into service as a brazier. Full of hot coals, the breastplate is heavy (45 lbs.) but finely decorated with intricate lightning bolt engravings picked out with silver. Worth 400 gp, the item is nevertheless worthless as armour because the entire back of the breastplate is missing.
  4. A map of the local area showing all major landmarks and settlements decorates this 15 ft. long and 10 ft. wide rug. Of great interest and value to local nobility and suchlike the rug is worth 75 gp (but weighs 100 lbs.)
  5. This 10-foot tall stone statue depicts a medusa—its snake-hair waving about its face—staring down at those in front of it. The statue is (ironically) tremendously detailed and life-like. As a piece of art, it is worth 200 gp (but weighs 2,000 lbs).
  6. This long, narrow ornate oak box has a hinged lid decorated with beautiful geometric shapes picked out with wood stain. Displayed within, amid velvet compartments, is a full set of silver cutlery with enough place settings for a dozen diners. The whole is worth 100 gp, but weighs 20 lbs. Dumping the box and keeping the cutlery reduces the value by 20 gp.
  7. Of beaten silver, this shallow 2 ft. wide display bowl could be used for hand washing, to hold fruit or as the centrepiece of a formal dining table layout. It is worth 10 gp.
  8. A mass of glass bottles and retorts along with a small cauldron and dozens of small tools and other pieces of equipment sit upon a side table. Obviously the equipment of a wizard or alchemist the whole is worth 200 gp, but weighs 40 lbs. If packed carefully, the rest of the equipment is designed to fit into the cauldron (but if packed poorly without padding much of the glass items won’t survive rough handling).
  9. This long blood-red ballgown complete with short train is a stunning mix of lace and chiffon and worth 30 gp. However, although light—only weighing 6 lbs.—it is bulky and must be careful folded to avoid damage.
  10. This thick coil of rope is 400 ft. long and designed to hold twice as much weight as a normal rope but is heavy (160 lbs.) and only worth 16 gp.
  11. This portable battering ram is crafted from some kind of super heavy and dense wood and is tipped with a great wedge of iron shaped like a clenched fist. It is twice as heavy as a normal ram (40 lbs.) and requires two people to swing properly. It provides a +6 Strength bonus to opening doors.
  12. This huge bullseye lantern was clearly crafted for a giant (or perhaps a ship or lighthouse). It burns a pint of oil in three hours but provides double the illumination produced by a normal bullseye lantern. The lantern weights 6 lbs., is five-foot high and worth 25 gp.
  13. These ornate metal scales are large enough to weigh a human being or similarly-sized object. Along with the matching set of weights the whole is worth 150 gp to a merchant or similar person. However, the scales along with the weights weighs 400 lbs.
  14. Four tightly rolled bolts of silk—blue, red, yellow and black in colour—fill a large sack. Each roll is worth 25 gp. While light, the sack is bulky.
  15. A four-foot square steel cage holds a great mass of dried and then oil-soaked wood logs. The oil used to impregnate the wood is particularly fragrant and pleasant. Used to heat noble’s houses, the taproom of upmarket taverns and the like the wood is valuable. The whole mass of wood—weighting 100 lbs.—is worth 20 gp.
  16. This heavy iron door bar is intricately engraved with a depiction of two muscular arms grasping each other about the wrists. The bar is worth 20 gp, is seven-foot long and weighs 50 lbs.
  17. This high-backed wooden chair is intricately carved. The armrests look like a mass of writhing serpents and a red velvet cushion provides a modicum of comfort to the user. The chair weighs 100 lbs. and is worth 50 gp to a nobleman or similar person.
  18. With a set of draws on either side, this ornate oak desk and been stained a deep brown. Each of the drawers is lockable and one has a well-hidden secret compartment. The desk weighs 150 lbs. but with its matching chair (and set of draw keys) is worth 200 gp.
  19. These four matching tapestries are only five-foot wide and reach from floor to ceiling. Designed to conceal doors, alcoves or perhaps windows the four are a deep red in hue. Each weighs 20 lb. and is worth 10 gp. As a set, however, their value doubles.
  20. This chainmail barding—designed for a truly monstrous horse—weighs 80 lbs. and is worth 750 gp. It is so finely made, it could be magically enchanted.

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14 thoughts on “20 Bulky Treasures Difficult to Get Out of the Dungeon

  1. I really like this article although I think you drastically underestimated how heavy stone is in number 5. Stone is about 2.5 times as dense as water. So a life size statue of a 200 lbs human (or 200 lbs human turned to stone) would weigh about 500 lbs. Another consideration is that stone is extremely brittle and if dropped or not handled carefully may have pieces break off significantly lowering the price.
    Source http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/density-solids-d_1265.html

    • Thanks for the kind words and the comment! I’m perfectly happy to agree I underestimated the weight of stone–this is not something I am particularly wise in.

      I also like your point about dropping the statue; a lot of these treasures I detail are probably fragile or vulnerable to a particularly kind of energy attack. It’s probably tricky to dodge a fireball–for example–while carrying a gigantic tapestry!

      • There’s an invaluable little book called the Pocket Ref, which has pages of things like the weights of various materials (and a LOT of other stuff — it’s a book the size of your hand with over 800 pages). Even today, with the Internet and every possible lookup at my fingertips, my Pocket Ref is my go-to reference, because I know I can find something like that in moments (just turn to the well-thumbed part!) faster than I can google it. I just checked — Amazon has it (both US and UK) The 4th Edition is the current one. It’s well worth the money, and it never really goes out of date; it’s not like the specific gravity of iridium is going to change or something!

        (and no, I’ve got nothing whatsoever to do with the book, or whoever the publisher is — I just love it)

        • Thank you for this suggestion. I’ve just purchased a copy! It sounds like a tremendously useful book for a dungeon designer.

  2. I’ve had PC’s actually bury items either in the dungeon, building, what have you and come back many moons later with pack animals or a few elephants and then dig the stuff up

  3. this goes in my pile of “top 10 most favorite 20-something lists” … your standard lists of what we expect in the dungeon or urban area are always helpful, and then when you go out-of-the-box like this it really is a delight. bravo, man.

  4. great article, for me though, I feel many people miss one key point of these games, its a game, it is not real, so enforcing something like the removal of the dragons hoard as part of the RP and mechanics of the game, for me at least, is a mundane waist of time and effort and diverts from the overall story of the adventure. that said, if the players still had to adventure to get home, then it would be a required part of the play and all the above issues become part of the adventure.

    I have played under a DM who made use use encumbrance and die rolls to facilitate the hiring of staff to move the treasure while we role played the overseeing of such actions whilst the rogue was watching over the treasure movement to try and catch any would be thieves of the treasure as we moved it. that is 4 long sessions of game that was never revisited and that DM was hard pressed to get any players after that.

    I do recall one adventure where we had to carry as much as we could while we tried to escape the underdark, I do wish I had read this article before that adventure…

    • I think it really depends on the players and the campaign itself.

      Myself, I don’t see huge, bulky treasures as an unwarranted intrusion of reality in a game. It’s more like that’s part of the challenge, like a room full of guards or anything else the group has to overcome. Challenges: Find the dragon’s secret lair. Kill the dragon. Get the loot home. Having said loot in easily-portable form so there’s no challenge to getting it home would be, to me, not much better than having the dragon fall over dead from heart failure when it sees the adventurers.

      Again, YMMV.