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How to handle loot sharing in your party

Rewarding your players with nice shiny loot is always a good motivation for them to do a side quest or progress further in the story. But it can also lead to some disagreements on how the loot should be divided. You may have the one player that tries to get the loot before the others, the greedy one that wants to keep loot he finds hidden from the rest of the group, or the angry barbarian that fights the group willingly to keep or get loot. If handling loot becomes a problem for your group, try one of the following approach:

Limit access to the item

By limiting the usability of the found loot to specific members of your group, you can ensure an equal share between the party. For that you can use specific magic items that can only be used by certain classes, or you can make something that links to their character background, so it might have value for them but to no one else. You could have a tinkerer in your group that finds parts of an ancient relic, and only he will know how to assemble them back to a piece of value. Maybe there is a weapon that is only beneficial to your groups cleric. Or a heavy armor that only the paladin can use.

A gnome tinkerer assembling a steampunk watcher.
Image by OlgaDrebras and Copyright by Wizards of the Coast

Punish their greediness

We all know the one player that always rushes to the enemy corpses, even after a long, exhausting and meaningful boss fight. He might find himself thinking twice about it if he finds a premium looking item, just to discover that it is cursed and doing him more harm than benefit. Another way of preventing such behaviour is using mimics. Everything can be a mimic, and you can adjust the strength of your mimics to fit the party level, so it remains scary to them. Don’t overdo it though, because at some point your party will end up pushing everything with a stick and moving awfully slow through dungeons.

Enforce loot sharing

In an ideal world players roleplay their characters, and if they play a greedy orc, he will get out of his way to get the loot. Everything. And in this ideal world, the other players know that and respect him for playing his character well. Playing tabletop is not always that ideal world though, and you may have players that get really unhappy when they are confronted with such behaviour. In this case you could discuss the introduction of equal loot sharing with your group, which will result in you as a gm giving everyone in the group the chance to find the exact same loot. While I personally find this solution far from ideal, it can maybe soothe the players that are unhappy with the situation. Of course there will still remain the problem of some items that aren’t meant to be shared, like a weapon, some gemstone, or a unique mystic item. In this case you should fall back to using items that can only be used by certain members of the party, like I described above.

Let them roll for it

One last resort I sometimes adhere to is to let the players roll who reaches the loot first. You can either do checks on their characters or ability, or let them just plain throw for it. But taking the abilities and skills of the characters into account on this one is my preferred way to go, as it feels more “ingame” and is a good reasoning for why their characters reach the loot before everyone else.

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