This is a continuation of yesterday's article How Much Treasure Should You Give Out
Not All Encounters Are Equal
If you encounter two identical groups of bandits at different sections of the same road, the two groups won't necessarily be carrying the same amount of treasure. In terms of treasure parcels, as described in the DMG, one group could have two or even three parcels while the other has none. One group could be luckier than the other. One could have just come from town where they spent all their loot. One could have just come from robbing a wealthy merchant on the road. There are all sorts of reasons why amount of treasure could vary significantly.
Beyond that, not all creatures can carry treasure. Others have no interest in what most people would consider treasure. These types of creatures, after having done in a party of adventurers, wouldn't bother to carry off the treasure; they would either have no interest in it or lack the ability to carry it.
This means three things. First, as I've already pointed out, these creatures would have no treasure on them. Second, if they didn't carry the treasure off, it would simply be left at the battle site waiting for someone to come by and pick it up (unless of course someone else found it first). Third, the carcasses could have been dragged off to the creature's lair (or some scavenger found them later and dragged them off to its lair). This later case would explain incidental treasure in the lair of a creature that otherwise wouldn't be interested in treasure.
What Is Treasure?
When you say "treasure" most people immediately think of coins and magic items. A typical treasure may also include gems, jewelry, artwork, sculptures, and other objects d' art. But what about adventuring gear and supplies? Armor and weapons? Food and drink? Merchant wares? These are all things that adventurers need and can sell. Wizards and alchemists need rare herbs, blood of magical creatures, scale of a dragon, or similarly difficult to obtain items. Certainly these should be considered treasure.
If the party comes across a well-fortified wizard tower and defeats the wizard and his defenders, the furnishings in the tower are obviously treasure but what about the tower itself? Depending on the location, this could be a tremendous treasure! And isn't it a wizard's tower? All wizards have spell books and they are likely to be secreted in the tower somewhere. These could be extremely valuable, either to a wizard in the party or for sale in town.
Availability of Magical Items
The availability of magical items in your world is a subject deserving at least a full article all by itself. Let me just briefly say that you should give some thought to how common you want magic to be and whether or not you allow characters (or NPCs) to create magic items.
Similarly, the economy is a huge subject that should be given a great deal of thought. If a group of first level characters can trudge around for a week and come back with thousands of gold coins, how many peasants are going to be willing to continue their daily toll for 5 copper pieces a day? Certainly, adventuring is dangerous but with that kind of disparity, you're not going to see many peasants around for long.
What Kind Of Market Is There To Sell Items
If you come back from a lengthy adventure, weighted down with rare urns, priceless jewelry and crates of magic items all for sale, where do you take them? Most villages won't have anyone with the ready funds to buy all your treasures. Even large cities may not have the ability to pay what some of your high level magic items are worth.
To Sum Up
These are just a few considerations to think about. Each subject deserves to be greatly expanded, but I just wanted to throw out the topics to give you something to think about.