At first level, it’s pretty easy to carry everything you own in your backpack. By second or third level you’ve started to accumulate more than you can comfortably carry but you’ve also purchased a horse and possibly a packhorse as well. Everything still fits in a chest or two that you can store under your bed at the inn or stow in your saddlebags. But after another level or so you will start to accumulate more than you can take with you. What do you do with it?
At The Inn
Most groups stay at the same inn whenever they are in town. If you pay for your room, even when you are off adventuring, you can simply leave things in your room. But that isn’t very secure. For a fee, the innkeeper may be willing to store some things for you downstairs. There are a few problems with this. First off, can you trust the innkeeper? Secondly, an inn is not a secure location. It can be robbed; you’re stash could be stolen. Someone could even sabotage or replace items you have stored, such as cutting a rope partway through or switching a potion of healing with a bottle of poison. Third, by storing items at the inn, you could potentially bring attention to the inn. Not only can this attention get them robbed but it can also get them killed. If it gets out that your group is responsible for getting the innkeeper killed, you may find yourself very unwelcome in that town.
At Your House
Acquiring a house in a small village may be fairly easy. If your group is well known, and respected, the village may welcome you as protectors making it even easier to acquire a house. But being a small village, how safe is your house when you are away? Not only do you have to worry about thieves, but you have to consider the possibility that the entire village could be overrun and everything sacked, including your house.
The larger the community, the less the chance that it will be overrun. However, a house in a large community, especially within the confines of a curtain wall, is very desirable and the number of homes is extremely limited. Opportunities for finding a home will be much less.
In either case, assume you find a house. You will need to provide safeguards. A trunk at the end of the bed may be sufficient when you are home. But what prevents thieves from walking off with your loot when you are away?
Traps, both magical and mundane, must be employed. Designing these safeguards could be a great deal of fun. And there would be a certain satisfaction in returning home to discover the remains of an intruder caught in one of your traps.
Being a small house in a tightly-packed community, your options for traps and other protections may be limited though. Some communities may frown on fiery explosions or clouds of poisonous gas emanating from your house, even if it does manage to catch an intruder.
At The Bank
There may not be a bank in which case this isn’t an option at all. But assume that there is one. How safe is a bank? If a bank is heavily used, it will have untold riches which will entice everyone from the lowliest thief to the highest level, unscrupulous, adventurers.
In a world of magic, protecting a bank becomes a much more difficult matter. All sorts of powerful spells would need to be placed to prevent blasting through the walls, teleporting in and out, and ethereally or astrally phasing in and out. Employees must be protected from mind control and possession. Detection magic must be in place to detect invisible assailants or intruders polymorphed to look like someone who should normally be there. There must be counter-measures against time stop and many other powerful spells. What about magical items stored in the bank that are actually Trojan horses, waiting to knock a hole in the bank’s defenses. Something must be done to anticipate, detect, and prevent these sorts or attacks.
In addition, the bank would require an army, both conventional and magical, large enough to repel a concerted attack. Essentially, the protection needs of the bank may exceed those of the city that contain it.
If a bank does exist and does provide the protection described above, how much would the bank charge individuals to store their treasures within the bank’s vaults? Fees might be based on the size of the vault or bank box in question. Or it could be based on the contents. Perhaps some vaults come with additional protections for an additional fee. Whatever the fee structure, it is guaranteed to be extremely steep to offset the cost of the protections that are required.
After all that, what guarantee do you have? The bank will have to spend enormous amounts of money to provide as much protection as possible. Their fees will reflect that. But it’s unreasonable to think that any bank could anticipate and prevent every possible type of attack. Even with extravagant fees, you are merely paying for the bank’s best effort to protect your goods. If your bank vault is emptied, despite the bank’s protections, the bank can’t be held responsible. If you want some sort of insurance policy you may find someone willing to write one. But again, the fee will most likely be extravagant. And that only compensates you for loss, it does not return items.
At Your Stronghold
Another solution is to build your own vault. Place it within your own stronghold, on land you own, guarded by your own garrison of troops and protected by spells and traps of your own choosing. The obvious drawback is that you must own land, and have the resources to build the stronghold and whatever protections you intend to use.
There are a number of benefits to this alternative though. First off, unlike a bank, no one knows that you have a vast treasure stored within (which you probably won’t after building the stronghold and placing the appropriate protections). Even if others guess at what your vault might contain, the uncertain return makes it a less desirable target. Secondly, once the permanent protections are in place, the ongoing costs are considerably less than whatever fees would be charged by a bank.
Diversification and Obfuscation
Two useful steps in protecting your treasure are to store it at a hidden location and to use multiple locations. If the thieves can’t find your treasure, they can’t steal it. If the treasure is spilt up among various locations, thieves breaking into one location can only steal that portion of the whole.
Another useful tactic is to consolidate your treasure into a more compact form that can be secreted away. If you can convert hundreds of thousands of coins into an armload of gems and jewelry, the gems and jewelry can be hidden much more easily than the coins could be. The reverse can also be used to your advantage. If you convert your entire fortune into copper pieces, your vault may overflow with a mountain of copper. The sheer weight and bulk of the treasure makes it extremely difficult for thieves to carry it off.
Get Rid of It
If you don’t have any treasure, thieves have nothing to steal. So what do you need treasure for anyway? You need a base of operations. If that means rent, pay it well in advance. If you can afford it, buy land and put the treasure to work building a stronghold. Put magic items you don’t use in the hands of hirelings such as the captain of your garrison and his lieutenants. You need food and other consumables. Stock up on anything that won’t spoil. Only keep as much liquid cash as you actually need.
By donating money or valuable resources to a local monarch, town, or the church of your patron deity, you can earn valuable respect and favor. Down the road, the powerful friends you gain from your generosity could benefit you in ways that far exceed any monetary donation you had made.