Bonded Treasure, aka The Smaugian Gambit

The Council of Wyrms boxed set for AD&D 2e is an imperfect melange of ideas, and probably way more fun to read and daydream about than it is to run. It is, however, teeming with dragon-focused rules paraphernalia, and among them, the rules for bonded hoards. Essentially, this attempts to make gameable the traditional Germanic folkloric conception of dragon treasure. A dragon that sleeps and rests on its hoard gains a connection, a bond with it. The dragon becomes more powerful, but in turn, it stores some of its energy within that treasure. A dragon that loses parts of its bonded hoard is therefore weakened until the hoard is either restored, or suitable replacements can be found.

I think this is brilliant. It’s like treasure-phylacteries on a lower scale. And more importantly, it gives the dragon’s hoard a new narrative and in-game role without invalidating its former role as loot and reward. It also provides a rationale for monster treasure-hoarding. These objects are not just shiny and pretty – they are literally a way for the monster to survive and grow! Smaug didn’t sit on the hoard of Erebor just for fun, now did he?

Dragon’s Hoard by Stephen Hickman.

And why stop at dragons? Plenty of monsters could have bonds with their treasure. The traditional undead guardians of withering tomb complexes are an obvious choice. A medusa’s bonded treasure could be its pertrified former lovers. A giant’s hoard might be its trophies of slain enemies. And so on. As long as the loot is transferable, the bonded treasure can work, even if it is essentially worthless to the PCs.

Here are some example tables based on the idea.

Generic Germanic Folkloric Dragon

For every 20’000 gp worth of treasure or magic item lost, roll 1d6 for ability affectedAbility affected
1Lose 6 hp.
2Breath weapon only half strength.
3Can fly for no more than one minute a day.
4Lose highest-level spell-casting ability.
5Worsen saving throws by one HD category.
6AC worsens by 1d4.
Adjust as needed if dragon collects books, scrolls, art, cheese, or other item type as its primary treasure.

Tomb-Haunting Ghouls (Effects Apply to All Ghouls in the Tomb)

For every 1’000 gp worth of tomb ornaments, votive gifts and grave goods lost, roll 1d6 for ability affectedAbility affected
1Counts as a 1 HD undead for turning purposes.
2Lose 2 hp.
3AC worsens by 1d3.
4Victims get +3 on saving throws against paralysis.
5Saving throws are all rolled at disadvantage.
6Roll d4s for hp, not d8s.

Grim Fire Giant

For every 8’000 gp worth of trophies, magic items, and fire-themed jewellery lost, roll 1d6 for ability affectedAbility affected
1Lose 10 hp.
2Morale worsens by 2.
3Worsen saving throws by 1 HD category.
4AC worsens by 2.
51d2 guardian monsters leave.
6Roll d6s for hp, not d8s.

Territorial Basilisk

For every petrified victim smashed, 2’000 gp worth of jewels lost, and every magic item lost, roll 1d6 for ability affectedAbility affected
1Petrifying touch ability lost.
2Saving throws against petrifying gaze made at advantage.
3Lose 8 hp.
4Worsen AC by 2.
5Worsen saving throws by 1 HD category.
6Move reduced to 30′ (10′).

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