Loot, what is it good for?
Treasure, even in its most basic form as coinage, isn’t an end in itself (unless you’re a dragon), but a means to something. Let’s call it an interest. What that interest could be:
If a piece of loot possesses a means to one of these ends then an interested faction (for our purposes, this includes individual NPCs, patrons, etc.) will bargain for it.
The next step is to tag both treasure and factions with interests. This serves both a mechanical and world-building purpose. Mechanically, this creates relationships between items and factions. If an item does not fulfill a faction’s interest, that faction will not be interested in the item. It also says something about that faction in the world. If a faction is interested in nostalgia, what does that say about its goals?
Below are two examples, one of an item and one of a faction, tagged with interests:
The Tapestry of the Golden Wood: worth 1000gp (nostalgia, prestige, wealth); this beautiful tapestry once belonged to a near-legendary noble house.
The Iron Brotherhood (nostalgia, prestige, power): this cabal of disgraced noblemen is obsessed with returning the kingdom to its past glories. To that end, they are engaged in a plot to overthrow the current queen and install a descendant of the last dynasty in her place.
Selling the tapestry to a member of the Brotherhood would fulfill their interest in nostalgia. It would also add to their prestige. The knock-on effect of the sale could further their plots as the increased prestige might lead, directly or indirectly, to more noble houses becoming favorable to their cause.
What a bargain!
I am a big fan of mechanics that lead to gameplay. In this case, what I hope to accomplish with this system is to turn fencing loot from a simple accounting exercise into a gameplay driver. In this case, bringing loot back to town isn’t the end but just the beginning:
Which faction can a piece of loot be sold to?
Is there more than one? Can they bargain against each other?
What are the consequences of selling to that faction?
Does this sale elevate a faction in some way or help them towards one of their goals?
Does this sale stifle a faction in some way or prevent them from reaching one of their goals?
Does the party gain some prestige with that faction by selling to them?
Does the party lose some prestige with others by selling to that faction?
What are the positive or negative consequences of selling to that faction?
What are the positive or negative consequences of not selling to that faction?