When players want to search a room that is functional and full of stuff, or want to search through a filing cabinet full of papers, or want to search a body for loot, and ask what they find, I always have trouble finding a satisfying balance between telling them about everything that is there so they can decide what is important and giving them the things they'd be interested in. I frequently ask "what are you expecting to find" or "what are you looking for" or "are you looking for anything in particular" so I can narrow it down more to their intention, but often they just want to do a general search in case I put anything important there.
I created a document to roll up interesting, flavorful, but-ultimately-useless loot to reward these searches (plug), but it still doesn't answer my desire to have them have to pick off what's important in a room full of stuff (this article illustrates what I'm talking about well). What tricks do you use for situations like this? Or should I be content to just tell them the body has only generic, low-quality equipment they'd have trouble selling to anyone?
Asking those questions is good, but I'd also ask for an Investigation check. That provides a scale for how much info/ how many objects (etc.) the character might find, or what might stick out to them. With a high roll, they might notice something as looking particularly important; with a low roll, they are unable to discern any single thing from the clutter. As for the bodies, well... I suppose that depends on a lot of things; the flavor of the area, the enemies' CR, and the purpose that they attacked the PCs (such as if they were assassins or robbers) all help with determining loot. Personally, I try to always include one interestingly "textured" weapon or two, but having a table for determining that stuff is also a neat idea. Not sure if this answers your question, but I hope it was helpful in some way!?
Post by DM Onesie Knight on Feb 16, 2018 6:14:12 GMT
I think asking "are you looking for something in particular" is very reasonable, and it gives you a sense of the player's engagement. I would loosely frame the search DC based on how specific they are. If they're looking for "anything valuable," then maybe on a nat 20 they happen to stumble onto the one valuable in the room. If, on the other hand, they're looking for "important documents in and around the desk because we know this is the foreman's office," then it says to me that they're keeping specific, story-related goals in mind and applying them to the present situation, and I'll be more inclined to give them something in this situation.
I also kinda get the sense, however, that you have issues with players who obsessively search rooms which are simply intended to be mundane. In that case, I've found the perfect thing to make that clear to my players is to describe in vivid detail the mundane things they find. It makes it feel more like real life: you can search a cluttered room and details stand out, because your attention is on it, but that doesn't make it important. I have an example of how I applied this:
I had my players entering a sewer/undercity area via a hatch in a basement storeroom. In the storeroom were some musty, termite-eaten crates, barrels, and moldy burlap sacks. My players, being video gamers first and very new to tabletop RPGs, could not leave any containers unsearched. So what did they find? Inside the barrel: dirt. Of course they sifted through it, but there was only more dirt. The crate was a crate of wood. Just stacks of 2x4s, up to the brim. You know, like a solid crate almost. The burlap sack contained another burlap sack. This sack contained another, which contained another, which contained some moist brown powdery substance that might once have been plant matter.
It was a funny moment for the players, it said "not everything is worth searching" without discouraging them from doing so, and it made them more attentive to storytelling cues from me when it came to future looting.
As far as the mundane stuff angle, the Who Would Just Leave This Stuff document does kind of help give them the idea that I'm just rolling for what kind of garbage was left behind in the room, but they still are pretty willing to say "I spend 15 minutes searching the room." The group I'm working with when this happens the most are teenagers, so they might just be coming from the video game angle and not sure how to determine when a search is worth while.