TTRPG's like "Loot Grind' Videogames?

I agree that abilities aren’t what make a looter a looter, but I do think the added combo possibilities make things more interesting in a team game. Without that, you’re mostly just trying to combine the pieces of gear into one set per player that works well and it doesn’t matter much who uses what. Different abilities also means that different pieces of gear can be more or less useful depending on your character setup.

But I should be clear that my sketched out proposal isn’t the only way to do this type of game as a TTRPG, just what would be my starting point. For example, I’ve pretty much dropped the inventory management aspect mostly because I personally find that a bit tedious.

How about making loot relevant by binding skills (and spells) to gear? Each equipped item adds to skills or - in case of staves and jewelry - contributes to the available spell(s)? This way your loot is your build.

The game Path of Exile does that. You could probably look there for some good inspiration:

Mechanic idea for loot grinding: Everyone at the table’s got a deck of cards. When you get 4 loot from a mob, three players take their decks. Each turns over the top card, simultaneously. If all cards are different, it’s crap loot that you just leave there. If two cards match, you got something worth 1 Unit Of Currency, if you want to find out what it is, everyone flip up the next card and consult your Massive Table. If three cards match, you got a possibly useful thing, everyone flip up the next card and consult your Other Massive Table to find out what it is and how much Currency it’ll get if you don’t want it. Flip 4 time, because you got 4 loot. And get good at doing it fast and simultaneously, only stopping if there’s a match (at early levels) or a Big Match (at later levels). Now if you get loot from something Important, use 4 decks at once, and a match of 4 simultaneously gets you a lookup on the Final Massive Table Which Is Only Gonna Happen 0-2 Times Per Campaign Probably.

Haven’t tested, but I feel like this could make a good, hectic, ritual “sort through the loot physically, hoping but not expecting for a gem”.


This is a very illuminating discussion.

Here’s an attempt to describe the core gameplay loop of this type of game from the perspective we’re currently discussing:

  1. (Optional) Travel from town to mission location. Here I’m assuming there’s something you do in the game beyond killing enemies, even if killing enemies is 95 % of what you when solving a quest or fulfilling a mission. I’m also using “mission” in the loosest possible sense, like a daily mission or something like that. Sometimes traveling is almost completely avoided, like in most Diablo 3 missions, but fairly often it takes a couple of minutes to get from the fast travel location to the actual location of the mission.
  2. Fight enemies until the quest is finished or inventory is full of loot. This is the core activity of the game, but it’s not the main focus for this discussion so I’m not going to go into detail.
  3. (Optional) Travel back to town. This is often faster than going to the mission location, and if you need to return to the mission you can usually go to the same place you traveled from, like with Diablo’s town portals.
  4. Sort loot. Sell or recycle the dross, temporarily keep the high-value items.
  5. Evaluate interesting items. This can be a simple comparison of numbers or a more complex process where you figure out whether a given item fits with your current build (whatever that means in the game), if it could enable a new build, or if it would be useful for a different character. In Borderlands it often means test shooting since the “feel” you get from trying it out tells you things the pure numbers won’t give you.
  6. Decide which items to use, which to keep (for later use or in case you want to switch to a different build or for other characters or some other reason), and which to sell/recycle.

Repeat as needed.

The main feedback points:

  1. This can be a dull necessary evil or a relaxing build up for the main event.
  2. The most time is spent here. Depending on the difficulty level, this can be high tension adrenaline fueled action or an almost zen-like mostly automated experience. Either way, it’s punctuated by “Ooh, shiny” when a rare item drops, with stronger responses if you’re looking for something specific and get it (for games that have that).
  3. Anticipation if the new items look interesting, even more so if they seem clearly better than what you already have.
  4. The enjoyment of trying out new things and trying to puzzle out if the new items are useful or not. If you find something really good this is a big rush.

If you do find something good, there’s a big payoff when you get to try it out and it works great and a bit of a letdown if it doesn’t function the way you thought it would.

Does this seem fair? Am I missing something important?

In my sketch for a starting point above, I was focusing on what I think is the fun part of these games: Fighting and trying out new builds. For me, the inventory management (while adventuring and for item storage) is a necessary restriction to force decision making and not part of the actual fun of the game, but that may be different for others.


All my thoughts on this trend away from delving RPGS and towards “mission based boardgame with incredibly thin narrative impetus.”

You can come up with all sorts of ways to handle loot and bag space.
You can come up with all sorts of ways to drive them back into the loop.
But to handle all of the mob grind efficiently, you’re probably collapsing all that back into much fewer rolls. The only real stake is if your resources hold up long enough to acquire more & better resources.
At very few points do you really engage in story decisions besides talking to someone with a shape above their head and killing or exchanging goods with them.

…At which point I’d be really interested to see the push your luck dice (dungeoneering) + tile laying (inventory) game.

To give it a fair crack:
GM has a worksheet that plans the bare-mknimum-story needed for the backdrop and Dungeon runs. GM scoops their hand into a bucket of small Lego pieces and puts it on the table to represent the loot in a potential encounter.
Rolls are exchanged based on rules, with the difference each turn removing pips of Lego from the adventurers resources, as represented by their legs on a baseplate.
If they defeat the mobs, a roll happens to distribute loot legs which they have to fit on their baseplates.
Colors of Lego represent stat boost gear with each colour boosting a particular stat.

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I’ve been working on a game that uses randomized video-gamey style loot.

If anyone’s interested, currently my algorithm for generating it is something like:

  • Randomly select a loot “tier” where 90.9% of stuff is tier 0, 7% are tier 1, 2% are tier 2, maybe 0.1% are tier 3. This tier essentially adds weapon “damage” but that damage must be spent on special properties (see below). Resale value is based on tier, and then augmented by a random value.
  • Randomly pick an amount of weapon damage to spend on special properties, reduce the weapon’s base damage by this amount and add the bonus “tier damage” generated above to this value.
  • Randomly choose special properties until all the damage allocated for abilities is spent. Each special property costs different damage amounts, and a few drawbacks have negative costs.

It’s pretty heavy at the moment so while it could be done mid game with a handful of d100 rolls and some tables, my current plan is to write a quick program to spit out a big pile of weapons, and just print that out and build an “Item deck” that I can just draw from to generate loot, or to populate a shop. This has the added bonus of being able to print out the weapon ability descriptions and rules on the item cards and just hand them to the players so they don’t need to memorize them or look them up. At this point it should be really smooth at the table (to generate a piece of loot, draw a card).

During play the idea is (essentially Anders’ point #4 and #5) that the players will have to make some decisions and determine what’s worth carrying with them to sell later, what’s worth replacing existing equipment with and what gets thrown out. A lot of what gets spit out (including higher tier weapons) will be complete trash but it’s up to the players to decide what’s good and what’s not.

So far I’ve only had the opportunity to playtest the loot rules once but folks seemed to enjoy digging through what was available and trying to evaluate what to get, particularly at the character creation “shop”.


While I understand the impulse, I don’t think a TTRPG inspired by this type of game by necessity has to have a thin varnish of story.

IMO, the loot grind mechanics for combat doesn’t have to impact the non-combat part of the game, even if that may be a natural pairing depending on how much of the loot grind experience you’re trying to import.

However, there are TTRPG:s that work in a similar vein, like Feng Shui which is explicitly meant to consist of a series of set piece action scenes with the connective tissue mostly used to push the melodrama buttons of the stereotypical player characters’ backgrounds.

I do agree that if you want to go for the full loot grind experience, a boardgame is a more natural match than a TTRPG, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a TTRPG that takes some inspiration from loot grind computer games. I think it’s a question of what kind of game you’re trying to make.