The Case for Collectables

Wizards have united and they’re collecting Weasley’s and Dumbledore’s down at the local park on their smart phones! The Fortnite kids are stockpiling skins and dances (which sounds freaking terrifying if you don’t know what that game is all about). And the Pokemen were apparently such a nuisance that over a billion users had to download the app just to thwart their takeover of the Earth’s augmented surface! What are we talking about? Collectables! Can you use them in your TTRPG’s in between hunting dragons and hunting Cthulhus? Or, are they bound to stay in the realms of video gaming, trading cards, toys, and comics? Oh, and coins. And stamps. And Beanie Babies and Pop Figures… jeez, we collect a lot of stuff.

Tricky Trinkets

A video game like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can offer players the chance to gather 900 Korok seeds for one primary reason – a single player is in charge of the pace of the story. Link can take as much time as he wants searching for hidden creatures, digging up ingredients for special meals, and putting together his fancy wardrobe because Princess Zelda and Ganon will patiently delay the end of the world for as long as is necessary. The player can do as many side-quests as they wish.

A roleplaying game isn’t quite the same animal, especially if you have more than one player who would like to see the plot unfold. If the GM forgets to place items in the midst of dealing with everything else, the protagonists will forget about them, too. Break up your story with too many fetch-quests and intrepid adventurers may lose interest. However, you can include some collectable items (or people, or monsters, or whatever) with careful planning and a little care.

Speedy Souvenirs

The real trick to adding collectables to your game world is in the prep-work. The GM really needs to have a full list of goodies ready to go beforehand because players who want to catch ’em all are going to want that list as soon as you introduce the concept. You don’t have to give it to them all at once, of course, but it will save you time in the long run. Plus, you can drop one in on the spur of the moment if you find a good opportunity. Savvy players will figure out when you’re pulling things out of thin air and the special items will lose their specialness.

The GM needs to balance how much time they’re willing to steal from their main storylines in order to make the collectables happen. Consider placing your tiny tokens in relatively easy to reach areas that the party is going to anyway. And if they are a little bit hidden or challenging to claim, make sure they’re not taking away from the rest of the game. They should be little additions – like spice to a main dish. To really go the extra mile, you can print out or draw little item cards and hand them over whenever the group discovers a new Riddler trophy in Gotham or a post-apocalyptic bobblehead. Quick and easy, if you plan ahead.

Relic Rewards

Why are we trying to fill out the whole Pokedex, here? What’s the pay-out? Some gamers are perfectly pleased to just assemble a whole collection of stuff and check it all off the list because they like the very act of checking it off. If you have one of those, then you don’t need a reward. But most gamers need a reason to get all of it, and more importantly, their characters do, too. What reward are you offering, other than an imaginary achievement?

Possible rewards might be anything from a magical set bonus for finding the full set of Arcane Armor to a powerful combat-companion when you assemble all six parts of the Lost War Robot. Maybe the kingdom is splintered into factions and they won’t promise to meet again until someone gathers the Crowns of the Nine Queens once more. Perhaps a special potion can only be brewed if you have all fifteen rare herbs from the Witch’s List. You don’t have to go full “Rod of Seven Parts” in terms of artifact-level powers, but there ought to be some sort of benefit, otherwise pragmatic adventurers will just sell everything they perceive as useless to add gold to the resurrection fund. And if money is their main motivator, you can always use it as part of the collectable’s reward. Have a rich benefactor promise them a fortune if they discover all thirty pages of his partial copy of the Necronomicon. I mean, what could go wrong, really?

Model Mementos

Below is an example set of collectables – a list of alchemical ingredients from a 2nd Edition D&D campaign located in a far-eastern fantasy realm. It has rules for how to combine the ingredients with a Proficiency check (that’s what we used to call skills) and you could fairly easily convert their effects into whatever rule set you like best. This is a larger list – you can certainly get by with a much smaller set of collectables if you don’t want to deal with this many variables. The important thing to remember is to make sure there’s lots of opportunities to find the goodies during your game.


Alchemist potions are created by precise combinations of reagents, potent chemicals, and compounds that start a reaction. Characters make the non-magical potions ahead of time with the Alchemy proficiency. The compounds take effect when they make contact with a single target (or a group in the case of clouds/splashes/explosions), usually by means of hurling a breakable jar at them or drugging something they ingest. The reagents below are listed by common name, effect, and cost (in this game, a yen coin is worth about the same as a silver piece in D&D).

An Alchemist starts with a reagent that produces an effect and can mix in other reagents to modify the potency or duration of that effect. Multiple effects can be achieved with multiple ingredients, but reagents that modify numbers only modify one number per reagent used. Once the potion is brewed, the reagents used are lost, even if the check to create the potion fails.

NAME                                                         EFFECT                                                                  COST


  • Rhinoceros Horn                    Strength, bonus or penalty          75 y
  • Dried Leopard Paw                    Dexterity, bonus or penalty          70 y
  • Tortoise Shell Powder          Constitution, bonus or penalty          70 y
  • Ground Tiger Claw                   Attack roll, bonus or penalty          50 y
  • Crushed Snake Fang                    Damage roll, bonus or penalty          65 y
  • Ladybug Wings                    Armor class, bonus or penalty          80 y
  • Powdered Money Brain          Initiative, bonus or penalty          45 y
  • Heart of Bear                             Grapple check, bonus or penalty          35 y
  • Crane Feather                    Turn Undead check, bonus or penalty          60 y
  • Tortoise Bile                             Paralyzation/Poison/Death Magic save, bonus or penalty          50 y
  • Powdered Boar Hoof          Rod/Staff/Wand save, bonus or penalty          50 y
  • Toad Skin Oil                   Petrification/Polymorph save, bonus or penalty          50 y
  • Sea Snake Scales                    Breath Weapon save, bonus or penalty          50 y
  • Peacock Feather                   Spell save, bonus or penalty          50 y
  • Gall Bladder of Whale          P/P/DM and Petr. /Poly. saves, bonus or penalty          200 y
  • Eel Eyes in Blue Brine          R/S/W and B.W. And Spell saves, bonus or penalty          300 y
  • Sea Serpent Gills                   All saves, bonus or penalty          750 y
  • Distillation of Lotus          +1 bonus, 1 round          15 y
  • Tincture of Orchid          +2 bonus, 1 round          50 y
  • Hibiscus Essence                    +3 bonus, 1 round          150 y
  • Helliconia Blossom Oil          +4 bonus, 1 round          450 y
  • Golden Bamboo Shoots          +5 bonus, 1 round          1350 y
  • Cemetery Earth                    -1 penalty, 1 round          20 y
  • Gallows Wood                   -2 penalty, 1 round          55 y
  • Ancient Crypt Dust          -3 penalty, 1 round          155 y
  • Tears of the Dying          -4 penalty, 1 round          455 y
  • Essence of a Yurei                    -5 penalty, 1 round          1355 y

CLOUD/GAS EFFECTS (25% concealment, dissipates in 10 rounds)

  • White Quartz Powder          Clear Cloud: colorless, odorless gas, unable to be detected normally          20 y
  • Black Salts                   Obscuring Cloud: thick smoke obscures vision beyond 5 ft., 50% concealment if within 5 ft., blindness beyond          40 y
  • Basalt Dust                   Slow Dissipation: after any expansion is finished, the cloud dissipates in 20 rounds instead of 10          60 y
  • Soda Ash                            5 ft. radius cloud          20 y
  • Poppy Juice                    10 ft. radius cloud          30 y
  • Fronds of the Fire Fern          15 ft. radius cloud          40 y
  • Blue Salts                            20 ft. radius cloud          50 y
  • Termite Mound Residue          Cloud expands 5 ft. per round, 1 round          35 y
  • Soap-Maker’s Lye                   Cloud expands 10 ft. per round, 1 round          55 y
  • Burning Spring Water          Cloud expands 15 ft. per round, 1 round          75 y
  • Silver-That-Burns-Water          Cloud expands 20 ft. per round, 1 round          120 y


  • Royal Water                   1 point of Acid damage (Acid effects continue to deal the same damage for 1 round after they strike)          100 y
  • Green Salts                   1 point of Choking damage (if aware of the effect, you may hold your breath to avoid damage)          75 y
  • Blue Coral                   1 point of Cold damage (every 10 points of Cold damage can freeze solid one gallon of room-temperature water)          100 y
  • White Spring Brine          1 point of Electricity damage (Electricity damage can sometimes spread through metal, water, or via physical contact)          150 y
  • Sulfur                            1 point of Fire damage (ignites flammable materials which then deal 1d6 Fire damage per round to themselves and whatever they touch until burnt away or extinguished)          10 y
  • Yellow Ore Slag          1 point of Poison damage (Poison damage allows a saving throw to ignore half the damage)          100 y
  • Wormwood Oil          1 point of Healing (non-magical)          100 y
  • Cream of Aloe                   Removes 1 point of Non-lethal damage (non-magical)          75 y
  • Charcoal                             1d4 points of damage or healing          5 y
  • Bat Blood                             1d6 points of damage or healing          25 y
  • Fire Ant Juice                   1d8 points of damage or healing          75 y
  • Obsidian Grit                   1d10 points of damage or healing          180 y
  • Rare Earths Mixture          1d12 points of damage or healing          30 y
  • Rock of Star’s Descent          1d20 points of damage or healing          750 y
  • Quicksilver                            +1 die          100 y
  • Silvered Steel Plate          +2 dice          200 y
  • Crumbled Sunstone          +3 dice          300 y
  • Ground Desert Ruby          +4 dice          400 y
  • Sapphire Pumice                   +5 dice          500 y
  • Green Copper Flakes          +6 dice          600 y
  • Furnace-Silver                   +7 dice          700 y
  • Essence of True Gold          +8 dice          800 y
  • Diamond Dust                   +9 dice          900 y


  • Quicklime                   DR 1 vs. Acid, 1 round          400 y
  • Volcanic Ash                   DR 1 vs. Cold, 1 round          400 y
  • Bulb-Nosed Eel Skin          DR 1 vs. Electricity, 1 round          400 y
  • Ul-Wan Cream                   DR 1 vs. Fire, 1 round          400 y
  • Clownfish Scales          DR 1 vs. Poison, 1 round          400 y
  • Red Pearl                            DR 1 vs. all damage, 1 round          1200 y
  • Birshirzi Pine Resin          DR 2          100 y
  • Ounce of Peridot                   DR 3          200 y
  • Ground Prayer Beads          DR 4          400 y
  • Salt of Hanai                            DR 5          600 y
  • Old Master’s Solution          DR 10          1000 y
  • Ice-That-Does-Not-Melt          DR 15          2000 y
  • Rust of an Ancient Shield          DR 20          4000 y
  • Uncut Diamond                            DR 25          6000 y
  • Platinum in Acid                            DR 30          8000 y
  • Stone of Eternal Striking          Immunity          10,000 y


  • Ox Liver + Black Sand          Doubles the time it takes to become fatigued/exhausted          140 y
  • Elephant Tusk + Red Sand          Doubles the time it takes to die after reaching zero or fewer HP          350 y
  • Seaweed + White Sand          Doubles the time one can hold one’s breath          160 y


  • Hummingbird Wings          1d4 rounds          20 y
  • Dragonfly Eyes                   1d6 rounds          40 y
  • Fresh Sprite Mushrooms          1d8 rounds          60 y
  • Field Mouse Whiskers          1d10 rounds          100 y
  • Seabird Talon                   1d12 rounds          200 y
  • Silkworm Cocoon                    1d20 rounds          400 y
  • Dried Elephant Tongue          1 minute          800 y
  • Parrot Tail-Feather          1d4 minutes          1200 y
  • Stonecracker Acorns          1d4x10 minutes          1600 y
  • Giant Tortoise Egg                    1 hour          2400 y
  • Petrified Tree Bark                    1 day          5000 y


  • Saltpeter                            5 ft. Radius explosion/splash          15 y
  • Nitre-Soaked Cotton          10 ft. Radius explosion/splash          30 y
  • Atsumori Clay                    15 ft. Radius explosion/splash          55 y
  • Witherite                            20 ft. Radius explosion/splash          90 y
  • Lead-Coated Lime Spar          25 ft. Radius explosion/splash          175 y
  • Widow’s Shale                   30 ft. Radius explosion/splash          275 y


  • Heart of a Bakemono          +/- 1 or 10%          1000 y
  • Heart of a Yosei                 +/- 2 or 20%          5000 y
  • Heart of an Ogre                   +/- 3 or 30%          10,000 y
  • Heart of an Oni                   +/- 4 or 40%          20,000 y
  • Heart of a Dragon                    +/- 5 or 50%          50,000 y


  • Jungle-Spider Silk          Chance to Climb Walls          90 y
  • Black Cedar Ash                    Chance to Hide in Shadows          110 y
  • Dried Lion’s Paw                    Chance to Move Silently          100 y
  • Crude Oil                            Chance to drop a held item (roll for each item)          130 y
  • Camphor                            Chance to lessen disease effects by 1 stage          150 y
  • Ground Amethyst Dust          Magic Resistance                                              250 y
  • Fig Wasp Wings                    +5% chance, 1 round                                               5 y
  • Dried Rabbit’s Foot          +10% chance, 1 round                                               10 y
  • Fox Whiskers                   +15% chance, 1 round                                               15 y
  • Boiled Bat Wings          +20% chance, 1 round                                              20 y
  • Red Carp Tail                   +25% chance, 1 round                                     25 y
  • Three-Legged Frog          +30% chance, 1 round                                     30 y
  • Panda Rib Powder          +35% chance, 1 round                                     35 y
  • Tien-Tien                            +40% chance, 1 round                                      40 y
  • Crushed Jade Amulet          +45% chance, 1 round                             45 y
  • Scale of Dragon Belly          +50% chance, 1 round                             50 y
  • Dead Maggots                   -5% chance, 1 round                                      5 y
  • Locust Husk                   -10% chance, 1 round                                      10 y
  • Ape Molar                    -15% chance, 1 round                                              15 y
  • Smoldered Sloth Hairs          -20% chance, 1 round                             20 y
  • Octopus Beak                    -25% chance, 1 round                                     25 y
  • Brined Jackal Kidneys          -30% chance, 1 round                                      30 y
  • Lightning-Struck Wood          -35% chance, 1 round                                      35 y
  • Deformed Dog Flesh                    -40% chance, 1 round                             40 y
  • Ground Insect of Amber          -45% chance, 1 round                                       45 y
  • Bones of the Tar-Slain                    -50% chance, 1 round                             50 y


  • Acid-Treated Silver Sand          Bang: save vs. Death Magic or be deafened, 1 round                    150 y
  • Magnesium                            Flash: save vs. Spell or be blinded, 1 round                    250 y
  • Phosphor                                     Glow/Sparkle: no save, affected target is illuminated, 1 round                    40 y
  • Sumac Leaf Oil                    Irritant: save vs. Death Magic or suffer -1 to all attacks, damage, initiative, AC, checks, and saves, 1 round                    200 y
  • Boiled Sake Jelly                   Sleep: save vs. Paralyzation or fall asleep (non-magical), 1 round                    300 y
  • Preserved Skunk Glands          Stench: save vs. Poison or suffer -2 to attack rolls, 1 round                    195 y


  • Refined Orange-Rind Mash          Blindness                                                 2000 y
  • Rain-Cup Flower Stamens             Deafness                                                   1000 y
  • Mandrake Root Milk                       Paralysis                                                  4000 y
  • Elder Elm Rot                                  Black Clam Juice poison                         900 y
  • Paste of Wild Tiji Grass                  Brown Clam Juice poison                      950 y
  • Poi-Root Sprouts                             Chrysanthemum Red poison                 775 y
  • Balikini Moss                                    Togo Herb poison                                   800 y
  • Cherry Buds in Vinegar                  White Pepper Mash poison                  500 y
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