Most of the people in the groups I play in and run for are old school gamers. When I say old school, I mean some of them have experience with first edition D&D and other similar games where, essentially, if you didn't get loot you didn't get XP. Most of us moved on to other games like L5R over the years, but we've been dipping our feet back into the D&D and it has been interesting watching some of the old school tendencies kick back in. One of the more annoying - for me, anyhow, as it doesn't gel with the style of game I like - is the tendency for the players to loot everything they can. Today I want to talk about that style of play, what I see the pros of it being, and where I see the cons that make me not like it, and could prove problematic for others.
Wait, Loot Everything?
I doubt anyone who runs D&D is unfamiliar with the concept, but let me put it into perspective. In a D&D game I was a player in with my old friend about 6-7 years ago, by the end of the first adventure not only was everyone in the party a lot more wealthy than the loot tables and GM had planned for, but we owned a 33% interest in the local town that had hired us.
How did we do that? We literally looted everything. Every tapestry, the bedding, the wood, the nails, the weapons of the monsters, the armor. We took it all. What we couldn't sell directly we sold as junk or raw goods. When people couldn't, or wouldn't buy we traded - frequently at great rates against the future when the dungeon was clear and trade would return.
Now, that is a bit extreme, but it is something I see my players - and other players - do a lot. A bunch of goblins attack and die and the first thing the players are looking at is if the weapons/armor are any good. I've even seen players go so far as to strip the mobs/enemies naked as if the slashed/blood soaked goblin clothes are going to be good for anything but burning.
It is extreme, but it is a tactic. Where I see it the most is players whose first, and most impressionable GM, was stingy with loot or otherwise very GM vs. PC. That might be one of the reasons I dislike it. Even so, it does have its place.
There are a lot of pros for this type of play, please don't get me wrong. For one thing, it shows creative thinking on the players side of things and that is to be encouraged. It enables you to give "loot" to the players without having to give out sacks of gold and such, provided you plan for it. Those goblins have no reason to have 40 gold coins on them? Maybe their weapons are worth 40 gold. Of course, ruling that the gear is the loot is kind of breaking the "normal" deal where the PCs get the loot and the gear the monsters dropped.
Still, if your PCs tend to do this it can be used in a lot of ways, and many of those ways can add a lot of depth to the game. It can also let you show the difference between enemy types and the value of the gear they are using.
The biggest con to this - for me - is the amount of book keeping it brings up. Above and beyond the monsters and the loot that is already planned for, you also have to keep track of the gear that is being picked up. Every little bit that is picked up then needs to be catalogued and have something done with it. It leads to a side game of "Adventure Log: the Spreadsheet" that I don't like because, quite simply, I don't find hoarding over the details of every last trinket picked up on an adventure to be particularly fun.
There are two other, smaller, problems also associated with this. One I don't care about (money = power, thus looting everything is a form of power creep) and one I do.
Power creep wise, if your players are looting everything they're looking to get extra money. Extra money turns into better gear faster in stores. It turns into more health potions - and other potions as well. It turns into bought gear and hirelings and other things that some GMs may see as "my PCs are getting too strong too fast." I don't really consider power creep a barrier to a fun time GMing, but you might, and so it is worth noting.
The other is that it can cause arguments at the table. What kind? Well, it usually starts after the third or fourth camp when the GM asks where all these swords/boots/armor/etc are being kept. The players then respond that they're being kept in their packs, and they have the strength to carry the weight. The GM then mentions that size is also an issue, and even if they can carry 300lbs without being encumbered, that doesn't mean it doesn't suck. Then, sometimes (usually) someone will bring up that it's just a fantasy game and not bound by the real worlds. And yet, the idea that the sword that stabbed has to be worthwhile loot is based on "that is just what makes sense."
Whether or not your group argues with this stuff will depend on your group. It can come up though.
In The End
In the end this is usually worth a discussion with your group. Keep in mind, I'm already kind of biased against it as it isn't something I find fun. Others, however, do find it fun to loot the whole place and micromanage building a merchant empire out of the once-dropped goods looted from the bodies of their enemies.
Just be aware of it when running that kind of group. Some games lend themselves well to that kind of play (Shadowrun among them) and some campaigns will do well with that kind of grit. Ultimately though, RPGs should be fun, so use the methods that make the game fun for you, and your players.