The treasure hunter debate was a dispute about the value of the Treasure Hunter talent relative to other talents.


The value of treasure hunter has been contested ever since the talent system was created. One of the biggest influences is the ADOM Guidebook, which suggests that treasure hunter is "Considered by many to be the best talent overall" and "Well worth the two prerequisites".

The debate itself was largely initiated on the forums by gut's "The treasure hunter talent sucks"[1] thread; one of the most widely read and commented threads in the entire forum.

In some sense, the argument is really a proxy for the following question: "which point of the game is the most significant to a player's overall success?" Proponents of the trait often have less interest in consistently surviving the early-game, favouring survival in the mid-game instead. Opponents of the trait often feel that the early-game is the most significant, and that once the PC survives this crucial stage, it is reasonably likely to win (with or without treasure hunter).

In the past, there was confusion on what treasure hunter actually did, which muddied the debate a bit.

Arguments in Favour of Treasure Hunter[]

Reduces Need for Scumming[]

Proponents argue that:

  • Treasure hunter reduces the need to engage in tedious scumming, such as stairhopping or grinding, in order to generate items.
  • In a hypothetical game with finite levels, finite monsters, and zero way to scum, treasure hunter offers undeniable benefits. Since it is passive, you gain from playing normally.

Thus, players who are strongly opposed to any repetitive scumming methods often feel that TH is valuable.

Increased Items Result in Increased Survival Chance[]

Treasure hunter has value, even in the early-game. Since it makes you more likely to find equipment, characters with TH will have more PV / DV on average. They'll also have a greater amount of "nice to have" items, such as potions of water, potions of cure poison and scrolls of identify.

The cumulative effect of these benefits over the entire game is quite significant, and with many more resources available to them, supporters argue that players with TH are more likely to win.

Benefits of Most Other Talents Decline Rapidly[]

While some talents may be significant in the early-game, by the time the player reaches, say Dwarftown or the Tower of Eternal Flames, they become meaningless. For instance, 3 HP from Hardy is negligible for PC with over 100 health. In contrast, treasure hunter provides benefits that extend for a significant period of a game. Thus, the benefits of the added items will rapidly exceed the minimal benefits of any other talent.

Some players argue that most traits in general offer a minimal benefit, with little effect on their overall gameplay. E.g. a point of PV can be useful objectively, but even in the early-game, how much does it actually help?

Arguments Against Treasure Hunter[]

Treasure Hunter Compromises Early-Game Survival[]

Treasure hunter requires two prerequisite talents (Alert and Miser) of minimal value. In the early-game, picking Alert means not picking another talent - most notably the PV line and Speed line of talents.

Since the majority of PCs die in the early-game, it makes sense to maximize survivability at that point. Late-game deaths are uncommon, and usually avoidable. Furthermore, the talents you could get are quite significant in the early-game -- increasing PV from 0 to 1 is a huge improvement, for example.

Most Items are Junk[]

The majority of items that the PC finds are junk, and treasure hunter does nothing to improve their quality. If the game would generate 90 trash items, then treasure hunter would give you 90 or so more trash items.

TH does give you more good items, since you get a higher amount of random drops. However, many good items are not random drops (e.g. not boosted by treasure hunter). Examples include shops, guaranteed items, the Water Dragon Cave, grave-digging, killing monsters in vaults, etc.

Scum If You Need Items[]

This argument is two-fold:

  • If a player felt like having more items (or a specific item) would improve their gameplay, they could scum. Scumming lets you get infinite items, and doesn't take 3 talent slots. If scumming is "allowed", then treasure hunter is purely for convenience.
  • Because many players do not scum, their gameplay would not be significantly improved by having more items (whether from treasure hunter or from scumming).

In other words, players do not benefit much from having more items. If players really felt that items would help, they would scum. As an example, having more wands may provide a tangible benefit, but the difference between having 1 wand of cold and 2 wands of cold isn't that big.

Some Rebuttals of Arguments Opposed[]

Early-Game Survival Is Unimportant[]

Some argue that, while other talents would be better for early-game survival, the early-game isn't important. For general, "casual" play, the player is free to reroll a character whenever they die. If you spend a tiny amount of time per character, there's little harm in playing new PCs until you get past the early game.

Obviously, this does not apply for competitive games (like Roman Republic games), nor does it apply if you're trying to streak games of ADOM. Making a new PC can also take a lot of time when roll scumming.

Treasure Hunter Increases the Probability of Better Items Being Generated[]

While most items are indeed junk, having more items means a greater chance to get a high-value item. Players with treasure hunter, will, on average, see more items like amulets of life saving, rings of djinni summoning, or ego weapons. Just a few can change your game for the better.

Convenience is Reason Enough to Choose TH[]

Essentially a restatement of the first argument, proponents note that the ability to generate more items without scumming methods is a significant and worthwhile benefit in and of itself. Even if treasure hunter doesn't make the game easier, it can make it more fun, since the player always has an abundance of useful consumables.

Some Rebuttals of Arguments in Favour[]

Extra Items Aren't Necessary[]

"Reducing the need to scum for items" is a red herring, because having extra items might not actually help survival by much. The game provides enough items from guaranteed sources such as quests, and from normal item drops from monsters, shops, etc., to be sufficient for a player's needs.

This argument is often supported by the assertion that, prior to v. 1.1.1, talents did not exist. Players during this period didn't feel obliged to grind for some extra items.

Treasure Hunter Requires Many Kills to be Useful[]

A restatement of "early-game survival is important", treasure hunter requires you to kill monsters to drop items. To see a significant benefit from the trait, many monsters must be killed. This requires the PC to survive through some of the most difficult parts of the game. In turn, they are likely to win, treasure hunter or not.

Benefits of All Talents (Including Treasure Hunter) Decline Rapidly[]

In response to "most other talents decline rapidly", the benefit of treasure hunter also declines. By the time the player reaches the Casino, for instance, the effect of having treasure hunter or not is insignificant.

Further, if the PC dies in the early-game with treasure hunter, but could've survived with a different set of talents, any long-term argument should be of minimal consequence.

Neutral Positions[]

Some people attempt to take a neutral position on the issue, arguing that the choice of whether or not to take the talent depends heavily on race, class, and playstyle. For example, a strong race/class combo may "afford" to take Alert / Treasure Hunter early-game. A wizard can benefit from some extra books a lot, while a beastfighter won't get as much from extra loot.

These players may also argue that: extremely new players should take talents to improve their survival, since their chances of making past the early-game are generally dismal.

Such positions are normally ridiculed by both sides of the debate as being too rational and conciliatory.

The Treasure Hunter Challenge[]

In response to the dispute regarding the viability of treasure hunter, a forum-wide competition called Treasure Hunter, the Ultimate Showdown[2] (THUS) was held in early 2009. Participants were divided in teams, in favour of and opposed to Treasure Hunter, generated a random character, and played either with or without TH, and players who took it were expected to do so by level 12. Points were awarded for reaching the Tower of Eternal Flames, regular victory and ultra endings. Each team had 14 members playing.

For the time of last update the standings were:

- The TH Rocks![3] team captured 5 Fire Orbs; 3 players achieved victory: 1 normal and 2 ultra endings; 8 players died; 3 players were still playing.

- The TH Sucks![4] team captured 4 Fire Orbs; only 1 player achieved victory - an ultra ending; 11 players died and 2 were still playing.

Both sides declared victory in the end.