I'm running a D&D 5e game for two players. How can I make the contents of a treasure stash exciting without overpowering my players or just giving them lots of busywork?
Newish DM here – I'm still trying to get a handle on how to dish up treasure to my two players whenever they stumble on someone's cache/hoard/chest/secret wall safe. On the one hand, I want to give them a sense of accomplishment and reward for their efforts thus far, but on the other hand I don't want to make them too overpowered with great weapons/armor or just hand them lots of things they need to sell.
In the games I've seen other people run (none with under 5 players, which is probably why my experience is skewed) a treasure pile generally contains at least 3-4 at-level items. By that I mean it seems about 3-4 of the players in the group walks away with some kind of item that is of interest to their character. Generally someone's left out of the aquisition, I would guess to encourage the players to barter among themselves so everyone's happy with the distribution. There's also usually enough gold that either the money-keeper in the group is very satisfied, or every player gets a nice cut.
The balance I've described above seems to work really well. Most players get a nice boon after being silently manipulated into a good bit of in-character roleplay to figure out the distribution. Plus, everyone gets a bit of cash to replace what they spent on the mission.
The difficulty I'm finding is how to apply that same balance to a party of two. My players have very different styles (one is your typical smashy-shortrange, the other is a ranged-stealth – they don't tend to use the same items). Planting an item in the treasure is fine, but by the very act of being useful it will very clearly be of use to only one PC, which negates the need for any kind of discussion. I could just give them one item each every time, but then they'll quickly become overpowered if the new item is so obviously better than what they have.
Pure gold treasure seems lame to me (and lacks variety) but throwing in a bunch of lower-level items and/or gems to sell feels like busywork as they then need to take time later to barter the junk into cash.
Which brings me back to my bolded question up top. How do I make treasure stashes rewarding in such a small party?