Inexplicable Treasure Chests
It was a watchtower for crying out loud. Thousands of years ago when this place was brand new it had nothing of value. Nobody has come along since then and added treasure for you.
I dunno what the world's coming to if treasure chests in underground tunnels can't be relied on to contain treasure!
Treasure chests containing items are almost ubiquitous in video games — pick almost any Action Adventure
game or RPG
. Often they contain only a single item.
Their existence is generally shrouded in mystery. Who is responsible for putting them there? Somebody
had to have done it at some point. ("The game designers" don't count.)
Think about it. Treasure chests just don't materialize spontaneously—except in some games where they actually do appear out of thin air.
Furthermore, why are they almost always brightly colored, as if to stand out?
Have you ever seen a bright red and gold treasure chest in real life? Or for that matter, have you ever seen one at all?
And why are they invariably brand new-looking without the slightest hint of wear, even if the temple or dungeon they are located in supposedly hasn't been visited for 10,000 years
? Bonus points when they contain food
or other perishables, modern currency
or items that wouldn't have existed when the chest was made or equipment that exactly fits the party members' preferences no matter how improbable
. In fact, if anything this implies that those chests were put there and stocked fairly recently, which means you're probably looting what amounts to somebody's supply cache or trust fund, however unconventional.
And perhaps most strangely, why doesn't anyone ever open them except you? This is sometimes subverted by having several of the chests in a dungeon be empty
, perhaps indicating other adventurers have passed through — although there's usually no pattern to which are open and which aren't. Of course, there might be a reason
Occasionally, this trope makes sense
if you're raiding, say, the ruins of an abandoned castle — the chests are thus implied to be the wealth of whoever lived there. But the question still comes up of where the items in most other places, such as the Planet Heck
, came from...
Probably the most ridiculous manifestation of this trope comes in instances where monsters drop chests
. It isn't so ridiculous for bigger baddies who could just swallow whole convoys, boxes and all, but what about smaller creatures
which could fit into the boxes themselves
See also Crate Expectations
. Contrast Empty Room Psych
is a subtrope. Buried Treasure
, aka Pirate Booty
is a related sister trope.
For other things that probably shouldn't be there, see Blatant Item Placement
open/close all folders
- The Legend of Zelda series. In later games, the powers that be were even considerate enough to color and size-code the chests to match their contents.
- The "modern currency" part is justified here, as Rupees have been in use for at least 1000 years before Hyrule was founded and haven't changed much since.
- Furthermore, many of these chests appear out of thin air when certain arbitrary requirements are met.
- Weirdly, there are at least three chests per dungeon in which Link can find a map, a compass, and exactly the item needed to defeat the boss. Although this is all possibly justified in some of the dungeons, which were mentioned to specifically be abandoned houses, castles, or temples. And in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, several weapons were explicitly stated to be where they were because someone hid them there for a hero to find. How convenient.
- Apparently they were put there on purpose.
- Unusually, in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, in the Temple of Time ruins, a large treasure chest is seen open, and (worse yet) empty.
- Ultimately justified in The Immortal, when at the end Mordamir reveals he put the chests throughout the dungeon so that his student would survive to bring him his amulet. (Of course, many players don't survive that long.)
- The World of Mana games from Secret of Mana on feature chests that inexplicably spawn from defeated foes.
- All the items you need in Ufouria are to be found in chests scattered everywhere.
- Ōkami is full of these. While sometimes they almost make sense (like when they're buried or in the hold of the Ghost Ship), you really have to wonder how someone managed to haul them up Catcall Tower...
- These show up in AdventureQuest occasionally, despite the fact that the game doesn't generally let you walk around and explore. They're treated as monsters and usually give you gold or potions.
- Lampshaded in one mission that all the monsters get their money from a Princess of Thieves of sorts. Some potions are given to you by NPCs as thanks for saving you or parts of quests.
- Cave Story has some fun with this. At one point, you find a live dog inside a treasure chest. Its item screen description tells you that the dog really likes chests, and has gotten in the habit of sleeping in them. At another point, you have to collect jelly from flying jellyfish. You would expect that this would involve collecting the stuff off the body of the jellyfish, but instead, the defeated jellyfish drops a treasure chest containing the jelly in a jar.
- Treasure chests are all over the place in La-Mulana. Unusually, you don't open them directly; you have to solve some sort of puzzle first. Especially weird since the ruins were already being explored by the protagonist's father... why is everything in place again?
- Monsters in Zombie Hunter tend to drop chests after death for some reason.
- In Lost Kingdoms, red treasure chests contain magical fairies and monster cards which can only be used by people with ultra-rare runestones like the player...
- The 2003 video game of The Hobbit has treasure chests everywhere, including part way up trees in Mirkwood. They are colour-coded as wooden, silver, or gold. Unlocking them is a minigame involving timing with moving parts, where failure can lead to injury or poisoning.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising explains that almost all the chests you find come from the "Treasurefish", flying fish creatures that travel everywhere delivering chests to random places. If you find one flying around, you can kill it to take its treasure right then and there.
Beat 'em up
- In Spinmaster, treasure chests are everywhere on the ground. They often even fall from the sky or are carried by flying creatures. Some of the chests are flying on their own.
- Dynamite Dux has these littered throughout the stages. They give points when touched.
- God of War. Even Hades had chests full of health and magic.
- Magic chests they can maybe get away with. But Health chests in the Land of the Dead?
- Made as blatant as possible in No More Heroes. The chests are orange and gold, there are exactly five during each boss mission, and they contain either trading cards or money. They are also half as tall as the protagonist. A separate type of box contains health/battery powerups. Plus, any that you miss on a initial runthrough of the game are back, in the same place and with the same contents, when you do any additional runthroughs with a clear file saved. This is the only way to get 100% Completion, as the missions can only be done once per game.
- The Tower of Druaga has a hidden treasure chest on every floor (except those that don't have one), and the most inexplicable thing about them is the Guide Dang It methods needed to get them to appear.
- In Attack Of The Mutant Penguins, not only are there treasure chests lying around, but they have to be opened by dropping gremlins on them. Coins could be substituted for gremlins, if you could find them.
First Person Shooter
- Subverted in some cases in the game BioShock, explained in others. There are instances where opponents will run to use health stations you also have access to including a boss fight against Dr. Steinman, and hacking a station will cause it to harm enemies who try to use it. In addition, the random gear laying around is usually explained as having been left there when the previous residents were killed or mutated beyond being able to use them, or is bought from automated shops
- Justified somewhat in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, in that the "chests" are actually backpacks with various supplies, weapons and ammunition, either dropped by people when they were killed or left behind by those who wanted to come back later to retrieve them (and many of these are in dangerous locations no one would dare approach without reason). Bizarrely enough, however, almost all of these caches are completely empty until you acquire PDA entries detailing their locations by searching particular dead characters.
- Justified in Borderlands where most chests are found in enemy bases or friendly towns. But, due to the fact that nearly all loot is randomized this leads to unusual situations like finding weapons that are far more powerful than the ones nearby mooks are using. Or there are upgrades that mooks can't use or should be using (like buffs an advanced turret found when dealing with simple bandits or item that regenerates ammo). Or there are weapons that don't make sense being there, like sniper rifles in a tight winding caves or shotguns on sniper perches.
- Fridge Brilliance in action: If you have a sniper rifle in tight, twisty caves and you're not a badass Vault Hunter who can digistruct your weapons from the electronic aether, you might prefer to stash it in a chest rather than have it encumber you in your exploration. Likewise, if you're a sniper, you don't need your shotgun at the moment you're sniping, so you might put it away in a convenient nearby box that will keep out the dust and sand, and then get shot before you can retrieve it. Of course, this still doesn't explain why you find guns and ammo in toilets. Not the outhousenote , but in the toilet bowl.
- Serious Sam II has got treasure chest items which yield points.
Hack And Slash
- In Diablo II, many treasure chests are found in the open air, in the wilderness. Most are not locked, and those that are are opened by one universal flavor of Interchangeable Antimatter Keys.
- There's a Wild Mass Guessing about this on Diablo's WMG page.
- The game also had various stashes under rocks and things that functioned identically to chests. Sometimes subverted with the chests/stashes being empty or already opened - but not too often. Occasionally, a fireball that comes out.
- Also occasionally averted by using furniture appropriate to the type of loot, like bookcases or weapon racks.
- Still rather jarring to watch a weapon rack containing nothing but swords spit out a bow, or an armor rack holding a Rogue's breastplate automagically turn into a freakin' hat.
- In Drakengard, there are chests sitting in the midst of barren, empty fields. What's even more bizarre is once you pilfer the chests, they sink through the ground into parts unknown. Blinking out would have been acceptable, but I guess the game's programmers felt like creeping the player out if they bothered to watch.
- EverQuest II LIVES on this trope. Weapons, armor, and treasure in general doesn't drop off monsters. Oh no. They're found inside one of the four qualities of treasure chests that the monsters inexplicably carry around on them. This often overlaps with Impossible Item Drop, since you might kill a three inch tall fire beetle and it'll drop a Master treasure chest half the size of a bank vault.
- World of Warcraft does this. Most players get used to the idea to the point where they don't even notice this trope. Sometimes they may have Fridge Logic moments about it if it contains, say, cheese, but even then most don't really realize it. The only time it really calls attention is if two stacks of the same item are in the same chest. Seeing a stack of three apples followed by a separate stack of 2 apples listed as a separate item can really break the suspension of disbelief and make one begin to question the nature of the world...of warcraft.
- As of Cataclysm, these chests have become more rare, and now spawn even in the previously chest-free continent of Northrend. Every chest contains cash and a single item of superior (blue)quality, as well as more experience points than even a quest of the appropriate level.
- Notice that most of these chests are guarded by mobs. That at least suggests that the chests aren't just scattered about and are in fact still being used by the enemies for storage. In fact, if a high level player-character is standing next to some hostile low-level monsters — a player much much higher level than a monster can get within a few feet of it without being attacked — and opens a chest, the monsters instantly attack him (as ineffectual as such an attack might be with such a level-difference).
- Never mind why the "large battered chest" is there, the big question is what we should fry it in.
- Guild Wars gets fairly ridiculous about this. Each region has its own kind of chest, with a unique key that must be purchased in nearby towns, and with unique kinds of loot. They can be found literally anywhere. While it's rather implausible in places like the frozen seas and forests of Cantha, it's downright ridiculous in the various Hell analogues.
- Final Fantasy XI was a bit closer to justifying this trope than most FFs with the treasure chests and coffers, as they either appeared in dungeons, as most were populated by enemy beastmen (although how you keep finding chests and coffers in ruins abandoned for eons still doesn't make sense), and any other chests are found in special fights said to be sealed treasures with monsters in them(the chests in Limbus, however, are never explained, and were also the first kind to not be just brown or grey). Now, however, all monsters in the outside areas before Chains of Promathia have a 10% chance of dropping a chest of some sort. While the items help leveling, it's never been explained where all of them came from, especially considering some of the monsters that reveal a chest can't even carry one. How can a bee carry a giant, square box?
- Final Fantasy XIV usually keeps treasure chests and coffers regulated within dungeons only; some of the dungeons are either abandoned structures or places that fell out of use for generations, which would make sense to have treasure boxes being left behind as the remains of what once inhabited the area. Patch 2.1 introduced treasure chests that can be dug out of the ground at any point around the world, but attempting to open them releases monsters and only by defeating them can you get the goodies inside. The chest will also disappear after 5 minutes for some reason.
- Particularly odd in the MMO La Tale, since treasure chests can spawn almost anywhere on a given map. Where do they keep appearing from?
- Gaia Online features multiple varieties. On the main site, and all of the flash games except for zOMG!, you may occasionally run into a "Flying Magical Giftbox" or "Enchanted Chest", which must be caught by clicking on it, and grants you a random rare piece of clothing or furniture, depending on the color of the container being opened. In zOMG!, inexplicable treasure chests (and crates, and baskets, and on one occasion a safe) are placed around the map. Opening them can grant a large number of regular drops, or (if your level is too high) nothing at all. Judging by their appearance, these chests appear to be Animated, and it is implied the safe was placed at its location by NeXuS Corp, but since you never see any of the chests move, there's no explanation as to what they hell they're doing there.
- It should be noted that if you do see a flying giftbox in zOMG, you are best advised to run for your life!
- Of course, given all of the other stuff Gaia's gone through, the chests are usually the least unusual things to think about.
- Averted and parodied in Kingdom of Loathing. The cargo hold of the Penultimate Fantasy Airship is packed wall to wall with Penultimate Fantasy treasure chests. "Man, these guys must be really obsessive about collecting treasure. It's like they're trying to get 100% of the treasure in the world, or something."
- And completely inverted with the Sunken Chest - it can't be opened, under any circumstances. Instead, it's used as part of the recipe for a familiar.
- Atlantica Online usually links the chests to quests or a treasure map.
- Averted in RuneScape. There are many, many chests in the world that contain nothing interesting...and thus no tangible items of any kind for the player to claim. Effectively, they are nothing but scenery. Despite this, they still typically have a 'search' option.
- Dungeons and Dragons Online: Chests are the standard reward system, almost guaranteed to be found at the end of a dungeon and often after defeating a mini-boss. Sometimes mini-boss chests might contain only a key or other item necessary to progress. Sometimes the chests mysteriously appear only after defeating a boss. Parodied in one quest where a chest appears after solving a puzzle and freeing a captive (which happens to be a mindflayer), and he asks: "Aren't you even going to ask where I was keeping that?"
Point And Click
- Darby The Dragon has these scattered across Dragondale, uniquely with each one in a different color. You conveniently get a skeleton key for all of them at the beginning of the game. However, it turns out that each one contains nothing more than one huge gold coin.
- One of the sacred treasures you have to find in the first King's Quest game is a chest that magically fills itself with a limitless supply of gold coins. Sure, it's not like inflation is involved or anything.
- While not treasure chests per se, the enormous pods which contain X's various upgrades in the Mega Man X games are found littered all over the various Maverick's hideouts...placed there a century ago by X's long-dead creator, and left respectfully undisturbed by the Reploid criminals that now inhabit the area. By the time of X8, there have been well over fifty of these capsules. Dr. Light was apparently a very busy man in his last days. X6 hangs a lampshade on it, at least - the first capsule you find has Dr. Light bemoaning how much trouble the future is in if you had to open this set.
- Ever so slightly (and vaguely) Hand Waved by the ending of X5 where it's implied that the holographic Dr. Light is slightly more sentient and mobile than implied by his capsule appearances. Of course, nothing is ever made of this almost-revelation again.
- One (five if you count one of the Gaiden Games) out of those 50+ capsules is outfitted for Zero, a robot that Dr. Light should have no knowledge of. Only two words can describe it...
- And finally, Mega Man Zero had conveniently-hidden boxes containing cyber-elves and Secret Disks.
- The monitors in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Never mind how they got there, what powers them? (and why is Robotnik so sporting that he'll have a bunch of them inside his bases?)
- The British version of Sonic continuity created an explanation for this: the monitors were actually originally computer terminals for a worldwide internet set up by Dr Kintobor as part of his Retro Orbital Chaos Compressor machine designed to rid the world of evil and store it in the Chaos Emeralds. When the ROCC went wrong and exploded, turning Kintobor into his Evil Counterpart Robotnik, the overload resulted in the monitors all shorting out and leaving them with random 'power-ups' inside (as well as scattering the rings that had made up the ROCC all over Mobius).
- Docfuture's Let's Play of Sonic 2: Special Edition offers an even stranger explanation. In short, they're alive. Poor, poor Failure Cresh.
- Legend of Kay features not only your standard treasure chest waiting in a corner, but also treasure chests materializing out of thin air as soon as the area is cleared of enemies.
- Treasure chests, with some oversized ones, are present in both DuckTales games.
- Wizards And Warriors has treasure chests all over the place.
- Both the NES and Wii versions of A Boy and His Blob have treasure chests all over the place. One might wonder who left them there.
- In Ghouls 'n Ghosts, treasure chests just seem to materialize when approaching them.
- In Moon Crystal, it seems that careless people have left their treasure chests on top of tree branches, roofs and even ship masts and so on.
- Crystal Caves has treasure chests scattered around as well; a key allows you to open all chests found on the same level for score.
- Jak and Daxter had actual treasure chests all over the world from the tropical islands to the frozen mountains.
- Common in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. Most of them respawn.
- In Fez, treasure chests can often be found out in the open and usually contain a single-use key.
- Atlantis No Nazo abounds with treasure chests, which contain nothing but points.
- The worlds of Flink are practically littered with treasure chests, which are also useful for throwing at enemies.
- Mighty Bomb Jack has treasure chests everywhere, containing bags of points, powerups and secret collectibles. Some of them can't be opened at lower power levels and may block Jack's way, but at higher power levels chests can also be opened by walking through their sides.
- Super Mario Bros. has the random ? blocks that seemingly appear everywhere for no real reason in particular (the first game had them turn out to be transformed Toads, the later ones just cut out the idea altogether). Whether it be the hub, a level or the main antagonist's fortress of doom, there will be at least 10 or more of these things just lying around in the open with random items or money inside. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team even had stats for 'percentage of blocks hit/opened' that a bored player could try and max out. Super Mario RPG also just has tresure chests, which also have a percentage to max out.
Real Time Strategy
- The Research Cubes in Darwinia were fairly Inexplicable: although we know they're Sepulveda's research and why they're in Darwinia, there's no logical explanation for them being scattered on random mountains.
- The last mission of the Allied campaign of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge. Can anyone please explain what is a pair of oil derricks doing in Antarctica? And a region of Antarctica surrounded by impassable cliff faces that make actually transporting the oil to somewhere else by any means other than airlift or teleportation impossible, nonetheless.
- Not that the warring factions don't have access to teleportation, mind you.
- Or regular old airlift technology in the form of helicopters and airships. Plus oil is abundant around Antarctica - why wouldn't the factions try to control this valuable resource?
- Age of Empires III has "relics" scattered about the maps. Some of these make sense like abandoned wagons or a rare wild animals. Others are just treasure chests that are being guarded by Jaguars, for some reason.
- Patapon 3 has treasure chests scattered all over levels. At one point, one of the large enemies even throws one at the player's army.
- In Nethack many chest are locked. If you don't have anything normally used for opening locks like a credit card or a wand of opening then you can try to force the lock by prying open the lid with a bladed weapon, but this has the danger of destroying your weapon. If you don't want to risk your bladed weapon (or don't have one) then you can try kicking the chest until the lock breaks, but this runs the risk of shattering any potions contained in the chest. Alternatively, you can use a blunt weapon to try and bash the lock apart, though there's a chance you'll go overboard and smash the chest apart completely, along with some of the contents. The Dev Team Thinks of Everything.
- Chests are sometimes booby trapped as well, blasting you with various unpleasant magic and possibly destroying some of your current inventory. And after all that, the chest in question can turn out to have been empty all along.
- Since monsters can't use containers you use chests for safely storing items you don't want to carry around but you also don't want getting into the hands of any monsters.
- Although Gelatinous Cubes can and will devour chests and all their contents, so true security requires a little extra effort..
- Played straight, after a fashion, in Dwarf Fortress. If you abandon a fort and then come back with an adventurer or reclaim party, every item in the fortress that wasn't walled up or underwater will be strewn around the map at random, apparently by the various unpleasant creatures that moved in when you left. Finding everything and putting it away can end up taking longer than evicting the hostiles.
- Averted otherwise though, as any chest you find in Adventure mode always has a reason to be there.
- Dungeons of Dredmor has chests you can either lockpick or smash apart. Smashing the chest has a chance of destroying the item inside as well (as signified by the message "You smashed it up good!"), but lockpicks also have a chance of breaking upon use, causing you to sometimes use 2 or even 3 lockpicks on a single chest. Fortunately, lockpicks are fairly plentiful. A skill in the Burglary class has the ability to potentially give you an infinite number of lockpicks.
Role Playing Game
Wide Open Sandbox
Non-video game examples:
- In the Discworld book The Last Hero, this sort of thing is accepted by the barbarian heroes of the Silver Horde as a regular occurrence in dungeons, along with medkits and similar items. When an outsider mentions how strange it is, they're shocked on realizing he makes sense, and begin to suspect something's not right with the world...
- Dark Lord Harry Dread said he maintains them in his evil lairs, as part of the whole hero/villain arrangement.
- The related phenomenon of treasure being arbitrarily hidden under altars is Lampshaded all the way back in The Colour Of Magic, when Hrun the Barbarian Hero takes it for granted that riches simply turn up there, like apples under apple trees.
- In The Elminster Series, apparently one of Elminster's jobs is stocking dungeons.
- Somewhat justified in that he's a Chosen of the goddess of magic, so spreading magic and advancing its cause is indeed part of his "job"...and leaving the occasional fake "old" spellbook or magic item in some dungeon or tomb for adventurers to eventually discover is one of the more entertaining ways to do so.
Player: Who would actually go through the trouble to leave this chest all the way out here? Ah, Who cares? Free Stuff!