5e and Character Wealth: what are PCs supposed to spend their treasure on?


4th Edition


My group recently decided to try out 5e after years of Pathfinder and though we're enjoying the change of pace so far, this week we had a question that I couldn't really answer.

What are PCs supposed to spend all their treasure on?

It doesn't seem like masterwork weapons and armor have made it into 5e and permanent magic items aren't for sale by the default assumption. So after they purchase the best armor they can use and whatever potions or scrolls might be for sale and assuming no one has a magical condition that needs curing, what are they supposed to use this money for?


I think the assumption is they spend it on things they spent it on in previous editions (before Magic Marts became the norm in 3.x) like building a keep, hiring retainers, fixing up an old temple of their god or building a new one where one doesn't exist, etc.


- Life style (and retirement fund)
- training (language and tool proficiencies)
- raising armies.
- building fortresses
- gifts for NPCs
- better non magical equipment.
- ships
- civic improvements
- bribes

Ect..


It is a question. And was a problem in AD&D as well.

You really can rack up a ton of cash with little to spend it on. To some extent that goes away if you're playing in the type of game where you're expected to settle down and hire tons of people and build fortresses and all that.

That's not the way all games go though. So if you don't want to get involved in that part, it's really not clear what the point of the vast piles of loot is.

The obvious answer might be, assuming the PCs have other reasons for adventuring, to just cut back on the treasure hoards.

Grand Lodge

That is for the DM to decide. I would allow them to use that wealth and influence to build a place in the world. Have them able to purchase land and title maybe. Introduce intrigue, give them things to invest in. Maybe NPCs hear that the PCs have money and decide to 1) rob them, or 2) ask for help to save their farm, or something.

There are many more things to buy other than magic items. As for masterwork items, I would let them buy items/weapons/armor at an increased price and those items become part of their legacy or reputation! (Like Artemis Entreri's jeweled dagger, long before we knew that it was magical.)

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Personally, I like that wealth is not used as a character advancement track in 5E, as I never really liked that aspect of Pathfinder, due to narrative issues.

I haven't run into the "What to spend all this on?" issue in my games. Are you perhaps awarding treasure as you would in a Pathfinder game, having not shifted to the 5E paradigm? That is, I could see an experienced GM getting used to how much money to throw around in Pathfinder, then switching to 5E and trying to do the same thing, then discovering there's nothing to spend it on. Could that be what's happening?


As an extreme old timer who started in the J. Eric Holmes and 1st edition days where gold was how you earned XP, I'm sympathetic to the notion that changing paradigms might be hard to adapt to.

That said, the fact that 5e doesn't require you to spend huge amounts of gold to be competitive / stay alive strikes me as a good reason to investigate that edition which I have avoided doing until now (old dogs and new tricks, you know...)

I agree that the 'spending gold to advance' paradigm is one part of PF I've never liked, and like yourself for narrative reasons. In an odd way, one of the positives of 1E was that you needed gold for XP reasons but you didn't need it to buy magic items to stay alive. Robert E Howard's Conan stole a lot of gemstone eyes from pagan idols (which he promptly lost in drunken debauchery) but he never bought a +3 sword at the magic shop...


permits and licenses - you can't expect to be allowed to enter all those dungeons for free


I built an introductory adventure with the 5e rules and treasure table before switching to Princes of the Apocalypse. I don't think they're weighed down with coinage exactly, but there was a degree of confusion once they got to town and saw that there wasn't much in the way of new gear beyond healing potions or scrolls to spend it on.

Say what you will for magic item marts, they created a risk-reward-customization loop that a lot of players my age that grew up with video games find enjoyable. It will be an adjustment for them to get used to the new-old way of doing things. I guess they'll learn to save it or take flute lessons.


My GM has introduced Masterwork (+1) weapons and armor, and -- at my suggestion -- Masterpiece (+2) weapons from the d20 Wheel of Time game. It has eaten up most of our money quite effectively.


Zombieneighbours wrote:

- Life style (and retirement fund)

- training (language and tool proficiencies)
- raising armies.
- building fortresses
- gifts for NPCs
- better non magical equipment.
- ships
- civic improvements
- bribes

Ect..

Yes.....

Raising profile n renown
Doing the opposite to rivals
Crafting magic items
Carousing
Businesses
Metaplot

All so much cooler than saving for +2 cloaks

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I have always hated the Wealth By Levels paradigm. One of the worst things that 4th edition did was to have making items be full price and to buy would introduce a mark up of 10 to 40 percent. Then anything sold by a PC would only be at half price, without the mark up. Most DM's didn't bother with the mark up and used 3rd edition crafting rules, without the EXP hit, but it was a big part of the rules that made characters poor.

The other extreme is to do away with magical items as a resource completely, as 5th edition (next?) did. Now, it is a part of the reward in play and still uses the "wish list," which was something else I do not agree with.

This is one of the reasons I am staying away from 5th edition for the moment, as any good thing is tempered by the not so good nigglely.


I sell my player's characters Shields that have a big "+2" painted on them...

and then leave town.


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Thinking about this a little more: 5E really changes the paradigm of treasure and loot. Wealth is no longer a mechanical aspect of the character's power, the way it is in 3.x and in different ways in older versions. It's not a mechanical reward, like xp, and shouldn't be treated as such. Which means, among other things, that there's no need to worry about mechanics when you're handing it out. There's no right amount.

Treasure isn't a mechanical reward. It's a narrative reward. One among many. That gives you a lot more freedom to use it to shape the game you (including the players) want to play. You can do a lot of things you can't really do in PF without houserules. You can play the heroes who do their deeds without worrying about rewards. You can play down on their luck mercenaries always scrounging for the next job to pay the bills. You can play the group saving up for strongholds and titles. You can play Conan, looting a bag of gold and drinking it up in a wild debauch before the next adventure. You can even have them stumble across a lost treasure and have the game focused on defending it.

And you can do any of it without screwing up game balance.


Fair point James Keegan - I've done the Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale thing so the magic item shop also resonates with me. Maybe Conan didn't do it but admittedly that's the 1930's.

In my recent Mummy's Mask campaign, I stole an "outlander" magic shop merchant from the old City of Delights Al-Qadim setting to help my players spend their wealth and prepare for future challenges. Unknown to the players (who hopefully don't know my online handle!) the merchant is actually an ancient red dragon seeking a thief in the city of Wati. The role playing has been fun and I'm pretty sure I'm going to let the players in on the merchant's secret (some of them have guessed).

It's not a bad way of letting players spend gold and prepare for future challenges while delivering some roleplaying fun and a magic item shop that is impervious to robbery. Well, it's been robbed, but the perpetrator was later found burned to death by an intense fire with the word 'thief' carved into his char-grilled skin by a knife or a claw...


That's actually so much more interesting to me, than a PC wearing all their wealth. Actually doing things with their wealth like... a mage commissioning a tower, getting hirelings, or hiring spies, donating to a mage's guild. A warrior building a keep and paying mercenaries, and maybe a low level cleric to help keep them healthy. All the cool stuff that people do with their their money. Love that sort of stuff.

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Jiggy wrote:
I haven't run into the "What to spend all this on?" issue in my games.

Well that's because we've spent the last 3 months wandering around the hillside looking at rocks.


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Robert Carter 58 wrote:
That's actually so much more interesting to me, than a PC wearing all their wealth. Actually doing things with their wealth like... a mage commissioning a tower, getting hirelings, or hiring spies, donating to a mage's guild. A warrior building a keep and paying mercenaries, and maybe a low level cleric to help keep them healthy. All the cool stuff that people do with their their money. Love that sort of stuff.

It can be fun, if you're playing the kind of game where you've got a homebase and enough downtime to set it all up. If you're off on a long term quest, it doesn't really work.

And not everyone's really interested. Honestly, I never have been. I'd much rather spend my time out adventuring than setting up all that kind of stuff.

As I suggested above, the simple answer is "Don't give so much treasure" if the players don't have in character plans for it. Or give them more if they really want to focus on that.


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RainyDayNinja wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
I haven't run into the "What to spend all this on?" issue in my games.
Well that's because we've spent the last 3 months wandering around the hillside looking at rocks.

The fresh air will do you good.


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Personally, I think I'll tailor it to suit the PCs in the game. Our current 5E game has just reached 20th level (a very accelerated Curse of the Crimson Throne trial of the rules). The PCs are very senior members of the Brotherhood of Bones, so have expensive lifestyles to maintain, retainers to pay, tithes to make and so forth.

I think it's going to be one of those things we need to talk about pre-campaign. I could easily imagine accidentally giving out too much loot - without the money pit of the Christmas Tree, it's one of the things I'll need to be mindful of. In Pathfinder it doesnt really matter if you give out an overly generous hoard - the players are ahead of the curve for a bit, but mysteriously hit a 'dry spell' and everything works out in the end.


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The only thing I can think of is to point the players to the lifestyle rules and let them know that they should be living like royalty. Then we need to come up with non-monetary reasons for them to keep adventuring.

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RainyDayNinja wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
I haven't run into the "What to spend all this on?" issue in my games.
Well that's because we've spent the last 3 months wandering around the hillside looking at rocks.

Then I give you a couple of fantastical creatures and you sit there and don't post. Ball's in your court, bro.


Wealth in 5e is used to build a stronghold/tower/tavern, to buy all kind of stuff to furnish your base, to hoard treasure and buy/create/train guardian to protect the above. So this way new adventurers will have new places to explore and conquer ;)


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Mordo wrote:
Wealth in 5e is used to build a stronghold/tower/tavern, to buy all kind of stuff to furnish your base, to hoard treasure and buy/create/train guardian to protect the above. So this way new adventurers will have new places to explore and conquer ;)

Which is interesting, because the adventures they've put out don't really seem to support that.

Where and when in the Dragon Queen one were you supposed to stop and build a stronghold or a tavern? How much treasure did you come out with and what was there you could spend it on?


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I dislike the big 4 items of +x in pathfinder, but there are not in 5e other kind of items that let you do other stuff besides increasing your numbers?, like rings of invisibility and the like, it would be boring if not.

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Nicos wrote:
I dislike the big 4 items of +x in pathfinder, but there are not in 5e other kind of items that let you do other stuff besides increasing your numbers?, like rings of invisibility and the like, it would be boring if not.

Cool items exist, but the default assumption is that you can't just go to a metropolis and expect to buy one off the shelf. Instead, the game doesn't assume you're going to acquire any given magic item, and therefore whatever you find as treasure is actually a special bonus that goes beyond what's expected of you. But the fun and interesting items are totally still there. :)


Ah, well. If there is something I dislike more that the +x items is the settlement rules. So, can you have in 5e a magic item shop and nothing bad happens even if the game doesn't account for it?

Sovereign Court

Exotic mounts can eat up a lot of money. Buying, keeping, feeding, housing... it adds up. Just shy away from any flying ones... at least at first.

Or you could introduce a pet village where the players might invest to help the townsfolk improve their lot. Something like that might really tie them into the region... unless that isn't the kind of game you are playing/running.

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Nicos wrote:
Ah, well. If there is something I dislike more that the +x items is the settlement rules. So, can you have in 5e a magic item shop and nothing bad happens even if the game doesn't account for it?

I see no reason that giving your players money and a Magic Mart would break your game any more than just giving them magic items as loot.

One of the strengths of 5E is that it's very flexible and robust, very easy to houserule.

Sovereign Court

Indeed. There are rules for buying, selling, and creating magic items in the DMG. They are very loose, but they tend to work, and maintain the "not everything is available and for sale" methodology of 5e.

I especially like concept of needing magical blueprints for each individual magic item you intend to create.


I always liked the Carouse move from Dungeon World.

Quote:

Carouse

When you return triumphant and throw a big party, spend 100 coins and roll +1 for every extra 100 coins spent. ✴On a 10+, choose 3. ✴On a 7–9, choose 1. ✴On a miss, you still choose one, but things get really out of hand (the GM will say how).

You befriend a useful NPC.
You hear rumors of an opportunity.
You gain useful information.
You are not entangled, ensorcelled, or tricked.

You can only carouse when you return triumphant. That’s what draws the crowd of revelers to surround adventurers as they celebrate their latest haul. If you don’t proclaim your success or your failure, then who would want to party with you anyway?


Carousing table in DMG has given our waterdeep campaign lots plot hooks


thejeff wrote:
Mordo wrote:
Wealth in 5e is used to build a stronghold/tower/tavern, to buy all kind of stuff to furnish your base, to hoard treasure and buy/create/train guardian to protect the above. So this way new adventurers will have new places to explore and conquer ;)

Which is interesting, because the adventures they've put out don't really seem to support that.

Where and when in the Dragon Queen one were you supposed to stop and build a stronghold or a tavern? How much treasure did you come out with and what was there you could spend it on?

nothing prevents you from spending downtime in adventures. Some parts need to be run at a faster pace, but you don't need to run the adventure in a matter of days. I.e. In HotDQ, you may spend a few day in the village after the attack and before pursuing.


Mordo wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Mordo wrote:
Wealth in 5e is used to build a stronghold/tower/tavern, to buy all kind of stuff to furnish your base, to hoard treasure and buy/create/train guardian to protect the above. So this way new adventurers will have new places to explore and conquer ;)

Which is interesting, because the adventures they've put out don't really seem to support that.

Where and when in the Dragon Queen one were you supposed to stop and build a stronghold or a tavern? How much treasure did you come out with and what was there you could spend it on?

nothing prevents you from spending downtime in adventures. Some parts need to be run at a faster pace, but you don't need to run the adventure in a matter of days. I.e. In HotDQ, you may spend a few day in the village after the attack and before pursuing.

Sure. But that's not "Build a stronghold" kind of time. Especially if you're taking off to pursue an enemy with no real knowledge of when you'll be back.

I've only got the first one and that's admittedly lower level, but it's basically a road trip. The next seems to go the same way, from what I've heard.


thejeff wrote:

Thinking about this a little more: 5E really changes the paradigm of treasure and loot. Wealth is no longer a mechanical aspect of the character's power, the way it is in 3.x and in different ways in older versions. It's not a mechanical reward, like xp, and shouldn't be treated as such. Which means, among other things, that there's no need to worry about mechanics when you're handing it out. There's no right amount.

Treasure isn't a mechanical reward. It's a narrative reward. One among many. That gives you a lot more freedom to use it to shape the game you (including the players) want to play. You can do a lot of things you can't really do in PF without houserules. You can play the heroes who do their deeds without worrying about rewards. You can play down on their luck mercenaries always scrounging for the next job to pay the bills. You can play the group saving up for strongholds and titles. You can play Conan, looting a bag of gold and drinking it up in a wild debauch before the next adventure. You can even have them stumble across a lost treasure and have the game focused on defending it.

And you can do any of it without screwing up game balance.

I think this is the way to look at treasure once you get past about 5th level. Up until then you are buying armour, healing potions and the like. Beyond that point those things become easy to obtain and cash becomes a narrative reward.

This means you have to allow it to be used in the narrative. Give the party the chance to gain some information, reputation, help out a friend, live well etc if they have cash.


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After looking through the downtime rules, I am thinking I might go with magic item crafting with an appropriate markup if the party wants to hire NPC spellcasters to speed up the process. Of course, most of that can be left to the next DM as there won't be that much downtime in the segment of the campaign that I am DMing.


The problem I see is that a lot of players hand-wave things like lifestyle expenses and dislike the SIMS aspect of the game. Why does my character want retainers or a Keep? Most likely he's not going to be there long enough to do much and if he is, what does he do when he's there. "Today my character is going to lavish away in his keep, eat 3 meals, use the privy at least twice, talk to some of the peasantry, and call it a day...." That sounds like a rousing time of D&D....

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I like you can just spend X gold for this lifestyle, Y gold for that lifestyle, and Z silver for that other lifestyle.

Better than worrying about food, lodging, clothes, drink, entertainment, "entertainment," etc. all separately.

I like the idea of spending gold on training, but the campaign I'm playing in does not have enough downtime for that.


Diffan wrote:
The problem I see is that a lot of players hand-wave things like lifestyle expenses and dislike the SIMS aspect of the game. Why does my character want retainers or a Keep? Most likely he's not going to be there long enough to do much and if he is, what does he do when he's there. "Today my character is going to lavish away in his keep, eat 3 meals, use the privy at least twice, talk to some of the peasantry, and call it a day...." That sounds like a rousing time of D&D....

What is your character's personality? Their ideal, bond, and flaw? Use those to help figure out what they do with their money. It's not the DM's job to decide what your character wants out of life.

Maybe, instead of building a stronghold, they just want to party it all away, or commission a statue, or donate it to the local orphanage, or make a campaign contribution to the mayor, or create a network of spies, or give it to a temple, or hire a bard to spread tales of their greatness, or just about anything else you can imagine.

Liberty's Edge

Perhaps introduce the gold required to gain a level, but hand-wave the time - perhaps its spent on books and self-help guides the PC's carry with them?

In 1e edition getting enough gold to level was a real struggle and kept you going back out into danger. Then once you hit name level your keep and hirelings were a complete money pit...

Another thing to consider is things like 'Kings tax'. If the PC's are ruining the local economy the local lord/ruler/whatever is going to want a piece of the action. Too much money is usually due to the DM and not the PC's. As DM YOU decide the economy of the world not the players.

2 cents.


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One of the pleasures of removing the connection between wealth and level comes at the other end. You don't have to give them much loot.

Try giving them a handful of gold an adventure, but keep closs track of rations, healing potion and torch usage. Go into detail about the terrible food and lousy nights sleep from low lifestyle expenditure.

Sovereign Court

Though potentially problematic... instituting a tithe to a higher authority (church, king, etc) is going to really incentivise the players to keep and make even more money. That could go well, or it could go poorly, though ideally it would provoke a deeper political undertone to the game. Your mileage may vary.

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Maybe some kind of Con check or Save to restore hit points when resting?

Like DC 5 = 25% restored
DC 10 = 50% restored
DC 15 = 75% restored
DC 20 = 100% restored

Wretched or Squalid provide disadvantage on the roll.

Comfortable, Wealthy, or Aristocratic provide advantage to the roll.

Different services or conditions might affect the roll, such as drunkenness, pillow mints, digestive elixirs, sleeping potions, massage therapy, "massage therapy," crying babies, nightmares, etc. Maybe even tie it to a trait, ideal, bond, or flaw.

You could even futz around with the DC depending on the grittiness of the campaign. Or exchange the percentage for number of hit dice recovered.


We use lifestyle levels to determine hit point and hit dice renewal, access to new rumours and quests,chances to enhance business opportunities and stuff like that

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I'd like to know more...

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Me too.

Is it codified, or just flavor and fiat?

Sounds amazing, either way.


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It is codified in a table.the whole campaign is set in a big city so fits well. Not sure exactly what we would do if it were more wilderness / bigger dungeons. Will post more later

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I know nowadays, they have some really awesome camping gear.

Masterwork bedrolls? Jerky +3?

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