On the Economy in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

I've seen numerous comments on the new economy of Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition.

Some examples:

"Can I buy magic items?"

"Is a healing potion the only magic item in the equipment list?"

"Why don't these magic items have prices?"

"What are we supposed to spend this gold on?"

These people haven't read the rulebook.

Reading the Rulebook

I've seen many suggestions. Buy hirelings. Save for a castle. Good, old school type things. But that still doesn't address what the rules say about spending money. Let's look, shall we?

First the logistics, then the secret reward option for gold.

Can I be a douche in Dungeons & Dragons too?


Let's say you're an adventurer. Do you want to live in squalor? Probably not. How about Poor? Nope, I'm in this for the money. How about a modest home? What!? For a dragon-killer?

All right, what's that wealthy lifestyle come to? 

120 gold, per character, per month. 

Why at these rates, a party of four could live off all the treasure in Phandelver for about two weeks! Collecting the "Horde" at the end of Hoard of the Dragon Queen? Those same four adventurers could live off those spoils for around five years, if they never spent any money on anything else. That's some amazing horde that will set up 4 dudes for about 5 years. Real impressive.

You can halve that value if you want to live comfortable, or, more than double it if you actually want to be wealthy. The general idea is that living will cost you quite a bit, so you'll need to adventure. 

Several Dungeon Masters I know provide minor bonuses to those characters purchasing more extravagant lifestyles. This is a nice mechanical benefit encouraging the desire for treasure in the players. Something like +1 temporary hit point for living a wealthy lifestyle, in addition to the real world consequences noted in the players handbook. 


But that's not all of what you can do with your money. 

On page 186 of the new Players Handbook, you'll find a section titled "Between Adventures". It notes you must pay your lifestyle expenses, but it also notes a selection of downtime activities. 

Crafting allows you to craft up to 5 gp in goods if you provide half the value in raw materials. It takes 1 day to craft something for each 5 gold of the cost. This is on top of the normal lifestyle, unless you're willing to downgrade to modest or comfortable.

Profession allows you to work a job. Super-great! *sigh* This earns you lifestyle, quite a lot if you're a performer. Recuperating is also an option that doesn't cost any extra money.

Research allows you to find information. Similar to paying a sage, but without the sage, it costs 1 gold a day over and above living expenses and takes as long as your Dungeon Master says it does to find out.

Training is the Pièce de résistance. You can learn a new language or training with a new set of tools. You Dungeon Master might allow additional training options. (!!) This takes 250 days (!!) and costs 1 gold piece per day (!!).

First, if you're running a Forgotten Realms campaign, and notice how restricted the language list is, then it is very beneficial to actually do this. If you do, of course, you're out 750 gold at comfortable. Double that if you are living large. Second, I'm fairly certain the "additional training options" will be things like proficiency in a skill or saving throw at some increased cost level.  


If you look at the actual value of treasure handed out so far in published adventures, then you'll find it is quite low. Checking up and down that list you'll see that there's quite a bit to spend money on, and start to feel like you'll actually need to go out and get more, or you'll end up working for a living. 

I also think it's quite nice that all these options are options that exist within the fiction. They aren't "I made a hat that gives me +2 to my brains!". They are real type activities that give a 5th edition campaign a degree of verisimilitude. 

So don't tell me that there's nothing to buy in the general store with your gold. There's plenty to buy, it's just not a bonus on your sheet.

Hack & Slash 
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  1. If I ever get a chance to play in a campaign where I get to build a following or a keep I want to become a powerful duke.

    That is a much more fun use of gold than having to spend 50,000 gold on a sword just to try to stay relevant vs monsters.

    1. One more thing being able to learn a new language at the cost of time and money is fantastic. Now I can decide I want to form an alliance with a dwarven clan and then devote myself to learning to language as a part of the plan without having to give up a feat or effectiveness in a skill.

  2. D&D dragons have real low overhead. The just use their gold as a fancy mattress.

    Not like Shadowrun dragons that invest heavily and tend to run megacorps. Now those are hoards...

  3. If you are playing a tactical sim type game, all of this stuff is rubbish.

    This is a good thing.

  4. We all love resource management, don't we? I remember a game (DCCRPG funnel), where the party was stranded in a town, because the teleport pillar got broken. At first the players were like 'ah, it's no problem, we can just sit and wait till they fix it', then somebody said 'yeah, but we don't have much money. Look at the living expenses. Even if your Dwarfen Merchant has 12 silver pieces, that's not enough to sit here, doing nothing, for long.' So the party was "forced" to do something about the situation, to do some adventuring.

    Wasn't 'you spent all your treasure' one of the most used adventure hooks in Old School adventure modules? :)

  5. What I'm struck by is that the rules are not always consistent on some basic points of wealth - for example, the aristocratic life style is 10 gp/day minimum, yet that section in the PHB also speaks of how an aristocrat will have a flock of servants, including the finest of tailors - yet if you are regularly hiring the finest of anything they should require that you spend 2-3 gp per servant (the "servants" in question are tradesmen of the highest quality)....just having a couple of such people in your entourage would eat up most of the 10gp/day before we get to living expenses...

    I think having the PCs purchase services from reliable npcs could be one way of dealing with excess cash (how much would you pay to have someone guard a horse in the wilderness near a dungeon - or to go get carts so you could remove loot?) - just having to pay 4-5 reliable guards (up to 1st level) enough to make it worth their while to stay in a dangerous wilderness could provide plot hooks (such an NPC - who is friends with all the other reliable guards in town - needs help) and build relationships (which the DM can use to inflict suffering on the party as well as provide plot hooks).


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