Lifestyle Expenses in Actual Play
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  1. #1
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)



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    Lifestyle Expenses in Actual Play

    [PHB, page 157]

    Have any of you actually used the Lifestyle Expenses system in actual play? I think the system definitely has some merit, but I find that way too often I end up just like Inspiration, that is, I forget about it... I know part of the reason is that my players strongly gravitate to the Combat pillar, and we don't have a lot of courtly intrigue or the like where a penalty to Charisma-based checks due to the stink nasty, Wretched living, fighter come into play.

    Assuming I can get my players to branch out a bit, how would you break down any bonuses / penalties for living conditions? Disadvantage for the first three (i.e. Wretched through Poor), break even at Modest, and Advantage for the top three (i.e. Comfortable through Aristocratic)? That seems too simple (e.g. no difference between Wretched and Squalid), but 5E doesn't really like linear bonuses either, so a +5 for Aristocratic and a -5 for Wretched (with an appropriate spread in between) seems too complicated.

    Any thoughts?

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    When I use it, I use it to influence how other NPCs react to the character. You went cheap and slept in the gutter because you're saving for that shiny plate armor? Fine. No, the local reeve has no interest in speaking with you.
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    Magsman (Lvl 14)

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    Putting the Hobo in Murderhobo?
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    Titan (Lvl 27)



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    Here's how to use Inspiration in my view: The Case for Inspiration.

    In a previous campaign, I tied Lifestyle Expenses to advantage to saving throws against disease, poison, and (at the highest level) to bonus temporary hit points at the start of the day. The effects were cumulative. So at a Comfortable lifestyle, you get advantage to saves versus disease. At Wealthy, you get advantage to saves versus disease and poison. At Aristocratic, you get some amount of temporary hit points after a long rest. The idea being that these are healthier ways to live as compared to other less expensive options. You could apply disadvantage to the same for living in Poor and Squalid conditions, cumulatively. For Wretched, you might say that the PCs can't get back Hit Dice after a long rest. Or starts the day off with one less Hit Die, something like that. Modest confers no bonus or penalty.

    Doing it this way, your combat-oriented players may find a lot of value in spending cash on Lifestyle. Then all you need do is make sure to include monsters that inflict poison and disease on them from time to time so their investment has a return. Rather than set up a system for how this influences social interaction challenges, you can just establish that on a case-by-case basis e.g. in this particular social interaction challenge with the haughty prince, anyone of less than a Wealthy lifestyle has disadvantage on Charisma checks made to resolve tasks involving improving the NPC's attitude.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hjorimir View Post
    When I use it, I use it to influence how other NPCs react to the character. You went cheap and slept in the gutter because you're saving for that shiny plate armor? Fine. No, the local reeve has no interest in speaking with you.
    Quote Originally Posted by iserith View Post
    Rather than set up a system for how this influences social interaction challenges, you can just establish that on a case-by-case basis e.g. in this particular social interaction challenge with the haughty prince, anyone of less than a Wealthy lifestyle has disadvantage on Charisma checks made to resolve tasks involving improving the NPC's attitude.
    This is how I'd approach it, too.

    But iserith's suggestion for the disease, etc is an excellent addition.
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  6. #6
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    Here's the thing: lifestyle expenses and downtime both can be used only in particular types of campaigns, ones where you have non-adventuring days.

    In a campaign where the PCs have a clear and defined goal from the beginning: take down the BBEG, the PCs will pursue this goal without taking time off. Even less so if there's a ticking clock.

    Lifestyle expenses are for a day or two or more off in a row, and usually in a town. If your characters are jumping from dungeon to dungeon, there's no room for it.

    And if your characters are jumping from dungeon to dungeon to solve the mystery/defeat the villain/save the prince(ss), there's no room for downtime.

    If you want it in ypur campaign, you have to make a stronh effort to make it so, and this can be challenging. You have to build into your narrative slow points, where the PCs have no reason to adventure, or return to a dungeon, for significant periods of time.
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    start of every session:

    1: Calculate how much time has passed. Doesn't have to be exact. Has it been 2 days? 3 weeks of off time?

    2: Multiply that by the hero's lifestyle.

    3: Tax the heroes. "Ok it's been 20 days, everyone is on a modest lifestyle, 20 gp each - except you mr fancy pants, that will be 80 gp"

    4: move on.
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  8. #8
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    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)



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    Quote Originally Posted by hbarsquared View Post
    Here's the thing: lifestyle expenses and downtime both can be used only in particular types of campaigns, ones where you have non-adventuring days.

    In a campaign where the PCs have a clear and defined goal from the beginning: take down the BBEG, the PCs will pursue this goal without taking time off. Even less so if there's a ticking clock.

    Lifestyle expenses are for a day or two or more off in a row, and usually in a town. If your characters are jumping from dungeon to dungeon, there's no room for it.

    And if your characters are jumping from dungeon to dungeon to solve the mystery/defeat the villain/save the prince(ss), there's no room for downtime.

    If you want it in ypur campaign, you have to make a stronh effort to make it so, and this can be challenging. You have to build into your narrative slow points, where the PCs have no reason to adventure, or return to a dungeon, for significant periods of time.
    It can be done, if you find way to limit time adventuring. In my current campaign, there's a strange miasma that permeates the islands they are on. It hightens aggression, and those who spend too long in it will develop mutations (some which can be beneficial, but there's a greater chance of negative outcomes). A character can determine how far they've been tainted by the red veins spreading across their body, but the time it takes to reach critical levels varies wildly.

    Essentially, the characters can adventure for as long as the session goes, but at the end of each session they must hurry back to a safe, miasma free area and detox there for 11 days to remove the taint. Failure to do so would mean mutation, which so far no one has wanted to risk. I did this in part because I wanted to encourage downtime actions, and also because I wanted enough time to pass for circumstances to change.

    Now, I'll grant you that my campaign is a bit atypical, but I'm sure most DMs could come up with something that serves a similar role. For example, adventuring is hard work. After some metric, they need to relax in a town for x amount of time or accrue one level of exhaustion that cannot be removed until they do so.

    Admittedly, I haven't used the lifestyle expenses in this campaign, as the entire town is a bunch of war refugees squatting in the slave quarter of an ancient, abandoned giant city. Basically everyone is living somewhere between poor and wretched, so I didn't see a point in bothering with it. I do like some of the ideas in this thread, however, and might work them in to a future campaign.
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  9. #9
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    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)



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    i use it to varying degrees.

    When on a job, the contract's "payment" includes a lifestyle stipend. this varies with contracts. So for the duration of that "job" it can be ignored. makes certain types of activities easy on the bookkeeping.

    When self-employed, if you are not using your downtime activity "slot" it goes to lifestyle by default - and goes with the working for a living basically. varies by circumstance, location, ability and proficiency but generally in good areas you can support a variety of lifestyles. this can simply include hunting and foraging for your basic needs.

    So, basically, it only really comes into play, require mechanics involvement, when you want to operate at a higher lifestyle (useful for certain tasks like social situations or infiltration) or you are committing your downtime slot to something else. In those cases, you have to pay up - often as simple as a small increase add in when we spend the activity cost (if it has one.)

    this can also encourage characters to develop relationships to various degrees though of course after a bit the cost is rather negligible.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by iserith View Post
    Doing it this way, your combat-oriented players may find a lot of value in spending cash on Lifestyle. Then all you need do is make sure to include monsters that inflict poison and disease on them from time to time so their investment has a return. Rather than set up a system for how this influences social interaction challenges, you can just establish that on a case-by-case basis e.g. in this particular social interaction challenge with the haughty prince, anyone of less than a Wealthy lifestyle has disadvantage on Charisma checks made to resolve tasks involving improving the NPC's attitude.
    I don't see the point in investing combat bonuses to bribe players into paying for a higher Lifestyle tier. It's an RP choice that should have RP implications. Turning it into another combat buff defeats the point. Rather than exerting the effort to make sure there are poison and disease checks to make the buff seem attractive (aka mandatory), why not put that planning time into RP encounters where a PC's Lifestyle level will have an impact. Or if you really want a clear mechanical impact, tie Lifestyle into the expanded Downtime rules in Xanathar's Guide. Give a bonus to high value Carousing and Buying/Selling of magic items if the PC has demonstrated themselves to be a person of means and good manners.

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