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D&D 5E Creating a Wealth Score in 5e D&D

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I put a lot of thought into building a wealth score type thing like d20 modern fate & so on use at some point over frustrations from the lack of wbl or similar but could never form anything that worked in a way that fit 5e's shift of power from magic items to base PC & assumption of only starting gear with no feats. Ultimately in the end what I wound up doing is having whoever was employing the party* providing them with a credit line of "You have an idea what you can get approved" without hard numbers. It worked well but pretty much became a one & done stop for gear that might get a second shopping trip just because there isn't really any room in the system math for equipment churn in 5e unless you start changing things elsewhere to force room in.

The downside of doing this is that getting treasure is fun & there is a section in the ad&d dmg on it, but with 5e making that treasure somewhat unusable it avoids the cynicism & frustration that comes with players realizing that.

*ie patrons
 

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Rabulias

Hero
At heroic levels (5 to 10) - You're well known heroes. If you want a stapler, you can be assumed to get one. It isn't worth discussing at all. if a player is on a journey and says, "I wish I had ball bearings" I'll tell them to give me a wisdom check. If I like the result (low DC), I'll tell them that they had the foresight to buy them and that they can add them to their inventory.
Similarly to this I have heard of games that offer characters a number of "CouldaWouldaShoulda" (CWS) items at various levels (like 1 at 5th level, 2 at 10th, etc.). They are replenished each time the characters are "in town." Out "in the field," one of these items can be declared to be a particular piece of standard equipment that the character actually bought earlier. The CWS is crossed out and replaced with the "new" piece of equipment. This represents the character's experience and instinct when they were purchasing their equipment. I like the idea of the Wisdom check, but this alternative is balanced between all characters.
 

Lakesidefantasy

Adventurer
So, maybe count those beans for income, but not for spending. Treat GP as another form of XP. Once you've earned enough GP, you level-up your wealth and your spending power increases.
So as your wealth level increases that is reflected in the value of things you don't have to worry about counting beans over. Perhaps if you fall back to level 1, you're back to counting beans again for everything.
 

Lakesidefantasy

Adventurer
This means that each level of wealth has a value of items that you will need to count those beans over, and extract them from your overall wealth; which may put you down a level or two in wealth.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Here's my two coppers-

I would approach the issue from the opposite point of view. In other words, getting gold, getting stuff is part of what makes D&D fun and distinct from the other TTRPGs.

There are many good things (and not-so-good things) about D&D, but the one things most people agree on is that it has a great reward loop.

It's the whole "zero to hero" thing. You start with nothing, you overcome obstacle and you get more stuff (more money, more power, more magic items, more abilities, etc.), and you use the stuff you've gotten to overcome even tougher obstacles and get even cooler stuff.

Rinse, repeat. The accumulation of gold, as a tangible thing to mark your progress in the world and that you use, is part of that reward mechanism.

Now, here's the problem with 5e (hardly a new observation)- 5e doesn't really give you enough to do with your money. Past the early levels, the game provides too much money, and too little to spend it on. Basic economics and psychology kicks in here- if you give someone a lot of money, and nothing that they can spend it on, then the money itself isn't worth much, is it? It's not much of a reward.

So it's not a solution to replace gold and treasure with a "wealth level." That's as silly as replacing the need to track food with "two weeks of iron rations" that you never erase from your character sheet over the course of 5 years. If you're not going to track money, then don't track money. Assume players always have "enough."

The fundamental problem, and one I think that the OP correctly understands, is that 5e does not provide a particular reason to keep accumulating the gold after the first few levels, and for that reason, it becomes an exercise in busywork bookkeeping for a lot of groups. I would say that the preferred solution would be to find something worthwhile to spend the loot on, which would make that part of the game become integral again; failing that, just get rid of it entirely.
 

MarkB

Legend
So as your wealth level increases that is reflected in the value of things you don't have to worry about counting beans over. Perhaps if you fall back to level 1, you're back to counting beans again for everything.
Nope - no counting beans on any outgoings. You don't get to spend down your GP level. Items don't even have a GP value. You use the Wealth system for all expenditures. You can buy anything with a value up to your Wealth level, can make a check to attempt to acquire something one point over your Wealth level (and may drop a level as a result), and can't buy anything higher level than that until you've levelled up your Wealth.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
This means that each level of wealth has a value of items that you will need to count those beans over, and extract them from your overall wealth; which may put you down a level or two in wealth.

Normally, no. That Wealth is your job and investments and such - it is stuff that actually generates more cash for you in unspecified ways, thus giving you the ability to make those relatively small purchases. With large purchases, that is the character spending the principle, instead of earned interest, and thus wealth goes down.

Thus, when you drop in wealth score, that's loss of assets that didn't have any other use than generating money for you, so you don't have to extract anything. You just lose the assets.
 

Lakesidefantasy

Adventurer
I still get the big score right? 253,000 ducats is what got me to this level of wealth in the first place, right? Even if I don't get to manage it, I still like to see the number. It might be that basic (and yes, worthy of contempt).
 

le Redoutable

Explorer
d20 Modern had an interesting rule for purchasing things. Rather than keeping track of how many dollars your character had, instead you had a "Wealth Score." If I recall correctly, depending on your score you could buy certain classes of items at no cost, while others you had to roll for, using your Wealth Score. If you rolled a certain amount, you got the item, but it lowered your Wealth Score.

For example, let's say my character wanted to buy a stapler. My Wealth Score would probably be high enough that my character could just buy one without worrying about it. But if my character wanted to buy a car, they would have to roll for it. Roll high enough, and I purchase the car, but my Wealth Score takes a hit (until I get paid for this next adventure, of course!), roll low and I fail to buy a car ("Your card is denied.").

What would this look like in 5e D&D?

I could see characters having a Wealth Score based on their Background (Noble = high Wealth Score, Urchin = low Wealth Score). Maybe something like a +1 to +5? And you would add in your Proficiency Bonus.

Your Wealth Score Bonus would allow you to purchase items of a certain value without spending any Gold Pieces. For example, a Wealth Score of 5, for example, may allow you to purchase items of, let's say, 2 Gold Pieces and below without spending Gold Pieces.

A character can raise their Wealth Score by investing money. Maybe each level of bonus would cost 1,000 x Bonus GP. So for example, to raise your Wealth Bonus from a 3 to a 4 would cost 4,000 GP. From a 19 to a 20 would cost 20,000 GP.

As Wealth Bonuses increase, it could unlock certain features of the game for characters. For example, you might need a certain Wealth Bonus in order to purchase or upgrade a keep, raise an army, or buy magic items. I'll Cel:-Ortai areas of cities or kingdoms might be closed off to characters with low Wealth Bonuses (but open up for a high Deception check!). Fun powers could include the ability to always have a fresh horse ready at every city, be always dressed in Fine Clothes, earn a Reputation, and so on.

Well, these are just some thoughts. How would you do a Wealth Scor<,/, in 5e? What would it be used for?
Two things to consider:
Wealth and bargain

Wealth level could look like this

1--- 1
2--- 2x2
3 --- 3x3x3
Etc
and bargain is tied to Charisma.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
you are absolutely speaking my language:)

In my games I use an Influence which combines Wealth and 3.5e Leadership score because a person with greater influence can call on more favours and acquire more stuff.
So at level 1 everyone gets Level + cha Influence. (eg someone with Cha +2 starts with Influence of +3).

1. Influence score can be used to make purchase checks
2. Influence can rise and fall
3. Certain Magic Items/Artifacts were given an Influence threshold eg the Sunblade might require a PC has Influence 10 before it activates
4 Modifying the Leadership feat chart I changed Cohort to 'NPC Ally'
eg a Lv 1 Character with Influence 4 has a reliable NPC Ally level 3 (an NPC who they might describe as a relative or mentor etc), the PC also get 2 followers (family or friends who they can get to do things) eg add+1 to social skill rolls or invest in downtime activities.

Also in my own domain rules I let followers (representing workers) be used to determine build DCs for projects eg to build house (cost 1000gp) we can apply 20 followers for 4 seasons = DC12

NB PCs with negative influence are considered servants/slaves/dependents of the other characters.
 

d20 Modern had an interesting rule for purchasing things. Rather than keeping track of how many dollars your character had, instead you had a "Wealth Score." If I recall correctly, depending on your score you could buy certain classes of items at no cost, while others you had to roll for, using your Wealth Score. If you rolled a certain amount, you got the item, but it lowered your Wealth Score.

For example, let's say my character wanted to buy a stapler. My Wealth Score would probably be high enough that my character could just buy one without worrying about it. But if my character wanted to buy a car, they would have to roll for it. Roll high enough, and I purchase the car, but my Wealth Score takes a hit (until I get paid for this next adventure, of course!), roll low and I fail to buy a car ("Your card is denied.").

What would this look like in 5e D&D?

I could see characters having a Wealth Score based on their Background (Noble = high Wealth Score, Urchin = low Wealth Score). Maybe something like a +1 to +5? And you would add in your Proficiency Bonus.

Your Wealth Score Bonus would allow you to purchase items of a certain value without spending any Gold Pieces. For example, a Wealth Score of 5, for example, may allow you to purchase items of, let's say, 2 Gold Pieces and below without spending Gold Pieces.

A character can raise their Wealth Score by investing money. Maybe each level of bonus would cost 1,000 x Bonus GP. So for example, to raise your Wealth Bonus from a 3 to a 4 would cost 4,000 GP. From a 19 to a 20 would cost 20,000 GP.

As Wealth Bonuses increase, it could unlock certain features of the game for characters. For example, you might need a certain Wealth Bonus in order to purchase or upgrade a keep, raise an army, or buy magic items. Certain areas of cities or kingdoms might be closed off to characters with low Wealth Bonuses (but open up for a high Deception check!). Fun powers could include the ability to always have a fresh horse ready at every city, be always dressed in Fine Clothes, earn a Reputation, and so on.

Well, these are just some thoughts. How would you do a Wealth Score in 5e? What would it be used for?
As a former d20 Modern GM, I have to say ... do not do this!

D20 Modern didn't have "lifestyle costs" so nobody had to buy anything. My first PC was a martial artist who only ever bought two things: a leather jacket, and a "magic stick" that someone conned him into buying. (Many PCs ran out of money at character generation as they bought guns and armor, but afterward had few costs so in a few levels they were wealthy again. By contrast, I've seen crafting PCs use up Wealth very quickly.) If you had a Wealth score over 15, nothing with a lower cost ever cost you money. Unlimited cheeseburgers!

The game had a Profession skill that I came to hate. It wasn't Profession (career) but just Profession, that gave you money every level. If your character was a mercenary, this actively hampered roleplay.

You could split the economy into two (so one way of spending cash and another to buy magic items) but I think a lifestyle cost section would work better for the "cash" part. Any PC who is going to adventure while investing should hire a steward to take care of that for them. Said steward needs a personality, might be targeted by enemies or become untrustworthy, etc.
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
If you had a Wealth score over 15, nothing with a lower cost ever cost you money. Unlimited cheeseburgers!

I think this is more of a feature of a wealth system than a flaw. Nobody cares about cheeseburgers. I guess if you walked into a McDonalds and said you buy a literal truck load of McDoubles, your DM is probably justified in asking for a wealth check, as well as a few more rolls, besides.

The game had a Profession skill that I came to hate. It wasn't Profession (career) but just Profession, that gave you money every level. If your character was a mercenary, this actively hampered roleplay.

Well, characters did have starting careers. They just weren't tied to the profession skill because the job your character had in their backstory probably isn't going to be what they are doing for the duration of the campaign. Not to mention a lot of modern professions don't really have a lot of action-adventure application.

In truth, the Profession skill works more like a Finance skill than anything else. It gets used every time you level up, and that's about it.

It's worth keeping in mind that the base assumptions of D20 Modern are very different than your typical D&D game. Games about delving into dungeons after fat loot are going to be really out of place. These are games about finding out the truth, or pushing back against supernatural darkness in a modern setting. Hence the profession checks every level instead of selling wagonfuls of monster loot.

That said I disagree that you can't play characters motivated by money, even in a D20 modern game. You just need to imagine that the money you get at each level is the result of your various mercenary contracts finally paying off, rather than money just falling from the sky for no reason. There is nothing stopping DM's from handing out rewards in the form of wealth bonuses either. You just have to handwave the specific amount of tender. Maybe it's a box of jewels or a briefcase of cash, worth +4 wealth. Just agree not to get wound up in how much money is in the suitcase exactly and it's all fine.

That said... I don't think a wealth system is very ideal for your typical treasure hunting D&D campaign. It's there to abstract away money so that you can focus on other things, not a way to augment a game where you actually give PC's rewards in gold pieces.

If you were willing to mess around with the base assumptions of the game, though, it might work. You might assume a sort of magical banking system, (like eberron) complete with investments, loans, etc. And make the game about something else rather than hunting treasure.

But I expect those base D&D assumptions are going to be hard to shake. In that case I would probably drop the profession checks every level thing and work entirely in wealth bonus rewards. When it comes time to loot the dungeon, rather than worry about all the minutae, have each player pick out the magical items they want to keep, and assume everything else is sold, and then just eyeball the rewards. But the minute you start picking things apart (but what if I sold my pearls of power? How much wealth will we get then?) Then I think it will turn into a needless burden.
 

Staffan

Legend
That said... I don't think a wealth system is very ideal for your typical treasure hunting D&D campaign. It's there to abstract away money so that you can focus on other things, not a way to augment a game where you actually give PC's rewards in gold pieces.
This. A wealth system is fine, but works better in a context where PCs have a steady income from either employment or capital, rather than getting wealth from treasure hoards. Also, money shouldn't directly translate into the ability to kick ass.

D20 Modern is, I think, not a particularly good example of a wealth system, since you still reduced your wealth score for every purchase above cost 15 (IIRC). So Jeff Bezos might be able to buy infinite cheeseburgers, but not infinite Glocks. It felt a lot like a wealth system that was written by people who didn't understand the point of wealth systems. Wealth works best in systems that aren't super-focused on gear, but instead wealth is approached like a skill or something similar: can I solve this problem by throwing money at it (or in some cases, just by being rich)?
 


Mordhau

Adventurer
I like wealth attributes but in D&D I'd do things a bit differently

I'd just have "coin" and assume as a general rule of thumb that each one is equivalent to around about 100gp. So a suit of full plate costs 15coin.

Most things are under that.

You then decide that it costs 1 coin to live for a month (or whatever seems appropriate but 1 month feels appropriate at first glance)

Every month of game time the players lose one coin for general living expense. As long as they have 1 coin they don't have to pay for trivial items, it's just part of their monthly expenses.

For something that is reasonably expensive but below 100 you set a save DC and the player needs to roll over it on a flat D20 roll or they lose 1 coin. (Or if you wanted to be really precise you could roll a d100 against the gp value in the Player's Handbook I guess).

Anything that would be over 100gp you just round to the nearest 100 and then convert it into coin. (So a suit of Halfplate is 8 coin).

This way you keep the feel of finding loot that I feel is important to D&D. The players can come back with a haul of treasure equal to "8 coin", but you keep bookkeeping really simple.)
 

AtomicPope

Adventurer
Have you ever played Rogue Trader?

It has by far the best wealth system I've ever encountered and used. I ran a campaign for nearly 2 years and it worked surprisingly well, even intuitive, for understanding markets, scarcity, quality, and quantity. Since the game was designed around trade, it made sense that you could take something that is common from your area and worth practically nothing (clean drinking water) to an area where scarcity is high (desert, poisonous swamp, et al) and increase the market value. You could then trade for something or try to increase your wealth. Typically one PC was the Rogue Trader where all of the wealth was concentrated by Writ. Each of the PCs had unique abilities, skills, powers, and connections that turned the PC group into a joint venture of sorts. All of this came down to dice rolls and if you failed you could lose wealth (profit loss, sour trade, etc). Off the top of my head, here's what it might look like:
1) Market Value: drinkable water -5 (low value)
2) Scarcity: dessert +10 (high value), shire -5 (low value)
3) Quality: magically purified or from a spring +5 (tastes delicious), filtered 0, lwellwater -2 (tastes a little off), muddy river -5 (disgusting)
4) Quantity: 1 cup -5, gallon 0, 2 gallons +2, 10 gallons +5, 50 gallons +10

So 50 gallons of filtered water from the Shire would be a straight wealth roll DC 10.

Trading that same filtered water in a desert would be worth +10 to your wealth roll.

The price list would set market values for all of the D&D products, and they would typically be low. Something like Full Plate might be a +10 roll on a chart like this. A long sword or axe might be worth +3 or less. Who knows? It depends on how much variance you want in the system.

In Rogue Trader you would embark on journeys, make investments, and fund explorations in hopes it might pay off. You spend wealth to make wealth. And not everything is guaranteed. D&D has similar aspects to it but it's local towns and nobility that funds the PCs for these quests. It might translate to something like:
"Slay the Hill Giant and I will give each of you a horse and +1 wealth."

Classes could have special benefits to illustrate their uniqueness:
  • Fighters get +2 when dealing with armor, weapons, or mercenaries.
  • Rangers get +2 when dealing with or against their favored enemies.
  • Rogues get +2 when dealing with stolen goods or black markets.
  • Wizards get +2 when dealing with scrolls, material components, or spellbooks.

Maybe tool proficiencies could also add to your wealth roll as you are an expert in that field. Poisoner, Herbalist, Alchemist, all of these make sense as far as having some expertise in a particular area.

The only problem I have with wealth systems is they can steer the game away from it's design. Games like D20 Modern had a clunky wealth system that made it feel like you could never afford a car. Oddly enough, D20 Modern was a far more medieval caste system than Dungeons and Dragons. You couldn't just "win the lottery" without the GM forcing his hand. Part of what makes Rogue Trader so brilliant is you can literally buy, sell, auction, and trade entire planets. In my own campaign I started with some standard privateering (the PCs built their space ship and that determines what sort of ventures they will embark on as the ship's capabilities determine their bonuses to particular ventures) to secure some trade routes. Then it was later discovered that the Rogue Trader inherited an ice world and his brother was hiding it from him while he was away. The planet was so cold it would snow methane. On the upside it was resource rich. Another downside, it was also cursed. Such things work well on a wealth scale where the PCs are wealthy enough to own a planet. I just have to assign the correct values (resource rich, inhospitable, deadly, unbreathable atmosphere, no water, "cursed") to justify a small bump in their wealth score if they can secure it.

When we talk about wealth systems we need to make sure we're designing something that allows D&D to still work thematically. To be honest, I think Spelljammer should have a wealth system to differentiate the playstyle and campaign from standard D&D, but maybe that's another thread.
 

Blue Orange

Adventurer
There are a lot of good comments and suggestions here. These are my opinions only:

D&D is largely built around the acquisition of money and treasure (in addition to levels, of course), so tracking that works thematically. As you go up you can buy swords+2 or even a castle. (Of course, a real medieval nobleman had a lot of non-liquid wealth in terms of land holdings with various obligations to a liege lord and the like; you wouldn't really want to roleplay a bailiff feuding with the tax collectors over how many bushels of wheat the peasants were delivering. If anything it was probably more complicated as you couldn't punch your holdings into Morningstar Financial X-Ray to see how much they were worth, and nobody really knew that anyway.)

As Raduin711 says, modern-day games usually aren't built around getting rich; as such abstracting it makes sense. Also, wealth is somewhat more complicated, at least in the popular understanding--do you want to keep track of your fictional character's home value and stock portfolio? A modern-day game built around the acquisition of money? That's too much like real life, I think. ;)
 

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