D&D 5E Do you actually use "Lifestyle Expenses?"


Petty cash issues make sense from a worldbuilding standpoint. But in practice I find that they can steal narrative attention from robbing dragons, fighting evil, and generally being big damn heroes. I suppose there's some adventure to be wrung from low-stakes, low-magic, "can we afford to make rent on the guildhall this month" plots, but those seem to get outclassed pretty quickly.

So here's my question: Do you worry about cost of living concerns in your game? Or do you handwave that mess in favor of high adventure? Why or why not?

(Comic for illustrative purposes.)

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I use a homebrew version of lifestyle expenses in the dungeon crawl campaign I’m currently running. The cost of each lifestyle is not just about food and lodging, but also about gear maintenance and resupply. Wretched to poor covers basically gear maintenance and there is a chance of something bad happening during the week of rest, such as getting sick or attacked. Comfortable to Wealthy means your character has covered the costs of gear maintenance, but also decides to eat well and get adequate rest. Therefore the character gets a bonus for the next incursion into the dungeon. The decision to spend 210 GP for a week of wealthy living and get a buff is balanced, however, by the fact that 1GP equals 2XP in this campaign. So players have a choice of getting a short term buff at the cost of levelling up slower.

I also use this with long rests that are a week long, during which the characters are either partaking in downtime activities or just bumming around. Sometimes the downtime activity is enough to cover the costs of the lifestyle chosen or more. A player can choose to have their character live like a wretch for a week, then win big in a pit fighting match, thus keeping more gold for better gear and levelling up. The gamble though is that on a roll of 1-5 on a D6, something bad happens to the character while living wretchedly, as mentioned above.

If I was running a grand fantasy campaign where the characters were trying to save the world from Baelzar the Wicked and his horde of oozes, I wouldn’t bother. But that’s not the atmosphere or tone of this campaign. I wanted to ground the players into the world and make them feel like they were nobody’s becoming somebodies. Making them pay for food and shelter reminded them that their characters weren’t beyond the basic needs of life. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment and progression, as they see their characters go from sleeping in a ditch every week and eating rations, to lodging in the best room at the inn and enjoying the finest of wines.

It’s a little more bookkeeping than I’m used to (I track all gold coming in and out for the party), but it’s helped shape the style and tone of the campaign more than I thought it would.

I use that table a lot, but not for it's intended purpose.

I really hate it when D&D is turned into a bookkeeping exercise, so I will never do a daily upkeep, and I prefer to round down all expenses below 1 gp to zero (we will roleplay that money is spent, but players don't need to update the character sheets). Players will typically have a few hundred gp to spend relatively soon in the campaign, and nobody (that I know) wants to spend that in-game in increments of 1-2 gp.

However, the lifestyle expenses table is a fantastic little table to get a grip of the value of gold, to help determine how much cash is present in a location or purse of an NPC.

Personally, my base-line to get a grip on the value of gold is the "Comfortable 2 gp/day" line in the table. So 2 gp gets you a pretty decent day with good accommodation and good food. Not great or luxurious, but quite ok. It's a level of comfort that I am familiar with. It's the fantasy version of middle class. So, a loot of 50-100 gp is equivalent to a month's salary of a middle class person, and 1000-2000 gp is equivalent to an annual salary, and >10000 gp is a life-changing amount of cash.

Depends on the type of game. My first campaign only used them during the winter months when nothing was happening, and during the occasional downtime. My second campaign used them extensively, since characters had a lot of downtime between adventures. I didn't use it at all during my most recent campaign, because there was no downtime at all.

Yes, I use them for our table.
Our Obsidian Portal admin page includes coins carried, funds in a financial institution and an emergency coin fund for the party. Given the characters are of a certain class with masterwork and quality clothing and equipment, I deduct the prescribed amount from their treasury during downtime.

Between myself and a player all the admin (coin, date, level progression and treasure) gets done seamlessly the evening after the session. The whole process, including updating our OP page, literally takes less than five minutes.
Determine how many days were spent in a settlement (town, city or metropolis) x lifestyle expense cost and deduct that from the appropriate fund.
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We only play with life style expenses for the first few levels. By the time the PCs reach 3rd or 4th level, lifestyle expenses become completely immaterial relative to the PCs wealth. Heck, at a certain point, we don't even bother with copper or silver or electrum pieces. Everything is paid with either gp or pp.


Similar to what @beancounter just posted. The players tend to not even write down copper and just write it off to expenses like repairs and drinks. When in town they will cross off several gold to pay for room and general carousing. My games tend to not have large amounts of downtime that are more than a couple days or at most a week.

Well to be fair the Lifestyle Expenses are in gold coins not in CP or SP.
So if someone like me is using the Lifestyle Expenses, the lesser valued coins are pretty much ignored.


Never in D&D but I have in Cyberpunk and Traveller. Those games seem to make the paying the rent part and parcel of the settings and game. D&D is more about the adventures and not worrying about the little things, for me of course.


Magic Wordsmith
Yes, I use Lifestyle Expenses in most campaigns I run, but only when the PCs are in town.

Towns in general tend to be pretty expensive places to be in my games so as to incentivize the players to stay there only as long as needed to get their business or safe resting done before heading back out into the wilds to adventure.

In some games, I will tie useful benefits to what you spend on it so that there's a specific reason to pay for the higher lifestyle tiers. In other games, I tie the lifestyle expense to the type of downtime activity or even to differentiate the same downtime activity at different locations in town (the more you pay, the more upside there is if you succeed).

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