Lifestyle Expenses in Actual Play

Syntallah

Visitor
[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?
 

Hjorimir

Explorer
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.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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.
 

Satyrn

Visitor
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.
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.
 

hbarsquared

Quantum Chronomancer
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.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
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.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
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.
 

Kurotowa

Adventurer
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.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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.
From level 1 to 20?!?

Even if it's always "in game", there should still be downtime...

"you traveled with the merchant caravan for the next 2 weeks as you journeyed to the kindom of Somethingland to hunt for clue to help you find the McGuffin Axe, the only weapon able to harm the BBEG"

"You spent the next 3 days recovering from your wounds and researching the tomes of the ancient library"

etc etc.
 

AmerginLiath

Visitor
Downtime and lifestyle also strike me as tied in a way to background. The game sets characters up to have a life before and besides adventuring; these mechanics can serve to keep that background element active in some fashion. Consider how many of the proficiencies used in downtime will come from a background; likewise, a background can help determine what sort of lifestyle a character comes from and to what accommodations they’re used (a noble or artisan is going to likely splurge on a nicer inn than an urchin will feel the need to when returning to civilization after a long time in the dungeon, even if it means tightening their budget).
 

MarkB

Hero
I haven't felt the need to include a lot of downtime in my campaigns, but enforcing or dictating it seems like the wrong approach, as does treating it as 'wasted' time.

Instead, find a way to make that time meaningful. Make it the way to get tasks done that the players can take an interest in - founding and growing an organisation, overseeing the construction or refurbishment of a stronghold, researching powerful or esoteric new applications of magic, pursuing romantic entanglements with charming young nobles.

When their 'downtime' is focused into tasks with meaningful goals, they'll choose the lifestyle level that suits their endeavours - and if they don't, you can see to it that they find those endeavours more difficult to pursue.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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.
I don't know what you mean by "RP choice" or "RP implications" or why you suppose that Lifestyle Expenses should favor whatever you think "RP" is instead of whatever you think "Not RP" is.

The OP's players "strongly gravitate to the combat pillar" - which is roleplaying by the way - so it would stand to reason in my view if you want to make Lifestyle Expenses meaningful for them, having them impact their combat effectiveness is a good place to start.

In addition, it's not hard to include poison and disease in one's game. Lots of monsters have these effects and so do various terrains. It's hardly any effort at all in my experience.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
[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?
I definitely use lifestyle expenses(!), and I take cues directly from their listed consequences when incorporating them into the narrative. As an example, characters living a poor lifestyle have to contend with violence, crime, and disease, they aren't ensured that they can maintain their equipment, and they only really have access to unskilled laborers, costermongers, peddlers, thieves, mercenaries, and other disreputable types when seeking out services or people to talk to for news, rumors, and gossip (which affects downtime activities such as recuperating, researching, and training).

Ultimately, it's a choice that determines access to people and resources, and sets the tone for the world's reaction.

:)
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
At the very lease, living expenses are a reason to adventure - if you want to live decently, it's expensive...
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
My campaign is a bit odd, since everyone has multiple characters. There is an online calendar that tracks the activities of all characters, and when a character is used for an adventure, the player tally's up how much they owe for downtime (less any income gained during downtime), and pay it. If a character doesn't have enough, they can borrow from other PCs, or take out a loan.

As far as the actual benefit, most of my homebrew downtime activities have a minimum lifestyle requirement. So, unless you just want to pass the time doing nothing, you'll have to spend something on lifestyle.
 

mAcular

Visitor
Whenever I run a game, I like to experiment with some idea or concept to see how it plays out.

From my previous campaigns, I noticed that there was a jarring disconnect between the feeling of camaraderie between the PCs/players and the real life time they'd actually spent. For example, we'd play for 3 years, and it would FEEL like everybody had been in the trenches that long together -- but when you looked at the actual amount of game time spent, it had been three weeks.

When I started my next game, I wanted to try a way to line up those two dates. I decided to make Long Rests take a week, so the game's pacing would slow down. There would actually be some breathing room and advancement of time. Long Rests taking a week were the perfect chance to introduce Lifestyle expenses, and the Downtime Activities in Xanathar's.

So far it's been working out great. It also gives gold a meaning again, since in 5e there isn't as much you can spend it on. Well, now, you need the gold for your Downtime Activities, and to maintain your lifestyle. And the best part is that as the players work their way through each activity, we'll eventually be able to look back and see a significant passage of time has occurred.

Of course, this doesn't work for every game. You need to structure the narrative around a repeating expedition cycle. The players go out into the wilds, do what they have to, then return to town to recover. If they're in a scenario where you have to constantly be on the move and can't waste any time because the BBEG is going to end the world in a month, then they won't have a chance to use any Downtime Activities or make use of Lifestyle expenses. Eventually the players' own actions might direct the story in such a direction, but this style of play lends itself to a more relaxed timetable or free floating scenarios.
 

i_dont_meta

Explorer
I see the Lifestyle Expenses the same as Downtime Activity: they seem to work better in a home brew campaign meant to see the PC's up to 20th (or higher). If you're going to potentially spend YEARS in one campaign with one PC, then I could completely understand using both. Since 5E's inception my group has yet to use either of these in any respect, much to my chagrin, but I'm also "that guy" who remembers that Mage Hand can only lift 10#'s and that Chromatic Orb needs a big-ass gem. We mostly use the AP's and there's not a lot of time/incentive to use either.
 

Ed Laprade

Visitor
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.
Emphasis mine. Not always. The more exotic the lifestyle, the more likely you are to get things that the poor peasants never will. Bad teeth from too much sugar, bad liver from too much wine, etc. Depending on time and place, the peasants had a much healthier lifestyle than the aristo-cats.
 

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