D&D 5E Magic Items, Gold, and 5e!

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I'm left wondering, are these people aware they're playing a roleplaying game?

I'm just . . . if the character doesn't want a house, or a tower, or care about his living standards, or have a charity to support, or some end they want to achieve, why is he character going on adventures at all? And if the character does have goals, well, aren't those goals an obvious use for the gold?

Would this whole "gold is useless" thing be solved if we added a Random Life Goal Table in the "Personality and Background" chapter of the PHB, so that people who don't invent goals for their own character can say, "All right, my character wants to be emperor, and to recruit and equip an army, I'll need this much gold, so . . ."
It is possible for a character's goals to be not gold-soluble, past a certain level of equipment needs. For those characters, there will come a point where they have what they need that can be bought, and more gold won't matter.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I'm left wondering, are these people aware they're playing a roleplaying game?
Of course they are. One does not need to spend gold to roleplay though, especially not on things that aren’t relevant to the focus of the game.
I'm just . . . if the character doesn't want a house, or a tower, or care about his living standards, or have a charity to support, or some end they want to achieve, why is he character going on adventures at all?
Well first off, a lot of people prefer to start out with only vague character ideas and let the details develop during play. Second, in adventure path type play, the adventure itself generally provides players with enough motivation to want to go on it - the “adventure hook.” And thirdly, the players want to play D&D, which can’t really happen if their characters aren’t willing to go on adventures.*
And if the character does have goals, well, aren't those goals an obvious use for the gold?
I mean, if their goals are directly adventure related, they don’t have much they can spend gold on that will advance those goals.
Would this whole "gold is useless" thing be solved if we added a Random Life Goal Table in the "Personality and Background" chapter of the PHB, so that people who don't invent goals for their own character can say, "All right, my character wants to be emperor, and to recruit and equip an army, I'll need this much gold, so . . ."
Not at all. Many of the people who find gold to be useless probably wouldn’t use such tables anyway.

*well, one time I played a game - not D&D - with a guy who seemed more interested in starting a business in character than doing any sort of adventuring. It was bizarre to me, he like actively avoided all the obvious adventure hooks in favor of buying and selling livestock.
 

IME most DMs hand out way too much gold at lower levels, or worse, giving out better armors from looting monsters (I'm also guilty of this). Expensive armor is one of the primary money sinks of lower levels, yet too many DMs screw this up. Just looking at the hoards for levels 1-5, a PC in a 5 player group should have about 526 gp. If you factor in individual monster treasure, you're getting about 3/4 of a gp per monster, so afford plate armor by level 5, a character would have to face roughly 1,300 monsters that have treasure. Thus by the DMG, the average character shouldn't realistically be able to afford plate armor until level 7 or so. I don't believe there's a wealth by level chart for 5E that would contradict this, but if so I'd love to have it pointed out.

This also leads to players are far too friendly with money. Chipping in to buy the tank plate armor is the modern equivalent of loaning your friend $10-20,000 on the off chance he'll live long enough to pay it back. I've got some really good friends, but none I'd be willing to take that much of a investment risk on (assuming I even could). Admittedly adventuring is different than IRL, but your buddy is also far, far more likely to die than IRL, leaving you out a good chunk of your investment.

I'm left wondering, are these people aware they're playing a roleplaying game?
Some aren't; they're playing the equivalent of a CRPG, where such "unnecessary" things are ignored. They often ignore things like tracking ammo, supplies, and encumbrance, since they aren't considered fun. While there's nothing wrong with this style of play, they're the ones most likely to lack ideas on how to spend their loot. Those types of games would likely be improved by allowing the buying and selling of magic items
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
If you factor in individual monster treasure, you're getting about 3/4 of a gp per monster,
Wait, have you actually worked this out? I’ve tried to fo so myself quite a few times but there are too many unknown variables. I’d love to see your work on this, if you’re willing to share it.
 


gorice

Explorer
It always puzzles me that many players seem unwilling to leverage 'downtime' advantages into things they can use in play. I mean, gold pays for soldiers! If my character has a small army at their beck and call, you'd better believe I'm going to start throwing my weight around.

I guess this goes against the adventure path/treadmill style of play, as others have noted. I'd be delighted if my players were more willing to bring their 'offscreen' advantages into play, though.

Also, and apropos of nothing, the bards of Athas are also assassins.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
It always puzzles me that many players seem unwilling to leverage 'downtime' advantages into things they can use in play. I mean, gold pays for soldiers! If my character has a small army at their beck and call, you'd better believe I'm going to start throwing my weight around.

I guess this goes against the adventure path/treadmill style of play, as others have noted.
Yeah, I mean… Hiring an army and sending them to do the adventuring for you could certainly be effective, but it’s kinda optimizing the fun out of the game, isn’t it? Like, I want to go on adventures when I play D&D, not pay other people to do it for me.
 

Voadam

Legend
Gold in B/X was basically just xp and narrative reward. You had enough gold as a starting character to get plate mail and have the adventuring gear that money can buy for your whole career.

In 1e plate mail was beyond starting funds so you built up to it with looted gold, trading up when you could and recovering from the inevitable rust monster or slime or whatever eating everything you had. It was also worth xp with a neat trade off of selling magic items for gold meant more xp than keeping the power of the item. Training cost ridiculously large amounts of money too if you used that set of DMG rules.

In 2e gold was only an optional way to get xp, and mostly for rogue classes. It still had plate mail beyond starting funds though.

In 3e you had not only plate mail beyond starting funds but all magic items could be crafted for a gold piece price or bought for double the crafting. And this was baked in for an expected gold per level chart to stay competitive with the assumed baseline. Gold mattered hugely for your character combat balance through every level.

In 4e you had the magic item treadmill as well, just with a smaller item tree. Until Dungeon Masters Guide II which had the fantastic inherent bonus optional rule which freed the game from the need for gold to maintain baseline numbers and power. You could be Conan with just a sword and an empty coin purse and be a kick butt epic sword and sorcery character. You could have Warhammer FRP style misery and poverty and have the combat numbers work in D&D instead of wrecking the power and balance of stuff. It was fantastic. I was a big fan.

5e again you cannot start with plate mail, but that is what you spend money on as advancement in the early game. The rules for how much money you should have at various points are very loose.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Of course they are. One does not need to spend gold to roleplay though, especially not on things that aren’t relevant to the focus of the game.

Well first off, a lot of people prefer to start out with only vague character ideas and let the details develop during play. Second, in adventure path type play, the adventure itself generally provides players with enough motivation to want to go on it - the “adventure hook.”
Thing is, adventure-path type play simply doesn't lend itself to the sort of non-adventuring activities that can burn away wealth. I'll go a step further and say that if the players complaining they've nothing to spend their wealth on are the same players who always play adventure-path campaigns, then on their own heads be it. :)
And thirdly, the players want to play D&D, which can’t really happen if their characters aren’t willing to go on adventures.*
Agreed. It's what they want to do - if anything - between adventures that makes a lot of the difference here, and whether the game and-or the DM encourage/allow such downtime activity or not.
I mean, if their goals are directly adventure related, they don’t have much they can spend gold on that will advance those goals.
Not as written, but allow even limited purchase and-or sale of magic items with random availability and they'll burn that gold away in a flash. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
IME most DMs hand out way too much gold at lower levels, or worse, giving out better armors from looting monsters (I'm also guilty of this). Expensive armor is one of the primary money sinks of lower levels, yet too many DMs screw this up. Just looking at the hoards for levels 1-5, a PC in a 5 player group should have about 526 gp.
That's pathetic, by the standards I run by! :)

Next time someone challenges my assertion that 5e is very skimpy with its treasure, can I point them at the post I'm quoting?
If you factor in individual monster treasure, you're getting about 3/4 of a gp per monster, so afford plate armor by level 5, a character would have to face roughly 1,300 monsters that have treasure. Thus by the DMG, the average character shouldn't realistically be able to afford plate armor until level 7 or so. I don't believe there's a wealth by level chart for 5E that would contradict this, but if so I'd love to have it pointed out.

This also leads to players are far too friendly with money. Chipping in to buy the tank plate armor is the modern equivalent of loaning your friend $10-20,000 on the off chance he'll live long enough to pay it back. I've got some really good friends, but none I'd be willing to take that much of a investment risk on (assuming I even could). Admittedly adventuring is different than IRL, but your buddy is also far, far more likely to die than IRL, leaving you out a good chunk of your investment.
Why would you be out (most of) the investment? Unless the plate armour gets destroyed along with its wearer what's to stop you looting it, cleaning it up, and selling it* next time you're by a fighters' guild or some minor noble's castle in order to recoup your investment?

* - or at the very least trading it for items-supplies-considerations of somewhat-equal worth that are more useful to your now-fighterless party.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah, I mean… Hiring an army and sending them to do the adventuring for you could certainly be effective, but it’s kinda optimizing the fun out of the game, isn’t it? Like, I want to go on adventures when I play D&D, not pay other people to do it for me.
True, but if hiring a bunch of soldiers is what the character would do...

A not-so-nice character would size up the mission and then hire not quite enough soldiers to get through it. They go in, they die, then their "boss" follows up to mop up what's left of the adventure and then loot the soldiers and foes alike. :)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Thing is, adventure-path type play simply doesn't lend itself to the sort of non-adventuring activities that can burn away wealth. I'll go a step further and say that if the players complaining they've nothing to spend their wealth on are the same players who always play adventure-path campaigns, then on their own heads be it. :)

Agreed. It's what they want to do - if anything - between adventures that makes a lot of the difference here, and whether the game and-or the DM encourage/allow such downtime activity or not.

Not as written, but allow even limited purchase and-or sale of magic items with random availability and they'll burn that gold away in a flash. :)
Yeah, I think you and I are pretty much on the same page here.
 


Voadam

Legend
I played in a 1e game for four years as a merchant prince magic user. It was a lot of high level politics in a D&D world with a heavy emphasis on roleplaying. I was making deals, setting up trade networks, balancing mercantilism, politics, magic, and high level adventuring. I was fabulously wealthy. I was patron to multiple PCs and NPCs. I dealt with dragons and liches and a vampire ruler and archmages and Gods and Dream and Chaos. It was a ton of fun. I never tracked specific gp value game money once in those four years. It also used the Arduin xp charts and flat xp awards each game (modified by possible bonuses for tactics and or roleplay) so killing stuff and looting was not the incentive model that showing up and playing well was.

Narrative can handle really fun money stuff easily enough without nitpicking personal accounts down to the electrum piece or involving specific defined systems.

1e realism of record every scrap of equipment down to the waterskin and weight of your coins can be fun.

Old school heisting in dangerous areas for xp can be a fun gaming model.

Downtime systems using money, time, skills, and rolls can be fun.

3e loot and item treadmilling with spell resource costs can be a fun paradigm.

Full on freeform narrativism can be fun.

Lots of different ways to go about handling money in D&D.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Gold isn't an issue in my campaigns. My players find uses for it without any difficulties.

As for Wishes, I never had a problem with them personally. My philosophy is use it now, because you may be dead in the future and never use it. Over the years that have been a few times that I almost wished that I had held on to it(I say almost, because it helped when I used it), but never a time where ended the campaign with the wish still in hand.
 

Wait, have you actually worked this out? I’ve tried to fo so myself quite a few times but there are too many unknown variables. I’d love to see your work on this, if you’re willing to share it.
You're supposed to get about seven 0-4 CR hoards, so I used those going up to level 5 (you could have a CR 5 hoard before hand, and a CR 4 hoard afterwards, but I went with simplicity). I totaled up the value available from gems/art, then divided by 100, then did the same for treasure per monster. I then divided by 5, assuming the party did an even split. Individual monsters I left as a variable, since the number of monsters that have treasure is going to vary greatly by DM. I take the amount of monsters in an adventure and determine the total treasure to place throughout the adventure, but other DMs are going to vary. Obviously this is only using the DMG assumption of treasure from monsters, which doesn't take into consideration rewards from NPCs.
Umm… You do know the RPG in CRPG stands for roleplaying game, right?
Yeah, but there is a significant difference between the limited focus of a CRPG than an open RPG. No one looks into the aspect of the character's outside of the adventuring itself, which is the style I was referring to. Since my playstyle is different, my bias was showing.
That's pathetic, by the standards I run by! :)

Next time someone challenges my assertion that 5e is very skimpy with its treasure, can I point them at the post I'm quoting?
Absolutely. You can see my methods I used above.
Why would you be out (most of) the investment? Unless the plate armour gets destroyed along with its wearer what's to stop you looting it, cleaning it up, and selling it* next time you're by a fighters' guild or some minor noble's castle in order to recoup your investment?

* - or at the very least trading it for items-supplies-considerations of somewhat-equal worth that are more useful to your now-fighterless party.
Given that you'll get at best half the value of the armor, that's a loss of about $35,000 across the party. With a party of 5, that's about $7,000 out of a $14,000 investment, minus the amount the PC "paid the party back" (which IME is never). It's a construct of how modern players view game currency vs. IRL currency. As an old school gamer, this bugs me.
 

gorice

Explorer
Yeah, I mean… Hiring an army and sending them to do the adventuring for you could certainly be effective, but it’s kinda optimizing the fun out of the game, isn’t it? Like, I want to go on adventures when I play D&D, not pay other people to do it for me.
I agree that using hirelings to do everything for you is boring. But, using your hired muscle and clout to influence local politics, carry your stuff, and maybe check that sketchy looking chest is another matter. And maybe, you know, fight a battle against a force your party couldn't otherwise handle, while you lead from the front in shining armour...

Late-game, high-wealth situations open up so many cool possibilities that seldom seem to be realised in play.
 

Voadam

Legend
Given that you'll get at best half the value of the armor, that's a loss of about $35,000 across the party. With a party of 5, that's about $7,000 out of a $14,000 investment, minus the amount the PC "paid the party back" (which IME is never). It's a construct of how modern players view game currency vs. IRL currency. As an old school gamer, this bugs me.
In 3e where purchasing power really mattered the groups I was in usually handled things by a) having a designated group share of loot for party resources like cure light wound wands, and b) splitting everything else up equally. Magic item loot was valued at its 1/2 price sale value. If someone wanted a particularly expensive magic item like a good sword that they could not afford from their share plus their personal wealth they would go into debt to the party and would not get a share of new loot until their new shares paid off their debt.

This way people came out with equal loot over time and good singular items did not need to be sold to be equitable in dividing the spoils. With 3e's escalating loot values over levels debts were paid off fairly quickly with new loot shares.

In my experience under this system everybody did pay off their group debts over time and it worked out well.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Thing is, adventure-path type play simply doesn't lend itself to the sort of non-adventuring activities that can burn away wealth. I'll go a step further and say that if the players complaining they've nothing to spend their wealth on are the same players who always play adventure-path campaigns, then on their own heads be it. :)

Specifically, adventure-path play generally has some urgency, such that if you take on a side-project, you are at risk of repercussions for ignoring the main problems. If the group goes off on a two-week trek so that the Artificer can get an ingredient for a magic item they want to craft, and then takes more weeks to craft that item, the BBEG will move forward unopposed.

This is generally solvable - the GM has to look for moments on the path to say, "Okay, folks, what you have done has put a dent in the bad guy, and you will now have X weeks for downtime activities before they will act again."
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That's pathetic, by the standards I run by! :)

Next time someone challenges my assertion that 5e is very skimpy with its treasure, can I point them at the post I'm quoting?
First, his numbers don't take magic items into consideration. Some will be found and sold. That raises the numbers quite a bit actually. The gold amount also goes up significantly in the 5-10 range, though. You get 18 rolls on that horde chart which includes even more money. In cash alone, you're looking at an average of 12000 gold a PC for a 5 man group, + gems and art, + better magic items, some of which will be sold.

The money amounts in 5e start slow, but take off quickly.
 

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