[RPG] How to give the right amount of treasure without going overboard, like the last DM did


I am trying to find a good model for how much treasure and money to give my players in order not to make items too difficult to buy, or too cheap to buy.

In my last game, which ran for 6 months, our DM ended up so freely giving us gold that everything was trivial for us. Our characters at level 6 were so rich, we could afford any comfort and travel as kings. This was not because we found a treasure hoard, but because our DM had accidentally been giving us too much treasure for our encounters.

For example, every time we would fight something, they would reward us with 1-2 Platinum, sometimes more. They also used in-game currency for out of game creativity. If you made them laugh, you got another Platinum or like 100 Gold.

Nearing the end of the campaign, everything was so cheap that it wasn't fun anymore to even buy anything or save up for fancy lodgings. We could afford hundreds of potions, countless trips to the local temple, resurrections…etc. There was no threat of dying, no challenge in earning, and the game lost steam fast.

I am not good with math. I am nowhere near an economist, but when I run my campaign I don't want to end up with the same problem.

Are there any charts or rules of thumb for making a balanced, long-term economy in D&D 5th?

How do I assign treasure in a way that doesn't inflate to worthlessness down the line?

I am looking for charts, guides or tables ideally. I would really appreciate the help.

Best Answer

Decide what you want your PCs to save for.

First, you have to decide what your PCs are going to use money for. Do they have to worry about everyday living costs, or are they going to save up to buy expensive magic items?

If you really want it, DMG 136-139 contains detailed tables for treasure at various levels. While sometimes useful, they don't really help you decide how the economy of your game will work.

For example, PHB 157 has a table detailing how much certain lifestyles cost, with a squalid lifestyle costing 1sp per day and an aristocratic lifestyle costing at least 10gp per day. Thus, if you want your PCs to track living expenses and aspire to aristocracy, you'd want to restrict their budgets to probably less than 10gp per day.

On the other hand, DMG 135 lists values for magic items ranging from 50gp to 50,000gp. If you want magic items to be the objects of your game economy, you'll be looking at much different numbers.

Decide how much you want your players to have, and calculate a budget

Once you've decided what your economy is going to be about, you should decide where you want your players to live within that economy. It looks like you don't want to be super rich, so you should set a budget for the treasure that you dole out.

For example, in the game that I DM, I decided to give my players easy access to magic items, priced by their rarity. Consumable magic items cost 20-50gp, but permanent magic items range from about 1k to 10k gp. Each session, I give the players a few hundred gp. I feel that this strikes a rough compromise between saving up for the big magic items and having a steady supply of consumables. As my players level up, I plan to increase both the prices and the rewards accordingly.

Restrict desirable things by other means

Honestly, D&D is an epic fantasy kind of game, and I've felt like efforts to significantly restrict gold income kind of fall flat. After all, when was the last time you saw Aragorn hard up for cash? Unless you're particularly stingy with treasure, the PCs are going to be fabulously wealthy by the PHB's standards for commoners pretty quickly.

Instead, you can create scarcity by other means. Sure, the players might have all the gold in the world, but if the temple's best cleric is only level 3, they're still going to have trouble resurrecting their friend. Likewise, the local alchemist might only have enough ingredients for a handful of potions, regardless of how much the PCs overpay him. By restricting the absolute availability of desirable goods and services, you can preserve the value of money without letting wealth be the answer to everything.