The fifth-edition Dungeon Master’s Guide advises dungeon masters, “You can hand out as much or as little treasure as you want.” The new Dungeons & Dragons game offers DMs the freedom to create a gritty, low-magic campaign without any “intrinsic bonuses” that fix the math. It allows legendary campaigns where parties fly like superheroes and challenge the gods. All good, but most of us want a campaign that feels like D&D. Most will seek a middle path.
Obviously, you can award treasure without rolling a random hoard. I suspect most DMs prefer to imagine their own treasure parcels and to award them as they see fit. In this post, I unpack the random hoards and find the middle path behind the random tables. If you skip the hoards, but aim to match the typical treasure awards, this post provides the targets that the DMG lacks.
Q: How many treasure hoards will the PCs win?
The DMG offers this guideline: “Over the course of a typical campaign, a party finds treasure hoards amounting to seven rolls on the Challenge 0-4 table, eighteen tolls on the Challenge 5-10 table, twelve rolls on the Challenge 11-16 table, and eight rolls on the Challenge 17+ table.” (p.133)
Q: How many encounters must a PC complete to level?
At levels 1 and 2, PCs will typically complete 6 medium-difficulty encounters to gain a level.
At level 3, PCs will typically complete 12 medium-difficulty encounters to gain a level.
From level 4 to 9, PCs will typically complete 15 medium-difficulty encounters to gain a level.
From level 10 to 19, PCs will typically complete 10 medium-difficulty encounters to gain a level.
In any case, each hard encounter counts for about 1½ medium encounters. In actual play, the numbers will vary. For instance, many DMs award experience for non-combat challenges.
Throughout all tiers of play, PCs will collect 1 treasure hoard per 5 medium encounters. If you typically finish 5 encounters per play session, players get 1 hoard per session.
Q: How much gold will PCs gain over their career?
The following table shows the wealth a party will gain over their career, to be divided among the PCs. The hoard values come from averages calculated at blog of holding and Dreams in the Lich House. The value of a hoard at a tier tends to be 10 times the value of the prior tier. This fits with D&D’s tradition of steep increases in treasure. See “Why D&D characters get tons of gold and nowhere to spend it.” All treasure values are in gold pieces.
|Level||Hoards at level||Encounters
|Hoard value||Gold at level||Cumulative gold at start|
|Wealth at end of career:||3,207,042|
Unlike Third- and fourth-edition, this edition offers no obvious outlet for the PCs’ wealth at higher levels. Earlier editions empowered PCs to buy magic items. PCs spent their gold on equipment that enhanced their power. The DMGs showed the wealth that PCs required to beat the monsters. Too much gold meant that PCs romped through dungeons, dropping monsters like pinatas; too little meant total-party kills. The new game sets no such requirements.
Q: How many magic items will each PC gain?
This table shows the magic items each member of a party of 4 will gain when they
score the typical number of treasure hoards. To keep pace, parties with more than 4
PCs will need to gain magic items from other sources such as more hoards, fallen enemies,
or a magic item market.
|Level||Consumable items||Permanent items|
|1||1 common||1st uncommon|
|5||1 common||2nd uncommon or a 1st rare|
|8||1 uncommon||1st rare or 2nd uncommon|
|11||1 rare||2nd rare or a 1st very rare|
|14||1 rare||1st very rare or a 2nd rare|
|16||1 very rare|
|17||1 very rare||1st legendary|
|18||1 very rare|
|19||1 very rare|
Update: Andy Pearlman presents an exhaustive analysis of the treasure tables in this post on Magic and the Math of 5E. He concludes that PCs will claim about 5 items over the course of their career rather than the 6 listed in my table. Also, his analysis shows that +3 and other legendary items start trickling into the PCs’ hands at level 11.
This table only shows the magic PCs gain in a typical game, not the magic they require. In earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons, higher-level characters required magic items that increased accuracy, which is a character’s chance of hitting. Without these accuracy enhancements, a PC could hardly hit, only flail away, hoping for a natural 20. In fifth edition, PCs can hit without magical accuracy bonuses, so they do not require magic just to play. Obviously, magic items still make PCs more powerful, but at any level, a PC without magic can contribute.
Still to come: In fifth-edition D&D, what is gold for? Choosing a campaign style