Apologies for the infrequent posting recently – I was undergoing a ritual to receive a +2 AC bonus.
How much treasure should your players receive in D&D?
Short answer: as much as you think! Lots of players love treasure, but there isn’t a huge amount of stuff to spend your gold on in 5th edition, and magic items are technically optional. Unlike previous editions of D&D, the game is balanced without them at high levels.
Is there such a thing as too much treasure? Yes and no. The main problem with giving out too much treasure is that it starts to become less special. (‘+1 studded leather again? Sell it!’) Character sheets get cluttered with forgotten magic items that the player is likely to never use. Gold piles up, unspent. What should be a cool, mysterious item becomes an uninteresting stat block.
There are a few magic items that deserve special consideration.
- Thanks to bonded accuracy, magic armour can have a significant effect on game balance. If you look at the magic item tables in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, magic armour appears infrequently, and +2 and +3 armour does not start appearing until Tables H and I – the tables for very rare and legendary items respectively. A character in +3 plate armour with a +3 shield has an AC of 26. Against such a challenge, a monster with an attack roll of +15 or lower would miss at least half the time. That includes pit fiends, adult red dragons, liches, and the most powerful angels in the multiverse.
- Magic items that summon other creatures are not necessarily ‘overpowered’, but they can become tedious. In my experience, players find them fun for a session or two and then stop using them.
- Items with random effects are, well, unpredictable. The deck of many things is probably the most famous example of this, but even a low-level magic item like the deck of illusions can have very swingy results, being able to summon the image of everything from a kobold to a lich.
- Anything that can permanently change a character’s ability scores should be handled with care. This includes the various manuals (of gainful exercise, quickness of action, bodily health) and tomes (clear thought, understanding leadership and influence) which can push a character’s abilities beyond the usual limit of 20, and the belts of giant strength, which can push a character’s Strength as high as 29.
- Consumable items are less likely to disrupt the balance of the game – after all, they can only be used once – but they often go unused. I’ve seen players go all the way to 20th level without using a spell scroll they picked up in Tier 1.
Wealth per level
If you are creating a character at higher levels, you don’t generally need to be too precise about how many items your character should have. I like the advice from Sly Flourish: choose one uncommon item at 5th level, a rare item at 11th, a very rare item at 17th, and a legendary item at 20th. (All of these items should be permanent magic items, not consumables.) Beyond this, normal starting equipment and perhaps a couple of healing potions is fine. Front-liners might want better armour.
However, what if you want to be a bit more precise about magic items and treasure? My friend Thomas helped me to work this out based on the tables in the DMG. I have seen different versions of this data around the Internet, so there are clearly different methodologies, but the table below should reflect the rules as written.
A quick reminder of this guidance:
Over the course of a typical campaign, a party finds treasure hoards amounting to seven rolls on the Challenge 0–4 table, eighteen rolls on the Challenge 5–10 table, twelve rolls on the Challenge 11–16 table, and eight rolls on the Challenge 17+ table.
We didn’t use the individual treasure tables on page 133 of the DMG because it’s impossible to meaningfully calculate how many creatures a party might encounter per level. It would inevitably become arbitary. Moreover, these values are so much smaller than the hoard totals that they probably aren’t worth worrying about too much. For example, a chimera (CR 5) might only have 91 gp in gold and silver. That’s not going to break the game at any level.
So: let’s look at hoards.
‘Treasure’ – coins, gems, art objects – is relative easy to calculate. Coin averages are provided already in the DMG, so multiply the average number by the number of hoards and divide the total by the number of players. (For example, by 5th level, a party should have found seven Tier 1 hoards: that’s 14,700 cp, 7,350 sp, and 490 gp. Good luck carrying that.)
As for gems and art objects, we have turned these into gold piece values and from there calculated the mean average per roll per tier. Thus, for each hoard at Tier 1, you should generate between zero and 600 gp worth of gems and art objects, and probably, on average, around 180 gp worth. See below.
Mean, minimum, and maximum values of gems and art objects per tier (in gp)
But if you want to see coins, gems, and art objects by level – here it is! This assumes a steady stream of treasure hoards and is cumulative. Divide the totals by your number of players to calculate individual player totals.
Party coins, gems, and art objects by level
|Level||Coins (in gp)||Gems and art objects (in gp)|
Some interesting implications of these totals:
- Assuming a party of four, a fighter should be able to afford splint armour before 3rd level and plate armour before 6th level.
- By Tier 2, a character probably won’t be able to carry all of their gold in a belt pouch any more and will probably need a wagon or cart and a beast of burden to transport it. By Tier 3, a character might not be able to fit all of their gold into a bag of holding. By 14th level, they would need teams of horses to transport their lucre.
- If they pooled their resources, a party would be able to afford a fort, outpost, or fortified tower around 6th level, a keep, temple, abbey, or small castle by 9th level, and a palace or large fortress by Tier 4 (see DMG p 128).
- As for vehicles, a party could afford a sailing ship around 5th level or a warship around 6th level.
Magic items are slightly more complicated. In theory, a party could receive a +2 weapon at 1st level. It’s just extremely unlikely: approximately 3 in 1,000. So what we wanted to find was the typical number of items per table per hoard, and then we spread these totals out over the course of each tier. (For example: statistically, a party should find 14.55 magic items from Table F in Tier 2; we took those 14.55 items and spread them out evenly over levels 5–10.)
Here is the number of magic items by table by tier (cumulative). ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ etc refer to the tables on page 144 of the DMG. Again, this is for the whole party.
Party magic items by tier
|1 (end of 4th level)||6||3||2||0||0||2||0||0||0|
|2 (end of 10th level)||16||11||7||1||0||8||2||0||0|
|3 (end of 16th level)||20||17||16||6||1||9||4||3||1|
|4 (end of 20th level)||20||17||20||15||7||9||5||5||5|
The table below summarizes these rolls by level. Again, this is cumulative and for the whole party, not individual players.
Party magic items by level
Some other fun stats:
- Permanent magic items are meant to be rare. By 20th level, a character will have acquired only six since the start of their career (assuming a party of four characters). A character will probably go through Tier 1 without any permanent magic items at all and only two or three in Tier 2. Most characters will get to 9th level with nothing better than uncommon magic items.
- Consumable magic items appear much more frequently: more than three times as frequently, in fact. Most characters will have received a consumable magic item by 2nd level, and the party as a whole will have received nearly 80 by the time they hit 20th level.
- Magical plate armour probably won’t appear before 14th level, if at all. This is also around the time that the party might find their first legendary item.
- The chance of rolling a suit of +3 plate armour by the end of Tier 4 is approximately one in 250.
- +3 weapons and equivalents probably won’t appear before Tier 3.
Not sure which magic items to include? See my post on best magic items by class, here.
How do these figures chime with your own impressions of treasure in 5e? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
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