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I have read plenty of things about the Vow of Poverty in forums, and i have seen both opinions expressed.

If i understand it correctly, it does work on the assumption of a linear magic item acquisition from the rest of the party, and it is "balanced" on that assumption. I also do understand that some builds use it to mix/max their character, with synergy of other vows.

My question is, as a mechanic, and if one assumes that this linear magic item acquisition is valid for a party, is it overpowered, underpowered, or balanced. Are there any other aspects i am not aware of?


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One thing that confuses the issue is that VoP grants extra feats, but only if you had already taken VoP at the levels when such extra feats are granted. No retroactive feat gain, in other words. This means that a character who takes VoP at first or third level will end up substantially more powerful than one who takes it later. –  GMJoe Feb 16 '12 at 4:44
I have locked this question because it is generating significant arguments from new users as well as significant useless comments. See this meta for details. I have chosen to lock because this question is historically significant, despite being overly argumentative for our site. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 13 '14 at 5:45

10 Answers 10

up vote -3 down vote accepted

It depends on the class. For item relaying classes it's underpowered, but for a class such as monk it's overpowered. In our dnd-3.5e campaign we had an exalted human monk with vow of poverty, and it was extremely powerful.

Can you site sources on this at all, because in my experience, and in the consensus of the mechanics-oriented community Vow of Poverty is always a net negative, and it's even more of a negative for melee classes such as fighter, monk, barbarian, or warblade. In point of fact, Monk has been found to be one of the classes hurt most by Vow of Poverty because it strips them of the items they would normally use to compensate for their weaknesses. –  Lord_Gareth Jan 10 '13 at 1:56
Not only does it depend on the class, but it also depends on the game. In some campaign settings, it will be amazing. In others, it will be horrible. –  Cypher Jul 8 '13 at 22:36

The general consensus seems to be not worth the opportunity cost, save if you build specifically for it.

100 posts talking about this very thing with choice quotes:


It's dumb as hell, is what's the problem. It assumes combat is conducted on a flat plane and is more or less a straightforward exchange of damage, and the only real difficulty that comes up. It includes no real problem-solving abilities and no mobility enhancers and forbids you from getting them on your own through the normal channels.

If you're a druid you're already so versatile and powerful that you can take the feat just to show off, others not so much. When your enemy can fly and you can't and your ranged weapon options include "throw rocks", you suck.


I do however assume that people who don't fly will have dangerous ranged attack options to compensate. A sling, a single javelin, a shortspear, a club, or a rock you picked up off the ground isn't going to cut it. A composite longbow (preferably magical, but not necessarily) keyed to a Str bonus of +10 or so can do a bit of damage, and has a decent range to it, but you can't afford that, can you?


Oh, the stats and bonuses are plenty good, you're much better off having them than not having them. The problem is, you give up things that are not only much better, but also mandatory to contribute meaningfully, in order to get those stats and bonuses.

It's a nifty feat, but it's not even close to being worth the opportunity cost, even if your DM is a stingy SOB.


At least 3 of the following should describe your character before you even consider using VoP:

  • Your campaign is low-magic
  • Your campaign is low-wealth
  • Your DM is not a douche and lets you use a Spellbook/Divine Focus/etc.
  • Your character has levels in Druid
  • Your character has levels in a class that utilizes, improves, or abuses natural weapons, such as the Black Blood Cultist, Warshaper, Kensai, or Monk-esque PrC's
  • Your character has levels in any non-Druid item independent-class or PrC, such as Wildshape Ranger, Master of Many Forms, or Bear Warrior
  • Your character builds his levels around abusing spellcasting without Foci or expensive components

My special blurb on VoP Monks and Soulknives: Yes, I am actually that Monks and Soulknives, the two classes generally considered to be the worst in 3.5 DnD, can take VoP in very specific circumstances. Both require dipping classes to be effective, and both normally require items to function at all in a party. The following circumstances can make a VoP Monk or Soulknife into a very effective character:

  • You put off VoP until later levels to take advantage of Tomes, Magical Locations, and items such as the Sparring Dummy of the Master. While this is generally considered cheesy, you need to take what you can get with a VoP Monk/Soulknife.
  • You dip Kensai. At least a few levels will get you effects on either natural weapons, unarmed strikes, or your mindblade. You desperately need these.
  • If you are a Soulknife, you dip Soulbow to get a good ranged attack.
  • If you are a Monk, you dip either dip Monk PrC's that advance unarmed damage or take Bear Warrior and dip Warshaper.
  • Eliminate MAD however you can.

On the other hand: Fighter build, Totemist with appropriate binds, and some item-less casters can benefit.

+1 the opportunity cost is quite high. My VoP character was outshined often by another couple of characters I was also running at the time. Her character sheet is still pristine from lack of referencing, almost a shame to look at. –  LitheOhm Feb 17 '13 at 9:04

Vow of Poverty, even if it required no feats and was merely an option freely available to your character, would still take away more than it grants. You can literally buy very-nearly everything Vow of Poverty has to offer, and have hundreds of thousands of gold pieces left over. The only things it has that are legitimately difficult to get are the ability score bonuses (though they are partially replaced by Enhancement bonuses that a Vow of Poverty character has a hard time getting in any permanent fashion), and the extra Exalted feats (the majority of which are very weak).

Vow of Poverty is so bad that if you handed me a character who had already wasted two feats on Sacred Vow and Vow of Poverty, I would break that vow, take my money, and accept that I had two wasted feats slots. It’s that bad.

Magic is, in short, everything in 3.x. It utterly dominates the game. The spellcasters are the most powerful classes, and those who have no innate magic must hunt desperately for the most potent and cost-efficient magical items to overcome that shortcoming.

As such, Vow of Poverty is least bad on the most powerful classes: they can afford to lose their magical items. They’re still better with them than without them – and by the way, one of those things you explicitly cannot have is a Holy Symbol. Yes, this means you cannot make a Cleric with Vow of Poverty. Yes, this is very, very dumb. Wizards have an even bigger problem, in that they can’t have a Spellbook. (There are ways around these problems, options that might even be good if you’re not using Vow of Poverty, but they are not reasons to take Vow of Poverty.)

Particularly if Wildling Clasps are not available, a Druid may not make extensive use of magic items. Therefore, the Druid – spending most of his time in Wild Shape anyway – is the best candidate for Vow of Poverty. You can still do more with magic items than you can do with Vow of Poverty, even with a Druid, even without Wildling Clasps, however. You will also note that the Druid is one of the five most powerful classes in the game, and almost certainly the most-obviously overpowered of the bunch. It’s fairly easy to miss what makes a Cleric or Wizard so powerful. It’s not hard to figure out that being a bear with a pet bear who shoots more bears is awesome and terrifying.

Totemists and Incarnates, from Magic of Incarnum, fall in a somewhat similar boat: their class features replace magic items to a certain degree. Not totally, but enough that they generally use somewhat fewer of them than most other classes. It’s still a really bad choice though: at very-low levels, they don’t get many Chakra Binds that are replacing magic item slots, so they can use items normally, and at high levels the sheer amount of wealth they’re losing makes Vow of Poverty a non-starter.

Psionic manifesters, being magic classes that don’t rely on foci or components or things, can at least continue to do their main schtick while taking a Vow of Poverty. Again, though, there are plenty of magic/psionic items that are worth way, way more to them than the bonuses from Vow of Poverty are.

For a nonmagic class, there isn’t even a discussion. Mid-to-high level 3.5 requires all kinds of things that they do not get natively, and Vow of Poverty will never grant them. This includes Flight, dealing with a variety of Damage Reductions, dealing with Miss Chances, finding ways of Teleporting, finding immunities against terrible things like [Death], [Mind-Affecting], and the smorgasbord of things freedom of movement protects you against.

Monks, one of the most touted ascetics out there, are a particularly bad case. The Monk is a very weak class, and needs a huge array of things just to keep up. A Necklace of Natural Attacks is literally part of the cost of entry. A Fanged Ring is something you’ll really, really miss. Magic items that will make you larger are simply invaluable. All those aforementioned things to deal with apply to the Monk too. And so on.

The only conceivable exception to the rule that Vow of Poverty makes a character worse is the Apostle of Peace, an incredibly broken prestige class from the Book of Exalted Deeds. It’s not that the Vow’s bonuses somehow magically synergize with the class in some amazing way – that is, it’s nothing good about the Vow itself. It’s simply that Apostle of Peace requires that you have it. The Apostle of Peace, however, is one of the worst classes in the game, not simply because it’s overpowered (which it is), but because it also literally breaks almost all of the game’s assumptions.

Using Vow of Poverty to become a “Tank”

Zach’s answer suggests that Vow of Poverty can make a character “indestructable.” It cannot do any such thing. High AC, high saves, yes. Indestructable, not even close.

Moreover, even if it did, this would be a failing tactic anyway. Intelligent enemies will simply ignore the non-threat and kill his party. Since he's got no damage output, there is nothing he can do about it. Unless there’s a choke-point he can hold (and the enemy has no alternate ways around him, like Teleporting), they’ll just go around him and attack the real threats.

And even if it were a good idea, you can achieve higher AC without Vow of Poverty than you can with it. And you can certainly be much closer to indestructable (at high-optimization and high level, basically every Tier-1 spellcaster already is).

@Zach: If the Wizard was capable of making you the only available target, he was capable of making no one available as a target. You don't need to convince me that the Wizard is powerful enough to cover for useless teammates; I knew that already. –  KRyan Nov 30 '12 at 20:11
VoP characters wear clothes, eat food, etc. They are allowed to have some basic equipment, and a simple Holy Symbol would logically be among this basic equipment. –  Paul Marshall Feb 19 '13 at 19:51
@PaulMarshall - That'd be what we in the business call 'making sense'. 3.5's rules very rarely do that. VoP has a specific list of items that are permitted, and holy symbols are, stupidly, not amongst them. Yes it makes no logical sense. Yes the character should be permitted one. But by RAW, them's the breaks. –  Lord_Gareth Jan 28 '14 at 20:47

Another significant problem: You are required to take a share of the loot and give it away.

In 3.5 and many other RPG systems, options directly equal power. Vow of Poverty eliminates options in two ways - first, it strips away your ability to expend your wealth how you would like (replacing this ability with a scaling set of bonuses that "mimic" wealth) and secondly it requires you to take a share of the party's wealth and give it away to charitable institutions.

This factor further pushes Vow of Poverty into the 'underpowered' territory, and as a result is relevant for both the sake of completeness /and/ because it eliminates legitimate shared expendiatures of wealth such as, say, giving gold to the artificer to get a wand.

The removal of the wealth also removes opportunity, and both is a direct result of the feat. In the end, for 3.5, wealth directly equals power in the direct personal sense and in the sense that wealth permits you to access more and more options, and Vow of Poverty strips those options away from both you and your party members.

In sheer raw numbers the benefits from VoP are worth more than wealth-by-level in terms of gold cost. The trouble isn't the amount you get, it's that you can't spend it to cover your weaknesses or gain utility.

Items can take a weak class and help them compensate in addition to accenting or boosting their strengths, but Vow of Poverty only boosts some strengths, and of the ones it chooses those strengths are the least relevant and the least desirous. The sole exception to this is the ability score boosts (the work horse of almost any character's item spread), but it's hard to support that since every character already wants and, thus, acquires those boosts already.

In comments, Gamer Chick asked:

How is taking an equal share of the party treasure a negative? Without the feat they would still be doing so. I understand what you're saying, I just don't see how it makes a difference.

There's actually a fairly large difference, and it's important to understand this difference because it's key to how Vow of Poverty hurts not just you, but your entire party.

Wealth benefits the entire party in two ways: one, it improves your character personally (thus enabling them to contribute in more and better ways to party efforts) and it can be used to improve the entire party. Among the various permanent capabilities that wealth buys (flight, scrying, immunities, metamagic), wealth also purchases consumables like scrolls, wands, rods, staves, psionic tattoos, potions, and more. While these consumables and semi-permanent consumables certainly make your character better (a Wand of Fly, for example), they can also be shared around, causing your wealth to directly benefit the rest of the party.

Additionally, or instead, of buying things for yourself you can share the wealth with your other party members, or even loan it out to them. If you have a crafter in your party, you can stretch your wealth by asking him to craft the items for you (and, incidentally, you can even pay all or some of the XP involved yourself by using the options found here in case they balk at the XP cost), resulting in literally twice the potions, scrolls, wands, etc available. By utilizing such a party member as a resource, you're letting another character's concept shine and spending your wealth in an efficient fashion that gives you more tools with which to combat obstacles, be they physical, mental, or social.

So, Vow of Poverty hurts the entire party by removing wealth from this equation entirely; wealth is not available to make you more efficient (and thus a better contributor), nor is it available to be shared or stretched among the entire party, which harms the whole group instead of just you.

The exact wording of the feat only requires that "The majority of her share of party treasure (or the profits from the sale thereof) should be donated to the needy." It doesn't specify who the needy are; Therefore, if someone in your party could use a magical weapon that drops or a few extra gold pieces to afford some fancy item, then there is nothing stopping you from giving it to them and contributing to the party. Since most groups should literally be swimming in their giant piles of money before long, being expected to donate some of it to the local temple frequently is no big deal. –  Dyndrilliac Feb 12 '14 at 14:31

Honestly, I think it can be one of the most broken feats in the game. You just have to know how to make use of it.

As a friend of mine once said, "Who cares if the meat-brick can deal damage? As long as whatever we're fighting can't kill him, and he stops it from hitting anything but him, then the rest of the party can worry about killing it."

Combined with a few other feats (and thanks to this feat, there's no shortage of feats to be had) I was able to use this feat to make a monk with an AC of 50. There was nothing the DM could throw at us that could hit me, and since I made Dex my high stat, there was no spell I couldn't dodge, no enemy that could pin me, and I had the advantage of not having to worry about damage output.

But, then again, why should I? I was able to RP or mechanics my way into making myself the target in 95% of the encounters, and when nothing could touch me it left my party ample time to kill it.

That's what I think makes this feat so broken. Combined with a few other feats that make touching you a potential hazard, the simple fact is an indestructible feather might not be able to put out damage, but it's still indestructible. People have this misconception that something is only broken if it makes the thing using it a cannon, when in reality anything that has completely filled a role in a group (in this case, tank) completely and perfectly makes the group broken.

To clarify, this build was not meant to be anything but a wall. He was introduced to the group as 'our temple's greatest defense.' Simply put, I did not make a character who required the groups help to be useful. The group saw what my character was, and proceeded to abuse the 'telekinesis' spell. My point was simple; a broken character is broken because it forces the DM to work around it, instead of the opposite. My character was basically an item. A character is not bad if the party has to use him. A party is bad if they can't use a character.

Imagine this: A monk that can't be touched, a wizard that can make the monk the only available target, and a rogue that can put out enough damage a turn to shame a min-maxed wilder. Sure, everyone will look at that group and say that the rogue is the broken one... but the simple fact is, even if the rogue could only do 1 damage a turn (after everything is said and done), so long as the other two in the group did their job, there is almost nothing they can't kill.

Also: Wish can grant the effects of any Tome, Permanency Spells are not items, and any wizard worth his salt can cast a fly spell on a monk.

Remember kids: No one character is a party. You have allies. Use them, and let them use you.


The reason it's hard to get a straight answer on this is because it just depends on everything else. The DM, the class you take it with, the Campaign Setting & who you're fighting all factor into it..as well as what level you are when you take it..and what level you are at any given time...as in it's effectiveness/power changes with levels...while arguably linear with magic items given to party members, it's not linear with the abilities of your enemies...If I was your enemy I would just fly up and start wailing on you from out of reach.

I think, depending on setting this is OP at low level but evens out/loses at higher levels unless you take classes to overcome the penalties.

IMHO this feat makes the monk..it might work for a Pally but you lose your armor which unless you roll really good stats is going to be a problem. At level 1 Human Monk with VoP I had a 20 AC (it was 21 but I took a flaw so I lost 1)..My AC continues to rise as I level up & as I increase my stats at an accelerated rate. (my highest stat is 16 so with better rolls my AC would be even higher) So IF you want to play a monk, I don't see how you can be effective without this class. Also, the Kensai Prestige is a great way to combine the class and get some great magic abilities without having any magical weapons!

However, the biggest drawbacks are obviously fighting things out of reach (flight or whatever) or things that hurt when touched. Not being able to carry healing potions/wands makes life very dangerous.

Other restrictions: VoP is in BoED, which my DM insisted meant I had to be more than just good, I had to live up to the Exalted Good..so it takes a bit more (your DM may differ). Also, means you can't MultiClass between Monk/Druid due to allignment requirements. (yes you could take monk, and change alignments and then gain druid, but only that rare circumstance would work)


TLDR: VoP is underpowered for everything except Druid. Why? Because he can wild shape into a Solar with templates, ex/su/sp abilities, plus full dual 9 Druid / Cleric casting. And when that is what you are going to do anyway, why bother meticulously keeping track of junk like potions / scrolls / wands / rations / water / air / gear? Be a real hero and donate that stuff to the poor and bask in your invincible celestialness. Seriously, being able to steamroll the game without items is awesome.

Druid is the only class which will work well with Vow of Poverty in terms of not hindering you. With any other major class, it is a liability. But, I argue that on Druids it can be just as powerful as any build that uses magic items. There are a couple different ways to make the Druid a completely unbeatable class, but one of the more common ones is to take 10 levels of Druid and 10 levels of Planar Shepherd. Doing this makes the questions of whether you have items or not largely irrelevant, that being the case, it just makes more logical sense to forego them and shed all that nasty paperwork and loot tracking.

It has been suggested in the comments that the Druid is the most powerful class. I don't know if that's true; Wizards and Clerics are capable of some pretty nifty stuff. The druid is definitely strong though. Ridiculously strong, which is why it is a tier 1 class. The Druid makes a great candidate primarily because Wild Shape by default renders any item you are holding, wearing, or carrying useless. Sure, you can use Wildling Clasps to make the items usable, but you already hit the overpowered mark long before items came into play. Being able to transform into a Solar with full level 20 Cleric casting in addition to the ex / su abilities (complete with the ability to cast wish, and resurrection just to name a few with no material or XP cost) and templates trumps any magic item(s) you can fathom. My point is, especially if you follow this build, your wild shape ability and subsequent dual Cleric / Druid casting will far outweigh any difference between the use of gear or the use of Vow of Poverty. Like I said, this is only true for the Druid; and not admittedly not because of anything great about Vow of Poverty, but being able to be that powerful and have a lot less paperwork to deal with tracking all that gold, loot, food, water, and whatever else it is you might carry sounds pretty sweet. I don't know about you, but the most tedious part about any game for me is hunting down the damn magic items. Not having to worry about it is pretty liberating, and I even get some pretty nice features. Permanent True Seeing and Freedom of Movement isn't too shabby. Combine that with AC boosts, save boosts, not having to eat / drink / breathe (very handy on planes of water or earth), damage reduction, energy resistance, getting like 11 bonus feats on a usually feat starved class, and it all just gets better and better. Plus, two of those bonus feats are Exalted Companion and Exalted Wild Shape, both of which are pretty good. In fact, I checked, and there was a useful Exalted feat for every bonus exalted feat I would get maximizing the number of bonus feats by taking Vow of Poverty at level 1. I've even seen people mix Druid, Wizard, Beholder Mage, and Planar Shepherd along with a few other super cheesy PrCs to get a Planetar with triple level 9 spellcasting Wizard / Druid / Cleric. It's also worth mentioning that taking vow of Poverty at level one with a race that gets you a no-strings-attached bonus feat or some flaws will allow you to take Nymph's Kiss at level one for free, which nets you an extra 20 skill points. over the lifetime of your character (assuming you're not taking this beast into Epic levels).

*Note: Edited to reflect the comments and to better state my original case - Druids, like all other tier 1 classes, are overpowered; when you're already that powerful, not having to worry about finding the loot you want or always letting greed dictate your course of actions can be pretty inviting. There is nothing I hate worse than too much paperwork for my character. God help you if you ever play a Wizard without access to the books or an internet connected computing device to use D&D tools or the SRD!

As usual, do not bloody argue, discuss, opine, or otherwise blather in comments. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 13 '14 at 5:46

Of course, there are times when Vow of Poverty can make a class relevant. Say, forsaker. And particularly MAD, weak classes like Monk do get a power boost in a vacuum. Assuming all you are doing is fighting things in a fairly linear fashion gladiator style. And some people do play that way. I remember once taking Vow of Poverty on an Unbodied Psion and since I couldn't equip items without special consideration anyway...

Unless by "in a vacuum" you mean "he wouldn't be getting items anyway," your statement about the Monk is inaccurate. I must say, though, that the Forsaker and Unbodied Psion are decent niche uses for it, perhaps, albeit with the understanding that neither is really a good choice, with or without the Vow. –  KRyan Jan 2 '13 at 19:17
Forsaker is required to destroy magic items to acquire his class abilities. Unfortunately this doesn't fall under the "donate their share to charity" clause of VoP. –  LitheOhm Feb 17 '13 at 8:49

Vow of Poverty + Druid = Excellent! Once you get past level 5, you own the battlefield. And the extra Exalted feats just makes you stronger and stronger. Taken from level 1, at level 20 you may have to search for exalted feats to fill all your exalted feats spots. Sanctify Natural Attack, Intuitive Attack, Purify Spell combined with Spell Focus: Good, Exalted Wild shape, Touch of Golden Ice... All makes your Wild Shape more powerful.

This gives an example of it being useful, but doesn't answer the question about balance asked here... –  Julix Feb 1 '14 at 22:04

the issue here guys is VoP has different levels of power based on build/game/party lvl

now i currently play a toon with the feat at near epic lvl and on my toon who would much rather not have gear (being a werebear means i brake gear when i get angery or im out at a full moon)and on my toon.. it makes perfect logic both gameplay and role play wise,

to put it in simple, toons who have polymorph abilitys which dont allow you to use your gear often have something to gain from the feat, my werebear gains more from VoP when hes a bear than any gear could ever offer him,

ironic that the drunken master also gains good benefits from VoP as the base of his ability are based on itams he can find anywhere without cost, and his improved versatility with these free itams (tables as towershields/ladders as polearms) just got better with +8 str and that ladder now counting as a +5 (good aliened) ladder in combat when he holds it

so the drunken master cant drink.. well thats not so bad when you have gained epic stats and his improvised gear is now just as magical as the fighters uber sword he payed good money for, and now you have a melee brawler who with a few well picked feats can do very well for an ungeared toon at 20th

im not going to justify the feat as over powerd. its uses power wise are very limited, but there are some builds which it will see more benefit than loss from using this feat

i compleatly disagree with the comment about VoP toons crippling the party, every game iv seen one played (assuming the guy playing it knows what VoP means) the VoP toon earns the party stupidly high respect from nearly every church and town we meet, he gives regulerly true, but when the party need that spell they cant cast or help from NPCs the VoP toon has often gained enoth rep by this point that he could easyily ask for aid on his friends behalf when needed and most of the good alined clerics in the temple will happily help there friend who often comes and offers aid himself, and this just comes from doing what a VoP toon dos normaly

Hi, welcome to the site. Unfortunately, I’ve downvoted you, which can be frustrating, so I wanted to give you some pointers on improving this answer. We want to create the best repository of RPG information possible, with expert answers to questions. This answer could use a bit more polish: grammar and spelling are important for conveying authority and expertise, and for making it easier to read. We don’t require perfection, but try to use complete sentences, capitalization, and avoid abbreviations (“lvl”) and slang (“toon”). The Tour should help a lot. –  KRyan Jan 28 '14 at 20:08

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