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I am puzzled by the interaction between Lifestyle and Downtime Activities, particularly as to lifestyle expenses.

One of the downtime options presented in the Player's Handbook, p. 187, is Researching, which expressly states:

For each day of research, you must spend 1 gp to cover your expenses. This cost is in addition to your normal lifestyle expenses . . . .

More downtime options appear in the Dungeon Master's Guide and Xanathar's Guide to Everything, including several that have associated gold-per-day costs. But none of them state that their costs are in addition to a PC's lifestyle expenses.

At the same time, certain downtime activities go out of their way to say lifestyle expenses are or might be covered during the activity. For example, Work, XGtE p. 134, contemplates an ability check the outcome of which determines what lifestyle one can maintain without cost during the activity. And Crafting, PHB p. 187, simply says:

While crafting, you can maintain a modest lifestyle without having to pay 1 gp per day, or a comfortable lifestyle at half the normal cost . . . .

In other words, the cost of Crafting subsumes one's lifestyle costs, at least to an extent. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the downtime options in XGtE are wholly optional "alternatives" that differ from options in the PHB and DMG. There is basically no consistency among them.

Even more confusing, the DMG says, at p. 128, that while engaged in Carousing, a PC "spends money as though maintaining a wealthy lifestyle . . . ." (Emphasis mine.) To my eyes, that "as though" is ambiguous. Does the PC spend money on her normal lifestyle and on the wealthy lifestyle necessary for Carousing? Or does the later subsume the former, as with the PHB's version of Crafting?

In short: which downtime activities cover a PC's lifestyle expenses while performing them, and which don't?

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Lifestyle expenses are paid unless specified otherwise

I will go into detail below, but the conclusion is that unless a downtime activity explicitly states otherwise, lifestyle expenses should be paid.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle expenses are detailed in chapter 5 of the Player's Handbook and Basic Rules (emphasis mine):

Lifestyle expenses provide you with a simple way to account for the cost of living in a fantasy world. They cover your accommodations, food and drink, and all your other necessities. Furthermore, expenses cover the cost of maintaining your equipment so you can be ready when adventure next calls.

At the start of each week or month (your choice), choose a lifestyle from the Expenses table and pay the price to sustain that lifestyle. The prices listed are per day, so if you wish to calculate the cost of your chosen lifestyle over a thirty-day period, multiply the listed price by 30. Your lifestyle might change from one period to the next, based on the funds you have at your disposal, or you might maintain the same lifestyle throughout your character’s career.

Your lifestyle expenses cover everything you need to pay for when you are not adventuring, and how much this costs depends on the level of lifestyle you choose as detailed on the table given in that same chapter. As the general rule, these expenses are required no matter what else you are doing with your time.

Downtime

Downtime is covered in chapter 8 of the Player's Handbook and Basic Rules, which reads:

Between adventures, the DM might ask you what your character is doing during his or her downtime. Periods of downtime can vary in duration, but each downtime activity requires a certain number of days to complete before you gain any benefit, and at least 8 hours of each day must be spent on the downtime activity for the day to count. The days do not need to be consecutive. If you have more than the minimum amount of days to spend, you can keep doing the same thing for a longer period of time, or switch to a new downtime activity.

Downtime activities other than the ones presented below are possible. If you want your character to spend his or her downtime performing an activity not covered here, discuss it with your DM.

Possible downtime activities are detailed in this section, as well as chapter 6 of the Dungeon Master's Guide and chapter 2 of Xanathar's Guide to Everything. Some downtime activities may earn or lose money (such as crime, gambling, or pit fighting), and some require a certain lifestyle as a prerequisite (modest or greater for relaxation, wealthy for the DMG version of carousing). There are some downtime activities that cover lifestyle expenses, specifically:

  • Crafting: modest lifestyle for free or comfortable for half-cost (PHB)
  • Practicing a Profession: modest lifestyle for free, comfortable if with an organization, wealthy if utilizing Performance skill (PHB)
  • Crafting a magic item: modest lifestyle for free or comfortable for half-cost (DMG)

Unless explicitly stated, your lifestyle expenses are in no way directly linked to what activity you choose to spend your downtime on, so lifestyle expenses are paid unless specified otherwise.

As always, the activities available to you are up to your DM, and as such your DM has the ultimate say in whether your chosen downtime activity will cover your lifestyle expenses. This answer provides the activities that provide this from the suggested downtime options listed in the source books.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Links and page number both are good, providing both makes the answer more accessible, so I'd welcome both. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Aug 19 '20 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu I've just found that I prefer links if it is information from the Basic Rules (i.e. accessible to all) and page numbers if it is from a book that is not freely available, so I've been editing my answers to follow that standard. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Aug 19 '20 at 16:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is just something to keep in mind that whenever you provide both, it becomes easier to access - since you are making an effort in that regard. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Aug 19 '20 at 16:58
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PHB page 157 gives a table of lifestyle expenses as a price per day.

Depending on what level you want to live there's a certain amount for food, clothing, housing that it costs each day to just live.

When it mentions that the cost of the downtime activity is in addition to the lifestyle expenses, this is what you add to the cost of the downtime activity. For carousing, whatever lifestyle you chose, during the carousing part you are spending as if you are wealthy, so you would spend 4gp each day even if you had originally chosen Poor as a lifestyle. For covering the lifestyle expenses, you can work and earn money or pay with the money earned from adventuring.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't fully understand your last example. If someone chose a wealthy lifestyle does that make carousing free? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Dec 28 '18 at 11:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ It wouldn't be free, it would still be 4gp per day. This is in addition to the cost of the lifestyle chosen. So that if you chose wealthy lifestyle and carousing, then the TOTAL cost would be 8gp per day. 4gp for the wealthy lifestyle and 4gp for the carousing. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29 '18 at 19:40
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I recommend reading the "Downtime Revisited" section of Xanathar's Guide to Everything, page 123. It gives you many options.

The ones that give you money are:

  • Crime

    • DC Value
    • 10 50 gp, robbery of a struggling merchant
    • 15 100 gp, robbery of a prosperous merchant
    • 20 200 gp, robbery of a noble
    • 25 1,000 gp, robbery of one of the richest figures in town
  • Gambling

    • 0 successes Lose all the money you bet and accrue a debt equal to that amount.
    • 1 success Lose half the money you bet.
    • 2 successes Gain the amount you bet plus half again more.
    • 3 successes Gain double the amount you bet.
  • Pit Fighting

    • 0 successes Lose your bouts, earning nothing.
    • 1 success Win 50 gp.
    • 2 successes Win 100 gp.
    • 3 successes Win 200 gp.
  • Selling Magic Items

    • Rarity Base Price
    • Common 100 gp
    • Uncommon 400 gp
    • Rare 4,000 gp
    • Very rare 40,000 gp
    • Legendary 200,000 gp
  • Work (I believe this is what you are looking for)

    • Check Total Earnings
    • 9 or lower Poor lifestyle for the week
    • 10—14 Modest lifestyle for the week
    • 15—20 Comfortable lifestyle for the week
    • 21+ Comfortable lifestyle for the week + 25 gp
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    \$\begingroup\$ This reply does not answer the question asked. Even though some activities may make you earn or lose money, the question was specifically refering to the lifestyle expense, while doing the activities. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 3 '20 at 0:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ It actually answers, Ave you looked the bolded bullet point? It says right there that it covers the lifestyle expences. The other options are options that give you money that you can use to cover, \$\endgroup\$ Jun 3 '20 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ No they don't cover because it does not say it does. Once you are done calculating the wins or losses of the activity, you must substract the lifestyle expenses as well, unless the activity clearly states it took into account the lifestyle expenses. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 7 '20 at 3:45

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