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Page 199 of the DMG explains how new characters can start with magic items, even those they choose to make themselves (with the assumption these items were created some time before the character became a PC)

But let's say a non-spellcaster wants to give themselves an extra point to an ability score. If they have 27,500 gp, they could start with a Manual of Quickness of Action and either use it immediately or possibly say they've used it already and begin with an inherent +1 bonus to Dexterity.

That book costs 27,500 gp. Using the formula on page 129 of the PHB, however, it would only cost 26,530 gp to have a 17th-level wizard cast wish on them as a service. For an 8th-level character (or a higher-level character with lots of other gear), that's the difference between getting the bonus, and not.

Can the character simply decide to begin with this effect present (or a different spell with a permanent duration, like enlarge person+permanency, since 9th-level wizards are easy to find in large cities) and 26,530 gp less, or since the DMG only describes starting with magic items, must they spend 27,500 gp for the magic item?

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If the book does not provide specific rules concerning spellcasting services as part of starting equipment, this is the GM's decision. There are, however, some indications that can inform the decision:

Page 111 of the PHB says (about buying starting equipment):

Note that buying beginning equipment this way is an abstraction. Your character doesn’t walk into a store with handfuls of gold and buy every item one by one. Rather, these items may have come the character’s way as gifts from family, equipment from patrons, gear granted during military service, swag gained through duplicity, and so on.

Therefore, the first question to ask is, whether the character could have come by the spellcasting service during their backstory - considering their origin and the abundance of magic in the respective world, for example.

Page 112 says:

If you want to buy something not described in this chapter, the general rule is that you can buy anything that costs as much as 3,000 gp.

AND

The DM determines what is and is not available depending on how he or she runs the world and where the characters are in it.

The spellcasting services are something to be bought (indicated by the price tag provided) and they are not described in the equipment chapter. Since the price exceeds 3000 gp, however, the GM has to decide (RAW!) if it can be purchased.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    May 28 '20 at 11:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good points! One bit of clarification, though: Looking in the PHB, it seems to me that Goods and Services are in the equipment chapter (Chapter 7), just at the very end of it. So it's not "something not described in this chapter", though it also isn't exactly "items described in this chapter", so it seems like your answer checks out. \$\endgroup\$
    – 47948201
    Jun 3 '20 at 22:22

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