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One of my PCs are ludicrously rich: on the order of 100000 platinum pieces. I don't want to say "You're poor now, too bad", so what is a fast way to deprive them of their wealth so it doesn't mess with combat? Honestly, I would rather make them keep their money and be worse at combat then take their money and items. I think the players would have more fun that way. Most of their money is in liquid assets, but stored in a bank, so robbing them won't do much. The bank is very well guarded, so preferably no "rob the bank" answer. Also, the world has government-backed banking, "too big to fail."

The wealth came from killing, and subsequently robbing, a 10000-year-old BBEG; he was a investor and had a LOT of money (Also a servant of a world-destroying god, but whatever). It doesn't seem like too much of a problem, and it's usually not, when it comes to non-combat encounters. But when it comes to combat...

The recommended wealth for a lvl 20 character, according to this source, is ~800,000 GP. However, my PCs are so much richer than that; almost 1.25 times, and they're only at lvl 11-12.They have in their possession:

  • A mortal-engines style moving city
  • A Staff of the Magi
  • Dragonscale +1 Full-Plate (AC 23)
  • A artifact sword that can effectively 1-shot any enemy below 100 HP
  • Something that is essentially a tank
  • A giant magic-powered zeppilin warship (actually though, this is legitimately gained.)
  • etc.

So the main issue is with combat encounters. At this point, I'm having to pit them against entire armies & Ancient dragons to match their abilities. I don't mind the rapid advancement, but while their weapons & armor is overpowered for their level, some of their other skills aren't, so it unbalances the PCs in favor of the non-mage characters.

I am playing D&D 5e with a heavy magic-based economy, similar to Eberron (but not exactly the same).

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First of all, don't let people turn money into magic items.

If you let people turn gold pieces into planet destroying superweapons, then you get these sorts of problems. This is something 5e specifically tried to address (although in a half-assed way) by not listing gold piece prices for magical items.

Getting magical items should always be a quest, in 5th edition DnD. Even if the quest involves spending copious amounts of money, that should not be the only factor in acquiring the item.

Second of all, keep in mind that DnD is not our world.

In our world, especially if you are not excessively rich, it's common wisdom that 'money solves all problems'. DnD is a world where problems are solved largely by magical superpowers and/or items that grant magical superpowers. The ability of one hundred men with longbows is strong, but certain CR3 encounters will ignore them entirely, and the cost of outfitting, fielding, training and paying even 100 longbowmen is quite exorbitant.

Lower level PCs might do things for money, to pay for drinks, lodging, full plate armour, fancy maps, prostitutes, and bards to sing songs about them. But finding even a 6th level fighter willing to risk his life for you for something as simple as gold - rather than prestige, loyalty, honour, favours, or magic items - is quite hard. If you do, it might be because you lucked out - he ran out of ready money and is willing to fight an easy battle for a few thousand gp - rather than there's a line out the door of 6th level fighters willing to die for a few platinum pieces.

Establishing economic leverage over a city state so they are forced to send their national heroes to come fight this Wyvern Problem you have is more realistic - they're bound by honour and family to answer the call, and you've established controlling interests in three of the city's five major trading houses thus ensuring there is a call for them to answer.

Third of all, steal their stuff.

They have cool stuff. Bob McGithyanki needs their staff of the magi to fight his Planar War. Divination has revealed its existence to him - and these are by far the easiest-to-fight people holding onto a stave of the magi. Maybe he even gives a tortured anti-hero speech about the greater good as his planar dragon is busy wrecking the wall of the heroes' vault after he planeshifted in and caught them on the hop.

This is great! Now you've got a fun side quest where they try to get back their stuff! He steals the staff of the magi but y'know, they have a bunch of stuff and he's already here... odds are good he's going to take as much as will fit in his magical sack o' loot.

By the time they find him and blow up his planar fortress and effectively make sure his people will be enslaved by his evil enemies etc etc, he's lost, bartered, or used up a lot of their gear. They get back some of it but not all.

Insert <whichever enemy you'd like to put in next> instead of Bob btw. It's just funnier if the only reason he's here is because their gear is poorly defended and they're low level and he's from literally another plane of existence.

Fourth of all, Break Their Stuff

They have enemies, right?

The magic items are a clear point of weakness. The huge walking fortress sounds horrendously vulnerable to a kill team with magical munitions breaking into the engine room or the leg joints maintenance tunnels and just... doing some saboteuring. A guy who is killing you largely thanks to his artifact sword? Why not just.. steal it? Disarm it and run off with it? Try, at least, to take it.

No reason enemies have to succeed at all this. The party can outsmart them, outroll them. The magic items might have some weird ability that the enemies don't know about, like the artifact sword is 'bound' to its owner and can be summoned back with a gesture or something. But by forcing them to think of the magic items as potential points of weakness (horrifying if they have less than 100hp and someone got that overpowered ridiculous sword off them even for a turn) they have to invest time and resources into guarding them (perhaps they build a dungeon? :D) and that's time and resources they don't just spend facerolling the campaign.

If Evil Man 5 steals the Sword of Overpoweredness even once they get it back they've just gained xp and had to solve problems without the Sword of Overpoweredness. If Evil Man 5 nearly steals the Sword of Overpoweredness and they get worried and design a fancy super vault to keep their gear in and only take out the Sword of Overpoweredness if they really really need to? That's also good.

Note: 'Magic Based Economy'

This typically means an economy where magical goods and resources are common and traded, but all examples I can think of specifically place magical resources as being more valuable than mundane ones, creating a two-tiered system of trade. Often, only the weakest magical baubles will be available for mundane goods (such as in eberron) and stronger magical items require magical resources to trade for them, truly horrendous amounts of mundane goods (like trading companies, or cities), or political connections to effectively requisition them.

Gold coins might be valuable to a peasant but they are not so to a wizard who sells his scrying services for magically active gems, potions, and fine scrolls. Transforming gold coins into magical objects or services in such an economy is likely to be very difficult - you're effectively 'trading up', and people willing to take that deal are unlikely to be common and will likely gouge you incredibly heavily.

If you wanted to run an economy where mundane and magical goods are equally valued and freely interchangeable to the extent that Artifacts are traded for chunks of metal, then likely the chunks of metal should be valued by people as much as artifacts, and theft (of platinum coins) should be a very large concern for a lot of people. Basically the ol' 'why should I sell you these artifacts when I could use these artifacts to take your money worth more than the artifacts?', and/or the 'steal their shit' but like turbo edition. I find it hard to imagine a world where platinum was as valuable as a sword that lets you defeat dragons though, and I could only imagine it where platinum is a component for something equally valuable to people - like immortality serum, or bringing the dead back to life which is otherwise impossible.

Further Note: Money

In our world, international agreements and the deadly sword of Finance keep money solvent. Money is money, it can be exchanged and spent pretty much anywhere. Yet if you, a random plebeian, tried to suddenly spend twenty million us dollars all at once your accounts would be frozen and men would ask you a lot of questions.

Fantasy medieval worlds are unlikely to be as interconnected or spend-happy as even our world. If you show up with a pile of platinum coins, why would people let you spend them? Where did you get them? You just devalued the currency owned by all the local powerful people by trying to drop several hundred on something - they have a vested interest in making sure those coins don't enter circulation. If they're even real and not fae illusions or planar platinum or something.

These rich people have power other than money - that's why they can spend their money how they like. They've got magic items, and wizards who are loyal to them, and favours owed, etc. You just pissed all of them off by trying to lower their value of their money. You're not part of any of their old-boy networks, and the only power you have is your personal skill with a sword. So perhaps they'd let you spend some of your money - they'd take a cut, and you'd pay approximately 8000% of what they'd pay for the same thing - but all of it? And to get magic items and capabilities that dwarf their own? That would not happen without a fight. And probably, some copious stabbing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd give this a +1 for the last section alone. If your PCs are walking around with fabulously valuable items, they should definitely expect sneak thieves in the night. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Dec 28, 2021 at 20:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note about the Money point. Inflation! Try to research the voyage of Mansa Musa: (nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/mansa-musa-musa-i-mali) money quote "While in Cairo, Mansa Musa met with the Sultan of Egypt, and his caravan spent and gave away so much gold that the overall value of gold decreased in Egypt for the next 12 years. " \$\endgroup\$
    – schlenk
    Dec 30, 2021 at 21:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ See also concepts like Fractional Reserve Banking. "I am sorry, honored sirs, you can't withdraw all of your money right now. We lent out that money to six different kings and several assorted nobles to finance their border wars. We need two months notice before withdrawing more than 10%, per your initial contract with us." \$\endgroup\$ Jan 1 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @schlenk’s comment suggests perhaps that the PC’s wealth might itself create problems for the world around them. That might be a fun problem for them to deal with. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan W
    Jan 7 at 23:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ The "dual economy" thing is common in games -- you have different "types" of wealth, and can't buy one for the other. It's a hard sell for realism-reasons though, after all you need only SOMEONE who has one and wants the other for an exchange to exist. Sort of like how you can't shop in USA using euros, but you trivially can convert euros to dollars so it doesn't matter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Agrajag
    Jan 18 at 13:08
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The same way you deal with very rich NPCs: murderhobos.

If there's one thing that wealth attracts like moths to a candle, it's unprovoked assault by uppity adventurers bearing class levels. Let me frame your story* for you this way:

The world has changed.

A fortress on bird-leg stilts trundles across the landscape, destroying everything in its path. A mad wizard sits on its throne, wielding an ensorcelled scepter. A zealot clothed in dragonhide and bearing an unstoppable sword stands at his side, barking orders to the commoners below.

We didn't always live in fear. There was a time when the worst we suffered was an unfair tax, or a shambler to be hurried away from in the night. In those days we complained, to be sure, but we could own a home; we could live our lives, and the evil of the day did not exceed us.

Then came the warlords, who unseated our king and left nothing but terror and void.

What can we do now except flee, with the clothes on our back and our babes in our arms? The fortress approaches. I pray only our cattle have the sense to flee. There is still a chance we could save one for the winter.

Our prayers now are not for health, nor prosperity, nor even peace: but survival. Deliverance. Something, someone to free us from that hulking tyranny, and its oligarchy of insane mages.

* (obviously, I've taken some creative liberties here: the mobile city may not destroy the landscape it traverses, the former BBEG may not have been taxing folk or engaging in necromancy - insert your own story's details where necessary. The point is to illustrate that, odds are, to somebody or some nation of somebodies out there, the old guy really was the lesser of two evils.)

Cue: another party of adventurers stepping up to put an end to the warlords' reign once and for all.

In fact, if your goal is to divest your players of some of this wealth, you might begin the assault after the opposing party has successfully heisted the banked platinum out of your players' account! No bank is truly too big to fail, and no vault is too secure to crack. Perhaps these noble opponents have even already sent this money across the globe to various locations, to be invested or secreted away in dungeons, so that even if your players defeat them, they have to go on further adventures to reclaim it.

Just some ideas. But this strikes me as the perfect opportunity to introduce the delectable concept of consequences for one's actions, with a dash of "How do villains get that way?".

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    \$\begingroup\$ Great answer! I would upvote it just for the story, but the answer is even beter. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 28, 2021 at 20:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Firedestroyer I hope that it helps you. In terms of story, I think that the best method of addressing the wealth is one in the style of "yes-and", which is an improvizational technique intended to keep the plot developing cooperatively. \$\endgroup\$
    – order
    Dec 28, 2021 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ This solution is affectionately known at my tables as a ‘Not the only protagonists.’ moment. In addition to dealing with excessive power creep such as outlined in the question, it’s also a great way (with a slightly different type of story hook) to bring some overconfident players back down to earth. I will admit though that it was much more entertaining (both as a GM and as a player) back in 3.5e with the even more ridiculous potential power levels involved. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29, 2021 at 2:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." \$\endgroup\$
    – Trang Oul
    Dec 29, 2021 at 7:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Side note to this: Your players have money. This gives them power, power outside of the existing social and power structure (which in a "standard" pseudo-medieval setting is a patchwork of nobles, guilds and churches, with perhaps the odd wizarding university or druid circle). Power outside the power structure is a threat to that social structure, that must be destroyed (and if it can't be destroyed, incorporated, but that involves sharing the power of existing parties, so destroyed is preferred). See for example, the fate of the world's first international bank company: the Knights Templar. \$\endgroup\$
    – sharur
    Dec 29, 2021 at 15:36
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The problem you are dealing with is the general problem of power creep: over the course of the adventure, the PCs become more powerful. But eventually they become so powerful that combat stops being interesting.

And the problem is: gaining power is fun, but losing power is not fun. I think that's a problem with many of the answers this question has received: people blithely suggest ways to steal or wreck your characters' stuff, and they ignore that your players are going to hate it when you do that.

I have a simple and elegant solution for this problem: when the PCs become so powerful that combat stops being interesting, I give them a final boss fight against a suitable opponent, and then I say: "Well, that's the end of this campaign! Congratulations -- you've won! I'm going to start a new campaign soon; would you like to build a new character to play in that game?" I have done this many times and found that it works great.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 Though I appreciated other answers, too, it was good to have the reminder that players may "hate it when you do that". Indeed, I've been in campaigns where a bunch of our beloved magical items were all of a sudden stolen in the night, with no recourse of recovering or investigating. Nada! It was poor story-telling and left a bitter taste for a few sessions. The idea of bringing the campaign to a close after a final adventure/challenge is not bad either. \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Dec 28, 2021 at 23:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ you can do this, but sometimes people want to see what level 20 content is like, and if you keep ending campaigns at level 11, they will never get to. I do agree players hate their stuff taken away, which is why I prefer solutions that limits the stuff in some way, or monsters that prevent it from being useful occasionally (having super powerful stuff that is only situationally useful is fun), or just avoiding giving them so much stuff in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 28, 2021 at 23:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is the best answer. Your players are not stupid, if their items start getting robbed or broken systematically they’ll know you’re taking them away. Even with a good narrative they’ll see through it and will hate it as it will feel as what it is, a godly unjustified decision. I’d suggest if you don’t want to end the campaign then TALK to them, explain the situation and let them chime in. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29, 2021 at 19:42
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It seems to me that the wealth itself is not your issue, but rather the gear your party has. D&D 5e specifically did not give prices for magic items because whether or not there are magic items for sale, which ones are for sale, their prices, and how hard they are to find is entirely up to you. Just as it is entirely up to you what money you give the party, its entirely up to you what is available to buy with said money.

Therefore I believe this question requires two answers: how to deal with the stuff the party has, and how to prevent their gear from getting out of hand in the future.

Dealing with the gear they already have

You can go two ways with this. Lean into it, and increase the challenges so that they match the true power level of the PCs. This is the approach you seem to have been taking so far. This is a legitimate play style known as "power gaming". Basically your PCs are much stronger than they should be for their level, and therefore so are the monsters they face. If this is something both you and your PCs are ok with, and you are all having fun, you don't need to change anything. Just tweak things so that they don't one shot them. Give monsters more HP (more than 100 even so the sword isn't so powerful), make them have save effects that don't rely on AC, etc. Basically work around the gear the PCs have. For example in my game I gave my PCs free magic items at one point and multiple players chose cloaks of displacement. Cloak of displacement is very powerful, as it gives attackers disadvantage on attack rolls, but it has an exploitable loophole: it turns off for the round if the PC takes any damage. AOEs and other sources of auto damage, swarms of weaker monsters to get lucky and shut down the cloak for more powerful ones, monsters using the help action, etc. can all effectively make the cloak useless. I do this often but not all the time. It is important that the PCs feel the item still does something, so I have a way around it in 2/3 of fights, but the other 1/3 the PCs feel unhittable, and that's fine. So I would do the same with your magic items, make them still useful, but find ways around them when you want to really challenge the PCs.

If you don't want to go the power gaming route, the alternative is to get rid of some the PCs gear. First determine what gear is actually overpowered and what is fine. +1 plate at level 11 is actually perfectly fine. 23AC is high but still hittable. Your melee type is supposed to be harder to hit than the others in your party. I have a level 14 bard that has 25AC and a cloak of displacement, and our paladin has like 28 AC (we are power gaming, but this is just to say 23 is not crazy high). Vehicles are very powerful, but they are limited to use outside. Your tank and zeppelin can't go into a dungeon, and neither can the floating city. You might be able to be ok with leaving these as is if you don't plan on doing lots of combat outside. If you want to nerf them without destroying them, you can try giving them a limited "fuel" source (tank has magic energy to run for only a couple days and then needs to set to recharge, etc.), or having them break down and need repair, either randomly or when is plot convenient. You can even have the PCs go on quests to fix them. Maye repairing the zepplin or tank could be a side quest on its own, or finding the parts for it could be part of the main quest, and maybe they can't get those things to be reliable until a more appropriate level, like 18 or so. The big issues I see with what you have listed are the artifact sword and the staff of the magi. Those are harder to deal with. Maybe soemthing starts happening in your world that make powerful magic items work less reliably, maybe the artificat has a curse with a big downside that makes it not worth using until the curse can be lifted through a quest, etc. Alternatively the staff could be stolen or broken.

Avoiding this in the future

be careful what gear you give the PCs. Money itself can be used by PCs to do things you don't expect (hire an army, bribe officials, etc.) so I wouldn't have given them that much money even, but luckily in the typical dungeon combat money doesn't affect much in itself. Gear, on the other hand, can have a huge effect. To prevent your PCs from using their wealth to get lots of gear, simply don't make over powerful pieces of gear available at all, or make them so you have to quest to get the components for, or craft them or commission them to be crafted, which can take years of game time your PCs likely don't have. Even if something can be sold, make it rare. Maybe there are only a dozen staff of the magi in the entire world. In order to find one for sale, the PCs would have to search the whole planet for someone willing to sell one, and may or may not find one. They may even attract enemies in their search. Money can't buy everything. Typically legendary items and artifacts cannot be bought. Only supply them to the party if you understand the effects giving these items has on combat and know ways around them. Don't give them until an appropriate level to have them. Therefore you can limit what your characters can buy making certain things unable to be purchased at all, or by making it time prohibitive to find a buyer, or make it so the PCs have to do something against their character to find a buying, etc. You have lots of choices for keeping powerful magic items out of PC hands. As the GM, you chose what to give them access to and when.

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There are a thousand ways to deprive a character of wealth, but only one way to get wealth (have the DM give it to you).

To deprive them of wealth:

  • make things not purchasable - land is owned by the crown and not for sale; items they want aren't available; all they can buy are standard goods from the PHB.
  • accuse and convict them of a crime and seize their assets
  • Magical or mundane tinkering/forgery results in bank records being changed to make them paupers.
  • drive the prices of everything up since they've introduced a Smaug-like dragon's hoard of wealth into the world (this happened to Spain in colonial times & it broke their economy)
  • introduce consequences for having such wealth - taxes, jealousy of kingdoms, terrible enemies
  • etc.

To deprive them of not gaining such wealth

  • stop giving it to them
  • enforce carry capacity rules for coins when they do find it
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! This is sure to help, although using their massive wealth, they have a room-sized bag of holding, so carrying capacity won't do much. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27, 2021 at 19:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I recommend having a quick read through our citation guidance. The short version is something like "we prefer that ideas be backed up with at-table experience". Can you give more details abut how you have implemented some of these things to solve a similar problem? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27, 2021 at 20:01
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Ask your players

There are a lot of great answers here, but here's another thought. Ask your players.

Personally, I'd call it a "Session X" or something. A conversation where you step a bit out of the role as DM and you and your players just have a conversation about how to make sure the game is fun, and fun for everyone.

The conversation could go something along the lines of:

Hey, gang, so you guys got a lot of loot, and I think that's awesome, but it's also unbalancing the game, and I wanted to talk to you guys and come up with a solution that's fun for everyone.

Maybe we need to reduce your money and loot, which means that either you guys give it away or build castles or something or it gets stolen or destroyed or something.

Or maybe you keep it, but everything gets much tougher. After all, that sort of wealth is going to attract a lot of attention.

Or maybe these x items stay with the city, which becomes your home base, and you guys find adventures elsewhere.

Or is it time to retire? Maybe your current characters all retire to their mobile city, and a new band comes in.

What do you think?

Maybe that won't work at your table, but it would work at mine.

As a player, what I wouldn't want is to be given cool stuff, and then have it arbitrarily snatched out of my hands. Just doesn't sound like much fun.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You can do a Session 0 at any time, no need to rebrand it :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Jan 1 at 16:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, good point! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Jan 1 at 17:19
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The Big Stuff

You have what? half a dozen players?

Can they crew a mobile-city/township, that sounds like a lot of vehicle for a handful of people to manage?
Do they know how to fly an airship?
Do they have ground-crew who can anchor that airship?

Do they have the skills and knowledge to operate a tank properly?

Can they maintain all this massively complex magitech equipment?

The magic-powered airship was enchanted by (I assume) the BBEG, who is now dead, and their enchantments are starting to unravel..

Reality Ensues

Carry on with the power-trip for a bit, but emphasise that the airship's top-speed is slowing down as its enchantments wind down.
The Lifting capacity (the bit that probably most needs magic if it's more of a flying boat than a real-world blimp) is losing strength too, and eventually they'll land and not be able to take off again..

Give them a scenario where the engines on the mobile-city break down and have to be repaired, possibly while under attack from others.

Give them limited ammunition for the tank's guns and remind them that the local blacksmith or apothecary of a frontier town is probably not going to know how to make more.

Give them a requirement for fuel, which again, can't be simply bought wherever they go.
If they want high-performance equipment, they'll have to spend their gobs of cash to keep it that way.

Send them on a quest out to a wholly different nation (with all sorts of interesting cultural differences and coincidentally a totally different currency)
"Republic credits are no good out here, I need something more real!"

Ultimately, the scope of your game has increased beyond the core premise of Dungeons and Dragons rather significantly. So make sure they wind up indoors a lot, dealing with people-scaled problems that they need to use their wits to solve.

Personal Weapons

With regards to Overpowered personal equipment though.. Consider the real-world answer.

If you have a weapon which can consistently kill any individual target, then the answer is lots and lots of weak enemies.

The field-cannon is a one-hit-kill against an infantryman if you can hit him, but 10 men can charge it down and kill its crew.

Make the weapon waste its power. Overkill on one target does not generally spill over onto the next.

If I can kill a dragon in one swing, then I'm still only killing a single goblin in one swing too. The other 15 goblins are still a problem.

They have become superbly optimised for a particular type of play.
You need to present them with a different kind of play that they are less well equipped for.

If they don't need an Infinity+1 Sword, if they need a sweep-attack weapon like a Scythe, or something else that can kill lots of small things at once. The sword becomes far less useful in this scenario.

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You could use monsters

For this to work, you might need to get them distracted on a faraway mission. Then, when they come home to roost. All hell's broken loose!

Rust Monsters, including possibly a flying variant or an end-of-days swarm (MM, p.262)

Black Puddings, dissolves flesh, wood, metal, and bone (MM, p.241)

Ooze Master, can eat through 2-inch-thick, nonmagical wood or metal in 1 round (TotYP, p.241)

Gold-Forged Sentinel (or a platinum variant), include into storyline, e.g. The making of a Platinum-Forged Sentinel (MOoT, p.211)

Hoard Mimic, could be a fun but dangerous consequence of hoarding large amounts of coin (FToD, p.204)

Swarm of Hoard Scarabs, have a greedy dragon train them to steal hoards of coin - possibly a variant which can camouflage in any coins types (FTD, p.205)

Red Dragons, as they are the most covetous of the true dragons, red dragons tirelessly seek to increase their treasure hoards (MM, p.97)

Animated Objects (Tiny), e.g. a permanent variant of the spell, e.g. candle stick holders, or even coin-shaped ones - have a band of confused constructs create havoc where the players keep their treasure, with a storyline of finding their lost leader, a powerful wizard perhaps (PHB, p.213)

Modrons, perhaps Primus has a larger plan for which they need a large quantity of precious metal and fleets of Modrons are going round collecting it to take back to Mechanus. This can be incorporated into a storyline with a moral dilemma. (MM, pp.224-226)

Hoard Golem, you could have an NPC create one or more from the player's cache and try to make an escape. Each requires at least 5000gp to form, but you could adapt this (Tome of Beasts, p.234 by Kobold Press for 5e)

Clockwork Horrors (Electrum, Gold, Platinum, Adamantine), a great option as they exist solely to strip entire worlds of worked and raw metals, which they use to produce more horrors. (3.5e MMII, pp.47-48) See below for for links on how to adjust a creature for 5e.

Aurumvorax, just because they actually eat gold and precious metals (and flesh). Though it is solitary, you could adapt this so that live in packs instead. Perhaps even an eco-twist where it could an important endangered species, due to its need for precious metals. Again, see below on how to adapt this brilliant critter from the past. (AD&D 2e MM, p.10)

Note: if you need help with adapting monsters to 5e, you can find helpful information here:

Or, you could use the plot

Alternatively, you can use the storyline to weave a plot where they end up with the choice of willingly making part with great wealth.

For example, you could create a portal to a large demiplane where they can go into a fun adventure. It could be a gateway between the material plane and Minauros. So that material (physical) objects (including an airship maybe) could go through, but when they leave the portal to come back to the material plane they find there is an unexpected caveat: only their living bodies return, i.e. the arrive naked back into the material plane. I play-tested this in a similar situation but with a variant in that the caveat was that all magical items returned to the material plane without magic. My ruling was that in the demiplane itself the "magicless" items regained their original magic, but only on the demiplane. In the same way, their material objects might stil all be there at the entrance of the return portal.

You can weave this into the lore of the portals and who created them, e.g. perhaps a fiendish lord obsessed with hoarding material possessions. In the 5th edition, the Cult of Mammon might be a good plot hook for this. It lists their goals as: Wealth, secured not only to promise personal comfort and power but to deny wealth and its benefits to others. (MTF, p.21)

You can put them in an ethical dilemma, where for instance their permanently donating an airship and/or a ludicrous amount of gold (or platinum) would save a colony. The greedy lord might then release an enslaved race into your players' care - but they would have to pay the hefty price first. Unless the majority of the party are "murder hobos" then it should work - as long as the have a tendency for the good or at least fairness. You'd have to think about how to weave this into your world concept and geography, but it could be very fun.

There could be an unexpected reward, too. For instance, the favour from a god who the colony worship. Or, something that has not monetary value but prestige, e.g. maybe the colony are known for the beautiful garmets they can make. You could role-play this into the wind-down of the adventure, where the PCs are questioned about their choices, e.g. "We would like to thank you for saving us and make you a sacred garmet each." Then they ask for details, colour, icons/shapes. Other NPCs in the future might be impressed, possibly currying favour. The idea here is that you introduce the concept that there can be great value without great wealth.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Great answer! Question though, what is the FTD? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2 at 2:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. Now I think of it, it ought to be FToD for "Fizban's Treasury of Dragons". :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Jan 2 at 11:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Tis not your fault but mine: MOoT perhaps :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Jan 4 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ It was Greek to me ... (Yeah, I know, throwaway Shakespeare lines are a dime a dozen) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 4 at 21:32
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Assuming the problem is the cash (I agree with others that it’s the items not the cash, but your question asks about the cash…)

DO NOT take their stuff away without their agency. Basic psychology says that sucks.

Get them to do it for you.

make them spend it to keep their stuff working

In reality, people with lots of money have very high outgoings, and large property is a massive drain. Our town’s old prison has a running cost of 1/4 million per year just for the building.

Sure, they can buy as many healing potions as they can carry, but the bulk of their wealth should be invested in keeping their awesome stuff working.

A moving city and a tank? Sounds like that’ll have a significant running cost. That’s got your wealth problem solved. Maybe - if you’re generous - if they invest the platinum then the interest covers the running costs. If they spend the capital, the stuff starts to risk failing. More likely it costs them a significant chunk of their capital every time they use them, changing the absurdly powerful artefacts into limited-use items.

let them sacrifice it to achieve a goal

The king’s big trade deal turned out to be a scam, and he’s been left with illusionary fey gold. There’ll be civil war if the nobles find out. If someone could lend/give him 100k platinum, that would prevent the kingdom tearing itself apart.

Let them fight something they’re outmatched against. Let some of them die. Let the others bargain for their comrades with magic items.

This is great because - whether they do it or not - you’ve got great RP. And (if they do divest) they’ve made the decision to do so, not you.

As an example in our game, the ranger l picked up a magic weapon. I (DM) wasn’t super pleased as he was already hitting too hard compared to other PCs and balancing battles was becoming tricky.
He got a little greedy and tried to steal from a dragon (which they’d just parleyed with). He failed a DEX save and got one-shotted. The paladin came back and begged the dragon for the ranger’s body, and offered the ranger’s kit in exchange. The dragon let them have his body in exchange for the sword.
None of it was planned on my part, but I took the opportunity to remove the weapon to re-balance the PCs.

The players agree it was entirely fair, and the ranger (in-character) is bitter about it and sworn to defeat the dragon and reclaim his sword. Great moment.

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Access to some really good mage schools.

Sounds like you're fine with difficulty scaling: the problem is your mages aren't gaining power the way your non-mages are. That is, their wealth is breaking the class balance built into the game. (sort of like early game with mages, where you're like "just stand in the back and throw darts").

OK, so sell them some buffs of their own. These could be house-ruling more power or early access to higher level spells, via a mechanism of your choice such as a fantastic mage school... or magical items which give them some catch-up ability.

They should be priced to outrageously, i.e. to remove money from the game. I'm sure the mages are the poorest characters, so you may want to tune the schooling/abilities/items to give the other characters an incentive to subsidize their mage(s).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you support this idea with experience implementing it to solve similar problems? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29, 2021 at 10:12

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