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Lifestyle is under the section "Between Adventures" on page 157 PHB and does not list as an optional rule.

But, most characters avoid paying for it because it has no mechanical numeric value in-game. How can I change this, as I feel it is very valuable?

Getting money should be a part of the adventurous life, and carrying 400 gp is extreme to do nothing with. I want to motivate adventurers to adventure to gain gold for a lifestyle - if it is just basic roleplaying, players forget about it.

How do you account for lifestyle and the impact it should have?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just to be clear here, since you are referencing the section of the PHB that talks about "Between Adventures", you are referring to an extended period of time between major quests, right? Because a lot of campaigns simply don't have downtime, as adventurers travel from one adventure to the next without breaks in-between. (A night at the inn or travel on the road/camping out is still part of the adventure). \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Jul 19, 2022 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why do you consider it to be valuable? Without any further context, it sounds like it will just be little more than a tax, which at most can serve some roleplaying purposes (e.g. you get to say "I'm rich", with no purpose beyond that). Instead of this tax, you could just assume this is already deducted from the money you earn. But that's not to say you can't add wealth as a mechanic that provides some benefits and drawbacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotThatGuy
    Jul 19, 2022 at 13:12

2 Answers 2

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Paying is not optional, and what you pay for (or not) has consequences

You say the players "avoid paying for it", but paying is not optional. If they do not spend any money on lifestyle, then they are paying for "Wretched" lifestyle.

As the lifestyle section on p. 157 says

Your lifestyle choice can have consequences. Maintaining a wealthy lifestyle might help you make contacts with the rich and powerful, though you run the risk of attracting thieves. Likewise, living frugally might help you avoid criminals, but you are unlikely to make powerful connections.

and for Wretched in particular:

A wretched lifestyle presents abundant dangers. Violence, disease, and hunger follow you wherever you go. Other wretched people covet your armor, weapons, and adventuring gear, which represent a fortune by their standards. You are beneath the notice of most people.

If you want them to feel the downsides of not paying for lifestyle, it is easy to do so: when they are on wretched, most common folk, authorities and certainly any nobles want nothing to do with them, won't answer questions, and will avoid them. Wretched people will try and steal their gear -- time for passive Perception if you do not want to find that purse is gone. Have them roll Con saves each day not to contact filth fever. Violence from thugs or bandits may be a threat on tier one, when such encounters are still a challenge. And so on.

Paying explicitly

Now, the problem may be that they pay explicitly for lodging, food, clothing and other amenities like baths, instead of a lifestyle choice maintenance fee.

In my opinion, that is not really a problem. The idea of the lifestyle rules is to abstract away time spent on these things to have more time for heroics, but if the group enjoys playing like this, it has the same effect on their funds.

The costs can easily match those of the lifestyle cost table: for example, an aristocratic inn according to the table on p. 158 PHB costs 4 gp a night, and an aristocratic meal costs 2 gp, so with three meals per day you'll get to 10 gp, matching the aristocratic lifestyle baseline cost. They have not yet paid for access to the derby, fine clothes (different ones for every day), perfumes etc.

Shortcutting this with mechanics

You could of course implement a house-rule that states you get negative or positive Charisma modifiers for social interactions in town depending on the lifestyle you pay for, e.g modest has no modifier, each step away gives you −1 or +1, to an extreme for −3 at wretched or +3 at aristocratic.

I personally think this is a bit heavy handed, and it is better handled by the DM roleplaying how people react to them. Effectively, it is not on the players to roleplay that, it is on you, the DM. Of course, it is easy to forget about it, and a crutch like a mechanical modifier will remind you and them of this. But I think it is just that: a crutch, for what you should roleplay to make them feel it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ On higher tiers, violence from thugs is still a problem. Not because the thugs will hurt you, but because if you straight up incinerate them, you're going to be dealing with the law. And they don't look favorably on low-life murderers. (Now a noblemen incinerating some thugs? Those vagabonds had it coming.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jul 19, 2022 at 7:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you played with the house rules you are suggesting? How did they work for you? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ty Hayes
    Jul 19, 2022 at 9:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TyHayes We’ve been playing with individual payments for years, which not caused any problems for us. We have not played with Cha mods, as I say, I think they are not really needed or useful. I mostly bring them up because the asker has asked for something like that explicitly in comments, and I want to say that while you could do it, I think it is not needed. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2022 at 9:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also: If your backstory says youre some sort of high-class, but you're frequently seen sleeping in the dingiest spots in town, word will get around, and that influential friend of your (semi estranged) parents might act as if they don't regocnize/know you \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Jul 19, 2022 at 11:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ As for house rules, I would personally go with two additional invisible attributes per player, managed by the DM. One is Repute, the other is Nobility. This way the DM can decide to increase or decrease those attributes according to player actions, and apply bonuses or penalties accordingly. A famous wretch may get -2 Charisma for being a wretch, but +2 on Charisma saving throws for being famous for example. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2022 at 6:33
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Have the players buy-in up front to having it as a regular element of the game.

You can’t force players to care about this. At least, not without making it feel more like a chore than a game. I don’t have any clever tricks for making players who don’t care about this start to care about this. But if everyone is on board before your campaign starts, you can seamlessly incorporate the Lifestyle rules as presented.

This is the sort of thing you might consider incorporating into your pitch, before you even have a group of players. I’ve played lots of games with lots of different groups, and I’ve only played with the lifestyle rules once. You are much more likely to find a group that is into using the lifestyle rules if you include it as part of your pitch and turn work out the details with the players in a session 0 discussion.

No matter what you do, it will be more successful if you start with a group that you know is into implementing the rule. The ones who buy in up front are the ones who will do the work for you and come up with creative ways to make sure they’re keeping up with their lifestyle expenses.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My problem is that it is in the PHB as a non-optional rule, so I often don't feel that it needs to be pitched anymore than "should we allow fighters in the game". It's a basic rule as it should motivate the players to always want to work as adventurers. Is there a way to imply a mechanical value? Or incorporate more as a negative CHA check in social situations? \$\endgroup\$
    – Homunculus
    Jul 19, 2022 at 1:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Homunculus I don’t have any clever ideas for you there. But I know for a fact that no matter what you do, it will be more successful if you start with a group that you know is into implementing the rule. The ones who buy in up front are the ones who will do the work for you and come up with creative ways to make sure they’re keeping up with their lifestyle expenses. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2022 at 1:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer. Lifestyle is one of those rules that get ignored by so many tables that players might come to your game not expecting to use it and will feel like you’re robbing them of their gold if you just spring it on them, I would definitely discuss it in advance before using in the game \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 19, 2022 at 22:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ This, so much. @Homunculus the problem with you dictating it: this is not your (singular) game, it is your (plural) game. Think of it this way, any D&D game does not RP these characters from birth, it joins them at some specific time in their adult lives, and exits them at another specific time. That time frame may exclude normal living, and only include their adventure treks. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2022 at 0:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not every table cares about counting ammunition or carry weight either, even though it's in the books. The DM has the discretion to apply, tweak, or ignore rules that make the game less fun for the table. \$\endgroup\$
    – SPavel
    Jul 22, 2022 at 14:19

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