I was toying with the idea of my character, a Chronurgy Gladiator, sending gold home to support his family (mother, father, and two younger sisters). This idea was spurred from the oddly succinct rolls I got on his Flaws and XGE's "This is You Life" life events:

Entertainer Flaw 3: A scandal prevents me from ever going home again. That kind of trouble seems to follow me around.

Life Events 91-95: You committed a crime or were wrongly accused of doing so. Roll on the Crime table to determine the nature of the offense and on the Punishment table to see what became of you.(rolled I was falsely accused of assault)

and Tragedy 9: You did something that brought terrible shame to you in the eyes of your family. You might have been involved in a scandal, dabbled in dark magic, or offended someone important. The attitude of your family members toward you becomes indifferent at best, though they might eventually forgive you.

Additional related info is that he was raised in a squalid shack and has a sickly merchant father (the rest are laborers), that an adventurer's squalid lifestyle costs 1sp/day (30sp/month), upgrading to poor lifestyle would cost 2sp/day (60sp/month), and that a daily ration costs 5sp regardless of lifestyle.

What I would like to know is, given that they all still live together in that squalid shack, would the calculation be (assuming the family's income can cover the guild due):

  1. Lifestyle Expenses × Number of people = 1gp20sp/month or 2gp40sp/month
  2. 1 Lifestyle Expense + ((Number of people - 1)× rations) = 45sp/month or 90sp/month
  3. Another calculation that I have not yet come across?
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    \$\begingroup\$ You don't need to pay for rations; lifestyle expenses cover those. Rations are only for people who are adventuring and need food that doesn't spoil. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Sep 14, 2022 at 9:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik While you are right that Lifestyle Expenses covers the cost of food, it also covers all other expenses, including lodging. But in the scenario I suggested, the lodging does not change regardless of how many people live in the squalid shack. So rations are used for a simple calculation of the extra food costs in option 2. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Sep 14, 2022 at 9:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your math seems off. Daily rations is 5 sp, a month is 150 sp per person, not 5 sp per person per month. "Rations" are portable preserved food, more expensive than just food. Squalid lifestyle is 30 sp a month. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Sep 15, 2022 at 17:28

4 Answers 4


The rules don’t say.

You’ve found the relevant rules. The rules do not address how having a family affects lifestyle expenses. So you will have to talk with your DM (or players if you are the DM). The couple times I have played using the lifestyle expenses rules, the expense became negligible pretty quickly, and it wouldn’t have even mattered if I was supporting a wife and kids too. So discuss as a table how you want to handle it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It is actually really hard if you are roleplaying that you have a family you care about to not have them living in luxury after a few levels, or you somehow have to justify the 1000gp new sword while you continue sending coppers so your family can just about get out of the gutter. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Sep 14, 2022 at 9:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Yep, I’ve typically been rolling in fat stacks of cash by somewhere between 5th and 10th level. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 14, 2022 at 10:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Play a wizard next time, and you‘ll have good use for all that cash…. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 14, 2022 at 10:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin I actually do play a wizard and since I don't horde spells I won't use I am still rolling in it as much as anyone else. Wizards only get expensive if you want to learn everything, and if the DM let's you, but that's a balance question that I am sure has been asked before. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Sep 14, 2022 at 11:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not saying you have to spend anything on extra spells, only that expanding your spell repertoire is a good use of it if you have nothing else urgent to spend it on... \$\endgroup\$ Sep 14, 2022 at 12:04

Logic indicates that they would

Lifestyle expenses are given per character, so if you have multiple people needing to eat, clothe themselves and shelter, they will go up. However lifestyle expenses are a rule for player characters, so how much NPCs need as living expenses will be up to your DM. There also are no rules on if there may be some savings possible from sharing resources like lodging. Again, up to your DM.

However, we can observe a few points about your proposed calculations:

First, lifestyle expenses cover everything including food and shelter. So there is no need to have added expenses for food. They are an abstraction to simplify these things. If you want to break it down in more detail, you can instead estimate costs bottom-up: what does the rent cost (if anything), what does the daily food cost (cost of grain as a trade good etc.). In squalid living conditions there will be little costs for new clothing, and only the simplest and cheapest of food.

Second, if they need any support at all will depend on how many of the family members work, and how regularly. The daily wage for even an unskilled laborer is 2 sp/day. If they get to work regularly, each of them might support another family member's squalid life, with no extra financial support needed.

Lastly, as an adventurer, compared to a normal person, you tend to be filthy rich after the first few levels. Before then, send what you can spare. Afterwards, if you care about them, why be cheap? Just send them a few hundred gp every now and then so they can afford a modest life, instead of a squalid or poor one. Or a few hundred pp, so they can have a good life. It's not as if you can buy magic items with all the useless gold.

If you are a player, it might also be worthwhile to think about their protection. Once your character becomes a successful, powerful hero with many enemies that want to get back at them but fear confronting them, this will make your cared-for family a natural target for their revenge or to get leverage.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to clarify: ..1. the rations part in Option 2 is to account that 4 x Living Expenses would pay for the same squalid home 4 times...2. I accounted for their work, as Guild Dues is 5gp/month, which will eat up all their unskilled earnings (and then some, but I'm being lenient)...3. I know that I will make more, and I kinda figured that in the whole arc of "though they might eventually forgive you" being them accepting that I am buying them a better lifestyle, but figuring out how much gladiator work he has to do in the start.... Did not think of the protection though... \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Sep 14, 2022 at 11:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB The guild part: if the guild dues cost more than the income, then why is the father working in a guild? He should have a higher income that allows him to pay for them, without consuming income from the others. If he is just earing laborer wages, there is not a reason to pay guild dues, he can work as a laborer. A merchant normally is not a class for squalid lifestyle, merchants tend to be affluent. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 14, 2022 at 12:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB The home part, yes I understand. The DM could make a deduction of some of the living expense for the shared home. Or you forget about lifestyle expenses and just sum up the actual costs -- do they own the shack, if not do they pay rent? how much? How much does food cost - e.g. two pounds of grain may be enough to feed a person for a day, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 14, 2022 at 12:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Re guild dues, that sounds like a very nice & flavorful background explanation for the situation. I added a bit to the answer about the breaking up the costs. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 14, 2022 at 12:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ This corresponds pretty well to the real world, by the way. It was very common for regular soldiers to come home with enough loot to start a small business (often bars/inns). Considering Francis Drake's exploits as a high-level quest, he brought home enough loot to run his entire country for several years. And this may affect the "protection" side of things and who you need to be protected from, because at that point you're an existential threat to the monarch. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham
    Sep 15, 2022 at 10:37

Yes, but even though they do, they don't actually apply to NPC's

The rules you quoted are per player character, and since player characters are in effect a family unit (staying together etc) it stands to reason it has to be multiplied for multiple people.


The costs are meant for player characters, and is in effect hotel living. The PCs don't really have a house as such, and the rules cover renting a room, eating out etc. It's the equivalent of what you might be able to claim on expenses on a business trip.

When you are at home your costs are entirely different because you either own your home (more likely in the past) or rent, either way it's a different scale of cost to nightly hotel rooms. At home you also shop at the local store and cook your own food rather than eat out every night (mostly anyway) which again is on a different cost scale.

It isn't stated exactly like that in the rules, but as always the PHB is aimed towards player characters and players, the rules NPC's follow are almost always entirely different, and this should be too.

My best advice is not to worry about granular details, just work out if you want them to be in debt or credit, pick how much you want based on story needs, and stick with it.


The class system described provides clues

There appears to be a significant break between the Modest and Comfortable lifestyles (that same jump between Modest and Comfortable forms the basis to my answer to the question "Where does one leave a mount in a city? How much does it cost?)."

As a DM, I would require those of Modest lifestyle and lower to support each additional family member, while assuming that anyone living at a Comfortable lifestyle was already supporting their family as part of the living expenses they are paying.

The examples given of occupations in the Lifestyle Expenses section of the PHB permit a DM to make some assumptions about this pseudo-class system in a quasi-medieval world.

PHB Lifestyles
The Wretched are by definition loners, without even a fixed abode. This lifestyle cannot even sustain a family. When there is not enough for even one to survive, any additional burdens are untenable.

Squalid conditions are the lowest at which families can remain intact, for those who live in a "mud-floored hut" or a "vermin-infested boarding house". Here, each additional member is an expense. When your environment is "rife with disease, hunger, and misfortune", each additional family member is one more mouth to feed and one more burden to support.

Poor individuals cannot by themselves support a family - unskilled laborers and peddlers might form family households, but everyone in the family would be required to work in order to maintain their "simple food and lodgings" and "threadbare clothing".

Even at a Modest lifestyle, each additional family member represents a cost. "Soldiers with families" and "laborers" will have at least all of the adults of their households working, at least part of the time.

With the jump to a Comfortable lifestyle, however, it becomes possible for just one person to support an entire household. A "merchant, skilled tradesperson, or military officer" would not have their spouse, and certainly not their children, employed outside the home. Part of what makes the lifestyle 'comfortable' is that the person with income makes enough so that the other adults can concentrate their labor on making the home a better environment for its residents - cleaner, safer, with more amenities and more elaborate meals. The children concentrate on the education necessary for them to attain this class themselves when they become independent adults - laboring unpaid as apprentices. When you own a "small cottage in a middle-class neighborhood" you do not immediately worry about the additional expenses of one more child.

Working Class vs. Middle Class
The term 'middle class' is a pretty modern concept, but it can be a useful entry point to thinking about the class system implied by the Lifestyle Expenses section of the PHB. Over the span of centuries and continents, the boundary between "Working Class" and "Middle Class" is pretty fuzzy, but a few touchstones are illustrative - who has to work and whether or not they own houses and land. In Working Class households, everyone works - in the countryside, everyone in the family is contributing to the family farm. In the city, even if the head of the household has a job as a laborer or tradesperson, the other adults in the household are also working - as domestic servants in wealthier households, as nannies and wetnurses, taking in laundry or mending, etc. The children are working as well - and the poorer the family, the younger the children will be when they begin productive labor. In contrast, in Middle Class families the income of the head of household is sufficient for the rest of the family to survive without taking on additional paid labor. Not that there is not plenty of work to do in the household - just that it is unpaid labor for their own family unit. Upper Middle Class families will also hire surplus labor from Working Class families to use as domestic servants.

Oftentimes the distinction between Working Class and Middle Class will be whether they are, in the countryside, primarily tenants on someone else's land or control enough of their own cropland to support themselves. In the city, do they rent or own their own apartment or house?

To the OP's point then, at the lower categories of Lifestyle Expenses, each additional family member will be an additional expense; more mouths to feed, a larger (and more expensive) apartment to rent. Granted, each additional family member except the very youngest will also be a source of income that partially offsets their expenses - but if their income actually exceeded their expenses then either they would become their own household or the whole family would have the next higher lifestyle, so on average each additional family member is a net expense for the household.

At the higher categories of Lifestyle Expenses, however, what you are paying for is the ability to support a household without anyone else in that household having to work for pay. You are paying enough to support a group of people already, and thus within a typical family range there will not be a significant increases in expenses per additional household member. If you can afford meat at every meal you are not worried about the number of people at the table. If you can afford to own your own home, another child does not increase the cost of the property to you (maintenance and taxes).


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