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So just for the sake of this question, I'm going to assume you have proficiency and the kit itself.

In the description of Alchemist Supplies it states the following:

Alchemical Crafting. You can use this tool proficiency to create alchemical items. A character can spend money to collect raw materials, which weigh 1 pound for every 50 gp spent.

So, can I make a pound of raw platinum? Then can I sell it, make 50+ gold, and repeat the process?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you assuming the platinum is an alchemical item, or are there more steps involved in your process? \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 1:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ There are several mechanics in the game that allow you to produce more value than the cost of the resources you put in. Another well known mechanic that allows you to repeatedly over time get more money than you have to spend is "having a job." This is only "infinite money" if you consider having a job "infinite money." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 16:54

4 Answers 4

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The game provides no (as written) opportunity to create platinum

It's worth noting that the rule quoted isn't actually part of the alchemist supplies; the tools have very meagre rules in the PHB, but the suggestions for how to use them come from Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

The bad news for your plan is that the rule does explain what "alchemical items" means (emphasis mine):

As part of a long rest, you can use alchemist’s supplies to make one dose of acid, alchemist’s fire, antitoxin, oil, perfume, or soap. Subtract half the value of the created item from the total gp worth of raw materials you are carrying.

As you'll note, how much you can make depends on the value of the raw materials, not their weight. Having the knowledge to do this crafting step does let you double the value of what you have (at the cost of time), though any actual profits depend on what price you'll be able to sell the crafted materials at. That price will presumably be less than public purchase price, if the merchant who buys them for resale to the public is going to make any money.

A DM could of course allow the crafting of (some quantity of) platinum as an alchemical item, though I suspect any proposal of instant, infinite money is gonna fly with a rather limited set of DMs.

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You're not understanding the sentence construction.

Alchemical Crafting. You can use this tool proficiency to create alchemical items. A character can spend money to collect raw materials, which weigh 1 pound for every 50 gp spent.

This means a character can spend money to collect raw materials, the raw materials weigh 1 lb for each 50 gold spent collecting raw materials. It does not state that you can collect 1 lb of any material by expending 50 gold pieces. It does not state that this is accomplished by buying the raw materials from people willing to sell them - that is implicit in 'spend'. Thus a DM may rule that you cannot use this feature if there is nowhere to spend money, aka, you are in a forest, a dungeon, or some other locale where there are no people to take money in exchange for goods or services.

But none of that is super relevant. The meaning you have gained from the text is a severe misreading. No typical English speaker would take that meaning from those words. The actual meaning of the sentences does not allow you to automagically procure platinum (or antimatter, or unobtainium, or diamonds). It simply gives the amount of weight per raw materials you buy. What the 'raw materials' are is undefined, but what they can be used for is defined - crafting 'alchemical items', which are a specific category of items.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is an interesting take that neither Someone_evil nor I read from the question, and might have been the actual source of confusion. However, if that were the case, it is not clear why they accepted the answer that does not address this, if this is indeed the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 9:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it's an ambiguous sentence. I think your interpretation is the more likely to be correct, but as a native speaker, I think it's ambiguous, not trivially obvious. Not to mention, I'm also someone familiar with how ambiguously written 5e's rules can be. (I considered an answer along these lines myself, but the accepted answer had already been accepted.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 10:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just thought that since the Oxford languages definition of alchemy is: the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir. "occult sciences, such as alchemy and astrology" that it would be changing the gold into a different material. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 15:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dndndndndnndndndnd To assume that the sentence means you transmute gold into other material without any synonym of transmute present, and that spending does not imply purchasing is extremely unusual and very unlikely for a large % of people to get that meaning. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let's stop discussing people's English skills and focus on interpreting the text at hand, please. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 16:11
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This does not work — and if it would, might cause other problems

To add to Someone_evils answer, the full optional rule for Alchemical Crafting with Alchemist Supplies from Xanathar's Guide to Everything reads:

Alchemist's supplies enable a character to produce useful concoctions, such as acid or alchemist's fire.

(...)

Alchemical Crafting. You can use this tool proficiency to create alchemical items. A character can spend money to collect raw materials, which weigh 1 pound for every 50 gp spent. The DM can allow a character to make a check using the indicated skill with advantage. As part of a long rest, you can use alchemist's supplies to make one dose of acid, alchemist's fire, antitoxin, oil, perfume, or soap. Subtract half the value of the created item from the total gp worth of raw materials you are carrying.

So first, you buy raw materials in town, which costs you 50 gp per pound of them (chemical substances such as bases, acids, oils, buffers etc.). This might include some platinum powder as a catalyst, but obviously does not include only platinum, as first, a pound of platinum costs 500 gp, and no sane merchant is going to sell you a pound of platinum for 50 gp, and second, a pound of platinum as your only raw material would be rather useless as raw material to create things like oils, acids and alchemist's fire. The rules here are kept abstract -- these materials are not supposed to be used for anything else than for alchemical crafting, so it does not matter what they exactly are.

Then you transform these raw materials into an alchemical substance. For example, you can create one dose of acid, which has a market price of 25 gp. This will consume 12.5 gp of raw materials, or a quarter pound. You probably also will need a vial to put it in, unless the DM handwaves such details.

The game actually makes a statement on the price for which you can sell any kind of equipment. It's on p. 144 PHB:

As a general rule, undamaged weapons, armor, and other equipment fetch half their cost when sold in a market

The items you can create with this, acid, alchemist’s fire, antitoxin, oil, perfume, or soap are all on the Adventuring Gear table in the Equipment chapter on page 150 PHB and thus clearly are "other equipment". As it costs you half their value in raw materials to create them, and you can get half their value by selling them, you can make exactly zero money from creating and selling them.

What if you could create platinum?

It is not unreasonable to think you could try to create gold or platinum by alchemical means -- after all that is the main thing alchemists in Earth's history were trying to achieve, turning lead into gold. The useful things that came of this, like an understanding of basic chemistry, were more of a by-product.

Platin or gold would count as a trade good as it is listed on the trade goods table on page 157 PHB, with a value of 500 gp per pound of platin, and you could fetch the full value, as p. 144 PHB also explains:

Trade Goods. On the borderlands, many people conduct transactions through barter. Like gems and art objects, trade goods—bars of iron, bags of salt, livestock, and so on—retain their full value in the market and can be used as currency.

There is a reason alchemists always sought the philosopher's stone that permanently can turn one substance into a more valuable one: it would be a way to get rich easily. It still would not be infinite: you only can make one long rest every 24 hours, so you would be limited to making at best 250 gp per day this way, as you have to subtract half the value in raw materials. It would be a lot of money for the early levels, and you can do it "for free" during your long rest using this optional rule, so it would be just an additional pick-up.

You might be able to make more by spending additional hours during the day to craft, but that would only be free if your time has no value. That's not the case in most campaigns for other reasons — to make the depletion of daily powers and hit points matter, there often is some kind of urgency or ticking clock.

Moreover, there may be other issues with it. The entry on trade goods in the PHB p. 157 says:

Guilds, nobles, and royalty regulate trade. Chartered companies are granted rights to conduct trade along certain routes, to send merchant ships to various ports, or to buy or sell specific goods. Guilds set prices for the goods or services that they control, and determine who may or may not offer those goods and services.

If you could spin platinum from gold or other raw materials, the local noble or royalty might take an interest and conclude that you have to hand off a large chunk of what you can make in taxes to them — if they don't lock you up somewhere safe to work exclusively for them as the "royal alchemist".

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    \$\begingroup\$ You can make platinum? I got a cell free between the maker of white gold from dirt and the dwarf spinning gold from straw. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 9:40
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Yes, you can sell an infinite amount of labor for an infinite amount of money

That's also how it works in real life. The platinum example aside, according to Xanathar's Guide to Everything, you can buy and then expend raw materials at half the value of the item you are planning to make, and you can then craft alchemical items such as alchemist's fire, acid, antitoxin, soap, perfume, or oil.

If you wish, you can then sell them at full price (assuming you can find a buyer).

Let's say you buy 25gp worth of raw materials to craft a dose of alchemist's fire worth 50gp. You then sell it for 50gp, having made 25gp. You can repeat that infinitely many times, making an infinite amount of money.

Here is the catch: crafting takes time

Going back to Xanathar's Guide to Everything, crafting a single dose of an alchemical item takes 1 long rest. That means, you can make 25gp per day at most. Still, not a bad payout for your labor, considering that the "Work" downtime activity defined in Xanathar's pays at most 2gp per day plus 25gp per week.

Since the crafting essentially happens at night (during the long rest) you might even combine it with a dayjob, and become a pretty well off artisan in your life.

That is, unless you manage to get involved in some sort of pesky adventure..

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Given that there is no such thing as infinite money or infinite labor, "arbitrary" might be a better word, or maybe "arbitrarily large". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 14:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can make an infinite amount of money if you also spend it all, recirculating it in the economy. Besides, producing an infinite amount of matter and living for an infinite amount of time is absolutely in the realm of possibilities in DnD (not so much in the real world, I grant you that). Still, I agree with you, but I wanted to stick to OP's phrasing and not weigh it down with minute technicalities. \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 14:43

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