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According to the Player's Handbook:

A skilled (but not exceptional) artisan can earn one gold piece a day.

I'd assume that this describes PCs who are proficient with a type of artisan's tools. However, according to the crafting rules in the Player's Handbook:

For each day you spend crafting, you can craft one or more items with a total market value not exceeding 5 gp, and you must expend raw materials worth half the total market value.

This means that a PC who is crafting earns 2.5 gp per day!

This can't be explained by lifestyle expenses; in the same section, it states:

While crafting, you can maintain a modest lifestyle without having to pay 1 gp per day.

Unless shopkeepers only pay 70% of the value of the finished product, I don't get how this could make sense.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Protip: the downtime rules in 5e are completely unbalanced. It literally just doesn't make sense. \$\endgroup\$
    – aslum
    Jan 8 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you work for someone for the hourly wage of $10 and in an hour you make products worth $25, does your employer pay you the whole $25? No, your employer will pay you the agreed-upon salary of $10. You could start your own business and then you will produce goods in the value of $25 for yourself, but how much of that you can keep as profit after paying for expenses, marketing, etc. can vary wildly. \$\endgroup\$
    – vsz
    Jan 9 at 8:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretty much all of D&D's rules related to money are inconsistent and unbalanced. Gold is basically useless in 5e. Even if you play with some level of gritty realism with needing to buy food and pay to stay at inns, by level 3, the RAW adventuring income will likely overtake modest living expenses by a significant margin, you'll be living like a king by level 6, and you'll be able to run a small army by level 10. \$\endgroup\$
    – Beefster
    Jan 9 at 22:48

2 Answers 2

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They earn the same 1 gp per day

A PC with a profession is a skilled laborer.

You quote the "Crafting" paragraph, which is about crafting, not about earning gold:

For every day of downtime you spend crafting, you can craft one or more items with a total market value not exceeding 5 gp

A PC makes a thing, but they doesn't get any gold from that activity — they get that thing. Gold is mentioned in the next paragraph "Practicing a Profession":

maintain a modest lifestyle without having to pay 1 gp per day

So it's the same 1 gp revenue for PCs.

Earning gold is complicated

Especially in pre-industrial setting it is more complicated than "craft an item" → "sell it to a vendor" → "rinse and repeat" routine like in videogames.

Unless shopkeepers only pay 70% of the value of the finished product, I don't get how this could make sense.

You made a chair and sell it for 5 sp to a shopkeeper. Now you are going to make 10 chairs and earn 5 gp. But this shopkeeper doesn't need 10 chairs. They agree to buy a couple more, if it would be cheap. After finding demand and supply balance in furniture market, you start to earn 1 gp per day in average.

PHB simplifies all this to fixed numbers, DMs can adjust

The books are deliberately silent about any market conditions. How exactly economy works in the game world is completely up to the DM.

PHB just gives us an example of what 1 gp roughly is:

With one gold piece, a character can buy a bedroll, 50 feet of good rope, or a goat. A skilled (but not exceptional) artisan can earn one gold piece a day.

As a DM you can tweak this in both directions, or leave it as it is, both will be fine. D&D in its core is a game about magic and heroic adventures, not a medieval market simulator.

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Making an item isn't the same as selling it

The discrepancy can be explained by the fact that a skilled artisan can be artisaning (it's a word, don't look it up!) or acquiring materials/selling finished products, but generally not both at the same time. One assumes that either:

  1. You're splitting time between running a business (buying raw materials, selling finished products) and producing wares to sell, or
  2. You're paying someone else to perform that task while you devote yourself entirely to your craft

You also need to own/maintain or rent a shopfront and/or crafting facility, etc. If you're crafting solely for yourself or your buddies, with no need to find a buyer for the finished product, sure, you can make 5 GP worth of products per day. But if you're running a business, you need to find someone to buy it at market price, and that's not as automatic as selling your adventuring loot at half-price to merchants easily.

To be clear, a DM can always rule that a truly exceptionally skilled PC (higher level, higher stats, and/or with Expertise in the skill) might earn more. But for the "skilled (but not exceptional)" PC, the existing rules cover you adequately.

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