PHB page 144, Equipment, Wealth, Selling Treasure

Magic Items. Selling magic items is problematic. Finding someone to buy a potion or a scroll isn’t too hard, but other items are out of the realm of most but the wealthiest nobles. Likewise, aside from a few common magic items, you won’t normally come across magic items or spells to purchase. The value of magic is far beyond simple gold and should always be treated as such.

The above excerpt from the 5E rules seems to explicitly state that there isn't a magic item economy, so unlike previous editions you can't just waltz into a large city and score yourself a +2 flaming sword. Also, selling magic items requires finding a buyer, probably only getting a fraction of the item's worth, etc.

I like this from a fluff point of view, as I always felt that magic items never felt special enough, and adding scarcity does that. But: without magic items for sale, in a kick-in-the-door campaign, what do players spend their hard stolen loot on?

Once you've got the top level mundane gear and a stockpile of potions (which won't take long), doesn't gold become sort of worthless?

My group doesn't play D&D as a heavy simulation game, so while we could technically use gold to buy castles, fleets of ships and keep a family of twelve in an aristocratic lifestyle, or even just stockpile gold as an arbitrary score of success, none of that has an in game, crunch effect.

Am I missing something obvious?

For clarification, this question isn't necessarily about wanting to obtain magic weapons, more what you spend all that cash on if magic weapons are out of the question. As noted in one of the answers, this is the same as 1st and 2nd ed, but as noted in the comments, it wasn't necessarily a good thing and articles were written on what to do with all your riches...

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, I was wondering the same thing actually. Aside from the few pieces of mundane gear that can be expensive (such as full plate armor) the only usage I can see for accumulating any significant amount of monetary wealth is to learn spells as a Wizard or learn ritual spells for characters with the Ritual Caster feat (or a Warlock with the Pact of the Tome and the Book of Ancient Secrets invocation). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 0:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question takes me back. Back in the 1980s, I read articles about how to handle the massive amounts of wealth that the PCs would acquire. Some solutions were to have it attract thieves (makes sense, but also sucks) or have them buy unique, expensive but useless crap. Of course 3.x solved it by making magic items very easy to buy, which works, but undermines the "magic" of magic items. \$\endgroup\$
    – mcv
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 9:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ In some ways, this is an ironic duplicate of How to handle wealthy player characters as a GM?, which basically acts as a good answer to this by the very question. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 15:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Forbes Magazine would like to contribute an answer as well: "Money! What Is It Good For?" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 16:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AndersK: Don't answer in comments (including partial answers). \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 23:00

16 Answers 16


Gold buys people

Without a readily available source of high-end useful items, you can purchase large quantities of low-end things.

For example, a hundred swords, a hundred kits of armor, a thousand man-years in soldier's wages and a dozen wagons of supplies can achieve a variety of things that a squad of powerful murderhobos can't.

A supply of gold can give (with some time and organization) a widespread network of informants that can be better than any 'gather rumours' check you can make. See Sherlock Holmes or Game of Thrones Varys for nice examples in fiction.

A band of henchmen can ensure that every night camp has multiple watchmen and a quick defensive encampment around it, as historical army detachments made at every nightfall - a dozen workers with shovels, axes and a supply of nearby trees can achieve quite a lot in a couple hours.

Gold buys services

If your desired magical device of power can't be bought, then it can likely be made. Not everything that's needed for it needs to be obtained by yourself. If it needs a McGuffin from the eastern mountains, a FooBar from southern seas and a thingamajig from the western desert, then you can go yourself for one of them, send a hired expedition (or two) of N-5 level adventurers for another, and offer a large reward (hand of princess optional) to whoever produces the third item.

What I mean, if you do have excess gold, then it is one of the instruments that you shouldn't hesitate to spend for plot goals instead of 'crunch' goals of character power.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to add a note that due to the 'bounded accuracy' of 5e hirelings are much more effective than in previous editions. For example, 24 CR 1/4 skeletons can completely replace a 5e fighter in terms of damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Arkhaic
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 2:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is a bit disappointing considering the question: I am under the impression that he is specifically asking for something that doesn't involve broadening the scope of the campaingn, keeping it "small party, just the PCs". \$\endgroup\$
    – o0'.
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 7:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lohoris the OP doesn't mention "keeping it a small party" but rather mentions that they don't want to turn it into a kingdom simulation game. You still can use lots and lots of hired help to support your small party of PCs, as long as you keep it "offscreen". You don't need to roleplay the process of obtaining hirelings and the internal politics if that's not your thing; but if you want to, say, destroy an evil cult holdout, then you have an option to get a pro thief to scout it out before you go inside yourself; or buying the holdout plans (incl secret passages) from the guild that built it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peteris
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 10:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Arkhaic until they're up against AoE damage or a cleric ^^ \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11, 2019 at 12:40

This is one of those "Let me tell you a story about how things were pre-third edition" questions. In every D&D edition from the 1970s to the year 2000, you couldn't buy magic items to spec. But you still got gold. We didn't complain about it and found it quite useful.

In most of real world history, you couldn't buy magic items. Yet still gold/money is avidly sought after and very useful for a bunch of reasons. Consider world history a couple minutes and some of these answers may come to you on their own.

A short related video tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgct3Jn8pFA

Things you can spend money on in 5e:

  1. Stuff - even though it's not magic. Horses, ships, nicer clothes, etc.
  2. Training - go get more 3l33t skills. Hint, PHB p.187.
  3. Hirelings - to do things and/or kill people on your behalf.
  4. Land and Organizations - castles, churches, thieves' guilds, etc.
  5. Position - titles, ranks, memberships in secret societies, reputation. Paris Hilton can get a lot more done in a day than you can, reason: money buys fame buys results.
  6. Services - information (sages were a popular money sink back in the day), vanity stuff. 5e boils some of this down into lifestyle upkeep.

Earlier edition D&D is a little more "medieval combat" and a little less "anime superheroes." You need armies and castles and stuff once you hit mid levels. In 1e that's why level 9-10 was "name level" and you got land and followers then. In 5e, for a variety of reasons ("bounded accuracy," other general power limits in the rules), you have limits to what you can do personally. Money, as in the real world, is the solution to doing what you can't do personally.

It also encourages you to consider having long term goals for your character besides "harvest souls." Do they want to become a lord? Do they want to marry the princess? Do they want to run a merchant empire? Do they want to start their own church of St. Anger? Those are things that require money.

If you just want crunch for your personal character sheet from your money - sorry, 5e might not be the game for you. Gold in 1e/2e/5e is more of a way to encourage you to think nonlinearly about your challenges and say "given the resources I have at hand, how can I get what I want" as opposed to driving down the path of really only allowing for the solution "hit it until it stops moving with your own sword" that 3e/4e more strongly encourage. Though I guess you could sit on the big pile of gold, wait for thieves and monsters to come, and slay them for more XP as a slightly more indirect route to personal power.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "In most of real history, you couldn't buy magic items." Most? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 13:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DigitalChris - Actually, I'd say that in most of real history you could buy magic items... They just didn't actually do anything. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ " Though I guess you could sit on the big pile of gold, wait for thieves and monsters to come, and slay them for more XP as a slightly more indirect route to personal power." Ah the dragon strategy to leveling \$\endgroup\$
    – J.Blake
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 9:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ In first edition, even though could not buy magic items with it, gold had a very tangible value: gold and treasure taken out of the dungeon directly translated into experience points. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 6:14

"There's no magic item economy" does not equal "Magic items are never bought and sold". It's just that there's no set market for them, they're too rare for that. If a character puts word out that he's looking for a particular item, someone might manage to turn it up for the right price. Barring that, commissioning someone to create the item might be possible, if there are high enough level spellcasters in the world. Maybe you can sponsor younger adventurers to go find the item for you.

Obtaining the items will probably be cheaper than expected if all you "buy" is a quest hook. There's every chance that someone who owns the item you want has something they need done. Maybe the city-bound wizard would love to make your magic item, but needs components from a far-away place. Perhaps you could pay the right people for rumors leading to a ruin where the item you want is rumored to have been lost.

"No magic item economy" means not every character is going to have exactly the items they want at exactly the levels they want them. It certainly doesn't mean there's no way to turn gold into items with a little creativity.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's more cost-effective to do EVERYTHING yourself. Spending gold to get things instead of taking the time to do every step yourself is the exact opposite of wasting of the PC's time. To misquote a famous business adage, "You can get it cheap, get it fast, or get it magical. Pick two." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 1:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ +10 because "there's no economy" != magic items cannot be bought or sold. It just can't be assumed that there's a fixed price across the world's "Ye Olde Magick Shoppes" for +1 swords. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 18:45

I just watched someone buy a painting for $3,500,000. It doesn't come to life, it doesn't tell the future, it doesn't even age while they stay young. They primarily bought it to annoy someone else that wanted it, as far as I could see.

What you're having is a failure to roleplay. The players are not imagining what they would do in the characters' place. Okay, they don't want to lead armies or set up kingdoms; don't they want to do other things? Throw legendary parties; buy ships and deck them out with luxury? Spend months in bordellos or bars? Feed the poor?

If not, why are they risking their lives to get the gold?

To go back to 1e, this sort of thing was handwaved by the large upkeep costs as well as the training costs, but to go back even further, Arneson only gave xp for gold that was spent in pursuit of a character's "hobbies".

So, talk to the players and see if you can get them to come up with what THEY would do if they were the characters with all that money and start acting on that, even if it is ultimately waved away by you starting a session by saying "Frank spends 10,000gp on a captive hummingbird from the moon which is the talk of the town for a month until it dies of loneliness. Now, the Crypto-Pope has asked for your urgent help in putting down an invasion of Soul-Baptists; what do you say?"

It doesn't have to be a big deal in terms of playing time, but it should make a statement about the PC's personality. Which, after all, is what separates an RPG from a boardgame. The roleplaying is, in reality, the "crunch" of an RPG; the numbers on the character sheet, the to-hit bonuses, the armour etc. is the real "fluff" because it is all disposable, the important stuff is the characters and the emergent story.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Arneson only gave xp for gold that was spent in pursuit of a character's "hobbies"." Was this in his campaign that predated publishing D&D? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 12:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Now, the Crypto-Pope has asked for your urgent help in putting down an invasion of Soul-Baptists; what do you say" I want to play one of your campaigns \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ "If gold buys nothing of value, why would any adventurer ever risk their lives for this?" This single line puts many decades of role-playing and DMing into sudden and clear perspective. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 20:17

You say:

Once you've got the top level mundane gear and a stockpile of potions (which won't take long), doesn't gold become sort of worthless?

equally, in a 3rd edition setting:

Once you've got the top level wands, magic armor, vorpal swords and a stockpile of wondrous items (which won't take long), doesn't gold become sort of worthless?

or to bring it into the real world:

Once you've got the top level houses, cars and flat-screen TVs and a stockpile of pharmaceuticals (which won't take long), doesn't cash become sort of worthless?

well ... yes. Even more so since we are talking about made-up money in a made-up game.

However, to beg the question:

Gold in D&D is money - a medium of exchange (like corn or chickens only more durable), a unit of account (1gp=10sp=1 night in the inn), a store of value (1gp today = 1gp tomorrow) and a standard of deferred payments (you owe me 10gp).

Money is a means to an end. In the absence of something to buy, money has no value.

Magic items in this context are Priceless - Something so rare, unique or desirable that it transcends normal concepts of price. These things exist today and I don't mean the intangible things like love and honesty. Most of the great artworks in public collections are priceless - the Louvre will never sell the Mona Lisa nor the Vatican the Sistine Chapel ceiling (which would be far less portable than the Mona Lisa in any case). Until relatively recently in western Europe (and even more recently in Eastern Europe), land also fell into this category - it could be owned, inherited and gifted but it generally couldn't be bought.

As to your problem, you character's would probably be very interested in gold and the temporal power it provides. However, if you choose not to immerse yourselves in the role-playing aspects of the game (and that is a perfectly legitimate way to play) then you have to ask yourself what it is that you want for your characters.

I think that, on reflection, you would have to concede that you didn't actually want magic items for your character either - you want power. The power to kick-in bigger doors, kill bigger monsters and not die (presumably in order to perpetuate the cycle). However, what matters is relative power.

In a magic item rich world, those items gravitate to the hands of the players and increase their absolute power - their opponents need to therefore be beefed up to challenge them. This just means that you get to the bigger doors more quickly.

The important thing to note is that in the absence of magic items, power comes from XP - the higher your level the more power you have. Two points: 1) in 5e that power is "bounded" - your character will never bestride the world like a god, 2) XP are the ultimate in not being money - you can't buy 'em and you can't sell 'em.

So, if what you want is to get to the bigger doors more quickly then either:

  1. hand out the XP more freely, or
  2. hand out more magic items (and adjust the challenges to suit), or
  3. ignore the rule about magic items being priceless (and adjust the challenges to suit).

The point is, play the game the way you want to play it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Once you've got the top level wands, magic armor, vorpal swords and a stockpile of wondrous items (which won't take long), doesn't gold become sort of worthless?" There's never too much gold for buying magic items for yorself in 3.5e. Buy more Belts of Battle, Pearls of Power IX, Metamagic Rods of Quicken, Greater, epic items ad so on. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 9:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ "play the game the way you want to play it" - at the end of the day, best advice to give. If you give out too many magic items and things break - take them away, or roll new characters. Just keep having fun doing it! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 15:43

I'm a bit surprised that nobody provided the ways gold can be spent in the players handbook, so maybe I'm missing something however.

The biggest expenses after you purchase your armor and weapons in the 5e player handbook is "Downtime Activities" and "Services".

There are two major expenses which while it looks like they may not require much gold, actually do. And then there are other expenses which are not so much, but can add up.

  1. Lifestyle Expenses - A modest lifestlye is 1gp per day, or 30 gold per month. Doesn't seem like much. However an Aristocratic lifestyle is a minimum of 10gp per day and 300 gold per month. It might cost you more depending on what you are doing. That you need, 3,650 gold a year just to stay afloat.
  2. Training - Training lasts 250 days, and costs you 250 gold to learn something. However, if you are trying to maintain an Aristocratic lifestyle while training, that means you need 2,750 for each new tool or language you wish to learn. Though of course you can also learn the tool or language for just 500 gold, but we are looking to burn our money.
  3. Hirelings - Each hireling will cost you 2 gold per day. If an adventure lasts a month this means you can spend 60 gold for each extra person you want to do things for you during your adventure.
  4. Services - Other services are available as well, such as traveling or lodging or spell casting. Spells such as identify will cost you 110-150 gold (cause of the material component cost of 100) while other spells can cost over 1,000 gold to cast in addition to the cost or service that is requested of the adventurers.
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    \$\begingroup\$ The 100 gp required for the Identify spell is only a one-time cost. As long as you don't lose the required pearl, you can reuse it every time. (This contrasts with other spells where a costly material component is consumed each time the spell is cast.) \$\endgroup\$
    – gto
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 10:39

Buying magic items is not, necessarily, out of the question. You just probably won't be buying it at Joe's Discount Adventurer's Shoppe.

Magic items are outside the realm of all but the wealthiest nobles, and you won't normally come across magic items that can be purchased, but there is a key word there. Normally. And as you level up as adventurers you will encounter people, creatures and places that are well beyond normal.

Which brings me to how you CAN obtain magical items with gold, through a simple tried-and-true system that has existed for ages.


You won't be finding magical items on-stock in shops, so your only real option to purchase them is to barter with other magical-item-owning humans and creatures. You could, for example, offer a treasure trove (literally) of gold in exchange for an old warrior's ancient 5+ Flaming Sword, so that he can retire to a life of luxury. Or you could offer the dragon an even more impressive treasure trove in exchange for just one magical item from his collection. Money, while usually an object of exchange, is still a valid item for barter.

There are other options though...


Your only source of powerful magical items is going to be an equally powerful wizard, and wizards despite their awesome power are still subject to avarice. You may need to search high and low to find a wizard, but once you do you may be able to purchase his services to craft for you a custom-made item that will aide you in an important battle.

And of course you can always spend your money on...

Non-Magical Items

And of course there are options to purchase items that are not magical at all. Armies to fight your battles for you (I would even give you EXP as a DM if you're leading them into battle yourself). Fortresses to act as strongholds for you and your allies. Businesses out from under rivals to crush their financial stability and get an leg up on them. There are endless possibilities for what you can buy with enough money, and at high enough levels you will certainly be able to afford a few.


These two articles don't explicitly answer your question, but you may find them very interesting from a fluff standpoint. They offer dozens of ideas for how to hang plot hooks from the monetary and magical rewards your characters may pick up (which is possibly better than a pure crunch solution to the problem, depending on your perspective).

On the Unloading a Pair of Magic Boots and Troubles Therein

On Mid-Medieval Economics, Murder Hoboing and 100gp

My approach is to make magic items hard to acquire. That doesn't mean impossible, just that the characters have to do some "leg-work" to find them. You're not going to waltz into just any merchant's shop and find a bunch of magical weapons waiting to be picked up. This is a specialist item, rare and generally in high demand amongst those with the resources to acquire it. You can find a guy who knows a guy who can get you a meeting with some, shall we say, "shady characters" who operate outside the guild system (well the legitimate guild system), and you can maybe find what you're looking for that way.

But doing so is often fraught with it's own risks, which more often than not, leads to it's own adventures. And in the end, adventures are what the game is all about.


The text in the PHB doesn't prohibit the buying and selling of magic items in general. It pointing out that beyond a few common items it is a rare and special event. Pre-modern times had a similar issue in that there are items that could be bought and sold in a market but there were also luxury items so expensive that their manufacture and trade were a separate parallel to the normal everyday market.

Magic Items. Selling magic items is problematic.

This is true of all very high value rare items even in a campaign with a liberal policy of buying and selling magic items.

Finding someone to buy a potion or a scroll isn’t too hard, but other items are out of the realm of most but the wealthiest nobles.

You can see this in the wage tables vs. the price of a healing potion.

A potion of healing costs 50 gp. A skilled hireling, a craftsman, ect, makes 2 gp a day. Their monthly (30 days) salary is 60 gp per month. Buying a simple healing potion would cost nearly all of that person's monthly salary.

The price of a +1 weapons or +1 armor would be very high indeed from what we can see from the default economy. Make it a very high priced, rare luxury item.

Likewise, aside from a few common magic items, you won’t normally come across magic items or spells to purchase.

Historically high value luxury items are:

  • Commissioned to be made from a skilled artisan, in the case a wizard, by a wealthy patron.
  • An agent is hired to find and acquire a known item by a wealthy patron.
  • In rare cases in the largest cities (think London, Paris, Constantinople, Beijing, etc) there will be merchants that specializes in the acquisition of particular luxury items, again magic items for our case, and arranges an auction for a known clientèle. There is little in the way of "stock" and you have to be part of the client network to be able even to bid when they do come up.

The value of magic is far beyond simple gold and should always be treated as such.

As you can see from the historical example how high value luxury items are made and traded is different than normal markets. One additional comment that needs to be mention is that like royal regalia they will be considered prestige items. A mark of status as well as wealth. Of course there is their immense practical value.

You explained that your group is not greatly into simulation. In my opinion using the above options is perfectly compatible with that sentiment.

It opens some adventuring possibilities as the players can be hired as a agent to acquire magic items. If they do a good job, they will have the contacts to make their own buys.

Another adventuring possibility that the players are hired to aquire some needed components to complete a commission. Do a good job they gain an "in" to the network of wizards who focus on commissioning magic items.

Other than a baseline price guide, the most the referee will need to do is to come up with the odds of a particular item coming up. For example a +1 sword comes up for acquisition once every six months. For commissioned items, the referee will need to come up with chances of a wizard having some free time to work on an item.

With the just the PHB or Basic Rules the referee will need to come up with these values themselves. Hopefully with the Dungeon Master Guide there will be guidelines for the value of magic items. Considering the typical length of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign this should not be an issue until well after the release of the DMG in early November.

Once you've got the top level mundane gear and a stockpile of potions (which won't take long), doesn't gold become sort of worthless?

Much of what I suggested involves an element of worldbuilding by the referee. If you are really adverse to this, and many are, then what you ask is a valid question.

My recommendation would be to spend it on hireling, retainers, and henchmen. How this different than your mention of maintaining a castle or a household. Because what you are doing is hiring in effect a small force to accompany you on your adventures. My advice to players for years that the best magic item is always another character. You multiply by the force of your group many times by hiring on. There are consequence namely in the logistics of feeding them and holding their loyalty. But given the rules as they are, as of Sept 2014, it is only "crunch" available to spend gold on.


I'm sure the mayor/governor/king/grand Poobah of the town/province/kingdom/Dominion where the adventures have their home base could come up with some way to spend a large amount of money that just entered their area of control. Your DM could tax the party to chew up some of it.

Bribes for the authorities to overlook the pile of dead bodies that tend to follow adventurers, rather than trying to arrest them, or for sharing certain information with the adventurers, is another way to get money out of the PC's hands. Sure, you may scoff at the authorities TRYING to arrest the PCs, but if they continue with the attitude of "kill 'em all and let the gods sort it out" eventually THEY will be the evil that assassins, bounty hunters, other adventuring parties, etc. are tracking down and attacking. [Plus if you're playing a paladin or good-aligned PCs, you may want to consider paying weregild as good roleplaying.]

Depending on the PC's motivation, using their money to establish their legacy is another possibility. One campaign I was in, two of the party funded statues of their characters and even a temple to their god (to be named for their characters, of course.) The DM made a point of saying how the NPCs in that town treated them like kings when they went out and about. The legacy building could happen "on screen" (if the PCs take an active role in designing and constructing the temple, for instance) or "off screen" (if the DM takes their thousands of gold, says thank you, and follows up with "A month later, construction on your temple is well underway.")

And of course, once the adventurers become wealthy, if they don't guard their wealth some naughty NPC thief may try to make off with the contents of their money bin while they're on an adventure. If the PCs aren't willing to accept that insult, hunting down the thief could form the basis of an adventure or three.


The problem here is that the OP clearly is used to 3rd /3.5 edition magic item availability. In my campaigns players couldn't easily buy or sell magic items even during the 3.5 days.

Magic Item Markets

This needs to be addressed. My campaign in 5th edition does indeed have a magic item market. It falls under the Dungeon Master's prerogative, not the players. The DMG explicitly says you can have magic items for sale.

How I do it is kept simple.

Common magic items get a percentile chance of showing up in any given store based on the size of the settlement.

  • A village or smaller settlement gets about 5-10% chance, towns give a 20-40% chance, cities it increases to 60-80%, and for a metropolis it goes to 100%. I alter the base values on whether the settlement is on trade route and what the prevailing conditions are. If there's a seasonal festival taking place, you might get higher base chances due to more people being in an area.

Note: this is for Common magic items. I lower the chance for uncommon, and rare. Very rare and legendary are almost never found for sale, you might have to do some serious quests to acquire these.

  • I sell common spell scrolls based on level: cantrip scrolls cost 25 gp, while 1st-level scrolls run the player 50 gp. Costs for higher level spells go up depending on if the player can find them for sale. Sometimes a potion might be available but it could be just a random potion so the player's don't always know what it will be.

I have no issue with players seeking out a wizard or other powerful caster to enchant a weapon for them. But the price is usually high and they may need something other than gold to convince the wizard. As others have pointed out, this is why you need roleplay. 3rd edition was the edition of rollplay which is not the same as roleplay.

What input do the players have on magic item acquisition?

My players have to actually do more than just kick in doors if they want top tier treasure. They may have to trade a lot of lower tier treasure to get one top tier item. One thing to keep in mind in barter is that if the item you want has an owner that doesn't want to part with the item, its going to cost substantially more to get it. The item's owner can get quests out of your party, favors, and other things on top of a king's ransom of your hard won loot.

Variable cost and rarity is one reason why you want to hoard a large chunk of loot. Sure, the +2 longsword might normally cost 5,000 gp on the open market, but when you have to find it on the black market (first you have to find the underground economy market), you might find yourself in an auction house illegally run in the city. This is why prices are not set in 5e: it opens a door for roleplaying and forces players to think. It keeps them on their toes which is exactly what I love about it.


Listen. Just because there's no economy for magic items doesn't mean they aren't bought and sold - just that the city market (even in a city like Waterdeep) doesn't have a ye olde magicke shoppe, where you can go and buy a +1 longsword for exactly 2000 gp.

Perhaps there still is a magic shop in the Trades Ward. But the use of the magic shop is different. He will likely have level 1 and 2-equivalent potions ready for sale. He will likely have level 1 to 3-equivalent scrolls, and perhaps he has a spellbook in the back you can pay him to copy from.

But asking for an enchanted blade, boots of elvenkind or a belt of giant strength? He puts your name down in a thick, loose-bound book, and then consults another thick book.

"An enchanted blade... yes, there was a seller who passed through here two weeks ago." (The elderly wizard adjusts his spectacles) "He said he was on his way to Neverwinter, where he shall be staying for the next month. His asking price is three thousand gold pieces, or equivalent in rubies, no diamonds. He says he will be staying at the Driftwood Tavern."

(Player)"Is this a +1 longsword, a +1 greatsword, what kind of sword is it?"

(DM in character)"The book doesn't say. Let's see if I can remember... (DM rolls a total 11 insight) ...no, you know to be honest I don't know the difference between different swords myself. It was about as long as my arm though, if that helps."


In the Adventurer's League, gold is spent on downtime activities, which are bought using days of downtime, which are awarded as an abstract currency at the end of an adventure.

Downtime activities are not normally played out, but are rather an abstraction in the form of a transaction, to symbolically represent a character's independent activities outside of adventuring. This allows characters and players to pursue their own interests without interrupting the campaign/adventure/session, and without forcing certain players to "sit out" because they had something important to do other than delving a dungeon. This system suits the AL well, because it allows all play to focus on the current session at hand, which is good because you officially only have two hours. (They may have changed that. I hope they changed that. I only played two sessions of AL before returning to the home table.)

Each day spent on a downtime activity incurs lifestyle expenses. Most downtime activities either waive that expense, or add to it. The DM is expected to consider a PC's lifestyle when that character interacts with NPCs.

The time and gp expenses incorporated into the downtime activities presented in the PHB and DMG are well-balanced to suit this style of play, and make less sense when downtime can be consumed in mass-quantity at will by the PCs, or when that downtime is being played-out. At least on a mechanical level, the game strongly encourages this style of play, but never outright imposes it, and the developers seem to have made a point of splitting up its various components across the PHB.

In any case, gp is spent doing what any real-life person would do with their money: Whatever makes them happy! Downtime activities, particularly as they are deployed by the AL, are simply one way of representing that.

If you're looking for crunch, here are the downtime activities you want to spend your gold on:

  • Crafting. (PHB p.187) This is most useful at early levels in groups where downtime can be consumed at will, mainly because it can offer you a shortcut to plate mail. (Using the AL rate of downtime reward will have you waiting till about level 11 though.)

  • Recuperating. (PHB p.187) This is useful if your DM is very mean and has inflicted your character with something seriously bad.

  • Training. (PHB p.187) Specifically, check out the line "Your DM might allow additional training options." Ask your DM how they feel about weapon, armor, and skill proficiencies. It's worth a shot! I allow it! (I've also heard people using the training rules to obtain ability score increases and feats, but I think that's taking it too far)

  • Crafting Magic Items. (DMG p.129) For obvious reasons. This is the only way to obtain a magic item of your choice, rather than as a reward that is entirely out of your control. You're going to have to get the DM to ok it though.

  • Performing Sacred Rites. (DMG p.129) Gets you inspiration at the start of the day for 2d6 days. Inspiration is useful.


The world is not only about dungeon delving

If the PCs have no interest in the things that gold can buy, then, at some point gold will lose its usefulness to them. There is no need to fix that. If you are a mendicant, gold has no value to you.

However, at least until level seven, a typical party is not swimming in gold they cannot use. And if you engage them with property, they may be struggling to get enough funds up to about level eleven. For the levels beyond, by the book there is no great use for gold, unless you move into warfare with armies and castles, and I would argue the best course of action is to accept this.

The top end for most published official campaigns is around level 11-15, so a use for gold is not the only problem you will have with high level parties. It might be the best solution to retire your characters once they are on that level. In most of the campaigns I played, that is what happened anyways, as the players want to try something new. When you end your campaigns around level 11, then the gap where there is no great use for gold is not large.

The different uses for gold have already been cited by many of the other answers. Here are some supporting calculations:

For reference, here is a chart of typical wealth per level and character for 5e, here is another for the whole party from David Hartlage using data from other blogs. Both are based on DMG encounter guidance, as there is no fixed table for this from the DMG like in Pathfinder. The numbers vary a little based on the assumptions made, but the order of magnitude is similar.

Equipment is still dear in the early levels

No matter how you look at it, in the first four levels of play the characters will struggle to buy the best equipment that is available in a city. A typical character at the start of level five has maybe 600 gp. That is far off from buying the best armor - a full plate clocking in at 1,500 gp. A silvered weapon as proxy for a magic weapon you can buy is going to cost 100 gp, too. Many useful items like Holy Water, Healing Potions, a Mastiff or Horse also cost 25 to 50 gp each. Low level scrolls may be bought sometimes for 50 to 150 gp.

Spell components and research

While not every party has a wizard, the class is cash-hungry. On early levels they need diamonds, pearls and the like for up to 100 gp apiece as components for some spells. Even if those are not consumed in the casting, wizards need to buy them first. Other spells like find familiar have components of gold value that are consumed. Raise dead will cost 500 gp. At higher levels components get more costly, for example 1,000 gp for a scrying crystal ball. Several spells consume diamond dust or jewels worth 1,000 gp or more, a good way to burn extraneous wealth. Spells cost 50 gp per spell level to transcribe, so transcribing a spellbook can be dear, with a single mid-level spell costing several hundred gp. Spell casters may also create their own magic items or scribe scrolls if the GM agrees, with optional rules provided in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, so this is a semi-official solution, if the players spend the time and effort on it.


Just like in the real world, money is power. You can use it to buy services of others, to bribe officials, to improve your social standing, to live in luxury, or to hire help. For example, there are rules for hirelings, which for a skilled one start at 2 gp per day. Firepower-wise, hiring a squad of crossbow-men is likely stronger bang for the gp than a magic item in the mid-levels. If you allow for more experienced NPCs to be hired at higher rates, there are a lot of useful effects. Hire a low-level wizard instead of having a wand of knock and a ring of invisibility. Of course, the downside to this is overhead in managing these troops and helpers, and the DM may also rule that they will earn their share of the XP in encounters. In the original D&D campaign, higher level characters had whole armies to follow them around, and that is what used up much of their gold.

Mansions, keeps, and towers

OD&D had rules for this, and I think this was brilliant. As the characters become rich and powerful in the game world, they take a leading role in society, and acquire land and property. This can open up an entire sub-game where you manage your castle and domain, troops, towns and villages. It can be a cause of adventure as you clear your domain from monsters, fend off new monsters to protect your peasants, venture out to kill the dragon who has taken residence in the old ruins, wage war against neighboring lords, forge alliances, deal with intrigue at court, and so forth. It gives you a wider perspective beyond just becoming the most efficient killing machine you can dream of, and provides a sense of community and belonging.

This can easily consume a lot of coin for both building and maintaining those keeps and troops in the medium-high levels. A fortified tower already costs 15,000 gp and a keep costs 50,000 gp. That alone would be enough to consume the entire party's funds up to about level nine. A full blown castle costs 500,000 gp and would consume all their money up to level 17. They likely will win the original keep as payment for an adventure, or take the half-ruined castle the bad guys occupied before, but even then, remodeling, repairs, buying off the legal owners etc. can be costly.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 OMG yes on the spell components. Instant summons? 1000 a pop. Planar binding? 1000 a pop. It adds up. And party members . . . we need revivify! We need restoration! We need raise dead! We need teleportation circle! It's not like you can summon a xorn to go find gems for . . . hmmm . . . . \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 12:47

I make my currency system similar to the modern costs in the United States. I use silver coins like dollars. Also, everything costs money. Every day that passes they have to have food and shelter of some fashion. In political games, gifts and favors cost money. For example, a noble loves collecting swords, and to gain favor a ally NPC tells the players that a gift of a sword would be a good gift for his attention. A sword costs 800 silver. A ferry across the river is 20 silver. A hotel/inn stay is 60-100 silver. Rent? 1000 silver per month. These are not very difficult things to track. Quite simple actually. It's not simulation level.

Any time they let time pass by without doing anything, it's x days of living costs. Do they live like beggars? If they live like beggars, make the NPCs treat them like beggars. Do they live like merchants? Perhaps people think they are a trader or mercenary that came for work. Do they live like nobles? Perhaps they are people of importance. You can keep it simple and just say, every day you live like this will cost you x currency. Just like what the PHB says.

If you don't want to have things like living costs, perhaps you need to lower the amount of gold/currency earned by the players through their various activities to account for the "free lunches".

Just be creative in ways that money gets burned. Try to take inspiration from real life.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome! Take the tour if you haven't already. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 6:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Although 5e's economy isn't consistent, the prices you've proposed here are very inflated compared to those given in official sources \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 22:11

What I think they mean is much like what was said in first edition. The owner of a magic item doesn't want to sell it, they want to trade it for another more usable magic item. Make your characters go to the local guild, royal, or imperial broker. If the local broker doesn't have what you want listed or even if he does what magic do you have to trade? If the broker doesn't have it listed he or she can send out a message to the brokers guild to see if any other brokers have it listed. Such magic listings always have what items that the listed magic items will open negotiations for.

It may turn out out that they want something your player doesn't have. They then may have to arrange another swap for something the first lister does want. This means getting what you want takes time possibly game weeks, effort and paying the brokers guild for multiple brokers fees and expenses. Such as; He pays the brokers fees, and expenses, these can add up if they have to send personal messengers to other brokers, or even the player for reports and requests for advances of money. The truth is even though the players are not buying but trading the difference may require cash payment or potions which you should be able to commission easily. You see even though you don't buy magic items getting what you want is expensive.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm sorry, this is more of a tangential comment and not an answer to the question posed. So what does he do with all his gold? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 14:34

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