I'm looking to do a one-shot to try my hand at DM-ing. I've decided for everyone to be level 5 and I have built encounters around that fact.

Based on the DMG, my player's characters will have about 625 gp and one uncommon magic item. So, they need to buy equipment for the session using their gold and pick their one magic item, which involves calculation and decision-making, which I'm anticipating could take a long time. There are 64 pages in the DMG dedicated to magic items, not all of which are uncommon, and the PHB has several dedicated to equipment as well.

Logistically, what is the best way to handle 4-5 people buying equipment if we only have 1 PHB and 1 DMG?

Answers that include how you or another DM handled this kind of start are more helpful than general suggestions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What is more important: time efficiency or the players getting to pick the "just right" item for their character class and archetype/build? I edited the question to pull out the question I think you are asking, and adding one criterion for a "best answer." If this does not capture your intent, please edit to clarify that. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6 '15 at 0:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Totally fine. To answer your question, probably a bit of both. I see it like a straight line with "quick" on one side and "methodical" on the other. I'd like to see how people handled it, if that's not too vague \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6 '15 at 1:51

If you download the pdf of the basic players rules, you can easily print out several copies of the equipment chapter to pass around to the players for all their mundane equipment needs. I always have a copy of the weapons list and the adventure equipment list at my table for this very purpose.

For magical items, I've found that rolling on the treasure tables is more fun than letting players pick. I'd suggest rolling once on magical item table F in the DMG for each player, disregarding any single use items or items that are either common or rare. Also disregard any items that cannot be used by any member of the party due to class restrictions. Assign these at random to your players, then let them trade among themselves.

This whole process should take only 10 minutes (before the game), emphasize the point that specific magical items aren't something that players are entitled to in 5e (unless you, the DM, say otherwise), and end up making more fun moments than not. No one remembers when you hit something with your +1 sword, but everyone remembers that time we used an alchemy jug to coat the floor with mayonnaise, preventing the escape of a dangerous criminal.


I write the magic items on memo-cube paper or sticky notes, with different colours for different rarities.

For example, I might have ten yellow notes (rare items) and twenty orange notes (uncommon). I will pick items I think might be useful in the game or interesting. I'd put them all in the middle of the table and say "everyone, pick one yellow and two orange". If two people want the same item I'd just write another note.

In the case of a magical weapon, I'd just write "One +1 weapon" and let a player pick what sort of weapon.

I've done this a few times - it has always gone very quickly. If players only have a small number of choices then the process goes quickly.


When you have inexperienced players and only want to do a one-shot, a viable option can be to just make the choice for them. This prevents the players from falling into analysis paralysis while they try to make the best choices even though they do not fully understand the ramifications of their decisions. To make sure the players don't feel too railroaded you could ask them beforehand what kind of playstyle they would prefer and then make a choice optimized for this.

When the players already have enough experience that they fully understand the game mechanics and want to explore them through building their own characters, they should have enough experience to build their characters themselves on their own time off the table. It will certainly be useful to agree beforehand who will play which role in the party to avoid having an unbalanced group.


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