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One of my adventuring parties is going to undertake a local fine for multiple incidents of property damage. In an effort to determine a reasonable cost for the fine, I'm wondering if there is a resource or reference anywhere that entails details on construction costs, especially wooden doors.

Does anyone know where to find this?

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The Books are Silent

As far as I can see, the only rules for construction costs are on pg. 128 of the DMG. They detail the cosat for building various 'stronghold' structures. Nowhere does it tell you how much individual structural components of buildings cost.

Things to Consider

Given that the books say nothing, we will have to use common sense to determine a reasonable cost. The first thing to note is that this is a fine. The purpose of a fine was, and still is, to discourage people from committing the crime. Thus a fine usually charges much more than the stolen or damaged item was actually worth. I take an extract from this website I found with a quick Google search:

The thievery code in the Dalarna law called for a fine of three marks for pilfering one öre (a mark was worth eight öre).

As you can see, the fine for stealing 1 öre is 24 öre - a marked increase.

The next thing to determine is whether the property they damaged was that of a peasant or that of a nobleman (or other wealthy person). If it was a peasant's home, then it is safe to assume that they built it themself. If it was a nobleman's home, then he probably paid to have it built. For this reason, there would probably be a greater fine for damaging a nobleman's home than for damaging a peasant's home (a peasant would also be less able to press charges).

You also have to consider the character's ability to pay such a fine. Low level characters will not be able to pay a fine in the thousands of gold. Court systems today take the criminal's ability to pay into account. Maybe your court does too?

You might also want to consider whether a fine is really what you want. Other medieval punishments included:

  • Flogging
  • Time in the stocks (a pop culture favourite)
  • Cutting off a hand or ear

One of those, or another inventive punishment based on your setting might be more interesting than a fine.

A Reasonable Cost

Let's look at the price of things in 5e. You can buy a chicken for 2cp (yes, that's copper pieces). A chicken was a valuable animal to have in medieval times. It would consistently lay eggs for food. If you bought a few and bred them, you could have a consistent supply of meat. A goat is 1gp (milk), a sheep 2gp (meat and wool), a pig 3gp (meat), a cow 10gp (meat and milk). All of these very valuable animals are extremely cheap by the player's standards (how many chickens could your players right now?).

A door is much less valuable than a cow. Jack wouldn't have got the magic beans for selling a door now would he?

So where does that leave us? We're looking at a fine of probably 1gp or less per door. The problem, of course, is that that sum is miniscule. You players will pay it without batting an eyelid. So what you need to do, is set a much much higher fine, not based on the value of the property destroyed, but on how much you think you need to charge to discourage this behaviour.

A Personal Experience

Once, my players decided to take some planks from a peasant's house. I can't remember exactly what they were for, but I am sure that the player's were well intentioned. Regardless, I decided that the town authorities would not stand for such vandalism, so I charged them a fine of (something like) 150gp. 150gp is an absurd fine for a few planks. It would have paid for the planks over a hundred times over. But that was not the point. I knew that my players could pay the fine, but also that it would discourage further such behaviour.

A Conclusion

Don't think about the fine in terms of how much the property they destroyed cost. Instead, think how much you will need to charge them to make sure that they do not do it again, because that is what fines are ultimately for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You've listed the goat twice, one at 1gp and one at 3gp. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Henderson Jun 4 '16 at 23:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would further adjust the punishment based on whether I want to discourage the behavior among the players or if I'm just giving out punishments for the sake of realism and sense of consequences. If the whole door-breaking ordeal was entertaining for the entire group, I would try to go for milder punishments, served with a promise of steeper measures should they be caught again. If it disrupted gameplay, I'd use more draconian measures. +1 for non-monetary punishments. \$\endgroup\$ – DaFluid Jun 6 '16 at 9:08
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There isn't a table for doors1, but there are costs for basic equipment and similar things that you can use for comparison.

For example, on p. 119 of the DMG, the table on watercraft lists a rowboat for 50 Gp. The same cost is shown in PHB p. 157, while a wagon is listed at 35 Gp. A standard shield costs 10 Gp. (PHB p. 145)

  1. What is the difference in materials?
  2. What is the difference in complexity?
  3. What quality standard are you assigning to the damaged doors?

Charging 1-2 Gp for a simple wooden door looks like a good baseline, with higher costs for better craftsmanship, iron bars, better hinges, windows, or other added features. Pick a number that makes sense to you. As a DM, making an estimate is good enough for mundane items. (Or, increase the cost since you appear to be applying punitive damages?)

1(Of course, you can make a table out of a door if you have some barrels, but that's a different question).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Or a door out of a table if you have a saw, nails, and hinges. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 3 '16 at 21:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I am thinking of a Role Playing game, called Carpentry and Cabinetmaking .... \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 3 '16 at 21:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast It would be an instant hit! You should start work on it at once. \$\endgroup\$ – Ladifas Jun 3 '16 at 22:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Burning Wheel's first example of how the skill system works is using Carpentry to quickly reinforce a barricade. Accountancy is a real skill. You can play an innkeeper. (It's not just detailed for the sake of unnecessary detail; it's designed to make real-ish normal people who turn out to have interesting lives worth playing.) A BW campaign about carpenters and cabinetmakers would be a lot of fun, I'm sure. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 3 '16 at 22:00
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A basic wooden door costs 10 gp.

There was a supplement for 3rd edition D&D called the Stronghold Builder's Guidebook which provided costings for player-built dungeons. It can easily be adapted for 5th edition, since the prices of buildings in those two editions are comparable (3e DMG p. 101 versus 5e DMG p. 128). A minor point of incompatibility is that 3rd edition uses damage reduction, whereas 5th uses damage thresholds.

The prices for doors (p. 41, Table 2-8) start at 10 gp for a basic wooden door with 10 hit points and 5 points of damage reduction. You can spend (a lot) more for sturdier materials and secret doors.

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