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The character advancement section of the Pathfinder reference document mentions that a player character should have amassed certain amounts of money by certain levels: for example, a PC should have 6000 gold by fourth level.

However, I've not yet found a guide on what a character should be able to buy at certain levels. Is it safe to assume that if an item's listed cost exceeds a player's held gold (assuming they have a level appropriate amount of gold), that they are not yet ready to own the item?

For example, say a level two player wanted to own a combat trained hippogriff. The listed price for one of those is 5000 gold, but the level two player is listed as ideally having only 1000 gold in his/her pocket. With this in mind, is it logical to assume that such players should not own items, mounts, etc. until they meet the needed wealth requirements?

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"Wealth" does not mean just "cash on hand".

A character's wealth is the cost to purchase all of their equipment (minus non-magical gear they started with or could have started with) plus their cash on hand.

A level 2 character is expected to have about 1000gp worth of stuff; they would only have 1000gp in cash if they're saving it all up for something rather than spending it. A combat-trained hippogriff is, by itself, 5000gp. A level 4 character (expected wealth of 6000gp) might own such a mount, but we would expect it to represent more than 80% of their total possessions.

If you have a combat-trained hippogriff (5000gp), a +1 longsword (2315gp), and 450gp in cash, then your wealth is 7765gp.

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Wealth is not just currency—it is the sum total of the value of everything they own. So yes, if an item’s value exceeds their entire wealth, they should not, per the guidelines, own it at that level. Even if it doesn’t, if it is a large part of their total wealth, it is quite probably inappropriate—spending 75%, 90% of your total wealth on one item is a bad idea, and probably something the GM should push the player to avoid. Adventurers require quite a few separate things from their items, and you can’t put it all in one item.

D&D 3.5 even enforced this with an actual rule stating that no item could, at character creation, be worth more than 50% of a character’s total wealth. Pathfinder neglected to maintain this as a rule, but even if it’s not a rule per se, it’s a pretty good guideline for where most player characters want to be. Spending more than 50% of your wealth on one thing probably means you are putting all your eggs in one basket and leaving other aspects of your character dangerously underfunded.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "You shall not start with more than 50% of your wealth invested in a single item." "OK, I will start with 75% cash, then go to a shop and buy that item right after the start" (this really happened to me). Maybe PF did the right thing for once. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Nov 1 '16 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel "What shop? You are prisoners in a desert nomad camp." Problem solved. \$\endgroup\$ – DvdZee Nov 1 '16 at 13:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel As a rule it always had some shortcomings, but as a guideline it was very solid and Pathfinder’s failure to include it is a deficiency in my mind. Over-correction, perhaps, but 3.5 treating it as a hard-and-fast rule was better than PF not having it at all. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 1 '16 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ When you start as an unlucky monk with 10gp, is it really important to force the player to split that ? I know that's an extreme example, but even the most rich of the lvl 1 characters won't be able to buy really expensive stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Nov 2 '16 at 12:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme The rule only applied to characters created at levels higher than 1. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Mar 24 '17 at 21:45
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There are already two answers, but I am afraid that they are skipping a few details that might trip less experienced players.

First, let me re-iterate quickly: your character's wealth is the total worth of everything she owns. This includes the cash she has in her purse, the clothes she wears, the equipment she holds onto, her mount, probably most of what her mount is carrying, maybe a few items that she is loaning to friends, and possibly a shop or house in a distant village.


Second, the game provides wealth guidelines.

When evaluating the "power" of a character, the game assumes that the character has a certain wealth that she has used to equip and arm herself.

If the character has a significantly lower wealth, then she has a handicap and the game will be harder than the published difficulty. Conversely, if she has a significantly higher wealth, then she has a leg up and the game will be easier than the published difficulty.

Not all characters are affected in the same way; the game requires a lot of magic, and therefore characters with less or no native access to magic will suffer more from having access to a lower wealth than recommended (they will not be able to fly, walk on water/breathe water, ...).


Third, just because you have enough cash does not mean you can buy whatever you want.

A small village does not have a hippogriff & unicorn training ground. Sorry.

It's up to the DM to decide on the availability of the items; a rough guideline being that the bigger the town, the more chances that it has expensive/rare items. However you may also wish to account for culture: no Dwarven's Extra Furry Boots in an Elven Town.

Furthermore, just because the crafting guidelines state that a 1st-level spell wand is 750gp doesn't mean that coming across a Ranger's Longstrider Wand is easy. It takes a CL 5 to unlock the Craft Wand feat, which requires a Ranger level 10+ (likely 12) which is rare enough, and one who foregoes the usual combat feat and has picked a craft feat instead. High-demand/low-offer, either the price will rise or the item simply will not be.


Fourth, it is wise to spread your wealth.

Remember the proverb about putting all your eggs in the same basket? What happens when you have to get into a cave/dungeon (pretty rare in this game...) and the hippogriff doesn't fit? Or even if it fits, it doesn't fly? And blocks the way? You have to leave it outside.

In general, the more money you invest into an item, the more dependent on this item you become. If it's unavailable or useless in a particular situation, you are toast.

My personal rule of thumb is to avoid investing more than 25% of my characters' wealth in any single item, and instead of having one +2 swords, I'd rather have one +1 two-handed sword (Slashing) and one +1 silver morningstar (Bludgeoning & Piercing).

I also recommend investing between 10% and 20% of the character's wealth in consumables: potions, wands, scrolls, ... Some items are just cheap (Wand of Lesser Vigor) and others are a "once in a while" kind of items that helps being prepared against a large variety of situations without having to spend precious feats or buy specialized equipment (partially charged Wand of Waterbreathing).

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