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House Rules Evolved: Experience and Wealth

This post rounds out the last of this iteration of my house rules. Look under the House Rules tag to see more or check out the PDF for all of them together.

What Was

So before, I had come up with a convoluted math formula in excel. I’m a nerd for numbers, deal with it. I had figured out a relatively nice exponential growth for XP totals that could round to mostly nice numbers without having wierd ups-and-downs of ‘To Next Level’ XP values like the standard progression. At the time, I also tied SP To Next Level off of half that value because I wanted treasure gathering to account for half of the XP progression in a level.

On the side, I also had some smaller rules. Players could not talk for extended periods of time during situations where they wouldn’t have much time. Fireballs and other explosive spells would act by volume rather than area when triggered in a space smaller than half their normal area of effect. Objects in the world, like treasure, can be damaged by area of effect or indiscriminate blows. Lastly, prices for everything except wages are moved to a silver piece standard.


The Results

Having a chart different from the standard book meant that players wouldn’t be able to check the values in their own books. This is less of a handicap than it might seem. 5e had totally different values from past versions so players were stuck consulting charts, but it was unfortunate that they wouldn’t be able to do some with the resources they already had: namely their own books.

The SP by level actually worked out quite nicely, giving a good amount of wealth to the players coupled with my hoard generating program. Players would veer between being quite wealthy right after pulling a big score to being quite poor if they’d gone a while without finding a lot of treasure.

Most of the tiny rules never came up or were entirely obvious. The silver piece standard becomes a flavor change, making adventuring in a silver piece standard world to be less insanely profitable.

The Changes

I reverted to using the book-given XP table. It’s arbitrary anyway and I may want to use the encounter building system in the future. Why force myself to revalue all the monster in the monster manual just to avoid having some silly levels that require fewer XP than levels before?

Here is where I have a major beef with 5e: no wealth by level. It doesn’t exist. I can understand their reasoning, but it is completely wrong. They wanted a game where magic item progression isn’t just an adventure in accounting and numbers. Without any suggestions though, how are dungeon masters supposed to plan out how much treasure to parcel out to the players? Wizards did such a nice job with their streamlined encounter building only to give DM’s no frame of reference for keeping their players wealth balanced? Don’t even get me started on how much of a pain it is to list all magic items as having a range of values so players have to constantly ask how much magic items cost so they can get a ballpark of what to pursue or save for. – I started writing my magic item series just to set concrete prices! – Outside of magic, Wizards gives only nebulous avenues for players to spend their ‘acquired’ wealth. It seems that Wizards swung the pendulum way to far away from the Monty-Haul adventure of the 3.5/4 days.

To give my players some grounding in how much money they might expect to pull in, I kept my wealth by level rule of thumb. Players in my game can expect that I’ll be generating treasure equaling half of the amount of XP they need to level up. I usually fudge that number higher to account for well hidden or difficult treasures that allow better players to go above the average. The opposite is just as easily true, and players may miss too much, leaving them below that average.

Saving space, I cut most of those obvious tiny rules. I kept the silver piece standard because I liked the weight it gives to everyday occupations in my worlds and because it takes up little space when I already need to include a wealth by level chart.

The Results

I really haven’t noticed the XP progression being much easier as the players default to using the copy I have on my House Rules Document anyway, but as I get into more complicated encounter design that may change. Already, I’ve glanced at some existing monster manual entries to gauge where my homebrew monster mashups lie. If only for that purpose, I’m glad I switched back to the default progression.

There isn’t much to compare my wealth progression changes to as D&D 5e has no such thing, but I would go crazy if I didn’t have something to peg my treasure generation to. Maybe I’ve given my players plenty of places to burn off their money; my campaign hasn’t been overrun with +1 items or generic magic items but the players get to throw around good chunks o’ change.

Cutting out the tiny rules that were never used has had no effect on my game, as expected. The silver piece standard continues to grant credence to why anyone would choose not to be an adventurer.


The Death and Dismemberment stuff has been a huge hit. Forcing my players to take Attrition or Insanity every time they drop to ‘0’ has really gotten them worrying about their long term prospects. I might add the ability to take an automatic failure instead to give them a slightly-less-worse option for desperate times. We’ve gotten a few injuries, and it creates much cooler memories of the encounters. My players remind themselves of their injuries, treating them like battle scars or jokes to needle each other with. Best part? It keeps everybody in the fight and has given us some moments on the razor’s edge.

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