How Much is too Much? Managing Rewards for Your D&D 5e Party

Afraid you might have given too much gold after an encounter? Not sure how much you should be giving out in the first place? We’ve all been there. You want to reward your party for a job well done, but you don’t want them to be so rich that it breaks your game. So how to do you know how much is too much? How much gold should you be giving your party? According to the Dungeons Master’s Guide, the average amount of Gold you should budget for a campaign is between 29,933-66,410. If you don’t have a copy of The Dungeon Master’s Guide yet, you can pick one up at your local game store (support local!) If you are unable to go to a local shop right now, you can still support local by purchasing from our partners, Noble Knight Games! Not only will you be keeping a brick-and-mortar game shop open and supporting Halfling Hobbies, but you will also get $10 off retail price! Triple win! Although the DMG gives us a guideline for the amount of gold to give over the course of a campaign, the number of resources you give your party should be directly related to the risks they are taking and how much they need to live their desired lifestyle in your campaign setting. This number will look different for every campaign.  To find the amount your players need, consider the following when deciding how much gold your party should earn:
  • How much experience did your party earn from the encounter?
  • What is the cost of living in your world?
  • What style of living are your players accustomed to?
  • What are the spending options in your campaign?
  • How difficult do you want your campaign to be?
  • Are there alternatives to gold you could give instead?
  • Finally, have a plan for decreasing party funds if necessary.
If you are a brand new Dungeon Master and aren’t sure what you want your first campaign to look like, check out my Complete Guide for new DMs for lots of helpful ideas and tips for running your first campaign!

Experience and Gold Reward

Understanding Experience Points

There are a few ways to keep track of player progress in order to know when to have players level-up. One method is to track the experience points of each encounter and have the players level-up after they earn a certain amount of experience. If you want to learn more about the different ways to track player progress and decide which is best for your campaign, I outline the pros and cons of each in my article on experience points and leveling Even if you aren’t using the experience points method of leveling, keeping track of how much experience your party has earned in the course of a session can help you determine how much gold they should have. Each adventuring day, your party has a limited amount of spells, hit points, and resources they can spend before they will need a break. There is a helpful chart on page 84 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide which I have recreated below up to level 5.
Level Adjusted XP per Day per Character
1 300
2 600
3 1,200
4 1,700
5 3,500
To fully understand what an adventuring budget is and how to use this chart for creating encounters, check out my post on Creating Balanced Encounters. At 1st level, each player has 300XP for the day. This means that a party of four 1st level players has a total of 1200XP each day (4×300). This number goes up with each level. This XP amount is the total amount of combat encounters the party can handle each day. Of course, it is unlikely that your party will be adventuring every single day, but, when they do, this is a good indicator of how much gold they should be earning. If on an average adventuring day your party is hitting their max XP budget, you will want to reward them well. If they still have XP to spare at the end of the final encounter, the reward should be much lower. By tracking the amount of XP the party has used out of their overall budget, you can more easily adjust the amount of reward you give.

Encouraging Encounters

If you notice that your players are not getting anywhere near this XP number, you might want to back off the gold reward to encourage them to seek out more encounters. On the other hand, your party is really struggling with the difficulty of encounters, you can increase the gold reward to help the players recover. While XP earned and gold reward are not mutually exclusive, as there are non-combat ways to earn rewards, tracking the party’s XP budget use can give you an indication of whether or not you are giving too much or too little treasure.

Gold Rewards and Cost of Living

How much does it take to live in your world? Because the style and purpose of every campaign is different, this question is very important when it comes to knowing how much is too much.

Consider the Cost of Living and Location

How much your players need to spend to live in your world will depend on your player’s lifestyle and location. There are two ways you can run lifestyle costs in your campaign. Option 1: is to have players pay per week or month for a chosen lifestyle and have all the costs of accommodations, food, equipment maintenance, and other needs come out of that amount.  Players can choose a level of lifestyle they would like to maintain that can change from month to month based on their funds. If players choose to live a wealthy lifestyle, this can lead to powerful connections and allies. If they choose a more modest lifestyle, they will save money, but miss out on some of these opportunities.  Option 2: have players pay as they go. Players have no reoccurring expenses and pay only as they need things. This takes more time but can lead to some fun interactions as players wander around the city looking for cheap but decent accommodations.  As a general rule, for either option, your players will need to spend the following per day for their general needs, e.i. food, shelter, and equipment:
Lifestyle Cost per Day
Wretched 0
Squalid 1 silver
Poor 2 silver
Modest 1 gold
Comfortable 2 gold
Wealthy 4 gold
Aristocratic 10 gold minimum
Ownership of Property Daily Maintenance Cost Per Day
Farm 5 silver
Shop 5 gold
Noble Estate 10 gold
It is important to keep in mind how much your players need to live and buy supplies when giving out treasure rewards. You don’t want to devalue the currency by flooding your players with loot, but you also don’t want them sleeping in the street because they can’t afford an inn (unless that’s the kind of campaign you are running). If your players want to own property or a business, you will need to consider this in their cost of living as well.

Cost of Living Based on Location

Keeping your gold rewards in line with the expenses of the area will ensure balance. For example, a quest from the city mayor to slay a monster may pay the party 2,000 gold, but a similar quest giving by a small village elder may only pay 500 gold. Although they are vastly different rewards, both rewards will allow the party to stay, eat, and shop for several days with the reward money because of the difference in living costs. You should expect the price of inns, food, and items to fluctuate depending on the area. A small, roadside inn might only be a single silver piece for a night’s rest and food while an inn in a crowded city of the same quality will likely be 2 gold for the same service. Understanding what to include in towns vs. villages vs. cities can be confusing. For a complete guide on how to make villages and cities and what services and businesses adventurers are likely to find in each, check out my post on Creating Realistic Cities and Villages.

Gold Reward and Spending Options

Another important question to ask about your campaign is, “What can my players spend their gold on?” Are magical items extremely rare in your world and only found on difficult quests? Or can the party go to a local enchanter and get whatever they want crafted for them? Understanding what your players may spend money on will help you determine how much they need. If players will be buying magical items, armor and potions, it is likely that they will need a lot of gold. However, if your players are obtaining those items in other ways, they will only need enough gold for supplies and living expenses. If you campaign is all about finding objects of power, then award more items and than gold to your party. If your campaign is more about story and your players can buy those items, give them more gold than items. However, if you are awarding magical items to your players on a regular basis, it is possible your players might get to a game breaking power level. Be cautious when giving magical items as rewards. To make sure you are giving magical items without breaking your game, I suggest you read my and follow my guide.

Gold Reward and Campaign Difficulty

The difficulty of your campaign also plays a role in the amount of gold your players should be receiving. Not just the difficulty of your encounters, but your campaign as a whole. How easily or difficult is it to just survive in your world? The difficulty of your campaign is a huge indicator of how much or how little loot you should be handing out. If you are running an apocalyptic or survival campaign, odds are you party should not be getting much in the way of gold. They should have to scrape by day to day, foraging for food and taking on really dangerous jobs to make some money. However, if your campaign is on the easier side of this, then padding the players with extra gold shouldn’t be an issue.

Alternative Rewards to Gold

Rewarding players with gold becomes an issue when it begins to solve all of the player’s problems. Need to sneak into the warehouse? Bribe the guard. Get caught stealing? Bribe the guard. And so on. This can tank the difficulty and quality of your game and can be an issue no matter how experienced you are as a DM. On another level, constantly receiving gold gets boring to your players. There are so many interesting and fun items out there you can find or create that are far more engaging than money. If you are worried your party may already have too much gold, then there are alternative rewards you can hand out for a while. Chapter 7 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is full of excellent ideas for treasure rewards that aren’t gold, here are a few of my personal favorites.
  • Magical Items– Equipment, armor, weapons, clothing, and accessories, all of it can be enchanted to help give your players an edge in combat. To learn more about how to give magical items as rewards without breaking your game, check out my article “Rewarding Players with Magical Items.”
  • Gemstones– Can be used as materials for spells, sold, or used to bribe or trade.
  • Art Objects– A chest full of small statutes, painted war masks, ceremonial daggers, and jeweled drinking horns makes for a much more fun loot description than gold alone.
  • Jewelry– Necklaces, anklets, earrings, rings, crowns, and lockets are interesting rewards and some could even be a part of a side quest!
  • Potions– After a long battle, there may very well be nothing your party wants more than a few potions of Greater Healing. Or perhaps a potion of greater invisibility or strength. These can come in handy later and save everyone time and money.
  • Scrolls– One of my favorite non-gold loot is scrolls. Throw in a scroll of fireball or dimension door and your party won’t even notice there isn’t any gold in that chest!
All of these rewards are useful, exciting, and help keep your budget in line when your party starts to get just a little too rich.

How to Decrease Your Party’s Funds

If your party resources ever do get out of hand, there are ways to restore balance. Some of my favorite options for depleting party funds are:
  • Buy or Build a House- Let the players know a house is for sale in a city they often visit. This is a large purchase that is sure to bring your party funds back to balance AND give the players a place to store all their stuff!
  • Help a Friend– If your players have an NPC they love, let that NPC come to the party in need. Whether it is a debt that needs re-payed, an illness that is only curable with a very expensive potion, or a business proposal, the party will be quick to help. If you aren’t sure how to make an NPC that your players will love, be sure to read my article on How to Create Unforgettable NPCs
  • Throw a Party– This is one of my favorites! (mostly because I make it a real party, with themed food and drinks!) Create a side quest that requires the group to throw an elaborate Ball to draw out a criminal leader or spy. Whatever the reason, a party is a great way to waste some money and have a great time!
Whether you are a novice or a veteran DM, knowing how much loot to give your party can be tough. But if you follow these tips, your budget will always balance out. Until next time, May your game have advantage, my friends! -Halfling Hannah

Related Questions

How much treasure should I give per encounter? The challenge rating of the encounter determines the amount of treasure players should receive. A challenge rating of 0-4 difficultly should yield between 7-30 gold, while a challenge rating of 17+ will earn between 2,800-7,000 gold. For complete information see page 136 in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. How much gold should my players start with? Player starting gold is determined by the player’s background and class. The DM can chose to roll this or give the players the amount stated in the Player’s Handbook.

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