D&D 5e: Treasure to XP Awards

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I hadn’t gotten deep enough into running 5e until recently to really look that hard into the treasure system and was surprised to find that it’s extremely loose. For many that’s a feature, but if you’re like me and run games suffering under a constant anxiety that you’re giving out way more or less treasure than the system actually expects, this may help.

I pulled my figuring from the following sources:

The Overall Math

Xanathar’s suggests that PCs acquire around 75 gp per level at tier 1, 150 gp per level at tier 2, 550 gp per level at tier 3, and 5,500 gp per level at tier 4. This means that a PC has acquired around 26,000 gp in cash upon reaching 20th level. Meanwhile, the magic item accrual with arbitrary values from within the correct range suggests around 135,000 gp worth of magic items by 20th level. The total value of a 20th level character could be around 160,000 gp.

That is conveniently really close to half of the earned XP by that point.

If you really wanted to stick to the exact breakdowns per level, it varies up and down over time: for most of the mid-levels, wealth awarded is closer to 10% of XP earned, with a huge catchup towards 50% in tier 4. But, for a very quick and dirty rule of thumb:

Place about 1 gp worth of treasure for every 2 xp you place.

I’d suggest doing this as broadly as possible, rather than per encounter. Total up all the XP possible in a dungeon, or even a whole scenario, divide by 2, and then use that as your budget for placing treasure. Individual encounters may have pocket change, while most of the loot is in hoards in places that make sense, just like the DMG suggests. Importantly, this gives you more budget for buying rolls on the treasure tables.

(Or you can just use the DMG system and use this to sanity check what the tables are giving out to see if you need to give out more or slow down a little on hoards.)

Treasure Tables and Cash

Some of your treasure should be in the form of cash (or gems, art, and other resources which are easily converted to cash). Per each tier:

  1. Around 33%
  2. Around 40%
  3. Around 25%
  4. Around 15%

Whatever’s left over goes into items. You can spend this directly to buy items and place them as appropriate. But if you want to roll randomly using the treasure tables, you can use the following breakdown.

Table Value (gp)
Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 Tier 4
A 100 50% 30% 13% 0%
B 700 22% 26% 18% 0%
C 1,200 7% 15% 28% 17%
D 2,000 0% 3% 15% 35%
E 4,500 0% 0% 3% 24%
F 6,000 18% 19% 3% 0%
G 12,000 2% 5% 8% 3%
H 40,000 0% 1% 9% 6%
I 60,000 0% 0% 3% 15%

For example, a roll on table C uses up 1,200 gp of your budget (which is the approximate average value of results on the table) and should make up around 15% of the treasure tables you give out at tier 2.

Table H and I are pretty spendy, due to having extremely valuable items on them. One roll on them could make up a substantial amount of the treasure awarded, even at high level. This is part of why the overall level ramps backload a lot of the treasure value toward very high level. I’d suggest just giving out a bit more treasure at high level, and a lot more if you go past 20 (but, then, if you’re planning to run a campaign that will be 20th level for more than a minute, I assume all balance concerns go out the window at that point anyway).

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Beyond the Wall, Converted Elemental Spells

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Back in my Separch’s Tower series, I included elemental-themed spellbooks, and found out that the existing spells and rituals in Beyond the Wall didn’t have enough appropriate magic to cover an equivalent range of options for each of the four elemental schools, so I grabbed some placeholders from the 5e spell list. Last night, my players actually started learning those spells, so I had to finally convert them to Beyond the Wall‘s style. It’s interesting to convert the standard D&D magic mindset (everything is leveled and usually pretty instantaneous to cast) to the BtW mindset (quick-cast magics aren’t leveled, while leveled magics take hours to cast so need to make sense in that context).

Spells

Acid Arrow

Range: Near
Duration: 1 round/level
Save: Yes

The caster produces a bolt of glowing green acid and flings it at a target, who must attempt a saving throw to dodge the caustic missile. If the save is failed, the target takes 2d4 acid damage, plus an additional 2d4 damage at the end of each of its turns while the duration lasts.

Misty Step

Range: Near
Duration: Instant
Save: No

With but a word, the mage teleports to a location she can see within range, leaving behind a burst of silvery mist in the location she vacated. This spell may be cast on a turn in which the mage has takes another action (except casting another spell).

Scorching Ray

Range: Near
Duration: Instant
Save: No

The mage creates a ray of flames that streaks between her outstretched hand and a target within range, against whom the caster must make a ranged attack (which ignores physical armor). If the attack hits, the ray deals 2d6 fire damage to the target. The caster produces one additional ray per 3 levels, and may direct these additional rays at the same or different targets (each ray is its own attack roll).

Shatter

Range: Near
Duration: Instant
Save: Yes

The caster causes an intense and painful ringing noise to erupt from a point she designates, causing damage to targets within 10 feet of the point (and making noise that can be heard for quite some distance further). All creatures and inflexible objects close enough to take damage must make a saving throw to steel themselves against the sound, and creatures and items made from brittle materials automatically fail the save. The spell deals 2d4 sonic damage, increasing by a die size for each additional level of the caster up to 2d12 for level 5 casters, and then adding +2 damage for each additional level of the caster past 5th. Targets that successfully save take half damage.

Rituals

Level 1

Produce Flame (Wisdom)

Range: Self
Duration: 1 hour/level
Save: No

This ritual allows the caster to summon a palm full of elemental flame. It casts light as a torch, and can ignite touched objects like a torch when the caster desires (but does not otherwise harm touched or held items). While the ritual persists, the caster may make unarmed attacks that do an additional 1d4 fire damage, or make a ranged attack up to Near range that does 1d4 fire damage (and does not add or subtract damage from Strength). The flame is not consumed by making such a ranged attack.

A mage wanting to cast this ritual must begin with a handful of ashes made from exotic wood that was burned by a fire elemental (which may be found for an average of 10 silver pieces from a merchant).

Level 2

Hellish Rebuke (Intelligence)

Range: Self
Duration: 1 day/level (Instant after trigger)
Save: Yes

Inscribing her flesh with runes of retribution and fire, a mage uses this ritual to prepare punishment for any that assault her. Upon taking damage from an attack made by a target within Near range that the mage can see, she may instantly speak a command to end the ritual and rebuke the attacker, the runes upon her skin immediately burning away. The attacker must make a saving throw to dodge the burst of flames at his location, or suffer 2d10 fire damage.

The runes scribed during this ritual require the blood (or equivalent essence) of a creature that is immune to fire (which may be found for an average of 50 silver pieces from a merchant). The caster may only have one instance of this ritual active at any given time.

Level 3

Purify Food and Drink

(So, of course BtW HAS this and just totally renamed it so I wouldn’t notice it. Replace this in the Water book with the Feast’s Blessing level 2 ritual and the Nepenthean Drink level 3 ritual.)

Wind Wall (Intelligence)

Range: Near
Duration: 1 day/level (Concentration after trigger)
Save: Yes

The mage walks a straight line, chanting and casting ritual materials upon the ground, preparing the site for defense. Once the ritual is complete, the caster has prepared a line (both ends of which must be within Near range of one another) to rise up upon her command. Upon uttering this command from within Near range of the line, a furious torrent of wind spews vertically from the ground along the length of the line and up to sixty feet in the air, for as long as the caster maintains concentration.

Anyone caught in the line or attempting to cross it must make a saving throw to fling themselves through without being caught in the wind. Those that fail are flung high into the air, likely taking damage from falling back on the side from which they started (medium-sized creatures are flung around 30 feet into the air, and comparatively lighter or heavier creatures may be flung more or less distance).

Flying creatures of smaller than medium-sized and projectiles lighter than from a siege engine are automatically deflected harmlessly when attempting to pass through the wall, and gasses or gaseous creatures cannot pass through. Boulders and similar siege projectiles may pass through, but are likely to have reduced accuracy.

The ritual materials include various easily-found objects ground into powder, but they must be mixed with the physical remains of creatures or items strongly tied to elemental air (which may be found for an average of 100 sp from a merchant).

Level 4

Enhance Ability

(I forgot that BtW still had the individual ability-boosters as rituals, which 5e had combined into Enhance Ability. Replace this in the Earth book with the Heart of the Ox level 4 ritual.)

Flaming Sphere (Wisdom)

Range: Near
Duration: 1 hour/level
Save: Yes

Through long casting and chants, the mage uses this ritual to create a small but stable hole deep into a realm of elemental fire, resulting in a self-renewing bonfire as heat and flame erupt forth in all directions. As part of her own movement, the caster may mentally direct this hole (and thus the flaming sphere) to move at up to walking pace, but the ritual ends if the mage exceeds Near range to the effect, and it must remain within five feet of the ground (and ends instantly if directed to try to cross water that it cannot boil away).

The sphere easily ignites touched or nearby flammable objects as if a five-foot diameter bonfire had rolled over them, and is otherwise treated as a hot bonfire (e.g., for cooking). If the fire is directed onto a target, that individual may make a saving throw to dodge out of the way and takes 2d6 fire damage on a failure. Any creature that ends a turn touching the flame similarly takes 2d6 fire damage.

This ritual is surprisingly easy to cast, requiring only a ritual space and a very hot bonfire made of normal materials to “prime” the connection to the plane of fire.

Water Breathing (Wisdom)

Range: Touch
Duration: 1 hour/level
Save: No

Blessing each of her companions in turn, the mage imbues them with the ability to breathe water as easily as air. The caster may affect all of her companions, including herself, that she can touch upon completing the ritual (up to a dozen individuals). Each affected character may breathe water for the duration of the ritual.

In the casting of the ritual, the mage must sacrifice a healthy wild animal for each target to be affected by drowning it in the body of water that is to be breathed.

Level 5

Heat Metal (Intelligence)

Range: Touch
Duration: Instant
Save: No

Upon completing this ritual, the mage touches an object made of metal. This object and any attached metal objects (up to a ton of contiguous metal) instantly heats to the temperature needed to forge steel (over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit). Most metals bend easily at this temperature, though it may not be safe to get close to a sufficiently large volume of metal (such as a gate or door).

Any creature in contact or extremely close proximity with the metal takes fire damage at the end of each of its turns based on the degree of exposure (1d6 for a single hand, arm, or leg, up to 4d6 if encased in heated plate armor). There is no saving throw to avoid the damage, though it may require an attack roll to touch a mobile target (in addition to the target waiting for the casting of the ritual), and depending on the type of exposure the target may be allowed an ability check to escape the metal quickly. Constructs made of metal may not take damage from the effect, depending on their normal reaction to fire, but will certainly lose all armor class gained from rigid skin until they cool off.

This ritual requires the caster to undergo an ordeal of burning for the duration of the casting, taking 1d6 fire damage per hour of the casting.