D&D 5e: Average Treasure Hoards

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Page 133 of the 5e DMG suggests that a typical campaign* awards seven 0-4 hoards, eighteen 5-10 hoards, twelve 11-16 hoards, and eight 17+ hoards. I made a big spreadsheet and figured out what the average results of those tables look like, all added together:

CR Individual Award (per creature) Total GP Value of Cash, Gems, and Art Magic Item Table Rolls
0-4 5 gp 2,630 A x 6, B x 3, C x 2, F x 2
5-10 93 gp 81,797 A x 10, B x 9, C x 5, D x 1, F x 6, G x 2
11-16 947 gp 434,550 A x 4, B x 6, C x 9, D x 5, E x 1, F x 1, G x 2, H x 3, I x 1
17+ 8,470 gp 2,688,200 C x 4, D x 9, E x 6, G x 1, H x 2, I x 4


For reference, after all the hoards are awarded (and not counting the pocket change of individual awards) I got a total of 3,207,177.30 GP plus 104 items. The vast majority of the money comes from 17+ hoards, and there are only 46 items found in the first two sets of hoards (and most of it is from tables that primarily award potions and scrolls).

While I’m sure a lot of GMs enjoy rolling up loot at the table, I’m more methodical and also know that I will totally forget to give out sufficient** treasure if I don’t have a plan up front to award it.

For my games, I’m basically chopping this up into 8-13 packages per tier, making sure to give out at least one item in each package, and randomizing the distribution of the GP value a bit. Then, when I decide what each package makes sense for I split up the value into art, gems, and cash (e.g., a goblin hoard might be a ton of copper and silver, an elemental will be all gems, and humanoids with neat nonmagical gear will have that taken out of the budget as “art”). I’m also pre-rolling the items, so I also try to assign the containing package to an encounter that would make sense to have that particular item.

You could obviously also totally divorce the items from the value packages, and sometimes give out multiple items with little or no cash, and sometimes just nonmagical items of value.


* I assume this is for four PCs. Presumably you should raise the total by 25% for five, 50% for six, etc.

** Not that 5e really seems to care if you get anywhere close to the normal distribution.

D&D 5e: The 20 XP System

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The GM for one of the 5e games I’m playing got tired of doing all the math for standard XP tracking recently, and just switched us over to a milestone-based system (i.e., we’ll level up when it seems to make sense). One of the players opined that granular XP didn’t make much sense to him in the first place, in a level-based system where you weren’t allocating your XP to discretionary increases.

But my impression is that the main reason to track XP in D&D has generally been to incentivize optional objectives. In particular, “trash fights” feel worse if you realize you could have skipped them and you’d still level up as soon as you accomplished the main goal for the scenario. This is especially true if they don’t carry much monetary reward: if there’s no treasure and no XP, time spent on an incidental fight can feel wasted. Quests are similar: there’s a long history of awarding bonus XP for good-feelings quests without pecuniary remuneration.

Maybe that’s your jam: it’s not the worst thing in the world to train your players to try to use stealth, persuasion, and trickery to bypass fights. But if you’re disappointed, as a GM, when your players bypass a fight you prepared, it might be better to give some kind of reward. Similarly, doing good in the world might be its own reward, increasing reputation or eventually having karmic payoff, but actually telling the players to increment a number on the sheet immediately is a much more immediate way to train them to be heroic.

This system is just some quick spreadsheet work I did to try to reduce the granularity (and, thus, calculation and bookkeeping) of 5e XP awards as far as possible while still being more or less reflective of the standard XP curve. Basically, instead of leveling at an arbitrary point (usually based on finishing a chapter):

  • 20 XP must be earned between each level.
  • Fights of various difficulty award XP to each PC:
    • Easy: 1 XP
    • Medium: 2 XP
    • Hard: 3 XP
    • Deadly: 5 XP
  • A quest might also reward XP at a similar scale.
  • Optionally, at the level 5-10 tier, you might want to actually require 30 XP to level in order to stick to book standards (these levels have 50% more encounters required at the suggested XP ranges than other levels).
  • Optionally, at level 1-2, you might want to require only 13 XP to level (since those levels are so fast).

For example, a party that faces six Easy, three Medium, one Hard, and one Deadly encounters is ready to level up (1 x 6 + 2 x 3 + 3 x 1 + 5 x 1 = 20 XP).

D&D 5e Arcane Tradition: Shield Mage

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Particularly in lands that are superstitious, an excellent way to practice arcane magic openly is to become an indispensable aide to those in power. Rather than working from the shadows or the back lines, shield mages specialize in being right behind their leaders, supporting but never overshadowing. When wizards are firmly established as protectors, it is much harder to paint them as nefarious.

Colleges that teach this style of magic emphasize abjuration, conjuration, and transmutation: spells to protect and enhance others, quickly get to their side and take them where they need to go, and alter the battlefield in their favor. In wartime, they sit at the left hand of military officers, and, in peace, they are bodyguards to the nobility. As their powers grow, they may become weary of being mere servants, of course, but still have deeply ingrained training to prop up powerful allies in their endeavors. The very skills that make them such an asset to the powerful also make them extremely helpful to small adventuring bands.


Wizard Level Feature
2nd Combat Training, Bodyguard
6th At Your Back
10th Focused Concentration
14th Eye of the Storm

Combat Training

At second level, your early martial training finally catalyzes. You gain proficiency in your choice of either simple weapons, light armor, or shields.

Additionally, you learn the spell shield if you did not already know it. You always have this spell prepared, and it does not count against your total number of prepared spells.


Also starting at second level, you gain a profound ability to expand your conception of “self” to include your shieldmates when they are in danger. Any spell you can cast as a reaction that has a range of Self, you can cast at a range of Touch (and the reaction is triggered as easily by danger to your adjacent allies as it is to yourself). Essentially, you can cast spells like shield and absorb elements on adjacent allies, not just on yourself.

At Your Back

Starting at 6th level, you learn to synchronize your efforts with your protectee, moving as one unit. At the beginning of your turn, after effects have completed but before taking any actions, you can choose to delay your turn to the same initiative as an ally that you can see, acting immediately after their turn completes. If the ally is higher than you in the initiative order, you essentially do not act this round. Any effects that last until the end of your turn persist until you actually take your turn, but you must take at least one turn before you can delay again (i.e., you cannot continually delay to draw out a duration of an effect).

Additionally, you learn the spell misty step if you did not already know it. You always have this spell prepared, and it does not count against your total number of prepared spells.

Focused Concentration

Beginning at 10th level, your total focus upon your allies allows you to transcend the normal limits of maintained spells. When you are already maintaining concentration on a spell, you can cast a second spell that requires concentration and maintain both, as long as one or more of your allies benefits from both spells.

Additionally, you may add +1d4 to Constitution saving throws to maintain concentration for spells you are maintaining on your allies.

Eye of the Storm

At 14th level, you no longer need to fear your position on the front lines when using your most potent battle magic. When you cast any spell with an area of effect, you can choose to exclude your own space or a 10 foot area centered on the corner of your space from the effect. You essentially create a shield bubble of safety around yourself or around yourself and those nearby.

New Spells

Reflect Magic

4th-level abjuration

Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you may take when you are the target of a spell cast by an enemy you can see
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous

You attempt to cause a hostile spell to rebound upon its caster. The spell must target you specifically (singly or as one of multiple targets, but not as part of an area of effect). If the spell is of 3rd level or lower, the caster automatically replaces you as the target of the spell (use your spell save DC or make an attack with your own spell attack bonus). If it is a spell of 4th level or higher, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 12 + the spell’s level. On a success, the spell is reflected as if it was 3rd level or lower.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the automatically reflected spell level increases proportionately (to one less than the level of the slot).

Refuse Death

7th-level transmuation

Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you may take when you are about to suffer damage or an effect that would reduce you to 0 hit points or instantly incapacitate/kill you
Range: Self
Components: V
Duration: Until the beginning of your next turn

This spell allows you to sense your oncoming death and skip the impending moment. You essentially become briefly unstuck from time, rewinding your personal existence to the last place you were safe. You disappear from the world upon casting the spell, and return at the beginning of your next turn, having avoided the source of danger entirely. If the location from which you disappeared is still unsafe, you can appear anywhere within 60 feet of your last position, as long as you passed through that area recently (i.e., rewind to a previous safe place you stood).

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a slot of 9th level, you can appear within 300 feet of your last position if you passed through that area recently, and you can spend hit dice and recover uses of spells and abilities as if you’d just taken a short rest before you reappear.

New Feat: Staff Mastery

Shamelessly stolen from Revenant Blade, since quarterstaff needs the help more than double-sword.

You have worked hard on turning the staff from a simple length of wood into an excellent tool for both offense and defense.

  • Increase your Dexterity, Intelligence, or Strength score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • While wielding a staff or quarterstaff with two hands, you gain +1 AC. You can consider yourself wielding it with two hands even if you’ve cast a spell that required somatic or material components this round, as long as you do not have another weapon or shield in your off-hand.
  • A quarterstaff has the finesse property when you wield it.
  • When holding a quarterstaff with both hands, you may treat it as two light weapons that deal 1d4 damage each for the purposes of two-weapon fighting (or 1d6 damage if you’re proficient with martial weapons).