5e Starting Gold Guide

Posted by Andrew E. on

Table of Contents:

Plate Armor Costs How Much?

You’ve crafted pages of backstory, set each ability score and ability modifier, figured out your class features, and your character is ready to play, but wait, how much gold do you start with in dungeons and dragons 5th edition? How much is this armor, and do I have the money I need for these spell components? DD 5e starting wealth is simple compared to many other editions and systems but starting gold is still a common stumbling block for many players. Get your abacus and scales ready as we go through everything you need to know.

 

Pick Between Methods

One of the most common misconceptions I see during 5e character creation is that players think they get a random amount of starting gold and the equipment from their background and class for their character wealth, but in reality, it’s a choice. The official rules are that you get to choose between a random amount of starting gold or the starting gold and equipment from your background and class. The logic between picking either one is a bit finicky, so let us go through a rough guide of each method and how to pick one.

 

Random Starting Gold

When using this method, you’ll make a number of D4 rolls depending on your starting class to determine your initial wealth. You should make these rolls in front of your DM, and taking this method is typically riskier. You have a chance of rolling much more gold, but the average gold rolls will be about the same or less than you would just taking your basic starting equipment option.

If you choose this method, you can find your starting gold and each average dice roll on the following helpful chart:

Class

Starting GP

Barbarian

2d4 x 10gp (average 50 gp)

Bard

5d4 x 10gp (average 125 gp)

Cleric

5d4 x 10gp (average 125 gp)

Druid

2d4 x 10gp (average 50 gp)

Fighter

5d4 x 10gp (average 125 gp)

Monk

5d4 gp (average 13 gp)

Paladin

5d4 x 10gp (average 125 gp)

Ranger

5d4 x 10gp (average 125 gp)

Rogue

4d4 x 10gp (average 100 gp)

Sorcerer

3d4 x 10gp (average 75 gp)

Warlock

4d4 x 10gp (average 100 gp)

Wizard

4d4 x 10gp (average 100 gp)

 

Hey What About Artificers?

Because the artificer class was added after this chart was introduced, we don’t know how much an artificer should start with using this method. I’ve yet to find any official errata or statement concerning it, but it seems that most DMs agree that the artificer is most similar to a Wizard and should probably get about the same amount of starting gold. So if you use this method and you’re playing an artificer talk with your DM about it, but a good likely compromise is 4d4 X 10gp.

 

Spending Gold Before Session 1

This method essentially generates you a pool of gold which you can use to buy all the gear your character will start with. Generally, this gives you access to everything with a gold price in the player's handbook, though your DM may decide certain things are unavailable. The most important things you'll need to make sure you get is your armor if your character will wear any, weapons (typically both a melee and ranged option is recommended), and some basic adventuring gear like rope, a backpack, or anything specific you think you might need for the setting. If you're a spellcaster, make sure you get a spellcasting focus (or spell component pouch), and it doesn't hurt to keep a gold piece or two left over, so you have some spending money once the game starts.

 

Standard Starting Equipment

The other method for determining what gold and equipment you start out with is very simple. When you create your character, your background and your class options both provide you with equipment and a pouch of gold, exactly what you get depends on what background and class you picked, and the class equipment usually has several options within it. Simply add together each gold piece and the stuff you got from your background with what you picked out from your class.

As a quick point of reference, here’s all the gold quantities you get from all (from core books anyway) the backgrounds on a handy alphabetical chart:

 

Background

Starting GP

Acolyte

15gp

Anthropologist (ToA)

10gp

Archeologist (ToA)

25gp

Charlatan (PHB)

15gp

City Watch / Investigator (SCAG)

10gp

Clan Crafter (SCAG)

5gp gem and 10gp

Cloistered Scholar (SCAG)

10gp

Courtier (SCAG)

5gp

Criminal / Spy

15gp

Entertainer (PHB)

15gp

Faction Agent (SCAG)

15gp

Far Traveler (SCAG)

10gp jewelry and 5gp

Folk Hero

10gp

Gladiator (PHB)

15gp

Guild Artisan/Merchant (PHB)

15gp

Haunted One (COS)

None

Hermit (PHB)

5gp

Inheritor (SCAG)

15gp

Knight (PHB)

25gp

Knight of the Order (SCAG)

10gp

Mercenary Veteran (SCAG)

10gp

Noble

25gp

Outlander (PHB)

10gp

Pirate (PHB)

10gp

Sage

10gp

Sailor (PHB)

10gp

Soldier

10gp

Urban Bounty Hunter (SCAG)

20gp

Urchin (PHB)

10gp

Uthgardt Tribe Member (SCAG)

10gp

Waterdhavian Noble (SCAG)

20gp

No surprise here that living it up as an aristocrat gets you the most starting gold with the noble 25gp. 

What If I’m Starting at a Higher Level?

Technically you get the same exact equipment if you're starting as a 1st level character or a campaign with characters starting at 20th level, but most DMs will throw you a bone and do gold by level. Tucked into the Dungeon Master’s Guide we can find a great little chart presenting the DM with options for higher level starting gold and equipment for characters above level 4. Keep in mind though that your Dungeon Master is under no obligation to use these, but these are good guidelines for what starting at higher levels looks like:

 

Character Level

Low Magic Campaign

Standard Campaign

High Magic Campaign

1st–4th

Normal starting equipment

Normal starting equipment

Normal starting equipment

5th–10th

500 gp plus 1d10 × 25 gp, normal starting equipment

500 gp plus 1d10 × 25 gp, normal starting equipment

500 gp plus 1d10 × 25 gp, one uncommon magic item, normal starting equipment

11th–16th

5,000 gp plus 1d10 × 250 gp, one uncommon magic item, normal starting equipment

5,000 gp plus 1d10 × 250 gp, two uncommon magic items, normal starting equipment

5,000 gp plus 1d10 × 250 gp, three uncommon magic items, one rare item, normal starting equipment

17th–20th

20,000 gp plus 1d10 × 250 gp, two uncommon magic items, normal starting equipment

20,000 gp plus 1d10 × 250 gp, two uncommon magic items, one rare item, normal starting equipment

20,000 gp plus 1d10 × 250 gp, three uncommon magic items, two rare items, one very rare item, normal starting equipment

 

As a weird side-note here, you can see on the chart that there's no way to start with a common magic item as it skips straight to uncommon magic items. Uncommon magical items are better obviously, but if there are common items you really want most DMs will let you substitute them in, and particularly nice ones might even let you get a more than one common magic item in exchange for the uncommon ones. It's also likely that you'll be limited to magic items from the players handbook or dungeon masters guide, rather than homebrew items or items from specific adventure paths.

 

Which Option is Better?

Assuming you have this choice, and your DM didn’t just tell you which to use, you have a decision to make. Do you take the starting gear as-is or do you risk a roll of the dice for the chance at some more gold to spend on starting gear? Just as the statistics pan out, you’re unlikely to “win” on these rolls and get more than you would just taking the starting gear as-is. There are however a few builds and combinations where it might be in your favor to roll.

 

Times to Roll for Starting Gold

Generally in fifth edition, rolling for your starting gold is a gamble that’s not mathematically wise, but there are a few exceptions and times where it’s in your best interest to roll for your gold.

Builds with Obscure Equipment

The starting equipment packages in dd 5th edition give you more gold pieces worth of stuff on average than rolling, but what if you want different or very specific stuff or have a weird equipment route planned? Your character design may include blowguns and darts, or maybe you have some cool ideas on how to use alchemist’s fires. Maybe you really want to cast a bunch of chromatic orbs and you just need all the diamonds you can get your hands on. Whatever the build, if it is using equipment not found in your class equipment package, you may need to roll for it instead.

 

You’re a Bard

For whatever reason, the bard class on average gets more gold when rolling than their starting package is worth, to the tune of usually about 25 gold pieces. Statistically, it’s better to roll for starting gold when playing a bard basically every time rather than taking their starting packages. This still has the potential to blow up in your face if you get a really bad roll, but mathematically you should come out on top.

 

Your Build Uses Cheaper Packages

The backgrounds simply give you a set number of specific items and gold, but the class packages usually give you options. Weapon A, or weapon B, armor set A or armor set B, that kind of thing. And while the most expensive options from among them might be better than rolling for gold, if you’re planning to take the cheaper items it might not be the best choice anymore.

For example, in the sorcerer’s starting equipment, you get your choice between a light crossbow and 20 bolts, or any simple weapon. A light crossbow and 20 bolts costs 26 gp, but if you weren’t planning on messing with crossbows and wanted a spear instead (which costs 1 gp), you’ve basically cost yourself 25 gp worth of value.

The starting equipment packages are balanced for the pricey maximum equipment options, not the cheap minimum equipment ones, and if all you want is the cheap equipment choices, you’re almost always better off rolling for gold rather than taking the package.

 

If Nothing Above Applies, Take the Starting Equipment

If none of the special cases we just went through applies to you, you’ll almost always get a better value out of the standard starting equipment then you would rolling for gold coins. Martial classes and particularly the paladin class should almost always take the equipment packages since they essentially need a perfect roll to beat the package value and an average roll will usually lose them considerable value. The background equipment and class equipment typically combine into a set of decent starting equipment no matter what you choose.

 

How Does Currency Work In 5e?

How much is a platinum piece? And my Dungeon Master handed out something called electrum coins, what the heck are those?

The DnD economy runs on coins, each coin regardless of it's metal weighs a "troy ounce", which is roughly a third of an ounce or 0.32 oz. Thus, no matter the denomination your coinage will weigh roughly 1 pound per 50 coins.

Most things are listed in gold pieces (abbreviated "gp") but there are a lot of coins in dungeons and dragons.

Just in case your DM hands you a bag of mixed change for loot and you need a gold calculator, here's a handy chart with all the exchange rates:

Coin

CP

SP

EP

GP

PP

Copper Piece (cp)

1

1/10

1/50

1/100

1/1,000

Silver Piece (sp)

10

1

1/5

1/10

1/100

Electrum Piece (ep)

50

5

1

1/2

1/20

Gold Piece (gp)

100

10

2

1

1/10

Platinum Piece (pp)

1,000

100

20

10

1

 

 

 

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