High Cost of High Level Living

So my players are in the 7-9th level range and they keep hitting a problem.

They get back from an adventure flush with gold. But after spending a month+ identifying magic items, they are nearly out of cash thanks to monthly living expenses, hireling costs, and identification costs. Now it doesn’t help that all of the mains bar one are casters, so it’s not like they could leave them in town while they still adventured.

So what am I doing wrong, or is that normal? They are eager to start the domain game but don’t have the money to do so.

For the record I am pretty lenient with magic arms and armor, or protection items…after a week of sparring with the items they will learn their plus (though no additional abilities).

One thing that occurs to me: It was always my interpretation that the Cost of Living table including lines for PCs of a specific level was an average expectation, not an actual required cost. Possibly even including expenses like healing and identifying magic items, though I would have to run a lot of numbers to confirm that and it would be much easier to just ask Alex/wait for him to respond.

So it seems to me that they could simply spend less on living expenses if they want to save money; instead of living in the 100 gp/night inn, buy yourself a cottage and cheap out on food for the month.

Nothing is specifically stated for that, it’s true. However, I view that as needing to exemplify your status so other people treat you accordingly. If you live rough all the time, or even the lowest part of your range,I give reaction roll penalties and hiring penalties to prevent characters from misering all their money and living like commoners. Luckily my players accept the premise.

Another option would be to provide a discount to cost of living for living on one’s own (suitably fancy) property. Large cost up front, lower cost over the long haul.

I plan at some point to make a more explicit explanation of costs of living with prices for the domestic-and-sundry expenses of characters at each level of spending.

At low levels, cost of living is largely rent and food. At high levels, the greater part of the cost-of-living expense is assumed to be non-henchmen hirelings such as chamberlains, domestics, ladies-in-waiting, mercer, personal tailor, etc. - wealth is conspicuously consumed by having a large household. Imagine a merchant being carried around on a littler. So to the extent that your PCs are spending their wealth on hirelings you can count that against their cost of living.

Otherwise, without knowing the amount of money your party is spending on hirelings and the amount they are spending on identifying magic items, it’s hard to know for sure what’s going on.

In general, the more henchmen a character has, the more he is sharing treasure and so the less wealthy he will be relative to the number of adventurers he has been on. IF the adventure takes advantage of his plenitude of henchmen to tackle more dangerous (lucrative) adventures, then this will balance out, but if henchmen are used to “play it safe” then the character will be somewhat poorer. Less risk, less wealth.

Identifying magic items is a huge money-sink. Characters who pay to identify everything and never risk trial-and-error will have much less money. Characters who hang on to every magic item will also have much less money. Conversely, selling even a few miscellaneous magic items will fund a stronghold.

Hope that helps!

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Selling valuable magic items is pretty difficult though. Once you go over 10k you only have a 10% chance/month to sell them in a class one market. That could easily take a year of game time or more, and all the while you are paying out living costs. If you send a hireling to do it you are still paying out their wages, and if they do succeed there is no guarantee that they will make it back with the funds.

Humm…seems a bit unfair to let hireling cost go into the same pool as living expenses, or else the Bard with 7 hirelings and the thug with none are still paying the same living costs, but the bard gets something directly beneficial out of it.

Yes, some of the players have lots of henchmen and try to bring them on every adventure (which I have pointed out as being problematic to xp and gold earning, but nobody listens).

The characters can experiment with some items to figure out what they do, but how do you experiment with a wand or staff to figure out it’s command word? Equally I use some more obscure items from other versions of D&D that are, admittedly, pretty hard to figure out solely by experimentation. But yeah, identification and keeping items is a money sink. Though as my player points out below, it’s hard to sale big ticket items, even at a Size 1 market.

I also may have spread my markets out a bit much because I created the map purely on the borderland, not really thinking about the party wanting to head back into the Empire so just made some estimates of how many days away the bigger cities were. ON average, if a (large) kingdom had a size 1 market capital, how far away would the 2’s, 3’s and 4’s be from it? Maybe my travel time is off for that (though the problem still stands, it is still hard to sale an item even then).

As to answer your question, two players are 8 or 9th level and have 4+ henchmen each, with these being around 6th level. I only charge their living and hiring expenses once a month, and allow them to live low, normal, or high (setting a bottom, middle, and high end for their level range…guessing when the costs listed cover several levels). Last adventure there was something like 6-8 items to identify I think? They all spread the work out themselves instead of hiring someone, and one or two rolls were failed.

Anyway, thanks for the input Alex, as always!

Oh, another question, what constitutes ‘common’ magic items for purposes of magical engineering? I pretty much just treat it as the most plain of plain d&d items (+X gear, elven cloaks and boots, bags of holding, etc). Maybe I’m too harsh with that? Should it basically just be everything that isn’t unique/intelligent/disguised?

Humm...seems a bit unfair to let hireling cost go into the same pool as living expenses, or else the Bard with 7 hirelings and the thug with none are still paying the same living costs, but the bard gets something directly beneficial out of it.

If only non henchmen hirelings count towards living costs then there isn’t that much direct benefit. Having a butler and some guards at your home isn’t much use in a dungeon.

Splitting treasure equally before considering how many henchmen a PC has does cause a bit of a free rider problem though. Although I suppose more henchmen contributes to the whole party’s chances, and you do need to pay their wages out of your share.

Some guards at your home may not be much of a direct benefit, but a troop of mercenaries accompanying you on an overland trek and helping fight off wilderness encounters or sacking and looting cities under your command is another matter entirely.

True, Alex’s examples were all quite domestic though. If mercenaries/men at arms are included in living costs would garrison expenses be included in them at higher levels?

Yeah, that’s the rub. If Alex just means mundane employees and not ‘hirelings’ in the dungeon adventure sense, than sure, that’s kind of what I expected. I imagine the group has butlers, valets, sculary maids, cooks, etc.

But if he meant to include the dungeon exploring hirelings as well… that is what I was disagreeing with.

Yeah, I was just referring to nDervish’s comment about mercenaries. They don’t go into dungeons but can provide more of a tangible benefit then maids and butlers.

…and I was just referring to your comment about household guards, which are just mercenaries who stay at home instead of trekking through the wilderness with you. :smiley:

Ahh! too many nested replies!

It is left to your discretion because only the Judge knows what’s common in his setting. My implied default is that a common magical item is anything that isn’t unique, intelligent, or disguised.

Remember that Magical Engineering won’t reveal command words, charges, or exact bonuses. So very often the process is:

  1. Identify approximate nature of item. “It’s a wand of detecting traps.”
  2. Decide if it’s worth identifying for use. “Anybody want that?” “Nah…”

This discussion is why I felt that I needed to define further what cost of living expense entails!

Cost of living expense is similar to domain garrison expense in that it’s a minimum you need to spend in order to avoid being penalized. I don’t want to overcomplicate it, but if your players are grumbling…

It will generically include:

  • Cost of food and drink
  • Cost of housing
  • Cost of routine clothing
  • Cost of routine entertainment and gifts

The following in-game expenses can be applied against living expenses to a maximum of 50% of expense:

  • Cost of renting a specific in-game location
  • Cost of any number of artists, craftsmen, laborers, performers, or professionals, employed for personal and household use
  • Cost of animal trainers employed for dogs and horses
  • Cost of maintaining slaves for personal and household use
  • Cost of stabling or feed for 1 warhorse per level of experience, for personal and household use
  • Cost of stabling or feed for up to 6 hunting dogs per level of experience, for personal and household use

The following in-game expenses cannot be counted as living expenses:

  • Cost of weapons and armor
  • Cost of adventuring gear
  • Cost of magic items, identification, and spells cast
  • Cost of mercenaries and ruffians
  • Cost of henchmen
  • Cost of excessive spending applied as reserve xp

A 5th level patrician has a living expense of 450gp. He might spend it as follows:
Food, drink, entertainment, rent - 235gp
Maintaining a pleasure slave - 12gp
Maintaining 4 household slaves - 3gp each, 12gp total
Wages of a Kennel master (animal trainer - dog) - 25gp
Wages of a Stable master (animal trainer - horse) - 25gp
Wages of a Personal healer (healer rank 1) - 25gp
Wages of a Personal tailor (master craftsman) - 40gp
Stabling & feed for warhorse - 30gp
Stabling & feed for 6 hunting dogs - 6gp
Patron of a poet (master performer) - 40gp

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"The following in-game expenses can be applied against living expenses to a maximum of 50% of expense:

  • Cost of renting a specific in-game location"

If you own the location you live, could you apply the hypothetical cost of renting it?

ALEX: No. But if you’re mortgaging it you can deduct your monthly payments. :slight_smile: Did we just attempt to add Imputed Expenses to ACKS? LMAO. My Tax Law professors would be proud.

How about stronghold upkeep?

ALEX: The upkeep of a stronghold is part of domain management and doesn’t count as a living expense.

Related: How would you determine the cost of renting a stronghold?

ALEX: I typically use 1/33 of the price as a monthly rent although land price and land rent is an area I’m re-investigating.

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Mortgage interest payments are tithe deductible though, right?

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Are these 450 GP per month from the “Cost of Living” table at the beginning of the equipment chapter?