Category: 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons

Lifestyle Costs & Skill Use


5th edition simplifies player expenses, so that games don’t become exercises in accounting.  Chapter 5 of the PHB gives the daily cost for the various lifestyles (wretched, squalid, poor, modest, comfortable, wealthy, and aristocratic) and explains each lifestyle on pages 157 & 158.  The following system would allow players to ply a trade in order to live at a given lifestyle at no cost… but with no chance of monetary gain either.  I’d use this in place of Running a Business (DMG 129) to keep things relatively simple.

Lifestyle Proficiency Check:  I’d allow players to use proficiencies to make a living over the course of one month in place of charging lifestyle expenses.  Characters would have to spend the majority of their day (8-12 hours) engaged in skill or tool use to make a living off of it.  The base DC to achieve the listed lifestyle at no cost would be:

  • Wretched:  N/A.  This is scraping the bottom of the barrel.  PCs would never fall to this level without some major setback (see Carousing below).
  • Squalid:  0
  • Poor: 5
  • Modest: 10
  • Comfortable:  20
  • Wealthy: 25
  • Aristocratic: 30

Limits based on the wealth of the local population should apply.  For example, a character performing at a grimy tavern in the seedy section of town should be limited to modest lifestyle… even if his weekly performance roll indicates that he has earned a better lifestyle.

Here’s a breakdown of how each skill or tool proficiency could be used to earn a living, including notes on the lifestyle proficiency check roll:


  • Athletics:  Performing feats of strength (i.e. acting as a porter, wrestling in a fighting pit).  Roll at disadvantage because this represents the lowest form of labor.


  • Acrobatics:  Performing as an acrobat or juggler.
  • Sleight of Hand:  Picking pockets, stealing small objects, and confidence games.
  • Stealth:  Spying and scouting for guilds, military units, or other patrons would also require successful perception, investigation, and/or insight rolls.


  • Arcana, History, Investigation, Nature, and Religion:  The character could hire out as a sage or act as a consultant/researcher for a patron or group (i.e a guild or church).  Investigation could also be used by constables, reeves, church inquisitors, etc to perform their duties. Roll at disadvantage as plenty of apprentices would perform such services for free.  Roll normally if the employment has inherent risks to health or well-being.


  • Animal Handling:  Farmhand, animal trainer, mounted courier, or mounted mercenary. Roll at disadvantage unless the employment involves risks that allow for greater compensation.
  • Insight:  Fortune teller, con artist, local magistrate, judge, or adviser.
  • Medicine:  Veterinarian, goodwife, barber, apothecary, or physician.
  • Perception:  This would usually be used in conjunction with stealth to spy on others.  It could also be used for town watchmen or those who need to be observant (i.e. sailor in the crow’s nest or scout). Roll at disadvantage unless the employment brings the character into harm’s way.
  • Survival:  Frontiersmen, surveyors, guides, trackers.  Roll at disadvantage due to the nature and location of the employment.


  • Deception: Fortune teller, con artist, charlatan, or beggar.  Beggars would roll at disadvantage while con artists and charlatans would not due to the higher stakes and risks involved with those endeavors.
  • Intimidation:  Gang enforcer, crooked constable, threatening beggar, highwayman.
  • Performance: Poet, actor, lay minister, musician.
  • Persuasion: Town crier, politician, adviser, orator, or lawyer.

Tools & Kits
Most tool or kit proficiency checks require the tools, supplies, and a space in which to work.  Assuming that these are available, the check is made with no modifier.

Gaming set
All gaming set proficiency checks are made with no modifier unless cheating is involved.  With a successful Sleight of Hands roll the gaming set proficiency check may be made with advantage.   A character caught cheating  will find that his fortunes change rather quickly.

Musical instrument
All instrument proficiency checks may be combined with performance checks or could be made to tutor pupils in the use of those instruments.


Characters who wish to carouse (DMG 128) live at one lifestyle rank lower than that indicated by their lifestyle skill check to account for the added expenses incurred by their wanton ways.



My absolute favorite aspect of the Pendragon rules is its use of traits and passions to flesh out characters, define their motivations, and, at times, compel them to take actions that are in keeping with those traits and passion.

With WotC’s Unearthed Arcana with variant alignment system in mind, I thought I’d see if I could effectively shoehorn my favorite bit from Pendragon into my new favorite RPG.



Roll 3d6 to determine each of the 13 traits listed in the left-hand column below.  These traits are also called virtues.

Add any cultural and racial modifiers to the relevant traits, to a maximum of 20 and minimum of 1. No starting trait may exceed 20, even after initial modifiers.  If no virtues are notable (14 or higher), you may raise one virtue of your choice to 14.

  • Values of 8-13 indicate no strong leanings with regards to that trait.
  • Values of 7 or lower show that you exhibit the vice listed in the column to the immediate right of the listed trait.
  • Values of 14 or higher show that you are virtuous, and strongly exhibit the virtue listed in the far right column.
Traits 7 or lower 14 or higher
Chastity Lustful Chaste
Constancy Arbitrary Just
Diligence Slothful Energetic
Generosity Selfish Generous
Honesty Deceitful Honest
Magnanimity Vengeful Forgiving
Mercy Cruel Merciful
Modesty Proud Modest
Piety Worldly Pious
Prudence Reckless Prudent
Temperance Indulgent Temperate
Trust Suspicious Trusting
Valor Cowardly Valorous


These should be left to individual DMs and be heavily dependent on the campaign world and tone that they are aiming for.  I’ve provided some quick examples that I’d use in my classic Greyhawk campaign.

Dwarf, Mountain or Hill:  +2 to Constancy, Diligence, and Valor/-2 to Generosity, Magnanimity, and Trust

Elf, High, Grey, or Valley: +2 to Diligence, Mercy, and Temperance/-2 to Constancy, Modesty, and Trust

Elf, Wood or Wild:  +2 to Diligence, Mercy, and Valor/-2 to Constancy, Magnanimity, and Trust*

* Wild elves suffer a -4 penalty to Trust

Gnomes, Deep:  +2 to Constancy, Diligence, and Prudence/-2 to Generosity,  Magnanimity, and Trust

Gnomes, Surface:  +2 to Mercy and Prudence/-2 to Magnanimity and Temperance

Halflings, All:  +2 to Generosity, Magnanimity, and Mercy/-2 to Diligence, Temperance, and Valor

Half-Orc:  +2 to Diligence and Valor/-2 to Magnanimity, Mercy, and Trust

Humans: While cultural modifiers could be used, I’d simply allow humans to add 2 to up to three traits and subtract 3 from an equal number of traits.



When making a trait  test (which will be explained in an upcoming post) to resist giving into a particular trait’s, the trait score assigns a modifier which works just like ability score modifiers.

Score             Modifier

1                       -5

2-3                    -4

4-5                    -3

6-7                   -2

8-9                   -1

10-11                +0

12-13                 +1

14-15                 +2

16-17                +3

18-19                +4

20-21                +5

22-23                +6

24-25                +7

26-27                +8

28-29                +9

30                    +10


Law/Chaos Axis


Lawful:  Trait modifiers for these traits total +8 or more.

Neutral:  Trait modifiers for these traits total -7 through +7.

Chaotic:  Traits modifiers total -8 or less.

Good/Evil Axis


Good:  Trait modifiers for these traits total +18 or more.

Neutral: Trait modifiers for these traits total -17 through +17.

Evil:  Traits modifiers total -18 or less.

dragon with hoard

Coin Sizes in D&D

I saw this post by a poster named 77IM on ENWorld and thought I’d repost it here because it’s the kind of thing I like to consider in my games:

Do you wonder what size coins are? I sure do! Keeps me up at night.

So let’s math this out a bit.

50 coins weigh 1 lb. so that means 1 coin is 0.32 oz., or 9 g if we are being metric, which we are, because that is how Wikipedia lists coin weights. So, looking to see if any US coins weigh 9 g, it looks like the closest is the dollar coin, at 8.1 g.

The dollar coin is comprised primarily of copper, so BAM, that’s about how big a copper coin is. Actually it will be slightly bigger, about 12% bigger by volume, which is pretty negligible. For those of you unfamiliar with the dollar coin, it is is about an inch across (26.5 mm) and 2 mm thick, so it’s not that much bigger than a quarter.

Now let’s look up metal density. Copper is about 9 g/cm^3, and silver is 10.5 g/cm^3, so pretty close. This means a silver coin is slightly smaller than a copper coin. Since the copper coin is slightly bigger than the dollar coin, this means that the silver coin will be about the size of a dollar coin, or maybe a bit smaller. I’m to lazy to bust out pi*r^2 and figure out exact sizes for these coins so I’m satisfied saying “both silver and copper coins are about the size of a US dollar coin.”

Also, this assumes the metal is pure, and it’s usually not. Silver usually has some copper in it, and copper coins (in the US) often have substantial nickel in them, and once you start putting zinc in there things lighten up considerably. So all these sizes are going to be approximate anyway.

Looking at the density of gold (19.3) and platinum (21.5) it looks like they are pretty similar and both nearly double the density of copper and silver! Well that’s handy. It means that gold and platinum coins should be half the volume of the copper/silver coins.

Since most US coins are copper, a gold or platinum coin of the same dimensions would weigh twice as much. So to get the dimensions of a 9 g coin (50 coins weigh 1 lb. in D&D), we need to find a 4.5 g coin. Crawling around Wikipedia, it looks like the closest is the familar US nickel coin, at 5 g. That’s actually OK, because our D&D fantasy coins are probably not pure gold or platinum, which means they will be less dense and therefore slightly larger than a pure coin.

So there you have it:
A copper or silver piece is about the size of a US dollar coin (or a UK 20p piece).
A gold or platinum piece is about the size of a US nickel (or a UK 10p piece).

I’d add that electrum pieces would roughly be the size of a US quarter.


Tool Proficiencies in 5th Edition

According to the DMG (239) the proficiency bonus for tool proficiencies don’t apply when making ability checks to ascertain the quality, or to discern the origin, of a crafted items, since these checks do not require tool use.

I strongly disagree with this because no one should be more qualified to appraise and examine an item or structure than someone skilled in its creation.

In the PHB, tool proficiency affords the following:

A tool helps you to do something you couldn’t otherwise do, such as craft or repair an item, forge a document, or pick a lock. Your race, class, background, or feats give you proficiency with certain tools. Proficiency with a tool allows you to add your proficiency bonus to any ability check you make using that tool. Tool use is not tied to a single ability, since  proficiency with a tool represents broader knowledge o f its use. For example, the DM might ask you to make a Dexterity check to carve a fine detail with your woodcarver’s tools, or a Strength check to make something out o f particularly hard wood.

I’d expand this slightly, by allowing tool proficiency bonuses on both investigation and appraisal checks made to examine items that would be made with those tools.  If the character is proficient in the investigation skill, he does not gain any additional bonus (as he already has a proficiency bonus to such checks).

Furthermore I’d allow characters with a tool proficiency to more capably run a business related to that craft.  In the DMG, on page 129, there is a chart that determines how successful a character is in the running of a business enterprise.  I’d allow characters with a tool proficiency bonus to multiply that bonus by 5 and add it to the percentile die result.  I wouldn’t add any ability score modifier to this bonus because, when running a business, various ability scores would come into play (CHA to deal with suppliers, debtors, and customers, INT to balance the books and deal with the minutia of running a business, WIS to know how to deal with the unexpected, to apply common-sense when tackling problems, and to have the strength of will to weather rough patches, STR and/DEX to work at creating goods for sale, etc.)

Fixing the Medicine Skill, Healer’s Kit, and Healer Feat (D&D 5th Edition) – Updated on 5/29

Reading the PHB, it’s pretty clear that the Medicine skill does nothing to aid in the treatment of wounds, ailments, or diseases.  As written, it only allows for stabilizing dying creatures and for diagnosing illnesses.

Here are my slight changes to Medicine (and associated changes to the healer’s kit and Healer feat):


Medicine.  A Wisdom (Medicine) check lets you try to stabilize a dying companion, evaluate others wounds, diagnose illnesses, treat poisoned or diseased creatures, and examine corpses in order determine the cause of death.

With a successful Wisdom (Medicine) check you can stabilize a dying character at 0 hit points.

Medicine may also be used to provide long-term care to poisoned or diseased creatures.  When a poisoned or diseased creature is cared for by someone proficient in the Medicine skill, they make their recuperation saving throws (see Downtime: Recuperating on page 187 of the Player’s Handbook) with advantage.


Healer’s Kit.  This kit is a leather pouch containing bandages, salves, and splints. The kit has ten uses. As an action, you can expend one use of the kit to stabilize a creature that has 0 hit points, without needing to make a Wisdom (Medicine) check.

If you expend one use of a healer’s kit to treat a poisoned or diseased creature, they make their recuperation saving throw (see Downtime: Recuperating on page 187 of the Player’s Handbook) with advantage.


Healer.  You are an able physician, allowing you to mend wounds quickly and get your allies back in the fight. You gain the following benefits:

  • You have advantage on all Wisdom (Medicine) checks.
  • When you use a healer’s kit to stabilize a dying creature, that creature also regains 1d6+4 hit points.
  • As an action, you can spend one use of a healer’s kit to tend to a creature and restore 1d6 + 4 hit points to it, plus additional hit points equal to the creature’s maximum number of Hit Dice. The creature can’t regain hit points from this feat again until it finishes a short or long rest.


Recuperating.  You can use downtime between adventures to recover from a debilitating injury, disease, or poison.  After three days of downtime spent recuperating, you can make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw.  If you are treated by someone proficient in the Medicine skills, you have advantage on this saving throw.  On a successful save, you can choose one of the following results:

  • End one effect on you that prevents you from regaining hit points.
  • For the next 24 hours, gain advantage on saving throws against one disease or poison currently affecting you.

Vision & Light (D&D 5th Edition Houserule)

Here’s my slightly tweaked take on lighting conditions in 5th edition.  This houserule reduces the effects of less-than-optimal lighting, having darkness penalties apply only in pitch black conditions.



The most fundamental tasks of adventuring – noticing danger, finding hidden objects, hitting an enemy in combat, and targeting a spell, to name just a few – rely heavily on a character’s ability to see. Darkness and other effects that obscure vision can prove a significant hindrance.  A given area might be lightly or heavily obscured.

In a lightly obscured area, such as dim light, patchy fog, or moderate foliage, creatures have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.

A heavily obscured area – such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage – blocks vision entirely. A creature in a heavily obscured area effectively suffers from the blinded condition (see appendix A).

The presence or absence of light in an environment creates three categories of illumination: bright light, dim light, and darkness.

  • Bright light lets most creatures see normally. Even gloomy days provide bright light, as do torches, lanterns, fires, and other sources of illumination within a specific radius. The soft light of twilight and dawn also counts as bright light. A particularly brilliant full moon might bathe the land in bright light.
  • Dim light, also called deep shadow, creates a lightly obscured area. An area of dim light is usually a boundary between a source of bright light, such as a torch, and surrounding darkness. Characters face dim light outdoors on most moonlit nights or indoors when embers in a fireplace or moonlight through a window provide some light to see by.
  • Darkness, also called complete darkness or pitch-black, creates a heavily obscured area. Characters face darkness outdoors on a moonless night, within the confines of an unlit dungeon or a subterranean vault, or in an area of magical darkness.

Lingering Wounds for 5th Edition D&D

As much as I’m digging 5th edition, the ability to completely heal all damage with a long rest doesn’t sit well with me.  Here’s a simple method that allows for lingering wound effects without bogging down the game.  It has the added benefit of giving new options for recovering from exhaustion effects (which is especially useful for berserker barbarians using the frenzy ability).


This optional rule allows for lingering wounds while keeping hit point recovery as is. To keep things abstract and simple, creatures take 1 level of exhaustion when they suffer a critical hit (instead of suffering increased damage) or drop to 0 hp. To offset the exhaustion effects associated with wound levels, cure wounds and restoration spells would remove exhaustion effects in addition to their curative effects. Cure wounds removes one level of exhaustion. Lesser restoration now removes up to two levels of exhaustion and greater restoration removes all levels of exhaustion.


Some special abilities and environmental hazards, such as starvation and the long-term effects of freezing or scorching temperatures, can lead to a special condition called exhaustion. Exhaustion is measured in six levels. An effect can give a creature one or more levels of exhaustion, as specified in the effect’s description.

Level 1: Disadvantage on ability checks

Level 2:   Speed halved

Level 3:  Disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws

Level 4:  Hit point maximum halved

Level 5:  Speed reduced to 0

Level 6: Death

If an already exhausted creature suffers another effect that causes exhaustion, its current level of exhaustion increases by the amount specified in the effect’s description. A creature suffers the effect of its current level of exhaustion as well as all lower levels. For example, a creature suffering level 2 exhaustion has its speed halved and has disadvantage on ability checks. An effect that removes exhaustion reduces its level as specified in the effect’s description, with all exhaustion effects ending if a creature’s exhaustion level is reduced below 1. Finishing a long rest reduces a creature’s exhaustion level by 1, provided that the creature has also ingested some food and drink.