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.
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.
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.