Part 2: Ceremonial Advancement

A shortfall of most D&D editions is the economy. That is not an opinion; it is a cold, hard, understandable truth. D&D wasn’t designed to be an economic simulation. It was designed to transport a player to a world of pure fantasy, where mythical creatures and Arcane magic beg to be discovered.

Dungeons and Dragons 5e is a wonderful system. It is streamlined and easy to learn. That’s said, a huge weakness of the system is the simplification of its economy to the point that there really is no economy. Treasure is given out in adventure time, and 99% of all economic activity happens in downtime.  It was designed this way so that PCs could concentrate on adventuring and not on day-to-day costs like food, drink, lodging, repair, magic items, etc… The problem becomes that with all needs met, there is little motivation to go out and collect treasure, and the loot collected just kind of sits there. Not anymore.

Welcome to the second installment of WTF do I do with all this gold?

The Ceremonial Advancement Rules:

The tier system built into 5e’s advancement nicely illustrates which levels are the most significant. Proficiency Bonuses increase on advancement to the 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels, so let’s make those work for our cause of reducing excess gold.

With Ceremonial Advancement, those levels cannot be obtained without a significant sacrifice on the player’s part and a deed in line with their class.

Let’s look at an example Ceremonial Advancement plan for String Burner, a College of Lore Bard that plays the lyre.

  • 5th level: Purchase or obtain Brass Mug with Jade inlay (250 GP). Go to the nearest tavern and slap the mug down on the bar. Tell the tavern keeper you wish to earn a mug of his finest ale for the price of a song. Put on an amazing performance requiring multiple skill checks to get the crowd involved. When everyone is duly impressed and the barkeep has filled the mug, quaff down the ale and present the mug to the tavern as a memento of the glorious evening.
  • 9th level: Purchase or obtain a Gold Music Box (2500 GP), that plays a solemn tune. Create iridescent face paint from two crushed emeralds, water and chalk (2000 GP). Paint yourself into a sad Pierrot and attend a funeral. During the ceremony, play the tune from the music box beautifully on your lyre. When finished present the music box to the grieving family.
  • 13th level: Purchase or obtain a Bejeweled Ivory Drinking Horn (7500 GP), and a Gold Cup set with Emeralds (7500 GP). Fill the horn with a rare and highly coveted wine (1000 GP). Bribe a court Noble for information on the next royal wedding and favorite song of the bride (2000 GP). Crash the wedding playing the song and wooing the attendees. Present the horn to the groom and a filled gold cup to the bride. Steal a kiss from the bride and escape in style.
  • 17th level: Seek out the finest lyre craftsmen in the land and commission four lyres of exceptional beauty and quality made from rare materials (8,000 GP). Purchase or obtain a collection of rare books on the subject of music (10,000 GP). Seek out four worthy young musicians and bring them to your college. Give the young musicians the lyres, present the college with the book collection and fund a scholarship for all four students for four years (17520 GP).

Keep in mind this is not a list of challenges that, I The DM, came up with by myself. The player sat down with me a mapped out his next ceremonial advancement a couple of levels before it came up. These were the things this PC found important and we structured advancement around those ideas. This is the best way to do integrate this rule; player input.

A major benefit of this system is when four players all have individual ceremonial advancement plans, those plans can be woven together to create adventures. Does the Bard need to crash the wedding? The whole group can help to get him in. Maybe the rogue steals an item he needs while getting the Bard into the castle.

It also makes the Art Object Tables in the DMG extremely useful. Now a treasure hoard with 3 art objects becomes a chance to replace meaningless treasure with needed items for advancement. If a treasure hoard calls for 25 PP, drop a needed Brass Mug for the Bard instead. Is the Barbarian going to need an ivory wolf statuette? Replace some gold with that.

So what are the numbers we use to make this system? Well we try to stick to 25%-35% of current cash reserves. If you are running premade adventures, you may want to consult the chart below.

LevelEstimated Cost of Advancement
5250 GP
94,700 GP
1319,000 GP
1743,000 GP

The numbers for that chart were derived from the excellent piece written by DMDavid. In his calculations (that used The Blog of Holding and Dream of the Lich House numbers averaged), the average party will roughly accumulate the following gold per level:

LevelBeginning Gold PartyBeginning Gold Individual Party of 4

In our experience, the numbers are very accurate considering the CR of monsters and hordes of treasure on the DMG. Remember though, you are the DM and can alter any of this as you see fit. If you have been careful with your treasure distribution, you may not even need this system. And if you have, why are you even reading this article? Up next in the WTF Do I Do with All This Gold? Series is the new system for handling chargeable magic items: Arcane Incense Rules. Look for it soon.



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