How to play 5e D&D using GP = XP rules

I’ve written before about how you can kind of use the old-school “1 GP = 1 XP” rules in D&D 5e. It works, if you squint.

I just wrapped up running a treasure-hunting campaign, where each gold piece of treasure gives the party 1 XP, and it turns out “it works if you squint” isn’t quite good enough for actual play. Also true about actual play: the more frequently you use a house rule, the simpler it gets. Here is the tautologically simple final version of my GP=XP rules.

Each monster’s “XP value” is actually its treasure value in GP

Turns out that trivial use of the symmetric property is all you need to preserve all of 5e’s baseline leveling assumptions, while giving characters approximately the expected amount of coin.

Here’s a fun advantage of this rule: each monster now has its treasure spelled out in the Monster Manual instead of in the DMG – for coins, anyway. I still flip through the DMG to roll magical treasure.

This system has another advantage over the stock treasure rules: coin hoards are now more finely graduated by Challenge Rating. In the standard 5e rules, every encounter from CR 0 to 4 has a treasure hoard of about the same value, around 400 GP; every encounter from CR 5 to 10 is worth about 4000 GP; etc. In my system, each 1/8-CR bandit has 25 gold, the bandit captain has 450 GP, etc.

There is a disadvantage, at least in theory: no variance. Every CR 1 monster has exactly 200 GP? Weird! At the beginning of my GP=XP experiment, I wrote up the following chart to randomize samey treasure. The chart was simple enough that I could memorize it.

Randomizing treasure: roll d6
1: No treasure
2: 1/2 normal treasure
3-4: Normal treasure
5: 1.5x times normal treasure
6: 2x normal treasure
Note: For unintelligent creatures, you could roll on this chart twice and take the lowest, and for greedy creatures like dragons, roll twice and take the highest.

You know what? In practice, I never needed this chart. I wrote it to solve a theoretical situation: “what if the players repeatedly fight encounters with the same XP total” – and that situation just never came up.

Does this rule match 5e’s implicit “wealth by level” assumptions? Pretty much yes, actually, except it’s a little stingier at high levels. But who cares, because there’s virtually nothing for sale to high-level characters anyway! But if you want to use these rules AND you’re playing at level 17 and above AND you think legendary magic items should be for sale, adjust their price so that they start at 20,000 GP instead of 50,000 GP. Everything else seems to work fine.

2 Responses to “How to play 5e D&D using GP = XP rules”

  1. Gieljan says:

    Elegant solution! Our home campaigns never reach high level anyway, so the variation issue never pops up. Another possible solution: randomise XP=treasure by +-5%. Minigame: let the players roll that number at the end of the session. Same idea as letting them roll on the gem/treasure chart, I find that gets them sit up and pay attention way more than when I dole out preprepped loot or when I roll on the chart myself.

    Question: do you keep the value of usable items out of the XP-calculation? Or do you present the players with the choice to either use the magic shield, or trade it in for XP?

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