As the Dungeon Master (DM), you have lots of decisions to make – I mean, literally millions – over the course of a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign. If you’re brand new to DMing, you also have to make a lot of decisions before the first dice is rolled. One such important decision relates to how your players set up their characters: should they have starting equipment or starting gold?
In this post, I’ll cover the basics of this decision, comparing starting equipment vs starting gold. I’ll share my personal preference as a DM, as well as general advice to help you choose if you’re a brand new DM – or mix it up if you’re a long-time player or DM.
As you’ll see – and as in all things D&D – there are pros and cons to both options, and there’s a middle ground. In the end, you’re the DM – you get to choose! Ready to learn about the differences between starting gold and starting equipment? Let’s dive in.
🎲 Make an Insight Check: This resource is written for DMs; if you’re a player curious about the differences between starting equipment vs starting gold, just read this post imagining yourself as the DM.
Starting Equipment vs Starting Gold Explained
Let’s start out with a basic overview of your options for your players. Then I’ll dive into deeper detail about each and why you might want to choose them (or not).
Starting Equipment: This option gives your players a set of pre-determined items, such as weapons, armor, and gear, that they can use at the beginning of the game. The advantage of starting equipment is that players have everything they need to begin their journey without having to spend any money. However, the downside is that players may be limited in their choices and may not have the items they want.
Starting Gold: This option gives players a set amount of money at the beginning of the game, which they can use to purchase their own equipment. The advantage of starting gold is that players have more flexibility in choosing their gear, and can prioritize what they need most. However, the downside is that players may not have enough money to buy everything they want, and may need to make strategic choices.
Ultimately, the choice between starting equipment and starting gold depends on the specific game and the player’s playstyle. Some players may prefer the convenience of starting equipment, while others may enjoy the challenge of starting with limited resources and making strategic purchases with starting gold.
Pros & Cons of Starting Gold
Let’s start by looking at starting gold. There are certainly some good reasons to just give your players starting gold – least of which is the fun opportunity of roleplaying some shopping right off the bat!
Advantages of Starting Gold
Starting gold is another popular option for players to begin their adventure with a set amount of money that they can use to purchase their own equipment. Here are some advantages of starting gold:
- Customization: Starting gold allows players to purchase items tailored to their preferred playstyle and strategy. This can lead to a greater sense of ownership and investment in the character.
- Flexibility: Starting gold provides players with the flexibility to purchase items as they see fit, rather than being limited by a pre-determined set of items. This allows players to prioritize the items they need most and make strategic purchases.
- Creative Possibilities: Starting gold can spark creativity in players by encouraging them to think outside the box when choosing their equipment. This can lead to unique character concepts and gameplay experiences.
- Equal Opportunity: Starting gold ensures that all characters have equal access to equipment and resources, regardless of their race or class. This can make the game more fair and balanced.
- Better Preparation: Starting gold can also allow players to better prepare for upcoming challenges and adventures. By having the ability to purchase specific items, players can better equip themselves to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Overall, starting gold provides players with greater customization and flexibility, while also promoting creativity and equal opportunity. It can be a great option for players who want to tailor their character to their preferences and make strategic purchases.
Disadvantages of Starting Gold
While starting gold also has advantages, there are also some disadvantages to consider:
- Time-Consuming: Starting gold requires players to spend time researching and selecting their own equipment. This can be time-consuming and may slow down the start of the game.
- Unequal Distribution: Starting gold may not always be distributed equally between players, leading to imbalance in gameplay. This can be especially problematic if some characters have significantly more gold than others.
- Difficulties in Decision-Making: Starting gold can be overwhelming for new players or those unfamiliar with the game’s mechanics. The number of items and their associated costs can make it difficult for players to make informed decisions.
- Risk of Overpowered Characters: Starting gold can lead to characters being overpowered at the beginning of the game, especially if players choose to invest all their gold in expensive, powerful items. This can lead to unbalanced gameplay and detract from the overall experience.
- Incompatibility with Campaign Setting: Starting gold may not always align with the campaign setting or storyline. For example, a campaign set in a low-magic world may not allow certain powerful items to be purchased with starting gold.
So while starting gold provides players with greater customization and flexibility, it can also be time-consuming and lead to imbalances in gameplay. Players may also struggle with decision-making, and there is a risk of overpowered characters.
Pros & Cons of Starting Equipment
I’ll be honest: I usually default to starting equipment for my D&D players when I’m DMing. As you’ll see, it’s just easier for everyone, and there are usually so many loot opportunities in a campaign that I know they’ll earn the gold they need to make purchases of better equipment later. (Also, pre-made starter campaigns like the Lost Mines of Phandelver and Dragon of Icespire Peak have loot built-in.)
Advantages of Starting Equipment in D&D
In D&D, starting equipment is a popular option for players to begin their adventure with a pre-determined set of items. Here are some advantages of starting equipment:
- Convenience: Starting equipment saves players the time and effort of choosing and purchasing individual items. This is especially helpful for new players who may not be familiar with the game’s rules and mechanics.
- Balanced Gameplay: Starting equipment is often designed to provide a balanced gameplay experience. The items provided are typically appropriate for the character class and level, ensuring that players are not overpowered or underpowered at the beginning of the game.
- Roleplaying Opportunities: Starting equipment can provide roleplaying opportunities for players. The items included in the starting equipment can be used to create a backstory for the character and help players establish their role in the game world.
- Theme and Setting: Starting equipment can also help establish the theme and setting of the game. The items provided can reflect the culture and geography of the character’s homeland, as well as the nature of the adventure that lies ahead.
- Simplifies Character Creation: Starting equipment can simplify the character creation process, especially for new players. By providing a pre-determined set of items, players can focus on developing their character’s personality, backstory, and other aspects of the character’s identity.
Overall, starting equipment can be a convenient and balanced way for players to begin their adventure in D&D, while also providing opportunities for roleplaying and world-building.
Disadvantages of Starting Equimpent
While starting equipment has its advantages, there are also some disadvantages to consider:
- Lack of Choice: Starting equipment provides players with a pre-determined set of items, which may not align with their preferred playstyle or strategy. This can limit the player’s ability to tailor their character to their liking, leading to potential frustration.
- Limited Resources: The items provided in starting equipment may not be sufficient for the character’s needs or ambitions. This can force players to invest in additional gear or supplies, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
- Game Imbalance: Starting equipment can sometimes create an imbalance in gameplay, particularly if some character classes or races have access to more powerful items than others. This can make the game less enjoyable for players who feel their character is at a disadvantage.
- Lack of Creativity: Starting equipment can sometimes stifle players’ creativity when it comes to designing their characters. By providing a pre-determined set of items, players may feel less motivated to think outside the box and explore alternative equipment options.
- May Not Fit the Campaign: The starting equipment provided may not always align with the campaign setting or storyline. For example, a character’s starting equipment may be ill-suited for a specific type of adventure or quest.
In summary, while starting equipment (compared with starting gold) can be a convenient and balanced option for players, it can also limit player choice and creativity, and may not always be the best fit for the campaign or character. As with any game mechanic, it’s important for players and the dungeon master to weigh the pros and cons and choose the option that best fits their playstyle and goals.
Can Players Have Starting Gold AND Starting Equipment?
Absolutely, your D&D players to have both starting gold and starting equipment, depending on the rules set by you as the DM.
In some cases, you as the DM may want players to have both starting gold and equipment, which can provide even more options for customization and flexibility. For example, players could use their starting gold to purchase additional items or upgrade their starting equipment. This can also help to balance out any potential shortcomings of starting equipment or gold.
However, it’s important to note that the combination of starting gold and starting equipment could potentially create an imbalance in gameplay – this imbalance is the trickiest part of deciding starting equipment vs starting gold in the first place, and you need to give it some thought as a DM. (I’d like to think that by reading this, you’re giving it that thought!)
It’s up to you as the DM to ensure that the starting gear and gold provided to players are appropriate for the campaign setting and do not lead to overpowered characters or unequal distribution of resources. Ultimately, the choice of starting gold, starting equipment, or a combination of both should be made based on your preferences as a DM and the campaign you’re designing for your players.
Have any other questions about choosing starting gold vs starting equipment? Let me know in the comments below!