Gold vs. Starter Gear: The Best Equipment for 1st Level Characters in DnD 5e

You’ve just rolled for your hit points, and you’ve chosen your skills and proficiencies. Now it’s time to choose your starter gear!

If, like most players, you’re running through your class’s section of the Player’s Handbook in order, then you’ll see a set of very simple choices under the “Equipment” heading.

Would you like chain mail? Or would you like leather armor, a longbow, and 20 arrows?

Well, you’re playing a dex-based fighter, so of course you’ll take the leather armor, even though you don’t really want the longbow and you’d rather dual-wield a pair of hand crossbows as your ranged option.

Maybe you’ll be able to buy hand crossbows from a store once the campaign starts.

There is another way to select your gear! The Player’s Handbook provides a second way to choose which gear your character starts out with.

Instead of using the equipment listed for your class, you can roll for gold, and spend it during character creation on equipment from the Equipment chapter in the Player’s Handbook.

The amount of gold you can receive depends on your class, ranging from Monks’ humble 5d4 gp to the 5d4 x 10 gp that several other classes can receive.

Which Is Better – Gold or Starting Gear?

Each method of selecting gear has its benefits! If you’re new to the game or if you want to get playing as quickly as possible, it’s better to use your class’s starter gear. If you’re a bit more experienced or if you have a specific item-based build in mind then you might prefer to roll for gold.

Why You Should Use Starter Gear

Using your class’s starter gear is much quicker and easier – if you roll for gold, then you’ll probably want to look through all the possible items you can take.

You’ll spend time calculating how much all the items you’ve selected cost – you might even make a spreadsheet of your chosen gear.

Then you’ll see the “Mounts and Vehicles” section and start again from scratch, saving pennies wherever you can so you can start the game with a pet camel.

This can easily become the single most time-consuming part of character creation! For groups who want to create characters together in Session 0 and get the adventure going quickly, rolling for gold may stall the campaign’s start.

Newer players may find it easier to take the starter gear over gold.

It’s needlessly confusing to present new players with the full list of items that rolling for gold gives you access to. New players may overlook potentially important items like ration packs.

The lack of chance involved is also a big bonus for starter gear over gold. This is particularly true for monks, who only receive 5d4 gp and can quite easily roll low enough that their gear choices are seriously restricted.

The chance involved in rolling for gold can also be a problem for any classes that rely on expensive gear like heavy armor and martial weapons.

Unlikely as it might be, a strength-based fighter could potentially roll low enough that they’d be unable to afford a chain shirt and a longsword.

From a DM perspective, rolling for gold can become a headache. It can slow down character creation and force players to spend time too much time on decisions that won’t ultimately be very impactful.

It can also cause drama at your table. If one player rolled for gold privately and rolled close to the maximum that they could have received, then other players will probably suspect them, justly or unjustly, of cheating.

Allowing players to start with any items they like from the Player’s Handbook tables can also be scary as a DM.

If the players start with something large and expensive that you didn’t expect they’d have access to, it can throw your plans into disarray.

If your players start the game with a pair of draft horses and a carriage, that can completely change the dynamics of travel at lower levels.

Why You Should Use Gold

If you want fine control over what equipment you start with, then rolling for gold is a much better option.

Starter equipment provides choices that allow for some variation in character build.

For example, several classes can choose between light or heavy armor, but if you have a specific gear-focused build in mind, then rolling for gold may be the only way of realizing your vision in-game.

Depending on your group’s playstyle, some items that would ordinarily be vital may be useless.

For example, if you don’t track daily rations or if your campaign primarily takes place in a city where food can easily be purchased, then items like food rations may be worthless to you.

If you’re joining a campaign with a different focus to D&D’s normal purview, then a very different set of items might be valuable to you.

If you enjoy playing in an item-focused way, where there’s something in your pack for every eventuality, rolling for gold will usually allow you to pick up a vast array of miscellaneous junk that may be useful 10 sessions down the line.

You can buy a different holy symbol for every major deity in the setting, a stick of sealing wax, and an abacus – all “just in case” they come in handy.

Who Decides?

It can be a touchy subject – who gets to decide whether you’re using starter gear or rolling for gold?

Because starter gear appears in your class features, it’s often viewed as the default option and will generally be available to you as a player.

On page 143 of the Player’s Handbook, there is nothing to indicate that rolling for gold is an optional rule subject to DM veto.

The Player’s Handbook rules indicate that the choice between gold and starter gear is at the individual discretion of each player.

That said, the DM has broader veto power over everything in their game. If a DM doesn’t want you to have access to any character option, then so long as they state that up-front, they can ban it.

Because rolling for gold is viewed by most players and DMs as a deviation from the default, it’s more likely to be banned than many other character options.

Practically, this all means that DMs should ideally allow players the option to roll for gold unless there are specific reasons why doing so would negatively impact the campaign.

D&D’s designers didn’t think rolling for gold would give your players access to anything overpowered, so you should do your best to avoid restricting the players’ options unnecessarily.

On the other hand, if the DM does decide to ban you from rolling for gold, then you should respect that decision.

You might need to abandon build ideas that require specific items to work, although these plans would also often fall apart if you rolled too low when determining the amount of gold you have to spend anyway.

Useful knickknacks like hammers and crowbars may also be fairly easy to acquire after the game has started, so you’re unlikely to lose too much in long-term utility.

If your DM would prefer that you use starter gear but you have a specific build idea that requires items that you can’t get from your class’s starter gear options, you should tell your DM.

If the DM is excited about your character concept, they’ll often be willing to work with you to make it work.

How To Choose Your Items

If you choose to roll for gold, then you might initially be overwhelmed by the number of options available to you. Some guidance can be helpful for items that may be useful and items that may be necessary.

Essential Items

There are several items that are essential for almost all characters in almost all campaigns. When you’re choosing items, you should set aside enough gold for these.

Weapons

This includes an arcane focus, holy symbol, or a components’ pouch for casters. You won’t be much use to the party if you don’t have a way of making attacks or casting spells.

You can find the table of weapon options on page 149 of the Player’s Handbook. Various magical focuses are on page 150.

Armor

Armor isn’t essential for every character. Barbarians, monks, and high-dexterity characters may be able to do without. If your build relies on armor though, this is an absolute necessity. You can find these on page 145 of the PHB.

Clothing

Some groups are happy to treat armor as clothing that you never change out of. For most groups though, you need a set of clothes to wear.

These may be worn under your armor, and they’ll be necessary for friendly communication with NPCs whenever you’re not wearing armor.

Camping Supplies

If you’re planning on multi-day adventures away from civilization, you need food rations and a waterskin. Other items like a tinderbox and a bedroll are also a good idea.

If you really want to live in comfort, you may choose to take a mess kit and a tent. You’re unlikely to be mechanically punished for not sleeping in a tent though.

Light

Dungeons are dark. If you’re planning on dungeon-delving, you need some means of lighting your path. Most commonly that means torches, but lanterns and candles are also options.

A Backpack

Finally, you need somewhere to keep it all. That will usually be a backpack, but saddlebags are an option if you’re starting with a mount.

Useful Items

Most of the items available in the Player’s Handbook are useful at least in some niche way. Here are a few highlights though.

Rope

Rope is one of the most universally useful items in the game. Whether you’re scaling a cliff face, binding a prisoner, or constructing elaborate traps, rope is what you’re using.

If you take rope, other items like a grappling hook may compliment it well.

Hammer and Crowbar

The hammer and crowbar both have a wide range of potential uses. Whether you’re trying to open a jammed door or pry fist-sized jewels out of the palace décor, a crowbar is one of the most useful items in the game.

Hammers are also helpful for a range of less destructive tasks, like pitching a tent or repairing a cart.

Pitons

Pitons might not initially sound useful – they’re just a climbing tool, after all. They’re not just for climbing, though. Hammering pitons into a doorframe is an excellent way to barricade it.

Items With Combat Utility

Items like flasks of oil, caltrops, and ball bearings can all be spread on the floor during combat to create hazardous areas of the battlefield.

These items won’t be useful for every combat but, particularly for martial classes, they can add combat utility to your class.

Tool Sets

If you have proficiency with a set of tools, a musical instrument, or a gaming set, then character creation might be a good opportunity to acquire those things.

These tend to be specialist items that might not be sold in some towns or villages.

Roleplay Aids

Items like perfume, soap, and sealing wax might not sound useful if your campaign consists of a grubby bunch of misfits pillaging a tomb.

If you’re playing a more roleplay-focused campaign with politics and intrigue, then these niceties may help to ingratiate you with powerful NPCs.

Mounts and Vehicles

Mounts and vehicles are some of the most tempting options to buy in character creation. They’re also very expensive, so it’s best to decide you want one first before you buy anything else.

There are a few things you should be aware of though if you’re considering buying one of these game-changing items.

Because they’re potentially so game-changing, mounts and vehicles are the early items most likely to be vetoed by your DM.

Mounts also require food, assuming that your group tracks food. Mounts’ food is significantly heavier than food for the party, so if your party tracks carry weight, this may be an important consideration.

Starting Gold by Class

Which Classes Benefit Most and Least From Rolling Their Gold?

Rogue

Rogues tend to have a jack-of-all-trades playstyle and are aided massively by items.

They have a very strong selection of starter gear, potentially including some of the highest-utility items in the game, so rolling for gold may not be worth the effort.

Fighter and Paladin

Fighter and paladin both typically rely on martial weapons and heavy armor, which means both can be seriously hurt by rolling badly if they roll for gold.

As martial classes though, they benefit greatly from utility that can be added by items.

Barbarian

Barbarians receive relatively little gold compared to Fighter and Paladin because they don’t use armor.

This means they’re not risking anything by spending gold rather than using the starter gear, but they also don’t stand to gain much.

Ranger

Ranger is probably the class that gains the greatest benefit from rolling for gold. Rangers almost never use heavy armor but still gain 5d4 x 10 gp by choosing gold over starter gear.

This means they’ll usually end up with tons of extra gold to spend once all their necessary equipment is covered.

The Casters

That’s Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard.

These classes all have fairly underwhelming starter gear lists, which makes it tempting to roll for gold.

As casters though, all of these characters gain the bulk of their utility from spells – these often provide a direct upgrade over utility provided by items.

If you’re playing these characters, you may prefer to focus your time on choosing spells rather than choosing items.

Artificer

Artificer is a caster but a particularly item-focused one. Artificers have the most tool proficiencies and abilities that allow them to create magic items for party members.

Artificers get a strong selection of starter gear, but they’re so item-focused that they’re still missing some potentially important things, like additional tool sets.

Monk

It’s generally not a good idea to roll for gold if you’re playing a monk. Monks only receive 5d4 gp, which means there’s very little they can purchase.

The value of monk’s starter gear can be as high as 22.5 gp, depending on the options you choose, which is higher than even the maximum amount they could get by rolling.

Unless you have something very specific in mind, it’s better to use the starter gear for monk.

DM Tips

If you’re an experienced DM, you likely make your players roll their stats in front of the whole group. The same should apply to rolling for gold.

If a player rolls privately and rolls high, whether they do so legitimately or not, the other players are likely to suspect them of cheating.

This potential ill-will within the group is totally unnecessary – there’s no benefit in allowing players to make these rolls on their own.