Magic Item Resource Management

I take a decidedly lazy approach to magic items in my monthly Dungeons and Dragons game.  I award the player characters gold, and let them buy what they like off screen.  The economics are standard; they can sell existing items at 20% value and they get the appropriate parcels of value for their level.

While there is something lost for the players since they are never pleasantly surprised when a sweet item comes their way.  On the other hand, they aren’t disappointed either.  They can simply get the item that best suits their character without the roundabout ritual of giving me a wish list.

A controversy arose during last session about the best way to manage the financial resources:  one player suggested that the group pool its money, in order to get higher level items quicker.  The other player wanted to divide up the gold evenly and let each player manage his character’s finances separately.  None of the other three players expressed preferences.  Since I had abdicated magic item control to the players, I very intentionally stayed out of it.

I wonder, is there an advantage to giving one character a high level item rather than a few characters something of lower level?  I have contrary intuitions:  on one hand, it seems that you should get powerful items as quickly as possible.  On the other, the economy seems designed to work out evenly.

Am I (or my players) missing something?

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6 Comments

Filed under 4e D&D, continuous improvement, Group dynamics, Play

6 responses to “Magic Item Resource Management

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Magic Item Resource Management « Continuing Clockwise -- Topsy.com

  2. Well, the standard guidelines assume that one PC will get a level+5 item each level, so the game should work fine that way. I don’t know if giving everyone equal gold works, but why not try it?

    • I’m sure it will work; the economics of the game are pretty tight that way.

      Another motivator for me is that I’d rather spend my pre-game set-up time prepping story and encounters, rather than fiddling with loot.

  3. I think as long as they stay within the guidelines of the DMG (as pdunwin suggested), I would stay out of it. Let the players parse out the gold as they see fit.

    I like giving magical items away. I try to get a feel for what the players want but don’t worry about it too much. I try to also give them opportunities to buy items, so with cash in hand (and a few magical items to trade), they can usually get what they want.

  4. Matt

    There’s no reason you can’t try a hybrid system of “random” magic items and blank checks. Give the characters their due material rewards, but hold back some so you can throw in something just plain awesome.

    Better yet, look for something useful to more than one character, especially if it’s not one of the big 4 (armor, weapons, implements, neck slots). You can throw in a tattoo kit with a design for an Escape Tattoo for your controllers and strikers, or Bracers of Mighty Striking for your defenders. Maybe you just give them an item “imbued with volatile energies” that eventually shapes itself into a magic item especially appropriate for that character, by which I mean you give the player an item for a certain slot and a level range (2-3, I’d say) for him to choose from.

  5. Mike V

    There’s nothing that says dividing the gold leads to players getting weaker magic items. In fact, by the time every character would have gotten a high level item by the one-at-a-time method, every single character will have enough gold to buy a high level item by the divide-the-gold method. The only risk is that the gold awards are badly tuned, and characters out-advance their paychecks. :)

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