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?