I'm about to end my current campaign of two years, which started at 4th level and they're now at 14th. The last module will be Bastion of Broken Souls. I've had some issues with 3rd edition and I'm looking for advice and suggestions on how to address said issues. So, I'm going to be sending these missives out to my players rather than bringing them up in-game because boy howdy would it chew up game time to discuss this in-game... So here goes...
3rd Edition essay #1
The Treasure Model
One of the things which have made running a 3.0 campaign difficult is figuring out how to hand out treasure. I've been falling back on the easy answer, which is, it's printed right there in the module, so I just give out what the module designers came up with and trust them to understand how the balance is supposed to work. However, this doesn't help with random encounters, or if I translate 1st or 2nd edition modules to 3rd edition. So, in an attempt to explain one of the problems I've been having with the game system, here's the evolution of the treasure model in my campaign history, which goes back 20 years:
1st edition: Cartloads of magic items are handed out. If a magic item is found that somebody needs, they get to use it until loot split is done, at which time they toss all the magic items not yet divvied up via loot split into a big pile, roll percentile dice, and go through the list, high roll gets first pick. They usually wait until there are enough magic items for everybody to get two or three, and, coincidentally, for there to be two or three items that each character would really like to have, so everybody usually ended up with something cool. Problems: Occasionally people ended up losing magic items they had gotten fond of. People would also end up feeling they couldn't ask for the cool magic items, but instead should pick the lesser ones they had been using all along (i.e., not take the +2 sword for their first pick, just because there's a +1 sword in the pile that he had been using up until that time). Some people felt that their characters did, in fact, own magic items they had been carrying for a while and resented tossing them onto the pile. Some people would take magic items they didn't need because there was nothing else left that they wanted or could use just so they could sell it and buy something they could use, which bruised some feelings.
2nd edition: Also cartloads of magic items are handed out. In this era, if somebody had an obvious need for a magic item, that character was just given the magic item. The ungiven magic items went into a pool. When the number of magic items was enough for loot split (as above), it was done (as above) without including the allocated magic items. Problems: Some people didn't get magic items. Some people didn't get +2 items because they already had +1 items, and somebody who hadn't gotten a +1 magic item yet would get the +2 item when they first began showing up.
3rd edition: Not so many magic items are handed out. More and more in 3rd edition I see the idea that every single aspect of your PC's makeup is deliberately chosen by the player; the random chance of whether or not you'll find a really cool sword is gone, because once you've got enough money, you just go to a big city and buy a really cool sword. Magic items are being allocated on a semi-permanent basis, rendered fully permanent if the PC happens to be in town where the item can be sold and the PC feels a sudden need for more cash. Problems: The party has been doing loot split long before there are enough magic items for everybody to get several. The campaign has had inconsistent attendance, so people who were around when certain cool items were acquired aren't necessarily around when they are allocated, and vice verse. Sometimes there's a single magic item in the pile that's worth more than the rest of the loot combined (a 50kgp dagger in a pile with about 10kgp worth of other stuff, for example). Some people didn't get much in the way of magic items. Some characters who got magic items would then get a full share of the monetary loot, and end up with much more treasure than other characters.
Unworkable solution #1
No more magic items. Just give out monetary treasure and let people buy whatever they want. Problems: Weight may be a factor (imagine getting that life-sized gold statue of Lolth pre-teleport...). People might not know what they want. People might not have access to a town where they can buy what they want. The game loses something if I don't give out magic items.
Unworkable solution #2
In any treasure hoard, no one item is to be worth more than an equal share of the hoard. So, if there are 7 PCs in the party at the time you do loot split, and you found a treasure hoard three weeks earlier that was worth 28kgp, there should be no item in the hoard worth more than 4kgp. This way, everybody gets a fair share, and there should be lots of magic items at higher levels. Problems: You will not find many magic items at lower levels, and by the time you start finding magic items, they'll be vastly underpowered for your current level (however, that will solve the weight issue--four +1 daggers in your backpack will weigh less than 8kgp). Both solutions #1
require a town where you can sell junk and buy stuff you want. I need to know how many PCs will be in on loot split when you decide to do loot split before I can figure out what a share of the loot will be before any given fight so I know how many, and how powerful, magic items to give the bad guys to use in the fight.
Unworkable solution #3
Don't change anything. If you want to do loot split when there are fewer magic items (that people want) in the pile than there are PCs present, it's not my problem. If you want to give somebody a magic item without knowing how much it's really worth, it's not my problem. Problems: As stated above in the description of the 3rd edition treasure model. Also, this solution works best if you have access to a place to buy and sell magic items.
So, any ideas? Suggestions? Solutions? Just want to point your finger and laugh?