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In a D&D game I play, the party has had a 200% character turnover rate due to character death at low levels. Spawning at higher levels provides the incoming players with gear appropriate to their level.

The problem arises due to deaths during an adventure. The adventure (a module) has pre-written "parcels" in it. When the player dies and a "you look trustworthy, care to join us" moment happens, the new character has better gear than the old character, simply by virtue of the way the parcel system works.

Exampli Gratia:

Tym, a third level warden has played for a number of sessions. In these sessions the party has received a fair bit of gear, but due to the way parcels work [Every character should have roughly one piece of new gear every level], he has gear effective to a second level warden. During the latest session he dies, taking his second-level appropriate gear with him, but the party completes the session, advancing to 4th level, and getting the treasure reward at the end of the session for victory. A 4th level Ardent joins them with gear appropriate to 4th level to replace the warden.

At high levels (I've noticed this problem in mid-paragon in a different game) the opposite is true. Long-standing characters have approximately 200% the character wealth in gear they should from hanging on to old treasure parcels.

How should permanent character death impact the distribution of treasure in treasure parcels?

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The treasure of the incoming vs. the outgoing should be roughly equivalent. Or is the real problem that the treasure of the outgoing character is being retained by the party? –  Pat Ludwig Nov 14 '10 at 7:39
    
The deaths tend to occur before treasure drops, or during those final fights. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 14 '10 at 7:42
    
But why does a new character get anything from that fight? Do they warp in during the middle of the fight and then get part of the drop? Or do you mean that the drop was calculated based on e.g. 6 PCs and now suddenly there's 5? –  mxyzplk Nov 14 '10 at 15:51
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added dnd4.0 tag because it's used on this site. –  gomad Nov 15 '10 at 0:28
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Sorry I can't help with this one. The Treasure parcel system is more trouble than it is worth to me. I drop a mix of random items and targeted items to characters that I know need a boost. If the whole party seems overgeared then I increase the randomness. This results in more items that get sold. The 80% tax on selling is brutal. ;) –  Pat Ludwig Nov 16 '10 at 21:14

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There is nothing in the core rules (PHB, DMG, DMG2, etc.) about this.

A level 3 warden should have, based on parcels, approximately three magic items, though maybe slightly less because of the way parcels give out one less magic item per level than there are characters (4 items for a 5-character party per level).

A level 3 warden starting new would have, based on the "Starting at Higher Level" rules in the DMG, three magic items (levels 2, 3, and 4). So far

At 4th level, a "parceled" character would have at least three magic items, possibly four. A 4th level "new" character would have three items.

So far, not much difference.

At 2nd level, a "parceled" character would have one or two magic items, but a "new" character would have three. A small advantage.

At 10th level, a "parceled" character would have as many as eight magic items, ranging from level 1 to 14. A "new" character would have a 9th, 10th, and 11th level magic item.

This is the disparity Brian is talking about.

However, there are only nine item slots and it's unlikely that a character will be able to fill every slot. Furthermore, low-level items are likely to be replaced by higher-level items in the same slots. The most useful magic will be weapon/implement, armor, and neck "primary slot" items. What this means is that characters will be selling off or trading away their low-level magic items.

Rule Suggestion

If you want to put new characters approximately at the same magic level of the parceled characters, take a general average of the number and level of the party's magic items and give the new character magic items accordingly.

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Your edit is about what I was looking for. The only quibble is that the parcel distribution tends to be a lot chunkier at low levels, depending on party composition, as there are fewer "items just for you" possible. Also, adventure timing (the thing we had last night) was items dropping that were worse than what we had, as they were intended as part of the normal upgrade cycle. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 15 '10 at 3:50

I see two options for this.

The first is to ignore it. Assume that if a PC died, the party was below the power level that was expected of them. The influx of loot will bring them back up to par.

The second is to go strictly by the book and give out loot exactly as detailed in the rewards section of the DMG (pg 132 I believe). New characters would still come in with gear, but you would subtract roughly equivalent gear from future parcels. By roughly equivalent, you could withhold a weapon of equal level or just withhold the next item of the same cost.

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The way I get around the problem of parcels is by not using them. I hand out magic items based on what the PC's need and also based on the game's story. They may find that +3 magic weapon they needed, but what they needed was a sword and the item they found is a craghammer. They use Transfer Enchantment, and they have the item they needed without me having to explain why the hammer-wielding hobgoblin dropped an enchanted sword. Aside form the items that are required by the game's mechanics, I only drop items that are tied intricately to the game's story. Monetary treasure is given by NPC's like the king, baroness, or in the case of the current adventure, a night hag to whom the PC's are indebted.

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