Continued from Adventure Path Math (Feb 7, 2013)

Do you know what the Parcel System is? I’ll tell you if you don’t already know. The Parcel System is a method of delivering treasure to your adventuring party at regular intervals to prevent them from rioting. It’s described in the Fourth Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, and it’s a useful tool. Here’s the thing to take away from it:

On average, the party (assuming five characters) should receive about five magic items per level: one at their level, one a level above them, one two levels above them, one three levels above them, and one four levels above them.

Forget potions, and forget piles of money. Money is for melting down and turning into magic items. The characters are treasure-hunters, not penny-pinchers. If they were in it for the gold, they’d be playing something else.

Oh, and you can still use this Adventure Path creation method for other systems, it’s just easier to start from Fourth Edition because a lot of the systems I’m referencing were designed to work with one another, and simply don’t exist elsewhere.

Anyway, the five-items thing above assumes that instead of handing out precious art or gems, gold pieces, or other random commodity items, you hand out a single magic item of equivalent value (the one item of their experience level).

Incidentally to scale this down to a smaller party, all you really have to do is reduce the difficulty DCs on various challenges, use fewer of them, and just withhold some things. Really, scaling things back down is just a matter of omission.

It’s harder to plan more than it is to improvise less.

So at five items per level, and nine encounters per level, you could easily allot five of them to item acquisition and maybe double up one of the others to make a boss fight or something. Or grant it via quest rewards or personal missions. You know, whatever. Nine is just an average anyway, you could do it with eight instead. Or more.

Now, if you need help figuring out how to make a Skill Challenge about magic item acquisition, consider the following steps:

First, the party has to know the item exists. They can make Streetwise or Knowledge checks to find out about it.

Second, the party has to know where and how to get it. They can use rituals or they can make more Knowledge checks, they can search, or they can beat people up.

Third, the party has to “acquire” the item. This might involve beating people up, bypassing traps, or sneaking into hard-to-find spots. Alternatively, it could require haggling or bartering and stuff. This step includes the “getaway” if such a thing is necessary.

Fourth, the party must identify and/or move the item. If it’s a magical artifact of some value they want to sell or trade, they have to make sure it’s genuine. Things could get really messy if they’ve been double-crossed at some point, maybe as a result of an earlier failure.

Bonus round: the party may or may not have ticked someone off (or lots of someones) in any of the above phases, and this is your opportunity to make a mountain out of a molehill. Remember there’s no such thing as a “perfect crime.” Unravel the party’s efforts to springboard into the next adventure.