Cycle of Loot

This was one of my biggest pet peeves regarding 3rd Edition and Pathfinder, and one I was sad remained in both evolutions of those games. How adventurers never actually accrued wealth, but simply gained more power via the intermediary step of treasure. 

Much of the source fiction for gaming involves poor mercenary warriors who are broke after spending the last of their treasure celebrating. There’s very little saving or investment in businesses. But this continually drives the stories forward, as the heroes need more funds. Which makes a lot of sense, as adventuring is a dangerous occupation with a short life expectancy and no retirement plan. It’s not something you want to do for an extended period. If you earn enough to start a lucrative business and retire, it’s better to do so than risk death by the side of the road. The only long-term adventurers would be those with poor financial skills who don’t know how to invest or manage their funds. 

But 3e/ 4e and the Pathfinder systems flip this concept on its head. Because adventurers earn an escalating amount of money. Even 2nd and 3rd level adventurers are making more money in a weekend than most workers would see all year. By 6th or 7th level, most adventurers should be able to cash in their treasure and retire comfortably. 

In these systems, the acquisition of wealth simply doesn’t work as a motivator for adventure.

Putting that aside, I also dislike the other side effects. You’re constantly cycling through your gear, chasing additional bonuses, and can fall behind in power without this additional bookkeeping. It’s also a trap for inexperienced GMs who might not award enough treasure or provide enough downtime to sell or craft replacement gear. And I dislike how it makes characters so dependant on their stuff rather than their own abilities. 

Because it’s a cycle, it also leads to a flat power curve. You don’t get better with better gear, but maintain your power level. You might as well drop advancement from the game and stick with the simple low level math, with its speed and simplicity, but changing level increases to a matter of flavour. Use the statistics for a goblin warrior but describe it as a flaming darksteel iron golem.