This might be a pure-and-simple case of overthinking it, but as I try to put together a 4E sandbox, I’m struck by the question of treasure parcels.
First, for those who don’t know, the backstory. I’ve got about nine “committed” players who will attend in an highly inconsistent manner my D&D 4E campaign. If, by some odd stroke, they start attending more regularly, I will probably split the group 5-4. For the campaign I’ve laid out several locations (we’ll call them “dungeons” for simplicity’s sake) upon which the PC’s will stumble as they wander around and explore.
Right now, I’m organizing these dungeons with one eight- or nine-encounter dungeon and two four- or five-encounter mini-dungeons per level. So, at present, I might arrange these thusly:
1.1 The Sunken Fort (level 1 quest, nine encounters ranging from 1 to 3 in difficulty)
1.2 The Old Sawmill (level 1 mini-quest, four encounters from 1-3)
1.3 The Smuggler’s Cove (level 1 mini-quest, five encoutners from 1-3)
2.1 The Haunted Cemetary (level 2 quest, nine encounters ranging from 1 to 5 in difficulty)
2.2. The Thieves Guild (level 2 mini-quest, four encoutners from 2-4)
2.3 The Abandonded Mine (level 2 mini-quest, five encounters from 2-5)
etc… Note these aren’t exactly what the encounters are, since players read this blog too. One reason why I am doing twice as many encounters per level than is suggested by the DMG is because the group’s attendance is, as I said before, sporadic. You can’t count on a certain player being there for all the sessions so it makes sense to have the PC’s have more chances to get the XP they need to level up before the encounters become too difficult.
This is, as a side note, a flaw in 4E, that presumption that normative play involves consistent player participation. That might be the case back when I was gaming in the break room at the dorm, but it sure as hell isn’t the case now.
So, back to the question. Which would be better: to add on the number of parcels that the DMG suggests for “groups with eight or more players” or do I just double everything up? Add the three or four magic items to the typical five-PC parcel set might make the dungeons more stingy on a reward/encounter level, but doubling everthing might allow frequent players to really rack up the magic goodies on easy encounters.