Character Wealth in PFS

Pathfinder Society

 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

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The Intro
After leveling several characters in Pathfinder Society Organized Play I’ve noticed a wealth discrepancy between some of my PCs. This drove me to analyze the opposite ends of scenario gold rewards from 1st- to 12th-levels. It is important to emphasize that this is an exercise in extremes. While most characters fall in the middle, it is then a question of how far to one side or another each character finds its wealth.

Before we proceed, feel free to consult my data section below and view a copy of my figures.

The Summary
Lets focus this discussion on characters who would have just reached 10th-level. This gives us several levels of wealth gain to examine, as well as perspective for how it can effect legal PFS characters. According to Table 12–4: Character Wealth By Level (Core Rulebook 399) a 10th-level character is suggested to start with 62,000 gp. Whether or not this is a good figure to compare to PFS wealth is irrelevant, but it does give us a Core baseline to at least consider. What we are really interested in is the discrepancies between what is possible while actually playing PFS.

If a character receives the lowest amount of wealth reward at every possible opportunity, they will receive about 51,915 gp by the time they reach 10th-level. If a character receives the highest amount of wealth reward at every possible opportunity, they will receive about 100,526 gp by the time they reach 10th-level. These two hypothetical characters have a drastically different amount of wealth. There is no question that nearly twice the amount of gold can buy significant advantages. Even if we assume that one character has earned 60,000 gp and another has earned 80,000 gp by 10th-level, this discrepancy can still be noticeable.

According to my figures an average PFS character can expect to earn about 76,000 by 10th-level.

My Thoughts
Why is any of this a problem? For characters that have been able to abuse the wealth curve, and for those who have been victim of circumstance, there is a real danger of being overshadowed and sidelined. We all know the juxtaposition between the player who has an average character build and the player who has made every perfect choice from every splat book they can get their hands on. Wealth is no less relevant and the power that an extra 10k, 20k, 30k, or even 40k gold can buy will be an ambiguous, but impressionable difference. And just to be clear, this benefit wasn’t necessarily earned through in-game decision making or roleplaying. It exists because of how subtier and out-of-subtier wealth is rewarded.

This system also punishes players with higher level characters who play down. Its easy to imagine this being the case in smaller venues where less tables are run to cater to varied levels. On the other hand, the system can also be abused by a player who regularly seeks to play up and earn a higher out-of-subtier reward. One might suggest that this is a self-correcting problem as such a character has a higher risk of death, but the risk can be substantially minimized by player actions.

A Solution
Reward characters solely based on character level. For example, a 7th-level character receives the same rewards as another 7th-level character, regardless of playing up or down. Regardless of playing tier 5–9 or tier 7–11. Yes, there is a little more accounting for the GM, but it would not require new chronicle sheets to be issued for existing scenarios. Instead, Paizo could publish the wealth rewarded at each level in another source (such as the Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play) and it would apply to all scenarios. It can be argued that this removes randomness and variability, but there are so many character options and ways of spending wealth that I’m not troubled by more calculated wealth rewards.

The one complication that I can think of that such a system would have for a scenario is how to subtract wealth rewards for incomplete encounters. In such a case, Paizo might see fit to reduce wealth rewards by a percentage for each incomplete encounter. I could see a figure like 10–33% being realistic.

The Data
I’ve averaged the wealth gain for every subtier (and out-of-subtier) category available under current PFS rules. This was taken from Seasons 4 & 5, and does not include specials, scenarios that cannot be run by any GM (regardless of stars or venture officer status), and those that do not conform to tiers 1–5, 3–7, 5–9, and 7–11. You can look at a copy of my numbers here.

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You know, out-of-subtier awards were created as a fix to wealth imbalance.

But then we would STILL have a character wealth imbalance as some characters would have played more dangerous, higher-tier missions and had to consume more character wealth in the form of consumables as a result. Your solution assumes that all liquid character wealth will be transferred to permanent, non-consumable assets. That's not what happens in the real world. Out-of-subtier rewards adjust for that likelihood.

Believe me! I've got a Signifer who's had to blow > 9,000 gold in magical consumables just to keep his snivelling hide in one piece.

 ⦵⦵⦵

One thing you don't seem to be taking into consideration is the difference between income and wealth. Consumables and paying for resurrections are part of the game: one death can cost you 8k and set you back from monty haul to average.

 ⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

I don't think you can count on people being all that equal in wealth anyhow. If you have to be Raised from the dead and then have to get Restoration twice, that's a 7000gp setback. So there's a real discrepancy between someone who never died and someone who died once or more.

And chances of death are not equal; someone standing in the back has much less chance than the tank that's in front of the monster sucking up full attacks. It's also safer to play up if you stand in the back.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ascalaphus wrote:

I don't think you can count on people being all that equal in wealth anyhow. If you have to be Raised from the dead and then have to get Restoration twice, that's a 7000gp setback. So there's a real discrepancy between someone who never died and someone who died once or more.

And chances of death are not equal; someone standing in the back has much less chance than the tank that's in front of the monster sucking up full attacks. It's also safer to play up if you stand in the back.

Lesson one: Don't play above your tier.

 ⦵⦵

Equality is over rated :)

 ⦵⦵

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

My first few characters were well above that upper limit due to playing up before "out-of-tier" was introduced.

It's much more balanced now.

Why does anyone care that Bob got more gold than John? Did you have fun playing those 27-30 sessions? If you didn't have fun playing what the heck are you doing spending 120-135 hours at that activity?

IMO, tactics and players make more of a difference than gear anyways.

Edit! - Same here Nefreet, and I still have huge piles of gold with nothing interesting to spend it on...

 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

To respond to some of the comments here: Of course we enjoy PFS and that's why some of us, myself included, would be passionate about analyzing, considering, and offering thoughts. Pathfinder and PFS are great, but not perfect. That remains true despite prior changes. That's not to say that I've come up with a great solution or even identified a problem. It is something that is much less perceptible because wealth gain and gear are much harder to visualize than character classes and levels. Just something to consider for those willing to read a wall of text.

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LazarX wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:

I don't think you can count on people being all that equal in wealth anyhow. If you have to be Raised from the dead and then have to get Restoration twice, that's a 7000gp setback. So there's a real discrepancy between someone who never died and someone who died once or more.

And chances of death are not equal; someone standing in the back has much less chance than the tank that's in front of the monster sucking up full attacks. It's also safer to play up if you stand in the back.

Lesson one: Don't play above your tier.

Lesson two: Ignore lesson one if you power game.

Lesson three: Power gamers play up and get more gold putting them far out of wealth by level.

The problem is optimization is a multifacited multitired situation. If someone worries about optimization they'll likely also consider WBL.

 ⦵ Venture-Agent, Minnesota—St. Louis Park aka BretI

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Lesson four: If you've already taken a hit in character wealth, you are LESS able to play up so the gap continues to grow.

 Venture-Agent, Nevada—Las Vegas aka kinevon

Ascalaphus wrote:

I don't think you can count on people being all that equal in wealth anyhow. If you have to be Raised from the dead and then have to get Restoration twice, that's a 7000gp setback. So there's a real discrepancy between someone who never died and someone who died once or more.

And chances of death are not equal; someone standing in the back has much less chance than the tank that's in front of the monster sucking up full attacks. It's also safer to play up if you stand in the back.

Lesson five: After a certain level, standing in the back is going to be more likely to get you killed than standing in front, against some opponents.

Color Spray is more likely to be used against the frontliners at low levels, but fireballs and other area effects, especially the ones with continuing effects, are more likely to be targeted to include your party's spellcasters...

AT higher tier, just like the PCs, the NPCs are likely to have multiple options, some better against melee types, others better against casters. Of course, if you have a good chance of pulling it off, the best option is usually using the party's melee type against the party's spellcasters. (Which is why the clear spindle Ioun stone is in such demand...)

kinevon wrote:
Lesson five: After a certain level, standing in the back is going to be more likely to get you killed than standing in front, against some opponents.

The problem is that's now how this works for a ton of backliners.

Overland flight, air walk, rings of invisibility, False life, monostating, being a zen archer, exct all provide complete immunity to some effects. In addition casters who don't have to buy weapons end up with artificially high gold for items like metamagic rods, more magic (Pearls), better cloak of resistance (With good will saves) and fewer feats required. The monostating nature of pure casters mean they are better protected if played well than the front liners at high levels.

kinevon wrote:
Color Spray is more likely to be used against the frontliners at low levels, but fireballs and other area effects, especially the ones with continuing effects, are more likely to be targeted to include your party's spellcasters...

And Freedom of movement, and dim door tele SLA WILL get you out of black tentacles, CMB might not. Those fireballs are likely to get saved against thanks to superior cloaks and resist energy blunts the impact of elemental damage. Worst case an emergency force sphere completely negates ANYTHING as an automatic defensive button.

kinevon wrote:
AT higher tier, just like the PCs, the NPCs are likely to have multiple options, some better against melee types, others better against casters.Of course, if you have a good chance of pulling it off, the best option is usually using the party's melee type against the party's spellcasters. (Which is why the clear spindle Ioun stone is in such demand...)

Excluding the feeblemind spell which doesn't even work against all casters name 3. The overwhelming majority of options you'll name can be solved by having the right spell which prepared casters will likely have if played well, or at the very least a similar approximation of the spell.

The problem is your statement implies that the backline becomes more squishy. It in no way is the case for high optimization games. It's very true in lower optimization games. It also doesn't help that a caster needs a whopping 2 items (+6 stat, +5 cloak) before he's basically gear capped in terms of numerical benefits. After that (Or before) he can do nothing but invest in powerful effects like rods.

Whether or not this works to increase your wealth depends on the risk involved in playing up.

For example, suppose I show up with my 3rd level character and have the option between a 1-5 scenario where he would be playing down and a 3-7 where he'd be playing up. For round numbers assume the easy scenario awards 500gp and the hard scenario awards 2000gp. Those figures ignore risk of death.

Really the easy scenario might reward 500gp if you succeed or -8000gp if you fail. So the average return is:
(500*a)+(-8000*b) where a and b are the odds of success or death.

(500*a)+(-8000*b) isn't necessarily less than (2000*X)+(-8000*Y).

Suppose the easy scenario has a 5% chance of death. It averages a mere 75gp.

If the hard scenario has a 20% chance of death it averages 100gp.

Does anyone know what percentage of games end in a player death? 20% chance of death seems high, but in the example above you might have a 3rd level character facing off against a 10th level NPC big bad. That could go wrong really easily. If the numbers are more like 2% and 10% then the math is really different. Without knowing what the difference in death rates is its hard to say how much of a boost playing up is.

Ultimately I suspect risk of death doesn't have much impact. Prestige mitigates risk of death, periodically death doesn't cost 8,000gp, it costs 24 prestige. Death rates lower than one game in 12 needn't cost any money at all. My anecdotal experience is PFS isn't nearly as deadly as one TPK per 12 games.

Consumables have always been a major factor in my characters wealth, especially my front line fighters.

I usually have a scroll of Raise Dead on my person at all times. I have only needed to use it once, but it was worth it as the rogue had gone down at the beginning of the scenario and we had no way of extraction without failing.

I also have bought support scrolls and potions for myself and a party if I deem them worth it. I have gone through a couple scrolls of Communal Stone Skin, Potions of Prot from Evil when I was lower level, potions of bull strength, scrolls of Freedom of Movement, etc.

I do not want to have to rely on a party that may not have these types of support, or want them to bother if we are low on casters and they should not spare such spell slots.

I have always viewed it as, if you want buffs, bring a few yourself, do not push yourself onto your party expecting the Cleric to heal and buff you, or expecting the wizard to buff party members.

So actual income has never been huge for my character but he gets by alright. At level 11 he has a +1 Adamantine Holy Longsword, +1 Lance, +2 Dragonhide Fullplate, +3 Benevolent Tower Shield, +1 Amulet Natural Armor, +2 Ring of Deflection, +2 cloak of Resistance, Belt of Physical Perfection (+2 Str., Con).

He has also not always played in tier, and has been playing at slow track for the last 3 levels. Slow Track at high tier I have found to be a killer. The gold gain does not keep up with the amount of consumables you need per scenario.

Quote:
Does anyone know what percentage of games end in a player death?

I'd go with less than 1%.

Based on the number of tables I've GM'ed and played less than 1% seems accurate.

Additionally playing up is not always equal.

Example

Playing up in the waking rune, golemworks incident, or most 7-11's from season 4, 5, or 6 is suicidal to the biggest powergamers I know and I should know I'm a huge power gamer.

Playing up in just about every single season 0-3 with a good group is easy money.

 Venture-Agent, Nevada—Las Vegas aka kinevon

Undone wrote:
kinevon wrote:
Lesson five: After a certain level, standing in the back is going to be more likely to get you killed than standing in front, against some opponents.

The problem is that's now how this works for a ton of backliners.

Overland flight, air walk, rings of invisibility, False life, monostating, being a zen archer, exct all provide complete immunity to some effects. In addition casters who don't have to buy weapons end up with artificially high gold for items like metamagic rods, more magic (Pearls), better cloak of resistance (With good will saves) and fewer feats required. The monostating nature of pure casters mean they are better protected if played well than the front liners at high levels.

kinevon wrote:
Color Spray is more likely to be used against the frontliners at low levels, but fireballs and other area effects, especially the ones with continuing effects, are more likely to be targeted to include your party's spellcasters...

And Freedom of movement, and dim door tele SLA WILL get you out of black tentacles, CMB might not. Those fireballs are likely to get saved against thanks to superior cloaks and resist energy blunts the impact of elemental damage. Worst case an emergency force sphere completely negates ANYTHING as an automatic defensive button.

kinevon wrote:
AT higher tier, just like the PCs, the NPCs are likely to have multiple options, some better against melee types, others better against casters.Of course, if you have a good chance of pulling it off, the best option is usually using the party's melee type against the party's spellcasters. (Which is why the clear spindle Ioun stone is in such demand...)

Excluding the feeblemind spell which doesn't even work against all casters name 3. The overwhelming majority of options you'll name can be solved by having the right spell which prepared casters will likely have if played well, or at the very least a similar approximation of the spell.

The problem is your statement implies...

And, at least some of your "protections" mentioned require not being flat-footed, like emergency force sphere. Some of the combats I know of start with the PCs flatfooted, with a killer opening from the BBEG. And it is extremely difficult not to give the BBEG their surprise round, for some of these.

And, of course, being the primary target of something that is a save or suck, or a save or die, makes for a quick combat, if you fail. And, just like PCs, some of the NPCs are speced to make things difficult for the PCs.

Being a Zen Archer makes you immune to anything? Seriously? You may have good saves, but without both Evasion and Mettle, you are still suffering from negative effects, there.

Most of your panacea is good, if you know what to prepare for. If you have the wrong protection ,or no protection, up, it doesn't help much. Protection from Fire doesn't help against Cone of Cold, as one example. And, seriously, black tentacles is, except in rare instances, not much more than a bump in the road for either side. There are plenty of better spells out there which can ruin another caster's day.

Seriously, if you know what is coming, in general, you can prepare for it. If you don't know, or cannot find out, playing up can be suicidal.

Quote:
And, at least some of your "protections" mentioned require not being flat-footed, like emergency force sphere. Some of the combats I know of start with the PCs flatfooted, with a killer opening from the BBEG. And it is extremely difficult not to give the BBEG their surprise round, for some of these.

Have you ever tried to surprise a diviner? It goes something like this.

"SURPRISE" <Diviner wins init in the surprise round and save or sucks them to death> "Well that was surprising".

Quote:
And, of course, being the primary target of something that is a save or suck, or a save or die, makes for a quick combat, if you fail. And, just like PCs, some of the NPCs are speced to make things difficult for the PCs.

NPC's excluding a very small few casters are hamstrung by pathetic NPC wealth by level and having multiple monsters which lowers their personal level.

Quote:
Being a Zen Archer makes you immune to anything? Seriously? You may have good saves, but without both Evasion and Mettle, you are still suffering from negative effects, there.

Immunities are highly overrated. Saving on a 2, needing a 20 to be hit or CMD effected means statistically (especially with a reroll) you get a turn and zen archers have the damage to kill you on the one round turn around.

Quote:
Most of your panacea is good, if you know what to prepare for. If you have the wrong protection ,or no protection, up, it doesn't help much. Protection from Fire doesn't help against Cone of Cold, as one example. And, seriously, black tentacles is, except in rare instances, not much more than a bump in the road for either side. There are plenty of better spells out there which can ruin another caster's day.

My resist fire, cold, acid, and elect seem to be effective unless it's force. Overland flight is always pretty darn good. There's a long list of buffs which are 99% of the time good.

Quote:
Seriously, if you know what is coming, in general, you can prepare for it. If you don't know, or cannot find out, playing up can be suicidal.

As I said earlier seasons are simpler. Playing up in a 4-6 is nothing like playing up in a 0-3. This translates to more gold for easier games and less gold for hard ones. It's silly but absolutely true.

 Venture-Agent, Nevada—Las Vegas aka kinevon

You know, it can be amusing when the Diviner gets to go first, but doesn't see any threats. What to do? "There's something coming, something bad...."

Well there is also gp discrepancy within tiers depending on what levels are available. A 1-7 at tier 6-7 gives less gold then a 3-7 in tier 6-7. I've pulled out way of the Kirin and the many fortunes of grandmaster torch as the first chronicles in front of me and the gp difference is 1000gp at the same tier.

 Venture-Agent, Nevada—Las Vegas aka kinevon

G-Zeus wrote:
Well there is also gp discrepancy within tiers depending on what levels are available. A 1-7 at tier 6-7 gives less gold then a 3-7 in tier 6-7. I've pulled out way of the Kirin and the many fortunes of grandmaster torch as the first chronicles in front of me and the gp difference is 1000gp at the same tier.

So, what would the GP earned be for playing only modules, and only at the lowest legal level for the module?

1-3 - 1
2-4 - 2
3-5 - 3
4-6 - 4
5-7 - 5
6-8 - 6
7-9 - 7
8-10 - 8
9-11 - 9
10-12 - 10
11-13 - 11
12-14 - 12
13-15 - 13
14-16 - 14
15-17 - 15
16-18 - 16, 17 & 18

Of course, at some point, the danger goes up fairly rapidly for playing at the lowest level for a module.

G-Zeus wrote:
Well there is also gp discrepancy within tiers depending on what levels are available. A 1-7 at tier 6-7 gives less gold then a 3-7 in tier 6-7. I've pulled out way of the Kirin and the many fortunes of grandmaster torch as the first chronicles in front of me and the gp difference is 1000gp at the same tier.

That's because all Season 0s give less gold.

If you are talking about 3xp mods you are overall given less gp, I believe somewhere around 2/3 the amount you could have earned from just playing 3 adventure in the tier. So around 1000 gp at lvl 1 going to 2 instead of 1500 you could have earned playing 3 1-2's

 Venture-Agent, Nevada—Las Vegas aka kinevon

G-Zeus wrote:
If you are talking about 3xp mods you are overall given less gp, I believe somewhere around 2/3 the amount you could have earned from just playing 3 adventure in the tier. So around 1000 gp at lvl 1 going to 2 instead of 1500 you could have earned playing 3 1-2's

Might want to check that, since a 1-2 is 1398, but a 1-3 is 1798, IIRC.

 ⦵⦵

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

1-3s vary. I've seen at least two different amounts for those.

I was in this situation a long time ago on my second character. Level 1 and with almost 3,000GP after being carried in mid-tier of a 1-7. Too bad I wasn't cool enough to spend it.

 RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

kinevon wrote:
You know, it can be amusing when the Diviner gets to go first, but doesn't see any threats. What to do? "There's something coming, something bad...."

For my diviner EK, the answer was "I cast shield." ;)

EDIT: For others it could be "I cast greater invisibility and then take a 5ft step."

I would actually say that the imbalance is less dire than it might seem. (At least in my experience.)

From what I have seen, they folks that are carefully tackling just the perfect scenarios to always play up as much as possible are also the ones that are concentrating nearly all their wealth into one item going for the +5 adamantine weapon(or the +6 headband).
And generally speaking, that is much less effective than spreading the wealth over multiple items. The guy with less wealth that bought a +1 sword, +1 armor, +2 belt, +2 cloak, and some powerful emergency consumables actually does much better in play than the guy that just has a super powerful weapon.

Jiggy wrote:
kinevon wrote:
You know, it can be amusing when the Diviner gets to go first, but doesn't see any threats. What to do? "There's something coming, something bad...."

For my diviner EK, the answer was "I cast shield." ;)

EDIT: For others it could be "I cast greater invisibility and then take a 5ft step."

This is why you get Slippers of Quick Reaction, so you get to take a move and a standard in the surprise round. So you can Greater Invis + full move. :P

Jiggy wrote:
kinevon wrote:
You know, it can be amusing when the Diviner gets to go first, but doesn't see any threats. What to do? "There's something coming, something bad...."

For my diviner EK, the answer was "I cast shield." ;)

EDIT: For others it could be "I cast greater invisibility and then take a 5ft step."

Invis Sphere.

Quote:
And generally speaking, that is much less effective than spreading the wealth over multiple items. The guy with less wealth that bought a +1 sword, +1 armor, +2 belt, +2 cloak, and some powerful emergency consumables actually does much better in play than the guy that just has a super powerful weapon.

Given the fame restrictions this isn't true.

You're always able to max both weapon and stat item while keeping your cloak at a reasonable +1-3 bonus. Playing up you can max all 3. By about 8th when you can fame a max level stat item you should be able to have a +3 weapon max stat item and a reasonable cloak if you play up.

 RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

ElterAgo wrote:

I would actually say that the imbalance is less dire than it might seem. (At least in my experience.)

From what I have seen, they folks that are carefully tackling just the perfect scenarios to always play up as much as possible are also the ones that are concentrating nearly all their wealth into one item going for the +5 adamantine weapon(or the +6 headband).
And generally speaking, that is much less effective than spreading the wealth over multiple items. The guy with less wealth that bought a +1 sword, +1 armor, +2 belt, +2 cloak, and some powerful emergency consumables actually does much better in play than the guy that just has a super powerful weapon.

Your assessment is true if you're comparing two martials. It's not true if you compare a martial to a caster.

The majority of my sorceress' wealth, for instance, is tied up in her +4 headband, which is absolutely going to be a +6 headband before the end of her career. And I'm still going to have money left over that I don't even know what to do with.

Jiggy wrote:
ElterAgo wrote:

I would actually say that the imbalance is less dire than it might seem. (At least in my experience.)

From what I have seen, they folks that are carefully tackling just the perfect scenarios to always play up as much as possible are also the ones that are concentrating nearly all their wealth into one item going for the +5 adamantine weapon(or the +6 headband).
And generally speaking, that is much less effective than spreading the wealth over multiple items. The guy with less wealth that bought a +1 sword, +1 armor, +2 belt, +2 cloak, and some powerful emergency consumables actually does much better in play than the guy that just has a super powerful weapon.

Your assessment is true if you're comparing two martials. It's not true if you compare a martial to a caster.

The majority of my sorceress' wealth, for instance, is tied up in her +4 headband, which is absolutely going to be a +6 headband before the end of her career. And I'm still going to have money left over that I don't even know what to do with.

Depending on how much fun you want to have you could buy The anti fun stick.

But I'd recommend a maximum con belt and probably the full 29k on saves (+5 and the ioun stone)

Undone wrote:

...

Quote:
And generally speaking, that is much less effective than spreading the wealth over multiple items. The guy with less wealth that bought a +1 sword, +1 armor, +2 belt, +2 cloak, and some powerful emergency consumables actually does much better in play than the guy that just has a super powerful weapon.

Given the fame restrictions this isn't true.

You're always able to max both weapon and stat item while keeping your cloak at a reasonable +1-3 bonus. Playing up you can max all 3. By about 8th when you can fame a max level stat item you should be able to have a +3 weapon max stat item and a reasonable cloak if you play up.

My examples was in the mid PFS levels. And no, I didn't take the time to do precision mathematical analysis.

Yes, by upper PFS you could concentrate on a small number (maybe 3) of maxed items. But I still generally see them less successful than the guy that purchased dozens of less powerful but useful items.
.
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Jiggy wrote:
ElterAgo wrote:

I would actually say that the imbalance is less dire than it might seem. (At least in my experience.)

From what I have seen, they folks that are carefully tackling just the perfect scenarios to always play up as much as possible are also the ones that are concentrating nearly all their wealth into one item going for the +5 adamantine weapon(or the +6 headband).
And generally speaking, that is much less effective than spreading the wealth over multiple items. The guy with less wealth that bought a +1 sword, +1 armor, +2 belt, +2 cloak, and some powerful emergency consumables actually does much better in play than the guy that just has a super powerful weapon.

Your assessment is true if you're comparing two martials. It's not true if you compare a martial to a caster.

The majority of my sorceress' wealth, for instance, is tied up in her +4 headband, which is absolutely going to be a +6 headband before the end of her career. And I'm still going to have money left over that I don't even know what to do with.

I wouldn't compare a martial to a caster. Every comparison like that is flawed to begin with. But almost every caster I've seen that saves and concentrates every possible coin into 1 (or possibly a small number) of items does less well than the caster that put his wealth into a large number of items.

Just what I have seen at the tables.