As luck had it May the Fourth for my group corresponded with our once a month Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game. That game is the inspiration for today's post because, well, we've been applying a lot of "old school" gaming tactics to that game, most notably in the fact that the group loots pretty much everything we can to put to use for the group. Now, the GM is cool with it and it works, but it does bring up something that as a GM you want to think about it.
The "Problem" With Well Equipped Enemy NPCs
Is that when they are defeated there is generally not much that can stop the PCs from taking the equipment for themselves. For example, recently in the Star Wars game the PCs ended up in a fight with six Dark Troopers. We killed them. Now the group has 6 Heavy Blaster Rifles, on top of our other weapons, to choose from because those weapons are what the Dark Troopers had.
To put more specifically, my one character has personally from looting his kills: 1 Heavy Blaster Rifle, 3 Blaster Carbines, 1 Disruptor Pistol, 4 Blaster Pistols, and 2 Light Blaster Pistols.
Now, he doesn't carry those all the time, but that is a hell of an arsenal to have access to. Also, they could be sold for a fairly pretty penny if we wanted to. Especially since one of the PCs is a Trader and gets all sorts of benefits to profit and such.
Why Is This A Problem?
The potential problem here is one of power. In a game like Edge of the Empire gear brings a lot of power. It's not the end all be all, but it is still very powerful. A PC with vastly inferior skills can be more dangerous if they are sufficiently better equipped. Mostly this is seen in damage, but it can also come in the form of other abilities such as accuracy, auto-fire, or secondary effects when the weapon hits.
Now, if you are prepared for it it isn't a problem. Personally it doesn't bother me because I am, in general, more interested in what my PCs will do as opposed to what they can do. For balancing encounters though it can make things harder. It's kind of like trying to keep things balanced in a 40k game when between Session A and Session B two PCs got Heavy Bolters with Auto-Braces. Suddenly your PCs have the equivalent of vehicle mounted rapid fire gatling cannons as personal weapons and your carefully balanced encounter gets mowed through in one round.
How To Deal
The trick to dealing with this is to pay attention to what you equip your NPCs with. Don't give an NPC anything you're not ok with a PC having, and if you definitely need to have an NPC have something but not a PC, make sure you find a way to make that happen. Things like gene locks can work wonders for tech advanced games. Low quality or low value gear in almost any game works well. (ever wonder why the PCs rarely loot and sell goblin short swords? because no one would pay for a goblin short sword and the metal generally isn't even worth melting down.)
Either way, the important thing is to keep track of what your PCs can bring to bear in a fight. Even if they themselves aren't aware how dangerous they are, you as the GM should be.