There is nothing wrong with fudging with the odds in the player's favor. I think some people might believe I stand against that sort of thing, but I like to make my players happy just like the next fellow. I had some great fun the other night, all in the favor of one player who's been behind the eight ball for literally years.
The player who plays the cleric henchman of the monk has coincidentally missed a number of 'big treasure days,' so that he's dragging about 35,000 experience behind the main party group. And having the opportunity (through a story line) to give an artifact to the party, I took it. The party has made some powerful enemies, and in order to tackle the issue they were sent to recover an artifact from inside a castle. It wasn't a big quest or anything, just something they had to go into the castle to get. Past five skeleton warriors, four hellcats and a death knight. No big deal.
After two days of bloody battle experience, in which the players were forced to drain themselves of some long-hoarded magic items, and managing to not lose any party members (though one did have to be brought back from death's door, and another was within one hit point of buying it), they were successful. The overall experience divided by six players was a bit better than 10,000 apiece. And so they recovered the Nail of the Left Hand.
The gentle reader may not guess, but the party did the moment I gave the name of the artifact before their entering the castle. They did not need a clue, but immediately identified it as the spike driven in the left hand of Christ on the cross. I was surprised. For a bunch of athiests, that was pretty good.
What they did not realize, even upon recovering and seeing the nail, was understanding that it was meant to be driven into a club, creating a godentag, which the 7th level cleric is proficient in. And once that was done, discovering that the Nail is sentient, the cleric is now in possession of a +4 weapon. For a player who has missed a lot of the past treasure, he is happy to find himself possessed of the most powerful weapon in my game.
One thing, with my experience system, I'm giving the player 40 experience every time he hits with the weapon. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
But I see nothing wrong with giving 'gifts' to players. I made the players earn it, and now that he's got the new toy, I'll soon put him into a position against his new enemies where he'll get to use it. I don't want to make things too easy, yes, but I want the game to be something the players keep coming back for.
I only have one problem now. I'm going to have to come up with something to give the druid. He's lowest on the totem pole for magic, and something has to be done about that.