I've been thinking about character building and growth over the campaign- and specifically about gear. Magical gear is a balance issue, and the open availability of such gear takes away from the powers and abilities of the heroes. One way to fix this is to design it right out of the game- the stuff just doesn't exist. However, this isn't very fulfilling to me as a player, since I want to be able to quest for powerful items and cool gadgets. The other way is to write them out of the game world. The Reckoning gives me a great excuse to do this; while people once could make magical items by the truck load, this ability was lost with the Reckoning, and anything that's still around is a relic of the distant past. Part of the reason you go crawling around in ancient ruins and digging through lost dungeons is because that's probably the only place to find the really good old stuff.
Starting heroes begin with gear rated at their abilities. A myrmidon with fighting +2 and stamina +3 (armor), starts the game with a weapon rated at +3 and a suit of armor rated at +4; such gear may have been earned, given, found or even stolen. You can come up with whatever rationale you want about where and how your hero started with such gear, but he or she has it. As you adventure, you can go into shops or peruse the wares of traveling vendors to replace gear to a maximum rating of +5.
However, most heroes will quickly grow out of such equipment, and will look for more potent gear. Such gear is invariably magical in nature or created by ancient crafting techniques that, since the Great Reckoning, have been lost. The only way to get a long sword +7 is to go out and find one in your adventures. It may be that the archmage has one in his store houses that he will reward you with for helping him or you may be granted one upon your assuming the title of High Baron of the North Wood, but you will not be able to go to the store and buy one. The same is true for all equipment rated better than +5; the only items of this quality that exist are from before the Reckoning, and are in high demand and short supply.