I can remember spending a lot of time pouring over the equipment lists in the roleplaying games I use to play ‘back in the day.’ I spent a lot of time pouring over the equipment my guy took into the dungeon with him, too. I’m probably stepping on a thousand toes here, but I’ve gotten the impression that equipment isn’t as important in the newer iterations of Dungeons and Dragons. I don’t know if this has to do with adventure design or a shift in emphasis or the fact that players have so many more abilities and options built into their characters or what. My current players are all quite new to the game, so sooner or later they will learn the hard way that someone should have plunked down the money for that mirror.
But before I moved away from my hometown, and the group I had spent a good many years playing games with, they had started playing Pathfinder. I played a few sessions with them and I seemed to notice a shift away from this kind of focus on carrying the proper gear for dungeoneering. Most of the time it was just assumed that someone was carrying a torch. Back when I first started playing you damn well knew who was carrying the light, and every one had a back up light besides. You didn’t haul your boots on to go outside without making sure you had at least a weeks worth of iron rations, and you absolutely had at least 50′ of rope, silk if you could afford it.
Some people may use an argument about “not wanting to focus on accounting and micro-management” to defend this lack of emphasis on equipment, with the implication that not focusing on those things allows them to somehow focus more on “what really matters.” The thing is though, that those things do really matter to me. I can’t recall it ever being a burden for me to mark off rations; knowing who is carrying the light and how long you have before it goes out strikes me as a terribly important thing to be aware of when you are 100′ below ground.
Maybe other groups still play this way no matter what edition of the rules they use, and my old group was just an anomaly. I hope they do. Aside from necessities like rations and light, all that other shit was fun to have and to use! We made block and tackle systems, repaired bridges, built doors out of furniture, dug our own fucking tunnels if we couldn’t get past what was keeping us out of the next room any other way. An equipment list is a list of options that any character with the cash to spend and a little ingenuity can take advantage of, regardless of race, class, or experience points.