Pack a Rope. And a Crowbar. Maybe Some Chalk.

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.

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18 thoughts on “Pack a Rope. And a Crowbar. Maybe Some Chalk.

  1. Oh man, I hear ya brother. I’ve had players with NO equipment and insisted they didn’t need any. This compared to me, where I would list all my stuff AND where it was located.
    People are used to computer games doing all that for them now. Sad, really.
    Now where did I put that 10′ pole…

  2. My experience has been similar to your own. I try to emphasize the importance of equipment in my campaigns as well, and I think that through trial and error my group has learned that their chances of making it out of the dungeon alive are greatly increased by doing so.

    1. I do try to emphasize the importance of equipment, but it can be hard to get across if the players don’t see the value in it. Our most creative uses of equipment and the environment were always in an attempt to leverage some sort of advantage or opportunity that probably wasn’t ever intended. If the players don’t even consider mundane items and equipment to be a valuable part of their arsenal then they probably won’t come up with very inspired ways to use those things. Sometimes I throw things out in certain situations, like: if you guys had [blank] you could do [blank], just so they can start to see the possibilities that exist.

      1. Right, I do the same thing. My own current group is composed entirely of new gamers and so I also made sure that they ran into a few “experienced” dungeon delvers who knew the value of equipment, without even explaining anything, could demonstrate how and when to use it.

  3. I run 3.5 and that system has bundled things you’d normally have to do ‘manually’ in to the search function. I try to run a hybrid system. In searching or inspecting something, you can find the trap with a sufficiently high roll (a sufficiently low one risks setting the trap off, however). However, if they speak of manually inspecting it, I’ll give them the win if they do it right.

    For example: “I inspect the keyhole of the chest”
    “As you move your eye near the key hole, light reflects off the poison needle inside. You quickly ascertain that it is spring loaded and would have gone off had you tried to pick the lock.”

    I sometimes bait them. My current group had a habit of smashing down doors. Until I had a door rigged to explode if it was smashed. Half the party nearly died (luckily, they made their saving throws), but they learned from their mistake.

    1. I don’t like the way that the search skill tends to turn “We tip over the bed, cut open the mattress, take the drawers out and search for false bottoms, and look for loose flagstones in the fireplace” in to “Can we ‘take 20’ on a search check in this room?” I follow a hybrid sort of approach as well I guess. I require at least some description of what the search of a room entails. If they specifically say they search where something is hidden then no rolls are necessary to find whatever it is. If they say something generic like ‘we toss the room’ then they’ll probably still find most things hidden there but they might miss something that was hidden with great care or cunning.

  4. I’m reminded of a Rifts game I played in quite a while ago. The GM let us stock up on reasonable equipment and I was the only one who considered things beyond guns and armor.

    After several cases of someone saying, “We could really use X,” and me replying, “You mean like this?” they got the hint. It was really basic stuff too, like, “we should get comlinks, we should get a grappling gun, we should get a non-lethal weapon.”

    Did I mention I love equipment lists?

    1. Man, modern/futuristic settings have several things in their equipment lists that are at least as important as light sources in your typical fantasy settings, comm-links ranking high on that list. There are usually cool things like tracking devices and things to help you get past locks and surveillance measures that should also be considered essential. Oh, and rope. Rope is still a necessity.

  5. I never go on an adventure without at least having a burlap sack, soap, chalk, ball bearings, manacles, pea whistle, spare grappling hook, and a crowbar. I often try to bring a pungent cheese but it is not an adventure breaker. Not considering what items you bring is like a wizard saying “I’m sure I wont need to bring both spell books. What’s the worst that can happen?” I blame the Adventuring Kit. Once that is scribbled on a character sheet people figure they’re prepared to take on the world.

    1. That’s quite an eccentric list of items there. I myself always have chalk as well. It costs a copper and weighs nothing. If you use it for anything at all it paid for itself. I also like to carry a couple of empty scroll tubes; they’re a handy spot to store gems, and if you cast a continual light in there you’ve got a nice flash light.

      1. Scroll Tubes…That Is Brilliant. I’m sure it has a Bazillion(That’s Right!) applications. Also great for storing pungent cheese. I usually just keep it in a pocket(the body heat keeps it nice and soft).

  6. I’ll throw my two cheeses I mean cents in. I tend to always carry lamp oil, a spare lantern if I have room, a bag of salt and a bag of pepper, rope, chalk, charcoal and usually half a dozen empty sacks (keepin it green for groceries). Oh, and some really smelly cheese. For snacks. *cough*

    1. The salt and pepper are a new one to me, but I also carry a lot of that, including the empty sacks. How do these folks that insist they don’t need gear plan on getting all that treasure out of the dungeon? Also, I prefer to line my pockets with a nice Brie or Camembert. 😉

      1. Oh and they would just snaffle the gems and items and leave the rest. Those guys didn’t last long in my world. Thankfully those types are rare.

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