Take a look at your equipment inventory. What’s there? Magic items, maybe an adventurer’s kit. Anything else? That’s what mine looks like too. In fact most players I’ve met have similar looking inventories. Empty. Bereft of any life or originality. Occasionally, I will see a crowbar or some other interesting tool in a players inventory, but mostly all I see magic items.
Now don’t get me wrong, magic items are great. In 4e D&D they can do more than ever before. In fact most magic items are more than just a bonus to the math on your attack and damage rolls. In today’s D&D, magic items come with all types of interesting powers and effects. Players no longer select a magic item based on the weapon type, instead the decision is made based on the associated power of the item. So we no longer receive just a +1 blood iron dagger, now it is a +1 blood iron weapon. The player is chooses what type of weapon it is.
These changes were done to make the game more fun and more friendly. I have no objections to these changes. Nothing is worse than receiving a magic item you can’t use. Building a Fighter who specializes with a long sword and then finding a magic axe is rather disappointing from a player perspective.
However, I’m not here to lambaste the state of magic items in D&D. What I miss are the mundane items. I miss that my Rogue doesn’t have caltrops or blade blackener in his inventory. Now before you roast me, I know I could ask my DM if we could incorporate these and other items into 4e and I think I will. However, the reason we don’t have them is because the powers and magic items our characters possess already do all of these things for us. Why create a mundane item to do the same thing?
Should caltrops be able to create difficult terrain? Do caltrops cheapen the effect of a magic item that can do the same thing?
Well let’s think of Batman for a second and his utility belt. Batman had all kinds of mundane items in that belt and he used them all the time. He wasn’t dependant on his powers (of which he had none, in the superhero sense), instead he made use of regular items to help him win the day.
Here is an example of typical items my previous characters from older editions might have carried around:
- Caltrops – creating difficult terrain and slowing a pursuing enemy is always useful.
- Rope with grappling hook – to help with the difficult climbs and cavern crossings.
- Climbers kit – because anything over 50 feet without one really should be suicidal.
- Small mirror – for looking around the corner to see where the Dragon is without having your whiskers singed off.
- Chalk – for leaving clues or signals to other party members.
- Whistle – because not all characters can whistle.
- Signet ring – it just made me feel important.
- Blade blackener – to keep my drawn dagger from reflecting the light.
This is just a small sampling of items that at one time or another were likely to be included in the inventory of any number of characters I created.
While I love magic items (I mean who doesn’t) I think the emphasis on them in 4e detracts from some of the creative elements of the game. Currently players are too busy ensuring they don’t miss out on immediate actions that they neglect to think creatively about how to overcome the obstacles placed in front of them during combat. I know this is a generalization but I’ve seen far less creative problem solving during my time playing 4e than any other edition.
What does your inventory sheet look like? Is it packed with mundane items that could be used during a variety of situations? Do you put Batman to shame by the sheer number of items you have at your disposal?