What’s In Your Inventory?

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on December 6, 2010

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?

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1 Lahrs December 6, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Are you talking homebrew or Encounters? Encounters is so straight forward many of them are unnecessary. Fun yes, but not anything truly thought about.

In a home brew though, I see a lot more creativity and there is one very quick solution, start penalizing them for not having the items. I am not talking about being jumped by a huge party of monsters because someone didn’t bring a mirror, but next time the rogue fails a sneak check, mention the monsters noticed the glint of the steel from his blade. Have caltrops used on the party or have some dumb orcs leave crude messages in chalk. Little things like that to remind your players of how great the mundane can be.

I haven’t been a PC in ages, and even when I did I can’t say I did the Batman thing, maybe more of a Robin (or Nightwing, which sounds cooler). I had a character a long time ago run around with a bandolier of viles containing acid, fire, grease, smoke bombs, powder which instantly snuffed out a small fire without creating smoke, all sorts of stuff. You just never know when you are going to need something.

2 Francois B. December 6, 2010 at 3:18 pm

My idea on this is that there isnt any situations where it warrants the use of “mundane” items. I assume it’s our job, as dm’s, to add these items for easier success. Ex.: have steep inclines where a climber’s kit is a godsend, have a door open if we inscribe the correct runes in white chalk, only a signet ring of a certain house brings you the the dukes court, etc etc..

For now, the current WotC adventure have none of this AFAIK.

3 JR December 6, 2010 at 3:27 pm

While on a recent character creation spree, I picked up a few sets of Goodnight Tincture (attacks vs. FORT, knocks people out) and a few bottles of wine, combined with the Hedge Wizard’s Gloves. Perhaps I should have gone with the poisoner’s gloves, but in any case, the goal is obvious. My PC fully intends to carry around two known-tainted bottles of very fine wine, on the assumption that he can probably fool his captors into consuming it.

Will it be with a simple beg-like-a-prissy-captured-noble bluff? “Take my fine wine! It’s worth more than the gold I’m carrying!”

Or will it be a subtle play worked out in advance, where two party members argue sotto voce about whether to offer the booze up as a prize, and whether their captors would be civilized enough to appreciate its flavor?

4 Sunyaku December 6, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Ixiter, Level 14 Hybrid Sorcerer/Rogue (LFR)
Gloves of Storing, Potion Bandolier, Belt Pouches, Bag of Holding, Fast Hands… and all sorts of toys:

In the gloves, Cloaked Accurate Dagger and Flashbangs.
In the Bandolier, Holy water, 2 Potions of Vitality, An empty flask, Elven fire wine, and Unholy water. I usually carry an acid flask as well, but haven’t been back to town in awhile.
Belt pouch #1: Blast patches
Belt pouch #2: Alchemist’s fire (recently went troll hunting)
Belt pouch #3: Gems of Colloquy (language stones)
Other items of note in various bags: climber’s kit, inquisitor’s kit, nail of sealing, crowbar, glass cutter, lockburst chalk, goodnight tincture, reading spectacles, and alchemical silver.

The character is basically Indiana Jones meets Batman meets George Clooney in the Ocean’s movies. As with your Batman example, Ixiter uses mundane items and illusion magics whenever possible (hat of disguise and watcher’s signet), and avoids using his more powerful sorcerer spells unless the situation is dire (and the magic use generally has an element of surprise because of this).

With a bluff skill of ~+25, he’s currently pretending to be a half-elf woman to gain intelligence for the quest at hand. Hilarity also ensues when Ixiter has bluff checks in the 40s to pretend to be an angel, demon, nasty elemental, etc. … or pulls the doppelganger trick on enemies.

5 mbeacom December 6, 2010 at 6:21 pm

In my backpack, I carry a LOT of little trinkets. These are just off the top of my head.

1. Grappling hook. A must, I use this almost every night. Amazingly, no matter how often I use it, no one else ever seems to think they need one. Probably because I have it.
2. Crowbar. You mentioned it, but you should never leave home without one.
3. 2 x Glass vials. One is empty, to hold interesting liquids I find. The other has a harmless red fluid in it. I’ve used this to bluff countless times. Is it a healing potion? Blood of a virgin? Dragons blood? The ideas are limitless.
4. Twine. As a rogue, this is part of my traps that I set, or even just to make a simple tripwire/noise/alarm. Very handy stuff.
5. 2 x disguises. One as a rich merchant and one as a beggar. Great for use in negotiations or interrogations/investigations
6. A yo-yo. Handy for wasting time, sure, but I’ve used it more than once to get information from local street children (they always seem more trusting of a halfling with a yo-yo), or to infiltrate a troupe of traveling performers.
7. A cheap necklace that looks expensive. Always nice to have when you need to woo the local barmaid or governors daughter into giving you that critical tidbit of info

I have more than this, but these are the things I use most often. Very few are combat related, but my forte is the out of combat elements. I love a good investigation or infiltration. Its the best part of being a Rogue IMO. I really miss the olden days of finding/removing traps and listening at doors. There are about 20 odd skills I use regularly that almost always result in a thievery or stealth check.

6 DarkTouch December 6, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I play Pathfinder so I’m not sure my experience applies. Our party has been tracking a murder cult across the continent so we’ve seen a lot of wilderness and urban encounters but not really done much by way of exploring traditional dungeons. The coupled with some fairly strict tracking of encumbrance means that I’ve been traveling fairly light. All of my esoteric items are mementos of some sort or another. The medallion that belonged to my adoptive father, the gem that activated the alter to Torag that saved my life right before I converted, Correspondence between the murder cult members including ones telling them to watch out for the party because we’re getting too close. Those last ones are quite proudly pasted into a scrap book.

7 Wimwick December 6, 2010 at 9:07 pm

@ Lahrs
I don’t think Encounters and even LFR are really built for mudane super creative idea’s. Encounters is designed as a gateway into the game imo.

@ Francois B.
I think it’s the job of the DM to enable players, but not to hand feed them. It’s the job of the player to be creative at how they approach the game.

@ JR
There are a lot of great alchemical items in 4e that somewhat fill the role of mundane items. However, the cost on these items get ridiculous. A set of caltrops need be nothing more than the shavings left over from a hard day at work in the forge.

@ Sunyaku
I like the way you think.

@ mbeacom
That is the first time I’ve ever heard of a yo-yo being on a character sheet.

@ DarkTouch
I am also a big fan of personal items. Things that have no in game mechanical benefit, but provide a role playing motivation or story for my character.

8 askanipsion December 7, 2010 at 12:01 am

These are just a few mundane things my current 4e character has:

Perfume – good vs enemies that track by smell or to use in seduction
Poison vials – collecting poison from slain monsters
Signal whistle
Hair brush
Hidden lockpicks in gloves
Metal shackles – great for interrogating
Trip wire – great for ambushes or deterring chasing enemies
Poisoners Kit

9 Kevin December 7, 2010 at 11:08 am

While I’m firmly in the “just ask your DM for it” camp, I believe most of the items you cited can be accounted for in 4e:

Caltrops – for rules, see Kobold Spiker or Goblin Delver (minor act, dmg + slowed), or Wicked Fang Keeper (minor act, dmg + difficult terrain); DM can just determine cost to you as a comparable mundane weapon or maybe you could loot some from defeating these enemies

Rope, grappling hook, climbers kit – 3 gp; in PHB1, climber’s kit grants a +2 untyped bonus to Athletics checks to climb – don’t leave home w/out it!

Mirror – while not listed as Adventure Gear, scrying rituals require them as components; example: Wizard’s Sight, level 8, focus is a mirror worth 200gp

Chalk – again, not explicitly listed as gear, but there’s both alchemical and magic item chalk, to its mundane counterpart must exist

Whistle – 5 gp; just a mundane musical instrument, like a flute, from PHB2

Signet ring – 150 gp; listed as “Arcane Signet Ring”, from the Eberron Player’s Guide

Blade blackener – this one is harder to officially pin down, but possibly Dragon 373, “Art of the Kill” detailing non -assassin-class assassins; Camouflaged Clothing, 30 gp, mundane item that grants a +1 item bonus to stealth; DM could easily reason it includes blackener

10 Acheron December 9, 2010 at 11:46 am

Jajajaja a yo-yo…

Yeah very good, bribing the guards with fine wine seems very good, and making a character very versatile with mundane items is very good, but i am also with DarkTouch, the biggest feather of the hypogrifh I killed with a critical, a symbol of my first 1 on 1 duel with the other’s army best soldier… Stuff like that, and sometimes it is just historic items… but when negotiating with a tribe of barbarians to the north some of them served a presents to their liders and that with some good rolls allow us to have them as allies.

Yeah mundane items shoudn’t be left behind.

Let it be for flexibility or for rol play mundane items are a fun part of the game.

Good Article, Regards.

11 Gregory December 14, 2010 at 1:38 pm

This reminds me of a recent article in Wizards Dungeon magazine that came out last month. The article was depicting a possible NPC for your campaign and who was laden with all sorts of mundane and minor magical equipment hidden away in his many-pocketed-cloak-of-holding. Some of my favorite items included:
*A thumb-box containing a very poisonous spider
*A thumb-box containing a very poisonous-looking spider
*A sealed bladder of human blood
*A portable set of scales, the crossbeam slides apart to reveal a hidden dagger
*various costume pieces, beards, wigs, ect.
*pickled animals and human bits (eye, teeth, ect.) in jars

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