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Gygax On…Equipment

We focus a lot these days on character build and character design, but we rarely spend a lot of time thinking about the equipment that our character should carry. Well, I guess that’s not completely true as everyone dreams of owning the +5 vorpal sword or ring of wizardry that would make their character truly heroic. The sad truth is though that mundane equipment is infinitely less exciting but in many cases just as important to successful adventuring. Need to climb a wall? You’d best have rope and pitons. Going for a long wilderness trek, better get enough food and water for the trek. 

What did Gary have to say about equipment?

“Careful selection of equipment and supplies for characters is very important. Often there will not be sufficient funs to purchase everything desired, so intelligent choices will have to be made.”

--Player’s Handbook, Gary Gygax [page 35]

As quotes from the Father of it All, this is pretty basic and obvious. The underlying principle, though, is that you can’t really make intelligent choices about what to take if you don’t know anything about the adventure that you are going on.

You can buy as much equipment as you can afford, but this could actually end up slowly you down (which ultimately could get you eaten by the ravenous trolls which you are trying to flee). For example, if you are at the bottom of a cliff with your +5 sword and you have no way of getting up to fight the goblins (I mean who really buys rope) pushing rocks down on you, you are going to lose. Another great example from my campaign happened when a group of players was planning an expedition into a reputedly haunted mine. In a classic moment one of the players decreed “Only idiots buy holy water” and so no one did. Later on, they met monsters particularly vulnerable to holy water. Three PCs died.

Additionally, although Gary’s quote appears in the “Equipping The Character” section of the Player’s Handbook, the advice is just as relevant for magic items. Going to be crossing an inaccessible subterranean lake? You’ll need a flying carpet or folding boat. Going to be fighting creatures with damage reduction? You’d best take the right kind of weapons with you!

So in short, buying equipment isn’t sexy, but thoughtful and intelligent kit management is vital for a successful adventuring career.