Starting Gear: Choose Carefully Episode.046

Having finished an agreeable breakfast, it is time to begin selecting the things you want to bring along with you.  You are fortunate enough to have inherited a young stallion to lift the burden of always walking, but he is too young to carry the workload like your father’s Belgian.  You will have to be selective this journey.  Laying it all out before you on your bed, you scan the gear, weapons, armor, and general items and think about where you are going.  It is early autumn now, but you know the cold bite of the northern winds will greet you soon.  Your essentials take up nearly half of your space, leaving you with but a weapon and the armor you wear as standard clothing.  Although you believe the pack is light as you test out the weight, you know that fatigue will drain quicker with such a heavier burden.  A few things will not be with you on this trip.

I always enjoy equipping a character.  Over the years with more expanded rules and books in the roleplaying industry, equipment has become such a wide ended category that seemingly anything can be found with all sorts of statistical value to them.  Some of us may pass over this step of character creation, but then they are the ones who often are asking the GM if their character can “remember” to have brought that crowbar they suddenly need.  There are a few rule systems that compliment that situation.  Gumshoe, for example, has a Preparedness ability that allows a player to have remembered to bring along that item they need right now.  Call of Cthulhu has the Luck skill that opens up the chance for players to roll to see if they were lucky enough to have remembered their tools.  But if you come prepared to begin with, it won’t be too much of an issue.

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There are varying degrees of rules for gear in general, and depending on the setting, you may not need much more than a pistol.  But generally the settings that demand your character to carry the most gear are not modern as the convenience abounds.  Apocalyptic would be the opposite in wondering what kind of gear you’d bring, which means generally the setting needs to be medieval or before.

As a player, you are always encouraged to get as much general information about the GM’s setting as possible prior to making a character.  If you are extremely lucky, the GM has made some kind of a setting’s guide book that refers to all the various facts of the world from race to magic.  Among the questions you should always ask is the general concept the GM has for his campaign.  Will this take place almost entirely in a temperate zone?  Will the players be able to wander to the far reaches of the continent?  Is transportation going to be an issue?  What climates does the campaign include?  Can the journey lead underground, up a mountain, etc. (in other words, anywhere or specific locations)?  Is the world populated or will the players be on their own for weeks or months?  It would help to document these answers in bullet point format for easy referral as you develop your character.

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As would be expected, it is wisest to take care of the most important gear first, then follow with the most expensive gear that appeals to you the most, then finish up with filling in the rest.  Most will say their weapon or armor is the most important, and generally that is because it’s the most interesting, even if you are not playing a combat-oriented character.  I enjoy equipping jack of all trade characters such as a Rogue or Bard as I can add more things than a fighter normally would.  Since I am a bard, the choice of musical source should be first.  If it’s a two-handed instrument such as a lyre, I might not wish to brandish a two-handed sword.  In this case, I prefer the bugle as I expect to lead my companions into battle.

I choose my primary weapon, the one I want to unsheathe more often than anything else.  I should not be limited too much with it, however.  If you select a rapier, be prepared to have problems when a piercing weapon is ineffective.  Generally I enjoy choosing blunt weapons as they often deal similar damage to bladed weapons, but they cover almost every situation.  If you’re killing things made of bone, flesh, or miscellaneous, a blunt weapon will work efficiently each and every time.  Unless your character is a weapon-crazed warrior, give yourself some options for other things when selecting a weapon.  The more exotic, heavier version may do more damage, but when it comes down to it, we’re talking about just a couple of points.  For my Bard, I go with a double-efficient weapon: the Morningstar.  It provides the bluntness of a mace while giving me the piercing ability from the spikes covering the ball.

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My armor will be lighter than a fighter although I want to be able to lead the charge sometimes and fill my allies with confidence and courage.  A simple breastplate usually does the trick for me, providing adequate protection while allowing for better mobility than the heavier metal armor.  I don the armor and move on to what I enjoy most: the random things.

General survival gear can be overwhelming to the point many skip it, giving themselves a couple of torches and calling it a day.  I always put a mirror in my backpack.  It can start a fire when there is sun, signal someone from extreme distances (in fact, a mirror is often in survival packs), be set up to see behind you at a glance, and allow you to look at paralyzing creatures safely.  It has often been stated as the most important piece of survival gear when out to sea.  If I am allowed and can afford a telescope, I bring one as it collapses relatively small and provide sight better than an elf.  I bring chalk with me as it not only can mark our way, but I can crush it into dust and use it to coat invisible creatures.  I can also simply blow it into people’s faces to distract or temporarily blind targets.  I like bringing candles with me instead of torches because it can free up your hand.  Simply drip some wax on just about any surface, and the candle will stay in place while you work.  A roll of twine comes in handy for numerous situations from binding someone or something’s appendages to bundling things together to testing out depth, lowering delicate items to someone, setting traps, etc.  I also will pack a trowel for a few reasons.  If given enough time, I can dig a fairly decent hole with it, and if I remove just a few inches of top soil, the ground should be a different temperature for resting (cool ground under hot top soil or unthawed ground under a frozen top soil).  I can use it to pry things open, I can use it as a makeshift chisel, and I can hit the back of the handle with it to attempt to break a lock open.

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Next will be the more essential items that people often ignore.  Flint & steel for when it is overcast or at night and you need a fire, your bedroll, some belt pouches for quick access, a flask of oil to start an immediate fire, a canteen, a compass, some rope (usually hemp), signal horn, a treated cloak for cold or wet weather, a bag of caltrops to slow pursuers, and a small blank handbook with quill and ink to document important information.

In all, my Morningstar is safely covered and strapped at my hip, my breastplate snuggling tied on, my belt pouch at my waist with chalk, the hand mirror, compass, a few caltrops, and my twine.  The backpack has my bedroll, flask of oil, the collapsed telescope, my trowel, the flint & steel, the rope, the rest of my caltrops, my book, quill, ink, and my rolled up cloak.  The signal horn rests neatly across my shoulders for easy access.  Even if I lose my horse, I am capable of traversing through any environment.  The backpack still has enough room to tie a pot on the outside, roll a towel up, throw in a scroll case, or even a deck of cards that could be used to role play passing the time or learning sleight of hand tricks to fool others.

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The point is that selecting the right gear is not only helpful in various situations it defines what kind of character you are.  You travel light because your back gives you fits from time to time because of an accident as a kid.  You prefer being nearly overburdened because you secretly have no confidence in yourself as a fighter and feel showing feats of strength proves otherwise to everyone.  You carry numerous little things that seem insignificant now but you find clever ways to utilize the items in the most unlikely places because you are heavily imaginative.  No item in your backpack has a sharp point or edge to it because you accidentally cut off one of your brother’s fingers when you both were younger.

Take advantage of being able to shop before an adventure.  Spend more than a minute thinking of what you might need and use that to inspire and excite you on the upcoming journey you’re about to take.  Come up with reasons for each item you pick, and make notes for any unique use for an item you might come up with that works for the future.  There might very well be a moment where you are glad you thought of buying the 1,000 gold piece water clock as you are out of water and quite thirst.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

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