Top 10 Things Adventurers FORGET to Bring
Welcome back to the Zurn blog! Today we're taking a look at the top ten things adventurers forget to bring with them on journeys. All of these things are available to your character (or should be available to your character in some way, shape, or form) and will make the life of your character so much easier. But because they are not the "meta build" for combat or the first thing that comes to mind when packing for a journey, a lot of people leave them at home.
It's worth noting that some of these things may be must-haves for your campaign, though others may not be necessary depending on the way your game master runs the campaign. But in a standard roleplay adventure involving combat, exploration, and social encounters, the following things are very useful and commonly forgotten.
#10: Good Shoes
A lot of game systems don't have an equipment choice selection for shoes unless they are magical, and that's a shame. A lot of benefits come from having good shoes: it makes travel easier on the body, can make it easier to traverse difficult terrain, and can ward away disease in wetter climates.
The Zurn system has perhaps the most robust system for footwear across all RPGs, and yet even Zurnians don't take footwear all that often. In a campaign where your movement (be it across ground or as a quick reaction to dodge an attack) may make the difference between victory or defeat, bring good shoes.
#9: Ring Mail/Kevlar
Based on your technology level for your game, having a sturdy set of armor that is easy to put on and distributes the weight well across the body will serve you well. Ring mail has been used in Earth's history for almost 2000 years (possibly earlier, as we don't know what Etruscan "mail" looked like), and for good reason: it is quick to repair, easy to replace, and will hold up under common threats.
Sure, spears and axes can puncture it, as can crossbow bolts and war bows, but the majority of threats you will face in the wild - fangs, claws, swords, knives, and lighter bows designed for hunting - will be kept at bay by a good chain mail hauberk.
Now, some of the D&D and Pathfinder people are going to say, "But Aaron, if I run a sorcerer or wizard I lack proficiency with armor, so this doesn't apply to me." Read my thoughts on armor proficiency in those games, and I'll just say for now that I don't buy it. Everyone should be proficient with at least "light armor" in all of those games, and there's no good reason why they wouldn't be able to "wear [ring armor] effectively" either. Full stop. So talk to your game master about taking armor, even if your game system says, "you can't have any because reasons."
#8: A Mount
A very useful item, mounts increase your speed, keep you from tiring as quickly, and can carry far more equipment/treasure than you can. They rank low on this list because they do come with extra costs - they eat a lot, must be stabled in most towns (which may come with a fee), are susceptible in battle, and are expensive to replace compared to the other items on this list.
It surprises me how many adventurers are okay with traveling on foot everywhere, though, when the cost for mounts in most games is very reasonable. Even if you are just buying a mule or donkey to carry gear for you (and maybe carrying you as well), the cost to you will be marginal and the benefit is vast. And if you are in a campaign where speed matters, the benefits grow over time. So don't forget a mount!
Axes - especially tool axes - are underrated as a useful tool for adventurers. If you need wood for a fire, you will get it most effectively with a tool axe. If you need to clear a path, a tool axe is second only to a scythe or sickle, and even then it's a competitive choice. If you need a surface to strike sparks on to start a fire, a tool axe will do the job.
And of course you could use them for personal defense, though a dedicated sidearm of some sort will always work better. But it's worth noting that you can use it for that purpose. And since a basic axe is pretty cheap in virtually every game, there's no real drawback to purchasing one and bringing it with you. So bring an axe!
#6: Medical Kit
Do you know what sucks? Getting sick as an adventurer. Do you know what else sucks? Losing so much blood that you die as an adventurer. And both can be fixed with a medical kit.
Unlike spells that can be dispelled, medical kits just require you to be near the target for them to work. And out of combat the effectiveness of the medical kit increases. So if you are looking for an effective way to help keep the party in fighting condition, especially if you are not traited as a healer, this is a good way to help. And in case the player for the party healer cannot make it, here's a way to fill the gap on the cheap.
#5: Tinderbox/Fire Starting Device
A lot of roleplayers simply tell me, "we setup camp, and we make a fire," like that's no thing. And for most of my campaigns I don't really care that much: if you want a fire, you can have one. But if your game involves survival as a critical element to it and/or if your game master is trying to show some realism in how hard it is to make a fire, you might want to look into a tinderbox or some other fire starting device.
In some game systems, this may be as simple as taking a spell that can start fires, or it may mean purchasing a small item that does the job for you. In either event, the fact that you have something means that if it ever comes up, you at least have an option for starting a fire.
And lest we forget, fires are actually very important. They keep you warm on colder nights, they shed light so you can see, and they can burn up undesirable things like dead corpses or the crop-laden fields of your enemies. So there are lots of reasons to have easy access to fire. So bring a tinderbox.
#4: Cloak/Thick Jacket
Again, not every game system has a mechanic for cloaks unless they are magical, and I don't understand this one either. There's a reason that virtually everyone in the medieval period had cloaks: they are extremely versatile and useful. They keep you warm, some had pockets on the inner lining for carrying things (which also helped to weigh them down to keep them close to the body instead of billowing in undesirable ways), and they often came with hoods for covering the head when it was rainy or unpleasant outside. This protects the ears from the cold which fights off disease and loss of balance.
There were other ways that people stayed warm/protected against the elements as well that could work in place of a cloak in case you are a "no capes" person, like a thick jacket or a gambeson or other form of thick padded armor. These often come with other bonus advantages like bonuses to your armor value and the fact that you can wear them all the time anywhere with no problem. So bring a cloak!
Ever need to tie up a bad guy, and found that no one in the party brought rope? It is surprisingly more common than you think, especially if the party leaves their packs at a tavern or camp site. Having rope on-hand is always a good idea: whether you are making a shelter and need to lash branches together, crossing a dangerous ravine, rescuing someone from a river or pit, climbing a rock face, or capturing a prisoner, nothing beats good old-fashioned rope.
And of course depending on your game system ropes can be used for other things. In some game systems there are magic spells that allow you to do useful (typically vertical movement) things specifically with rope. You can easily smuggle rope into a place by using it as a belt, and can even fake the party's approach as a loyal band that captured a wanted fugitive if you have rope on-hand. So there are many uses for rope: always have some on-hand in case you need it.
#2: Sturdy Knife
Even if your character doesn't use a knife as a primary weapon (and you may not want to use it as a primary weapon, as it's typically not a great weapon), you should always have a knife. Need a shave? You'll need a knife. Need to skin an animal? Use a knife. Want to carve a piece of wood to make a gift for someone else? Grab a knife. Need to escape from being tied up? My my, now would be a good time for a knife, right?
The list of things you can use a knife for is huge, and grows even larger as the tech level of your world increases with the addition of saw-back knives, compasses built into the pommel, and unscrewing handles that hold cord for climbing.
And of course, they can also double as a holdout weapon. The saxons built a fantastic knife for this - the Scramasax - that was a multi-purpose tool and personal sidearm, useful in woodcarving, food preparation, and protecting yourself from assailants. Men and women both used them, and while other cultures had seax knives, the Saxons made it famous because of its pervasive presence across their society.
So consider, before going on an adventure, paying a very small amount of money (as every game system keeps these cheap) to bring a knife. It will come in handy.
#1: A Big Dog
And the #1 thing that people forget for reasons I don't know is a good dog. I'm not talking about a small dog (though the sniffing power of a beagle is worth noting as a boon to adventurers); I'm talking about a dog about retriever size or larger, capable of causing serious injury with its teeth, sniffing out threats, and hearing almost every sound made within a good radius of it.
Big dogs are well built to assist adventurers. Need help finding food? Bring a dog. Need help cornering, downing, or even killing said food? Bring a dog. Need someone to stay awake at night and warn you of threats (probably better than you can)? Bring a dog. Need someone to watch a prisoner and make noise if they so much as sneeze? Bring a dog. Need a distraction? Bring a dog. Need another warm body on a cold night? Bring a dog. And since most game systems have options for barding armor, you can actually make your dog decently survivable for relatively low cost.
It's truly incredible how many crises get easier when you bring a dog! Whenever I have a chance (and especially if I know there will be exploration and nights out in the open in the campaign) I bring a big dog - often two, just to be safe - because I cannot imagine going adventuring without one. I hope you see why, too.
Naturally you won't necessarily need all of these for every adventure. And it's very possible that your game master may spot you some/all of these things to keep things simple. But having as many of these on-hand as possible helps to cover over a variety of crises that might come up, and all in ways that are agnostic to your character race, concept, and class.
It's also worth noting that, if you are playing D&D, you can cover most of these with a Robe of Useful Items, assuming that it has the horse patch, the mastiffs patch, and either a healing spell or the healing potions patches. So if you are a GM and you want to hand out magic items to help the party cover their bases, consider this item (or, if you are a player, asking for this item). And since it doesn't require attunement, you can have it alongside your other attuned magic items with no trouble.
We hope this write-up was useful for you in giving a bit more scope and utility to your future character builds. In our next post we will be returning to our Let's Play series with a very unique entry: an amnesiac character who has forgotten his past.