Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Where do your characters keep their gear?

Adventure Needs from Marian Churchland's wonderful blog
If I ran a sword-and-sorcery RPG, and if I had the guts, I would insist that my players write out exactly where each of their items are on their bodies, in their packs, or on their cart/horse/riding bird. Though it may seem like a chore, writing out or sketching everything your character is carrying and how the character is carrying it can make a huge difference in changing the way players think about their characters.
In video games, characters keep all of their items in "their inventory," an impossible space where you can instantly dump any item and pull it out again later. Characters can often carry several full suits of armor at once, not to mention countless weapons, potions, scrolls, and who knows what else. Even if the weight that items take up is counted, their bulk is not, and superhumanly strong characters will often be able to carry several hundred pounds' worth of items. It's rare that a video game even bothers showing the player's character as wearing a backpack. More often, the character has no visible means of carrying all that loot at all, and can jump, roll, and fight as if he or she was carrying nothing whatsoever.

Essentially, every video game hero has a Bag of Holding. Unless your pen-and-paper character has one, too, you shouldn't act like he or she does.

When I was first playing D&D as a kid, I remember that the character sheet had a column in the Inventory section for where each item was carried. Thinking about how your character carries his or her gear suddenly opens up a host of interesting decisions. What's more important to have near to hand, a teleport scroll or a brace of throwing knives? Where are the potions both accessible and unlikely to break? What is best stored in a backpack so that it can be dropped in an emergency? Is there anything hidden in the character's boot?

I'd say that most pen-and-paper games I've played were about 10% talking to NPCs and shopping for items and 90% fighting monsters. There's a lot more that goes on in an adventure, though: eating, sleeping, walking, pooping. Managing their gear is the most fun mundane task a character engages in, because it gives an opportunity to interact with their phat loots. That has got to be a better way to introduce a little realism than making your characters pause halfway through the goblin king's lair to find a place to drop a deuce.

And you should always have something hidden in your character's boot.

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