Monday, August 11, 2014

The Best (Non-Magical) Equipment For Your Pathfinder Party

Pathfinder is a game of gods and devils, magic and monsters, swords and sorcery. As characters begin fighting dragons, ancient liches, and powerful necromancers it's easy to get caught up in the spectacle of the epic. But take a moment and ask yourself how many times you've found your adventure stymied for want of something simple? Something really, really basic? Like a torch, some rope, a ball of twine, or a piece of chalk?

We're in the middle of the goddamn desert, and you didn't bring a canteen?
Every player has his or her list of equipment that is a necessity before setting out on an adventure, regardless of what level they're at. For those who don't want to scour the books for the most useful equipment that will often cost you less than a single gold piece, this list has some items you should really consider adding to your pack.

Pouches, Packs, and Utility Belts

Batman ain't got shit on this.
Have you ever been in the middle of a fight and realized you have the perfect item to turn the tide of battle, but it's buried in the bottom of your backpack? Sure it's just a move action to get it out of your pack, but doing provokes attacks of opportunity.

That's why it's a good idea to be careful with where you're keeping your equipment.

The bandolier (Ultimate Equipment) and the adventurer's sash (Seekers of Secrets) are both items that players should pay attention to. They both go across an adventurer's chest, and the former has eight pockets while the latter has six. Both items provide loops for weapon-like items, and pouches for flasks and vials. It is a move action to draw an item from either of them. So where's the benefit? Well if you're storing a wand or other weapon-like object (Core Rule Book 186) that's near to hand then you may draw it as if it were a weapon. That means no attack of opportunity for pulling out your wand. Which, under the right circumstances, is a handy thing to know. You still can't quick draw it, even with the feat, but you can draw it in all other respects as if it were a weapon.

For those who really want to get gear into their hands more quickly though it's a good idea to invest in either a wrist sheathe or a spring-loaded wrist sheathe (Adventurer's Armory). The former allows you to drop a dart, dagger, or wand into your hand with a move action, and the latter with a swift action. Neither action provokes an attack of opportunity, though cranking the spring-loaded sheathe back is a full-round action that does provoke.

Lastly, it's a good idea to invest in a weapon cord (Advanced Player's Guide). This two-foot length of rawhide goes around your wrist and lets you retrieve a dropped or disarmed weapon as a move action. Not as good as a lock gauntlet, but you can still drop the weapon in your hand and use something else (wand, drink a potion, etc.) without serious worry.

Light Sources

Because hell globes are hard to come by.
If you're fortunate enough to have a race with darkvision then you're going to be head-and-shoulders above fellow party members when you're eventually ambushed at night or have to skulk through a series of caves. If you're playing a human though (as so many players do) then it's a good idea to be able to see where you're going.

One of best backups you can have is a candle (Core Rule Book 158). A candle is considered a weightless item (so there's no reason not to carry half a dozen of them just to be safe), and as long as a character has some means to light it like flint and steel (Core Rule Book 158) or just a cantrip like prestidigitation, a candle can be the difference between wandering a maze in the dark and being able to at least see five feet in front of your face. A candle lamp doesn't provide any additional illumination, but it catches dripping wax and stops the candle from going out in a breeze.

For those adventurers who prefer traditional torches it's a good idea to invest in a shield sconce (Adventurer's Armory). This handy item is a metal frame that straps over a light, medium, or tower shield, and it holds a torch for you. A great item for armored tanks who want to lead the way into the darkness, but who don't have a free hand to hold a torch.

Alchemical Items

When it absolutely, positively has to be stuck in place, doused in acid, and set on fire.
I already created a pretty exhaustive list of great alchemical items in this post right here. That said, alchemical items can take out swarms, heal the party, light your way, stop your falls, let you bypass damage reduction, protect you from energy damage, and they can grant you concealment.

Seriously, I can't say enough good things about these items. A requirement for any adventurer who wants to be ready for anything.

Tools of The Trade

Because it's better to have and not need, than to need and not have...
No thief worth her salt would be caught dead without a few sets of lockpicks on her person... but you've probably noticed that's the only tool set that most adventurers bring with them on the road. You may also have noticed that, nine times out of ten, you always wish you'd brought something else with you.

Perhaps one of the best tools for an adventurer is a simple crowbar (Core Rule Book 155). This bar provides a +2 to all strength checks to force open doors and chests, and it can be used as an improvised melee weapon if necessary. The much more common grappling hook (Core Rule Book 155) is a great investment, along with at least 50 feet of rope (hemp or silk, both are useful). It's often a good idea to bring a shovel or a pick (because you're going to have to dig a latrine at some point, or camp is going to get gross). If a party is traveling overland or under the mountains a compass (Advanced Player's Guide) provides a +2 bonus on survival checks (above ground) or knowledge (dungeoneering) checks (below ground) for finding direction. Manacles (Core Rule Book 156) are much better than rope for trussing up foes that you need to bring back alive (or if you have adventurers who are particularly lawful, good, or both in your party).

Seriously though, getting out of manacles is a DC 30 escape artist or DC 26 strength check. 35 and 28 for masterwork manacles. Your bounty ain't going nowhere.

Miscellaneous Gear

What the hell is this even for?
Some items are just so random it makes you wonder who would ever use them. Then you find yourself in a situation wishing you'd parted with those five silver pieces because that piece of equipment would come in really damn handy.

Take chalk (Core Rule Book 158) for instance. It's a cheap, no-weight item but it can be used to mark where adventurers have gone in an underground passageway. Chalk powder, flour, and other dusts can be packaged into thrown weapons that will reveal invisible creatures in a square (Advanced Player's Guide).

Another helpful item is a flask of lamp oil (Core Rule Book 158). While used as splash weapons for several editions, these items can be used to coat enemies (or the ground) in burning pitch. It does take a full round action to affix a wick though, which is something that should be kept in mind by adventurers with pyromantic urges. For those who need heat but not fire the ideal item is a heatstone (Inner Sea World Guide). It will heat a 20-foot square area even in extreme cold, but it won't give away a location with light. Also, you can't cook with it or hurt anyone with it.

Lastly, for those who've been involved in a foot chase, it's a good idea to have at least one bag of caltrops (Core Rulebook 155) on hand. A single bag covers a 5 foot square and they have the potential to lame creatures who run over them. A lame creature is reduced to half movement, and the penalty remains until the damage is healed. While you might not use them often, caltrops are often great when paired with smokesticks so that those who find them do so without warning.

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  1. I know it is magical and this post is about non-magical gear, but an Ioun Stone [75gp - Ultimate Equipment] is inexpensive enough to bear mention. One of these is less expensive than a set of Masterwork Thieves' Tools and unlike a shield sconce is usable by two weapon or two handed fighting types, since they don't have shields. As a bonus, it can't be smothered or quenched or accidentally light anything on fire.

  2. Neil, thanks so much for your posts. When I got back into D&D/PF a couple years ago, I was blown away by how much there was to absorb. Your blog was one of several which were able to cut through so much of the poring a searching. Something that it taught me, along with the others, was more the theory beneath the system; how to look for and build upon symmetries.

    Thanks again!

  3. Thanks for the tips, this is quite a pragmatic shopping list!