Now, ask yourself if you would bring all your camping essentials with you if you were just going into town to do some shopping. Since the answer was probably no, ask why your RPG characters often do.
|Where am I going? Just down to the tavern for a few drinks... why?|
Think About What You're Carrying (And How)
While not every game has encumberance penalties (and not every group who plays games that do give them much attention), there comes a point where you should look at your inventory and ask how the hell your character is hauling around all this stuff. And, more importantly, you should ask why that character is bringing everything with them.
Sometimes this is an easy question to answer. Your party is on deployment in enemy territory, so they have a full complement of field gear including weapons, armor, healer's kit, field alchemy kit, spell components, ammunition, rations, and all the other things you need when you're far from civilization and surrounded by potential threats. But what if you're not? What if you're on a well-traveled road just going from one town to another on a day trip? Or if you're in a major city where someone clanking around in full plate who is not either part of a military parade or a tourney is going to get a lot of strange looks?
|What? You guys don't do casual Fridays?|
No one wants to get caught off-guard without their armor, shield, or weapons, but it's a good idea to put together two or three different equipment sets so you can easily do record-keeping for different situations. The first set is for when your adventurer is loaded for bear, and they look like one of the iconic Pathfinder characters (which is to say epic as hell, just don't ask how hard it is to sword fight with a bow over your back). The second is their casual carry, or their walking-around look. Because while Hervath Brightblade might feel most comfortable in a hundred pounds of steel atop his trusty charger, he makes do with a short sword, a chain shirt under his tunic, a Ring of Protection, and a Ring of Force Shield when he's just walking around town, or making deals with merchants. And the third sheet is for when you're going to an event where you're supposed to be on your best behavior. The kind of event where you'll be wearing silk instead of wool, and where even wearing a belt knife could be seen as offensive behavior.
Creighton Broadhurst had more thoughts about this in What's in An Adventurer's EDC? if you want to do further reading on the subject.
The Details Can Lead To Character Development
On the one hand, the idea of everyday carry might look like a way to make player characters vulnerable. After all, if they're not rocking their full bonuses, or carrying their deadliest weapons, then that means they're swinging at less than full-strength if the bad guys choose to show up with their whole crew to make a move on them.
This happens fairly frequently, too, since plots where characters have to blend in at the opera, or attend a ball being thrown by the duke, tend to use exactly this limited equipment ploy to make encounters more difficult. On the other hand, though, by making players remember that their equipment exists beyond numbers on their sheet, and bonuses to their attack and defense, you can end up making important character decisions.
|I shall go bare-chested. That will make them think twice about attacking me.|
As a quick for-instance, let's revisit Hervath. He's used to heavy armor, a mace, a sword, and a shield, but he was trained for war. He recognizes that showing up in full battle dress can send the wrong message if he's among the civilian populace. Not only that, but it's just cumbersome and awkward eating a sandwich in full armor.
The decisions he makes next say things about him, as a character, though.
For instance, has Hervath's experience taught him that there is no such thing as true safety, so while he foregoes his full plate and heavy shield, he still keeps enough magic and weapons on his person to fight his way free of any ambush? Alternatively, does he trust in the city's walls and the presence of a respected town guard to ensure his safety while he goes to the tavern, so he only takes the minimal precaution of wearing a long dagger, and keeping his ring and amulet on for protection? Or is he so confident in himself that he foregoes protections, not because he trusts the city to be safe, but because he expects his reputation to armor him? And if that is the case does he carry his signature sword, prominently display his crest, or make some other effort to announce to those who catch sight of him just who he is, and why they shouldn't fool about with him?
Does your character feel naked without their field gear, or do they feel relieved? Do they feel out-of-place if they are unarmed, or unarmored, even if they aren't worried about their safety? Do they behave differently when they have a tower shield strapped to their arm, and a morningstar in hand, than when they're facing down a crowd of braggarts on a street corner, or dealing with an unexpected assassin at court?
The answers to all of these questions might change over time, as characters gain in experience, and learn new habits both good and bad. Pheanor Hardchilde may have been unsure about expending any of her arcane energies unless she was sure she, or others, were in danger when she was a fresh-faced academy graduate, but after her adventure in the Crannoch Chasm, she always has several protective magics active on her person no matter how safe her surroundings are. On the other hand, Brenden Blaze was touchy enough that he'd kill a man for speaking out of turn to him. After looking into too many sets of wide, staring eyes, though, he leaves his guns at home when he goes to town, and only carries a dagger. He can make it all kinds of lethal, if he needs to, but he always uses his mouth before he reaches for a weapon whenever he has the chance.
What equipment your character carries says a lot about them. When they carry it, and what they refuse to leave behind, says even more. So think about what stays on their person, and what they leave in their room at the inn the next time you're at the table.
Also, since we're talking about gear, take a listed to Razor Jack's top five pieces of overlooked adventuring gear for Pathfinder. It's an entertaining little episode, if you haven't checked out Dungeon Keeper Radio yet.
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