D&D Tips 'n' Tricks, volume 2: Equipment
When your character goes shopping, in additions to weapons, you'll see all sorts of miscellaneous equipment that may not seem necessary. This may be compounded by the fact that they also have a section for livestock, so if like Robert E. Lee you can't go into battle without some scrambled eggs every morning, the DM knows what to charge you for a live chicken. But some of the items do have practical uses both in the dungeons and in the battlefield. The basic D&D set came with descriptions and potential uses for a lot of these items, but in AD&D i guess you're supposed to figure it out for yourself.
As i mentioned in volume 1, the main thing to remember is that you are not limited in what you can attempt. Here are some ideas for some of the things you can buy:
Oil: Mainly, oil is for keeping lanterns lit, but it obviously has a lot of applications. Some players become discouraged when they first attempt to set all their opponents on fire and discover it isn't quite that easy, but it still has uses on the battlefield. Say there's some archers up above you with plenty of cover. You can't get a good shot at them but they are tearing your group apart. Tossing up some flaming oil probably won't actually hit any of the archers, but it could force them out into the open, or at least away from their vantage point. Oil also is useful when you have time to prepare. Lubing up a staircase or the edge of a pit or crevice is a good way to turn an enemy's charge to your advantage, for example.
Iron Spikes & Hammer: If you're not a thief, you can use them to (noisely) climb short walls. They're also good for securing rope, which is nice both for dropping down the side of a tower or cliff, or for setting up a little tripwire in a doorway. You can also use them to wedge doors shut if you're being pursued and need some time to set up a counter-attack. Finally, they're a good distraction for rust monsters.
Mirrors: Aside from detecting vampires and making it possible to fight medusas and basilisks, mirrors have somewhat less specialized uses as well. Extra cautious parties use them to look around corners, although this becomes tedious if done routinely. However, they can be used for a quick peek at the enemy in a siege situation. And anyone who's seen Legend knows that you can use them to bring sunlight deep into a dungeon to send Tim Curry back into the netherworld, assuming you can keep all your gnomes awake.
Rations: If you're not carrying around live chickens, there's two basic types of food in D&D: Iron Rations and Standard Rations. Iron Rations are jerky and dried fruit and lembas wafers - not very appetizing, but they never go bad, so this is what most people wind up buying. Standard rations are unpreserved foods, so they taste better but they won't sit in your backpack forever, especially if you're in the habit of creeping around in moldy old underground caverns. However, standard rations have a non-culinary purpose: they can be used as bait for animals and monsters that think with their stomachs. Being pursued by a ravenous owlbear that you're in no mood to fight? Most likely given the choice between food it has to chase and food that's just sitting there, it'll probably leave you alone. Even better: got a pack of hungry hellhounds in one room and a large group of orcs in another? Lead one to the other and then you can fight the weakened winner.
Wooden Poles: Useful for poking in places you wouldn't want to stick your hands - dirty piles of rubble, holes in the wall, etc. If you suspect an area to contain pit traps, use the pole to feel out the floor in front of you. If you're in a large dark room and want to check out the ceiling, attach a lantern to the end of the pole.
Rope: When haggling with the shopkeeper, keep in mind that there are two types of rope: there's the thick kind that you used to climb in gym class that is good for cliffhanging and that's about it, and there is the thinner rope that is not quite as strong but is a little more versatile. With the thinner rope, you can make trip wires, tie up prisoners, suspend your halfling archer up in the rafters, and lasso pegasi. Just don't try and use the thin kind to lower yourself down a 30 foot pit while wearing full platemail and carrying a large sack full of gold coins.
My feeling is that most of this is obvious once you read it, but the idea is to get you thinking about different things you can do with items other than your sword. In addition to the stuff that you'll find in stores, there's also assorted items that you'll run across in your adventures. Don't be afraid to try stuff, and eventually you'll become a regular Jackie Chan propmaster.
By fnord12 | August 7, 2006, 3:26 PM | D&D
i cant wait for Volume 3: What to Do When You Only Have One Arm.