Player Advice: How to Add Depth and Interest to Your PC’s Starting Equipment

By default adventurers start their career with shiny new equipment, but with a bit of work a GM and player working together can even make buying starting gear fun!

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)
By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


There is nothing wrong with simply equipping your new PC (perhaps by buying a couple of basic equipment bundles) using your starting gold. It can be fun, though, to work into your character’s background an alternate source for all this equipment and wealth. After all, if your character springs from humble, peasant stock justifying his possession of expensive arms and weapons can be tricky (but fun). Doing so in an imaginative way also adds depth to your PC and might even give your GM fun hooks to future adventures. Use one (or more) of the following:

  • Inheritance: A wealthy distant relative dies and bequeaths the PC with enough gold to finance his first adventure. Alternatively, the PC’s first suit of armour, favoured weapon or other valuable item is a family heirloom. Such items often have a deep resonance with its owner (and the wider family) and will not be discarded when a newer, shinier version is recovered.
  • Gifts: The PC could gain some of the most valuable items in his starting kit as gifts from a tutor, rich relative, patron of his first adventure and so on.
  • Loot or Treasure: The PC finds a small cache of hidden treasure – perhaps an adventurer’s hidden nest egg or the wealth of a rich person buried to keep it safe from marauders, avaricious relatives and so on. Alternatively, the PC could have happened upon the corpse of a recently slain adventurer, mercenary or other individual and looted the body. This find could be a PC’s impetuous to start an adventuring career. Small buried caches, battlefields and so on are excellent sources for minor loot and treasure.
  • Accumulated Gear: The PC never had a pile of gold to spend on equipment, Rather, he has slowly accumulated the necessary items through trade, lucky finds, from previous jobs or even through theft. Gear accumulated this way is often old, battered and miss-matched.

Gear Traits

Gear gained through one of the sources above is invariably not new and shiny. Often, the PCs are receiving an item second-, third- or even fourth-hand. As such they are may be battered, tarnished or otherwise travel worn. A canny GM can even use pieces of gear as adventure hooks in their own right:

  • Distinctive Appearance: The item has a distinctive appearance. It may be locally renown – perhaps an heirloom family weapon or shield bearing a particular coat of arms – or obviously have once belonged to a well known individual. The PC could be mistaken for the previous owner (with humorous or disastrous consequences as the GM determines).
  • Hidden Compartments: The item may have hidden abilities, of which the PC is not immediately aware. A backpack could have a hidden compartment while a weapon could have a hollow handle. These compartments could be full or empty.
  • Damaged: The item could be damaged and break at an inopportune moment. A GM should use this trait sparingly and shouldn’t use it if the mishap would seriously jeopardise the owner’s life.
  • Extra Abilities: The item could have extra abilities or even be secretly magical. Alternatively, a masterwork item could be damaged in some way and require fixing before the owner gains its normal abilities. This is particularly fun trait if applied to a family heirloom.

Help Fellow Players

Do you handle starting gold and equipment differently? Have you got any hints to make the process of generating your PCs’ starting gear more fun or relevant? Share what they are in the comments below and help your fellow gamers get more out of character generation!


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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

8 thoughts on “Player Advice: How to Add Depth and Interest to Your PC’s Starting Equipment”

  1. my goblin witch found a collection of books and scrolls hidden in a basement. overcoming his natural fear of anything written, his familiar squeeskee and himself discovered a new source of knowledge that goblins could never appreciate.
    this ended up with him being exiled from his clan ( having one eye burned out as punishment) and starting his adventuring career. now he is constantly on the look out for new books and maps to add to his collection.

  2. My players in OD&D get 5d6 copper, 3d6 silver, 1d6 gold, and 2 small items to start, for each of their five 0 level characters… the few that survive had good stories by the time they reach first level.

  3. How about ex- militia/town guard as an option? The character traded a few years of manning a post of some sort in exchange for starting gear and training to 1st level. It also gives her/him something to fall back on if they take an arrow to the knee…

  4. Sometimes just adding colour to something can make it unique. Imagine a warrior clad in entirely painted yellow armour!

  5. I give out a free skill rank for a craft or profession skill at level 1. This is meant to add backstory depth and help explain what the PC has been doing besides training for adventure.

    I also encourage my players to use the skills to get cheap gear right at the start of the game. A dwarf with an axe is cool. A dwarf with an axe that she made herself and inscribed with her clan rune is the next level of cool.

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