Dungeons are dangerous places. Most adventurers lust after magic items and the power they bring. Just as often, though, a humble mundane item can spell the difference between life and death…
Buying mundane equipment can be boring, unless you add depth and flavour to the process, but clever adventurers use every item at their disposal to gain advantage during their explorations and delves. Some items have obvious uses – the 10 ft. pole or caltrops for example – while others seem relatively useless or to only have one use at first glance.
Listed below are a small selection of clever uses for mundane items:
- Wine Flask: Flasks of wine are handy things for adventurers to carry. Obviously, they hold wine – which is nice to drink after a hard day slaying orcs, but they can have other uses. Wine offered in parley is a great way of ingratiating yourself with a dungeon denizen. It’s also handy when fleeing – many sentient creatures will stop to pick up a wine flask hurled behind a fleeing party. Really cunning adventurers keep a special wine flask doctored with sleep poison for just such eventualities.
- Rations: In a similar fashion to wine, rations can be a handy bargaining tool when meeting creatures not immediately hostile to the party. Drugging or poisoning food left to distract pursuers is also a clever plan.
- Mirror: Mirrors are great for looking around corners when you don’t want to expose your entire body. They are also handy for signalling and can be devastating when used against a medusa or basilisk. The glass in a mirror can also be used as a rudimentary alarm system. Scattering broken glass in the doorway of the room in which you are resting may warn you of the approach of skulking or invisible foes. Finally, depending on the edition you play, a mirror attached to a 10-ft. pole may allow you to cast line of sight spells from around a corner. (Check with your GM!)
- Bag of Flour: Great for scattering on the ground to see if anything crosses a certain section of floor, a bag of flour is also a rudimentary (and tremendously cheap) detect invisibility spell — if hurled into the right area. Hurled in the air, flour can also reveal hidden air currents (which in turn might indicate the presence of hidden doors or niches). A bag of soot gathered from a campfire can perform the same tasks (and is free!)
- Oil Flask: Oil is obviously flammable, but it’s also slippery. Coating the top step of a set of stairs with oil virtually guarantees anyone not spotting it will slip and fall down the stairs. We once used this tactic against a pack of trolls chasing us. Of course, we also put a wall of fire at the bottom of the stairs and all three trolls slipped, fell and slid straight through the wall of fire. Hilarious (for us) and fatal for the trolls as they landed prone and rather battered and scorched at our feet.
- Marbles: See oil flask above. Marbles can also reveal if the floor is level. This might in turn reveal the presence of a cleverly hidden trap or hidden area. Hurled at the feet of your enemies can stop them dead in their tracks or even render them prone, which in turn stops them pursuing you (or fleeing).
- Chalk: Using chalk to mark your way is a classic explorer’s tactic. However, you can also use different colour chalk (if your GM allows it) to indicate different things – perhaps red chalk indicates danger ahead, blue means water and so on. Scouts probing forward of the main party can even scribe different coded symbols on the walls so the main body knows what to expect as it advances.
I’ve only scratched the surface of clever uses for mundane items. Remember, one of the hallmarks of a superior player is inventive play – take a look at your equipment list and see what hidden capabilities it holds!
Help Fellow Gamers
Do you have clever uses for other mundane equipment not immediately obvious to others? Share what they are in the comments below and help your fellow adventurers survive their next delve!