What’s in an Adventurer’s EDC?

Urban adventures are an essential part of many campaigns. However, more than once in my campaigns I’ve had adventurers—or indeed entire parties—insist they are clanking around town with all their equipment, weapons and armour (just in case). Variously this can include full plate armour, lances (strapped to your back naturally) and more.

Krorz by Matt Morrow
Krorz by Matt Morrow



This is somewhat an unrealistic situation. I mean how often do you go into town to do some shopping wearing a 50 lbs. backpack and carrying a rifle? (And anyway, behold, the Fallacy of the Adventurer’s Backpack!)

Adventurers are—for example—often heavily armed, heavily armoured and heavily equipped. That’s fine while they are on an adventure or exploring the wilderness, but do they *really* drag everything around town or down to the local pub for a drink? (And even if they want to, do the local laws allow them to do so?)

What’s needed is an adventurer’s EDC.

What’s an EDC, I hear you ask? Simply put, EDC stands for Every Day Carry—the things you carry on your body every day that make your life easier or safer.

An adventurer’s EDC is going to be spectacularly different to your personal real world EDC, but I thought it was a fun concept to explore. What would an adventurer carry about town? As the characters in my Shattered Star adventure are likely to be spending some time in a large urban area in the near future, this is a subject close to my heart.

The wise and prepared player prepares ahead of time a list of the stuff his character wears or carries around in his down-time. (Anything that speeds up game play and reduces potential arguments is—in my book—worth doing!)

So, what might an adventurer’s EDC look like?

  • Decent, appropriate clothing and footwear
  • Studded leather or leather armour
  • Dagger or knife
  • A one-handed melee weapon such as a longsword; anything larger is likely to draw comment and might even be illegal to carry
  • Belt pouch
  • Coins/wealth
  • Spell components
  • Small magic items (perhaps magic rings, a few potions a scroll of two and so on)

Depending on the situation, the adventurer might add to that list:

  • A second pouch
  • Flint and steel and/or tindertwig
  • Candle
  • A stripped down first aid kit or healer’s kit
  • Waterskin (or wineskin)
  • Ink, ink pen and paper (or parchment)
  • Signal whistle
  • A second dagger (naturally hidden in a boot)

Obviously, all these items won’t be applicable to every character; a fighter is unlikely to need a spell component pouch and a wizard is very unlikely to wear armour but I think you get the drift.

Verisimilitude & Challenge

If you enforce this kind of verisimilitude in your games (in that the PCs are not fully equipped in urban areas and suchlike) you need to keep this in mind when designing combat encounters. Many PCs when under-equipped are considerably less capable than normal. Thus, it would be “unfair” to throw normal encounters at them; I’m not saying don’t do it—the campaign situation or setup might call for it—but I am suggesting you think carefully about such encounters first.

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What Do You Think?

What do you think? Do you bother to track this kind of stuff or do you assume the party are clanking about town fully armed and equipped at all times?

Better yet, did I miss something? Should I add something to the above lists?

Let me know in the comments below.

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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.

20 thoughts on “What’s in an Adventurer’s EDC?”

  1. My players concern is always security of their possessions. Livestock at stables, room at the Inn vault at local money lender, or with royalty. They don’t want to lose their gains so naively or all in one swoop.

    1. We’ve always ruled that if you take reasonable precautions, NPCs reasonably leave things alone.

      That is, locking your stuff in your tavern room is sufficient… unless there is a specific threat against them. Don’t leave the Big Silver MacGuffin on the bed, you might want to find a way to keep that with you.

      “Someone stole your stuff” is not considered a good plot device around here, not on its own.

      For similar reasons, it’s okay to leave your mounts (possibly with a hireling to make sure they’re fed and watered) outside the dungeon. They won’t get eaten by the dragon you’re hunting, nor by wandering monsters. By strange coincidence you might return to camp in time to prevent them from being stolen by bandits.

      It’s all part of our social contract. We’re here to do adventurer stuff, and “protect our horses and backpacks full of dirty laundry against casual DM dickery” isn’t that.

      Unless, of course, you’ve earned some bad karma. If you have bad karma then you might run into off-screen problems… but bad karma is usually a special event, generally easy to know, and almost always well-deserved.

  2. Spellcasters will be unaffected, martials will be hugely affected. If you want to further widen the gap between classes, sure go ahead. “Realism” only ever applies to non Spellcasters…

    1. Funnily enough, I discussed this with my chums earlier this week. The general consensus was that most spells–particularly those that attack or alter a subject’s mind–charm spells and the like–would be illegal if cast is a town or city (unless used in self-defence). I would think that might keep the spellcasters in the group at least nominally in check!

      1. But much harder to prevent or even prove, I should think.

        Fighter: bulky, conspicuous armor. Put that away. Greataxe… not in my tavern, thank you. Beat or kill someone, probably can be seen doing it and/or evidence (bloody weapon in hand).

        Wizard: belt pouch. A few mumbled words and Jedi gang signs, person’s mind is captured invisibly, wizard not only not seen doing it but totally invisible, all sorts of things can happen.

        It might be illegal, but it’ll be a lot harder to catch or prove, I’d think.

        1. So true! A good reason to pick spell casters in character creation; if your world has many urban centres. This post got me thinking of tv shows and movies. Monks and magi are perfectly suited to cities; fighters can be, but need to use improvised weapons. They need to think. Thieves and bards have it easy too.

          The situation gives fighters a good reason to brush up on their unarmed combat skills, maybe even make it a part of her levelling up process is there’s a lot of fighting going on.

          I also got to thinking about cops/guards; they probably aren’t carrying big polearms to catch pickpockets in the marketplace! Here in Canada, urban cops only have little 9mm pea shooters, and a taser. So in fantasy, maybe the town guards have a net and billy bat; possibly a dagger. to run through crowded streets and narrow alleys, chase thieves across rooftops, etc. the urban denizens must be similarly attired for practical reasons. I don’t think it creates unfair advantage, though.

          1. I love wizards for the fact they are the most unassuming threat (unless dressed outrageously). Usually I run low-medium magic worlds, where wizards are pretty much as they were in medieval Europe. Some folks are scared of them, some respect them, and most rural areas would probably burn or hang them (until they need something special that only the wizard can provide, and suddenly he’s indispensable). It makes for fun role playing. Makes a player think twice about casting some crazy spell in the middle of the tavern/inn common room. But it also adds an element of respect when a wizard’s name and deeds have traveled ahead of him and the mere whispered mention of him breeds mystery and wonder in the minds of those that hear it. A warrior can simply take off his armour and sword and fit in. A wizard, once identified, might not necessarily be outlawed, but his actual presence might be looked upon as threatening.

    2. It depends on how pople fight in cities. Thugs will most likely not just attack you – one retreat action later, you could get the guards. They would rather ambush you with superior numbers, and devide into grappling or tripping and attacking when you are down or pinned. When you actually gt the opportunity to cast spells in these situations, you almost won the encounter already.

      Also: if you want to screw wizards, you just need a pickpocket in the crowd. Steal their component pouches before you assault the party.

      If the party decides to riad the enemy HQ, they wouldn’t go in everyday gear but get into armor and look for a way to get there without raising too much attention first. So these circumstaces are mainly for encounters the players didn’t start.

      But it’s true that fighters are at a disadvantage in a city. After all, battles would be rather rare there and fighters aren’t good at anything besides fighting. Howeer this problem is speific to the fighter. Cavaliers and Paladins could do their face things while Rangers could scout alleys just as they would woods – and seeking tracks in a murder case isn’t a bad idea, either.

  3. If you like realism, look into HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts). Doing so will quickly inform you that a longsword, while a reasonable sidearm, is most definitely a two handed weapon.

    if you want a one-hander, try looking at; an arming sword, a (langes) messer, a rapier, etc.

    1. As a HEMA practitioner (SCA in my case), it always greatly amuses me that players INSIST that it shouldn’t take 20 minutes to get heavy armor on and that they can sleep and relax in their armor all day and night. This greatly amuses me.

      1. This bothers me, too. I usually list the long sword as simply, ‘sword.’ It’s a one-handed weapon that covers a broad range of shapes, from viking swords, to cruciform crusader weapons. I still use short sword, mostly in the context of smaller, gladius-type piercing weapons, or Celtic/Greek bronze swords, or an arming sword. I’m glad someone else makes this argument. A long sword is a large two-handed weapon, but it becomes the term applied to any standard sword in most fantasy games.

      2. Heh, *because* it takes 20ish minutes to properly adorn yourself in armor is why it’s so important to make sure it is crafted and modified/personalized such that you can rest comfortably in it… at least before the fighting. Afterwards, stripping that off as quickly as possible may prevent the necessity of a saving throw of course.

        There are some armors being used out there that can be put on or taken off in a minute or two, but they don’t fit well and offer minimal protection, a trade off that can easily be quantified with an AC penalty.

  4. It’s a small thing or two but on the subject of portable writing materials …

    While there were ink horns designed to keep ink handy and portable without a total mess as one went about different activities, I haven’t found much evidence either for or against them in the medieval world (using that as the real world analog to our fantasy worlds). Secretaries, aides and such would haul these around, sometimes with an (I kid you not) “laptop” which was a wooden box that held writing materials. The lid was designed to serve as a small desk and support paper/parchment and the bottom had legs with curves cut or carved to fit thighs close together so that when seated with the laptop on your lap you could right reasonably comfortably and legibly.

    The alternatives to pen (or brush) and ink and loose paper with or without the laptop was the wastebook and *pencil*. My research found extant samples of pencils dating back into the 1500s and indications that such were available earlier. The minority were actually lead and sometimes silver which would leave faint marks on paper. The majority were sticks of graphite which had been recognized for a good while as a means to make marks on paper. Graphite was mined, cut into appropriately sized sticks and sold. Frequently, from what I gather, cedar wood might be carved to a size and shape comfortable to grip with a snug slot in it to hold the graphite. The later refinement of this was to glue the graphite in place and enclose it fully in wood, cutting away the end to reveal the graphite.

    The wastebook (which has come down to us as a daily ledger for accountants and shop keepers) was (and still is in some places) something printers and paper makers did to make a little extra cash from misprints and bad lots. Here and there in the printing process there were always misprints from a variety of sources. (The impression wasn’t clear, there was an error in text or engraving, a sheet slipped under the press, etc.) If the reverse of the sheet was clear, the printer would save these and they could be acquired relatively cheaply as “waste paper” useful for making notes, sketches and the like where perfect, clean paper wasn’t essential. Binding was more commonly available and many gentlemen, scholars and probably trade and crafts people, would have small, simple books of waste paper — waste books — bound after the paper had been cut down to a convenient size to carry about with a pencil for capturing important information. Out of that grew notebooks in various sizes, steno pads, and, ultimately, PDAs, tablets and smart phones.

    Other alternatives included wax tablets with a stylus, usually two which would close together to protect each other; and slates and chalk. These were considered temporary and important things would be transferred to paper when time permitted, but they allowed for writing and sketching “in the field” easily.

    It’s more “look and feel” but it would be fairly common (printing going back a long way, it’s *moveable type* that was the big innovation in 1435 or so, and paper making goes farther back) and believable for members of a party to have slates, wax tablets, chalk, stylus, waste books and pencils about commonly for everything from maping to copying the hieroglyphs on a tomb to making notes of riddles to outlining spell ideas to noting significant rumors and more.

  5. I’m running a merchant horsetrader, so a whip (weapon on of choice), a wineskin to ease trades, a few coins (and gems if I think I’ll need a lot of money) and a knifew. The whole lot fits in a pouch or on my belt. The only exception is a map which is part of the adventure which is kept under my robe.

  6. This is a great article, as usual. My group of players ended up ambushing a group of goblins the other night. Some were sleeping, some were amusing themselves with games. As they jumped up to attack, their armour was uselessly resting where they had removed it in order to enjoy the comforts of home without the heavy, uncomfortable weight of it hampering them. It was good since everyone was knocked unconscious, except the wizard. This gave the unfortunate, spell-less fellow the opportunity he needed to survive the encounter and save his friends.

    Having to leave goods in an inn room, locked in a chest in a wagon, whatever, lends extra opportunities for role-play, too. My brother’s character was down in the common room helping the goodly folk of the inn with a rat problem while my wife’s thief slunk upstairs to relieve the distracted patrons of their belongings. She was busted before she got very far, but it would have been hilarious if she had stolen something belonging to my brother’s character, only to bring it out later, blithely commenting about coincidences, lol. I usually follow some rule about heavy armour, and weapons bigger than a short sword or dagger, that forces the PCs to relinquish their weapons upon entering a community (to be retrieved later from a locked room or guard house, or something).

    If you feel so inclined, one thing I always like to add to my own adventures are taxes (mostly stuff the PCs will encounter regularly, like bridge tolls, a tax at the town/city gates). That can also add some fun if no one has cash or the guards see they are rich and try to swindle the characters out of more than is standard.

  7. This is offset in my campaign by the addition of a Base Defense Bonus. It’s a small gradually rising bonus that gets added to AC when the character isn’t wearing armor that signifies thw characters growing ability to dodge and roll with attacks. It’ll never be as good as the barbarians +3 mithril breast plate, but at least it gives back some armor bonus if I insist they dress appropriately in a settlement.

  8. Write an article on what PC’s can do with all thier extra and unused equipment while in town or in a dungeon. What to do with that 10,000 gold coins, extra sets of armor and weapons, etc

  9. Studded leather never existed historically, and would provide no real protection against anything stronger than an unarmed punch.

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