Filling out your inventory sheet is usually the last step of building a character. And, despite the fact that it’s probably one of the more important steps, most people basically skip over it or, even worse, just buy the pre-made packs and call it good. After all, we all know that magic items are really where it’s at, right?
Well, while there will always be space on my character sheet for a bag of holding or an immovable rod, these 15 mundane items deserve just as much attention because they’re infinitely more useful and, let’s face it, no DM will stop you from buying anything on this list at level one.
So, next time you’re looking at the equipment list at a local shop, here are some items that really could use a second look:
1. Bag of stones
5 SP for pouch, free to fill
The uses for a bag of stones are absolutely endless. You can use the stones in a sling, throw them at enemies to get their attention, add more weight to something, trigger traps, make noise to distract enemies, or even cast the Light spell on a stone and then throw it. It also can make an improvised weapon in a pinch, or break the window of that annoying nobleman.
While most players use bags of marbles or ball bearings for many of these tasks, I would argue that a bag of stones is actually better because it’s free to refill. Sure, a bag of stones probably won’t roll down a hallway… but that’s only useful for slowing down people chasing you, and on the off-chance you need to do that, caltrops are really better for that anyway; I mean, that’s literally their function. And did I mention stones are free?
2. Sealing wax
Although it sounds absolutely useless, sealing wax is, at its core, medieval duct tape. This quick-melting pliable wax can be dripped on anything you can reach and it will seal and waterproof any light objects including paper, wood, or possibly even metal.
Uses include sealing a small metal container, making a letter look more official, waterproofing a basket, or even using it like chalk to leave a waterproof wax mark on a floor or wall for your allies when scouting ahead.
3. Iron spikes
1 GP for 10
Originally, iron spikes were included in 1st Edition D&D to wedge open doors in dungeons so nothing could sneak up on you. It said right in the rules that unless you used an iron spike to hold the door open, it would close behind you, allowing enemies to sneak up and kill you in your sleep. However, most handbooks don’t have this obscure rule anymore and people have kind of forgotten why iron spikes are even listed.
But, consider this: rather than actual spikes, these are actually more like solid metal wedges; like the kind you’d use to split wood. With that in mind, you could not only block doors open or closed, but also split anything made of wood or stone if you have a hammer and enough strength. They could also be used in place of a nail in most instances.
4. Steel mirror
Despite what it says, this is basically just a really polished and reflective square of steel that you can keep in your pocket. Aside from the obvious uses for your very important personal beauty routines, steel mirrors are super useful. You can use the reflection to signal someone, tie it to a stick and look around corners, bang it on something to make a loud noise, or even to temporarily blind an enemy on a sunny day.
5. Sledge hammer
This seems pretty obvious. Why wouldn’t you want a sledge hammer? I mean, are there really D&D problems that can’t be fixed with the judicious use of a sledge hammer?
From a more roleplay standpoint, however, you’ll need a sledge hammer for your iron spikes, listed above, and you could probably use it as an improvised weapon as well. And, although it doesn’t specifically say so in the book, most DMs would probably give you advantage on Strength checks to break things using this as well (I mean, it is a sledge hammer).
6. Block and tackle
1 GP each
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player purchase one of these—mostly because I think no one really knows what it is, much less how to use one. Today, we fix that problem.
A block and tackle is basically a wooden pulley system, like the kind you see sailors hauling on in old pirate movies with the giant wheel and the little hooky thing on one end. So, when combined with rope (you DO have rope, right?), it can be used to haul up to four times the weight you can normally lift. Yay physics!
So now let me put that in game terms for you: A gnome bard with a 10 Strength has a modest carrying capacity of 150 lbs. The Player’s Handbook states that a character can push, drag, or lift twice their carrying capacity on their own (pg 176). So that’s 300 lbs that he can lift off the ground or push across the floor without undue effort.
Now, with a rope and a properly set up block and tackle, that same gnomish bard (with his 10 Strength) can hoist up to four times the normal amount he could lift. That comes up to a whopping 1200 lbs. That is probably the weight of the entire party if you don’t have any pack horses. And that’s just your bard with his measly 10 Strength score. Imagine what the barbarian could lift.
It’s all about the proper leverage.
In a roleplay game, there is guaranteed to be at least one situation in which you need to subdue someone or other; be it for questioning, to prevent harm, or simply to transport them somewhere without fuss.
The thing is, while anyone can make a dexterity check to get out of a rope, finding your way out of manacles is a much more difficult check; it usually involves either a really high Strength to break them or else some kind of lockpicking ability. Additionally, having manacles on hand (pardon the pun) means that you won’t have to be cutting your rope into smaller pieces just to tie someone up. Double win!
Sometimes you just need to dig a hole and there really isn’t a substitute for a shovel in those instances. If you’re doing any kind of dungeon crawl or adventuring in the wilds, trust me, you’ll find a use for it. After all, spells only go so far when it comes to such things and you never know when you’ll suddenly need to dig up some lost treasure or hide a body.
If you’re really worried about space and weight, then you could also carry a trowel, although it’s going to take three times as long and you’ll look ridiculous doing it. But most DMs would probably sell a trowel for a few silver rather than gold.
Aside from the obvious uses that a solid metal stick could have (including hitting someone or barring a door shut), the crowbar gives you advantage to Strength checks in any situation in which its leverage could be applied. While the intended use here is to wedge open doors and other objects, I would also argue that a crowbar could be used to lift heavier objects a few inches off the ground, pull things towards (or away from) you without touching them, or possibly even jam a door open or shut with the wedge end and a hammer, although you’ll probably lose the crowbar.
Additionally, in cities or other areas where you can’t have weapons, some DMs may rule that hefting a crowbar will help with Intimidate checks, much like a weapon would. There isn’t a technical rule that says so, however, so make sure you ask your DM if they would allow it.
1 GP for bag of 20
This is another heavily overlooked item, because most people probably don’t actually know what caltrops are. While the descriptions will change slightly from edition to edition, basically caltrops are little spikes that you can scatter in a 5 foot area to slow down anyone who moves through that square. If you’ve ever stepped on a LEGO, then you understand the concept here.
According to the Player’s Handbook, dropping caltrops in a 5 foot square requires and action and makes anyone moving through it make a DC 15 Dexterity check or else stops moving and takes 1 piercing damage. Once they’ve taken that damage, their movement speed is reduced by 10 feet until they heal up. Alternatively, of course, they can move at half speed and not take the check at all, but that still gives you an advantage.
Now, that might not sound super useful, but if you’re a ranged character or a caster class, being able to slow anyone approaching you can be a huge boon. Additionally, since the caltrops are basically just spikes, you can use them for a number of other things, including throwing them at someone to make them duck or change course, use them to stick papers to the walls or the underside of a desk, or even scare away small critters. I’ve even seen darker players use them creatively to torture people (ouch!) or heat them in a fire and then launch scalding hot spiky balls at enemies during battle.
11. Twine or String
Not listed separately (Check with DM)
This is one of the few items that is not listed in the player’s handbook on its own, although it is part of the burglar’s pack. It’s probably safe to assume that it wouldn’t be hard or expensive to get a hold of a ball of twine or string, and it has endless uses in the right hands.
For example, a ball of string and a bell or a potion could be used to rig up traps or proximity alarms. You can use it along with sealing wax to MacGyver something that’s broken and make it useful again, create a necklace or a carrying loop on anything, provide directional assistance in mazes or labyrinths, or even throw it to distract some animals.
In addition to the obvious bonus of getting to make beautiful music and annoying the rest of the group, bells are surprisingly versatile in the right kind of campaign. Of course, it is going to depend on whether this is the kind of bell with a clapper or the kind you see on pet’s collars, but either way, it can be used for a variety of things including rigging up a medieval proximity alarm with some string, alerting allies over a greater distance than shouting, or even drawing attention to yourself during an encounter.
It’s worth noting that some older systems may allow you to use a bell to disrupt a spell that has a verbal component, but any systems after 3rd edition don’t really support that. In fact, in 5th edition, interrupting a spell is really only a thing if your DM says it is, so be cautious.
13. A clean handkerchief
Not listed (Check with DM)
In addition to the mundane uses of blowing your nose and wiping away maiden’s tears, it can be used for a variety of things including clearing fingerprints or other evidence from the scene of a crime, wiping away disguise makeup quickly, muffling sounds or footsteps, blindfolding or gagging someone, signaling friends, or even carrying small items. You could stuff it in a pouch to make it seem more full than it is, or use it to cover key holes or stuff under the door to help soundproof an area. Additionally, cloth is usually pretty flammable so it could be used to start a fire (or create a Molotov cocktail if you’re feeling creative) in a pinch.
While a handkerchief is usually just described as a soft, square piece of cloth purchased from a clothing store, you could actually just use a scrap of cloth if you wanted. Either way, you shouldn’t need a piece bigger than about 12 inches squared.
It’s worth noting that this is the only item on our list that isn’t actually in the book, so you’ll have to talk with your DM to figure out price and exactly what kind and color of cloth you have, as that may make a difference in some situations.
Adventuring is dirty work. While most DMs won’t actually bother with making your character shower or bathe, having soap on hand can be incredibly useful cleaning away that nasty blood and goop before going into the city or to the Lord’s Keep.
But, even more useful, soap is something of a lubricant and can be rubbed on rusty hinges or stubborn stuck mechanical contraptions to help get them going again. It’s actually a pretty common lifehack, and there’s no reason your D&D character can’t use it too! As a note, candle wax can be used for much the same thing if you really don’t feel like buying soap, although its a bit harder to do and your DM may rightly argue a bit more with candle wax than soap.
15. An empty sack
Empty sacks are incredibly cheap—basically worth peanuts—which means they are disposable and perfect for items that you need to be rid of quickly, or items you need faster access too. It can also be useful if you have something, like a troll head, that you really don’t want stuffed in your backpack, but have to take with you.
Additionally, a sack can be used for any number of other things including placing over someone’s head or even as part of a trap setup. You could even cut it up and use the strips of cloth in a pinch, although don’t expect it to function quite as well as a handkerchief as sacks are often very rough cloth.
Of course, these are just some of my favorite items. If you have some item that you always use, leave us a note below!!