Ever felt like your non-magic character is totally useless outside of just hitting stuff and talking to people?

You spend ten minutes thinking up an ingenious solution to whatever problem the dungeon has thrown at you this week, only for it to be put to shame by the Wizard with a quick casting of a cantrip which didn’t even cost the player any resources!

Yes? Me too, and I’m here to help.

The best thing is, it’ll involve the part of the game everyone is trying to get to anyway – the shopping trip.

Hidden deep within the 5e Players Handbook is an oft overlooked list of incredible usefulness.

Page 150 has a table of adventuring gear, ranging from an Abacus (and I won’t lie to you – I haven’t got any clever uses for this) to the Whetstone (for when your DM thinks it’s funny to blunt your axe after a crit fail).

Here are my top tips on cheap equipment and their uses, to bring the ball back into your court when it comes to being MVPC.

Vial – 1gp
No longer must you cup dragon’s blood in your bare hands as you sprint towards the nearest settlement in the vain hope of finding someone who can put this rare liquid to use. You can even use this to hold unusual algae, or a rare insect. Use it to create a trap which alerts you someone has broken into your hideout and lead you right to them by perching a vial full of dye over the door. I could go on, but you’ll never run out of uses for a pocketable container.

Chalk – 1cp
Hansel and Gretel your way through the dungeon so you don’t get lost, or help the split party find their way back together, all for the low cost of basically free. Draw a map of the fort you’re about to infiltrate as you discuss your plan; put rude notes on the door of the inn which kicked you out for brawling; you will always come across a reason to start making some pavement art.

Manacles – 2gp
‘Hold Person’ without the spell slot.

Crowbar – 2gp
Advantage on strength checks to open chests without getting angry – why wouldn’t you take one of these with you?

Ram, Portable – 4gp
Same as above, but for doors. Not as good if you’re keeping track of encumbrance.

Candles – 1cp
More than just a light source –  they’re for waterproofing a canvas bag, writing invisible messages, jamming a lock or lubricating a wooden mechanism.

Bell – 1gp
Alongside some rope, this could be a pretty effective alternative to the ‘alarm’ spell.

Sealing Wax – 5sp
As well as sending your letters with style, this will allow you to make castings of keys or take impressions of carvings to show to your local historian once you’ve got out of this dusty hole.

Mirror – 5gp
Literally see round corners. Or end the fight against a Medusa early.

Ball bearings – 1gp
My players once used these to trip over an owlbear in an arena fight (rule of cool, okay!?). These are hands down one of the most repeatably brilliant methods of turning combat to your favour. You could also send them clattering down a staircase at one end of a castle to distract the guards on the floor below as you sneak down the opposite stairs; use them to weight a sack down to the bottom of a river for a covert pick up later that night or even find out if the prince/ princess in distress is who they say they are by placing one under their mattress.

Signal Whistles – 5cp
Pick up one for each party member and never have to worry about not having learned ‘Message’ again.

Pitons – 5cp ea
I feel like everyone knows about Pitons, but a lot of people forget about them. Use them to aid in climbing, plug holes and hold a door closed in a dungeon. PCs have been sleeping tight behind a piton-locked door for decades, but I still think it’s worth mentioning.

The list goes on and I’m sure you’ll find tonnes of uses for the other items in the list.
These are included in the PHB for a reason – for you to solve problems and most importantly, have fun.

Sure, the spellcaster gets a good giggle the first time they use their new spell for a novel use but I guarantee that being inventive with these mundane items will keep you and the rest of your party entertained for hundreds of sessions to come!

Grab a bag of useful bits and bobs the next time you’re in town and see what opportunities you get to flex your ingenuity.

Let me know what other items you love to use, and how you’ve used them on twitter! @harrythegm


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