Category Archives: DnD

Packing for a Paladin


Something that came up a while back in a random 4chan thread, I found some notes while tidying up. What should a lady paladin take with her on a week-long excusrion?

Starting Equipment

Firstly we must consider equipment and resources already at hand1:

  • My arming sword Beatrix
  • My iron-rimmed oaken shield
  • Stout leather gauntlets 2
  • Bassinet2
  • Maille hauberk2
  • Gambeson2
  • Five javelins
  • A wooden holy symbol issued by my holy order
  • Backpack3
  • Bedroll3
  • Mess kit3
  • Tinderbox3
  • 10 Torches3
  • 10 days’ rations3
  • Waterskin3
  • 50′ Hempen rope3
  • A lacquered rosary the Sisters left with me when I was given over to my holy order4. I think it was my mother’s.
  • Book of Common Prayers4
  • 5 sticks of incense4
  • My habit4 (tunic, scapular, belt, underskirts, shoes)
  • My work clothes4 (dress, apron, belt, underskirts, hat, boots)
  • A velvet purse4
  • 15 gold crowns4

Altogether this leaves my backpack bursting at the seams. It can only hold 30 pounds, and the food and torches alone leave no room for the rest of my things. Clearly we will have to trim things down to something more workable.


Additional Items

Additional items to consider, reflecting outside suggestions:

  • Iron cooking pot
  • An extendible pole
  • Knife
  • Ball bearings (bag of 1,000)
  • Lamp
  • Flask of oil
  • Bag of 20 caltrops
  • Block and tackle
  • Whetstone
  • Fishing tackle
  • Weaver’s tools
  • Robes (poncho)
  • Healer’s Kit
  • Disguise kit

The mess kit is usable as a small cooking pot or pan. Enough for rice, beans or stew. A proper iron pot is ten pounds, bringing us back to the concern about luggage weight. Obviously I can pack smaller items inside it, so space isn’t the issue. I strongly prefer restaurants to camp cooking, but cooking and eating group meals could be nice for teambuilding and forging common bonds with my fellow travelers.

The commissary doesn’t have any collapsible or extendable poles in stock5. Lugging around a ten-foot stick doesn’t strike me as practical. Maybe a sturdy whittling knife would pack better?

Also at the commissary they didn’t have marbles as such5. The clerk directed me to maintenance, where they had two pounds of ball bearings for one gold crown. The custodian said he’d give me a drawstring bag to hold them in, so I figured it was a good deal.

Torches are bulky, smokey, and somewhat low-class. The kind of thing you’d associate with mobs of peasants, not crusading holy warriors. A simple lamp and some oil can do the trick.

While I was in maintenance I was able to get the custodian to put together a couple pounds of nails into caltrops. He was super-helpful.

The Block & Tackle is a bit bulky at five pounds. I’ll try to fit it in.

A whetstone! How did I forget? I must keep Beatrix properly honed, after all.

Somebody suggested a net. A net reminds me of fishing down by the lake. I’ll add some fishing tackle to the list. It’s about four pounds all together, but such a great way to spend a morning away from the hustle and bustle.

Trip wire and a garrote? Two points: first, what kind of paladin do you think I am? Second, shouldn’t these be one item? A spindle of sewing thread can replace the tripwire and raise far fewer awkward questions at Customs & Immigration than a garrote I won’t use. Thanks for bringing up the needle & thread, by the way. You never know when a minor alteration or repair will be necessary! At the commissary they had a box labeled “weaver’s tools.” I was assured it had everything I needed for such things.

For a rain cloak I got a hooded poncho. It cost as much as a full robe, but the baja pattern seems appropriate for the destination. It’s also a bit bulky. I can’t wait for somebody to invent plastic.

I’m going to skip on the medicine kit. They didn’t have one available and the box labeled “herbalism kit” was full of things I didn’t know what to do with. Oh look, a little white and red box labeled “Healer’s Kit.” Sounds useful.

It turns out that a disguise kit is way outside my budget, so that can’t make the cut.

All together I’m looking at having one gold crown and change (three silver shields, nine copper galleys to be exact) in spending money for a week. Assuming I’m wearing my armor and carrying my weapons my luggage is going to weigh almost 111 pounds. I’d need to buy another three backpacks or lug around a steamer trunk. The heaviest items, far and away, are the rations and the cooking pot. Ditching those gets me down to two backpacks worth of equipment. Should I leave my vestments back at the convent? I feel like I may have to represent the order from time to time and I don’t want to hurt our reputation. Purchasing a chest to carry the excess will bust the budget, at five gold crowns.


Dialing it In

The javelins just aren’t my thing. They don’t carry well, they bang into things, and are just generally a nuisance to have around. They don’t make the cut. The rest of the martial gear comes along, of course.  The hempen rope and trail rations are a bit much, and the torches have many of the same problems as the javelins plus they’re sticky. Cut down to a little trail mix to keep my blood sugar up, cut the rest of that bulk. The knife, lamp, oil, and whetstone are all super-great suggestions that are affordable, compact, and totally useful. Taking all of this into account this leaves me with:

  • My arming sword Beatrix
  • Iron-rimmed oaken shield
  • Stout leather gauntlets
  • Bassinet
  • Maille hauberk
  • Gambeson
  • Wooden holy symbol
  • Backpack
  • Bedroll
  • Mess kit
  • Tinderbox
  • 3 days’ rations
  • Waterskin
  • Mom’s rosary
  • Book of Common Prayers
  • 5 sticks of incense
  • Habit (tunic, scapular, belt, underskirts, shoes)
  • Work clothes (dress, apron, belt, underskirts, hat, boots)
  • Knife
  • Lamp
  • Oil (flask)
  • Whetstone
  • Velvet purse
  • 11 gold crowns, 8 silver shields, 9 copper kettles in walking-around money.
With the bedroll and waterskin tied to the outside, my backpack is a little over half-full. This leaves room for incidentals, souvenirs, and what-have-you. Including the armor, sword, and shield, I’m looking at carrying roughly 100 pounds. This is workable, if a bit inconvenient6.


1 – Equipment resulting from standard character creation in the Player’s Handbook for the Paladin class, Acolyte background
2 – Individual items that together constitute “chain mail” armor
3 – Individual items that together constitute an “explorer’s pack”
4 – Equipment resulting from the Acolyte background
5 – No such item in the PHB
6 – Assuming a Strength of 16, this paladin is well within her carrying capacity under normal rules, though encumbered under the variant rule. This would penalize her movement rate by 10′. Setting down her backpack would leave her fully unencumbered. This would also be true for any Strength attribute of 13, though that would be cutting things close. Chainmail is heavy.

Old-timey Morale for 5e


Dungeons & Dragons had a lovely feature missing from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and some of its successors: morale.  By this I mean a mechanism by which the Dungeon Master could determine if an antagonist was willing to fight it out to the bitter end or choose the better part of valor. A mechanism transparent to the rest of the players and therefore fostering a general feeling of trust in the DM as a fair arbiter of the rules. The evil henchmen didn’t doggedly stick to it because the DM wanted to whittle down your hit points and force you to expend resources. They did so because their basic stats and the dice said so.

An old copy of the Basic D&D Creature Catalogue says you simply roll two six-sided dice and compare the result to the “morale” stat listed for a given creature.  Second Edition used two ten-sided dice and a broader scale. Personally I like to use a twelve-sided die in my Type V campaign. It’s one of the few times that die is used, and my players are learning to associate it with morale checks.  If the die roll is greater than the creature’s morale check, it bugs out.  When is the check called for? Whenever the narrative seems to justify it. A few times I’m likely to pull out the d12:

  • A creature first takes damage (and hadn’t been expecting to)
  • A creature is reduced to under half its hit point total
  • A creature witnesses an ally fall or flee
  • A creature witnesses half its allies fall or flee
  • A creature is subjected to explicit intimidation

These are more-or-less in keeping with the rules available from the battered old Red Box of my youth. While this basically works out fine, one big missing factor is a direct translation from the Basic D&D to 5th Edition D&D creatures.  We could compile an exhaustive listing of all the newer monsters and their closest Basic Edition analogs, but the return on investment seems out of whack.  Instead perhaps we rattle off a few well-known creatures and their morale values as points of reference for winging it. Keep the improvisation of stats to prep-time whenever possible, of course.

  • 5 – Herd animal, Rat
  • 6 – Kobold
  • 7 – Normal dog, Sprite
  • 8 – Bandit, Elf, Orc, Small White Dragon
  • 9 – Ghost, Goblin, Treant
  • 10 – Dwarf,  Elemental, Grizzly Bear, Hobgoblin, Troll
  • 11 – Archon, Huge Red Dragon War dog
  • 12 – Beholder, Berserker, Golem, Skeleton, Zombie

Modifiers can apply, naturally, such as when there is a particularly charismatic or renown leader present, bolstering an adversary’s confidence. Or if a player character just decapitated the same renown or charismatic leader. Common sense, as always, is welcome when adjudicating rules. Doubly so with old rules home-cooked into new systems.

A Few Simple Admonitions


Some things never chance. Observe, for a moment, the “Tips to the Players” found at the back of D&D Module B2: Keep on the Borderlaneds (published in 1979 when I was but a wee lad):

It often helps for beginning players to have advice on how to play D&D. Many points are overlooked by novices is their eagerness to get on with the adventure, The following points are given to help these players.

Most importantly, players should be organized and cooperative. Each player should have complete information on his or her character easily on hand and should supply the DM with this information quickly and accurately if asked. As parties will usually involve a variety of alignments and classes, players should work together to use their abilities effectively. Arguing among players will cause delays, attract monsters, and often result in the deaths of some or all of the members.

Cooperation should also be given to the DM. He or she is the judge of the game and his or her decisions are final. If a player disagrees, he or she should calmly state why, and accept whatever the DM decides. Shouting, crying, pouting, or refusing to accept decisions only angers the other players. The game should be fun for all involved. Not everything will go the way players want it.

Planning is another important part of play. Players should be well equipped, comparing each member’s list and balancing the items on each. No character should be overburdened nor under-equipped. This may mean sharing the costs of extra items. Rope, oil, torches, spikes, and other useful items should always be carried. Plans should be considered for encountering monsters and casting spells.

Caution is also necessary and is a part of planning. A party that charges forward without preparation is almost certainly doomed. Danger should be expected at any moment and from any direction, possibly even from one’s own party. Lying and trickery are not unknown. Cautious play will help avoid many (but not all) tricks and traps and may save a life. However, too much caution is as dangerous as too little. Many instances will require bold and quick actions on the part of the players, before all is lost.

Above all a player must think. The game is designed to challenge the minds and imaginations of the players.

Those who tackle problems and use their abilities, wits, and new ideas will succeed more often than fail. The challenge of thinking is a great deal of the fun of the game.

It’s like a Five Commandments of tabletop roleplaying. They keep releasing new rules and we keep adapting our own house rules, but the game’s the same it’s always been in the ways that matter most.