PHB Chapters 7-8: Equipment and Adventuring

Chapter 7 finishes off character creation with equipment. Armor has been simplified to six types plus shields, now: three light armors (cloth, leather, and hide) and three heavy armors (chainmail, scale, and plate). Shields come in either light or heavy, but no tower shields. A character gets his intelligence or dexterity modifier added to his Armor Class only if he’s wearing light armor, while heavy armor provides a bigger inherent armor bonus. Heavy armor gives a -1 square speed penalty, and chain and plate give a -1 and -2, respectively, to any strength, dexterity, or constitution-based skill checks. A heavy shield also gives a -2; it’s not clear whether this stacks, but I’m guessing it doesn’t. Shields add to both Armor Class and Reflex Defense.

Each armor has two more advanced, “masterwork” versions, which come only in magical varieties and represent higher-level items. So while scale armor has an armor bonus of +7, wyrmscale has a +10 (not counting the +4 or greater enhancement bonus it also has to have), and elderscale has a +13 (again, not counting the +6 enhancement bonus). Light armors go up +1 per tier, heavy armors +3. There are no masterwork shields, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them in a future book.

There’s a smaller selection of weapons. The iconic ones all seem to be here, plus a few oddballs like the sickle and war pick. Most of the polearms, monk weapons, and esoteric weapons (kukri, anyone?) are gone. The spiked chain is still here, for some reason, but it seems to be a poor choice now that disarm and trip aren’t standard combat maneuvers.

Weapons are divided into simple, military, and “superior” weapons, mirroring the old simple/martial/exotic. I’m not sure most of the superior weapons deserve the label — the spiked chain especially seems rather weak — but okay.

Loading a crossbow is now a minor action, so you can move, load, and still fire. Very nice change.

Small characters no longer use lower-damage versions of weapons. They just can’t use two-handed weapons, and have to use “versatile” one-handed weapons (which medium characters can use in two hands for a +1 damage bonus) with two hands without getting the bonus. Life’s still not easy for halfling fighters, but it’s no longer quite so bad. They’ll just have to stick with the scimitar for a decent-damage one-handed weapon. Or invest in the rapier.

Lerge creatures still use larger weapons. I assume this is partly because player characters aren’t expected to be Large or bigger. It’s mostly the GM’s to worry about, and the Monster Manual probably already includes the bigger weapons in its stat blocks.

The list of adventuring gear is smaller now — no more fifteen kinds of clothing or 2-copper frying pans listed. A bunch of the useful miscellaneous stuff most people wrote down on their character sheets has been collected in a “standard adventurer’s kit” — a backpack, bedroll, flint and steel, some rope, and so on. That’ll make character creation quicker. It gives a 1 sp discount over buying all the items separately. I find that amusing for some reason.

There’s a brief table for food, drink, and lodging, and another for mounts or transport — a sailing ship can be yours for only 10,000 gold.

Then there’s the best part of the chapter: the encumbrance rules take up about a quarter-page, and they explicitly say “The amount you carry should rarely be an issue, and you don’t need to calculate the weight your character is hauling around unless it’s likely to matter.” Yes! No more encumbrance bookkeeping.

Magic items are now found in the Player’s Handbook, and the chapter ends by presenting a basic selection of them. Prices are standardized based on the level of the item, but they use an exponential scale that ends up costing quite a lot for marginal increases in effectiveness at high level. A +1 barkskin armor at level 5 costs 1,000 gp, while a +2 at level 10 costs 5,000, a +5 at level 25 costs 625,000, and a +6 at level 30 costs 3,125,000. Two and a half million gold for an extra +1 seems like a bit much. We’ll see how it works in play, though.

You can now identify a magic item by taking a short rest (5 minutes). Cursed, unique, and artifact items might take anything from an Arcana check to a quest — giving GMs an out — but basic items? 5 minutes. Initially, I didn’t like this, but after considering it, I think it does make things easier. “I hit AC 25, plus whatever bonus this sword gives me” can be fun for a while, but the uncertainty stops being dramatic and starts being annoying pretty quickly. I might house-rule it to requiring an extended rest instead of a short one, but I think I’ll keep the idea.

Magic items are laid out in nice stat blocks, and 10-20 of each type seem to be provided — except potions, where only four are offered, and they’re all varieties of healing potion. Bleah. Well, we’ll see more of those, I’m sure, and it’s not as though potions are hard to come up with.

Chapter 8 introduces the ways your new character ties into the game world. Quests and quest rewards are more codified now, though most of the information related to them is found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Noncombat encounters — “skill challenges” — are mentioned, but most of that is also in the DMG. Experience and treasure are touched on, along with milestones — a new mechanic where a character gains an action point (and some of his magic items become more powerful) after facing two encounters without a rest. This gives players a little boost when their resources have begun to run low, and lets them keep adventuring a little bit longer. I like it.

The rest of the chapter deals with overland movement, terrain, light and vision, breaking objects, and resting and recovery. Nothing seems vastly different here, although the rules are again simplified. Light breaks down into bright light, dim light, and darkness, for instance. There are no rules for forced marches and exhaustion. There’s no object hardness and hp. Some might lament these omissions; I rarely used those rules, though.

Artwork: Chapter 7’s splash page is beautiful. Very atmospheric. The chapter contains the usual illustrations of weapons, armor, and objects — the spiked chain looks a lot less ridiculous than its 3e counterpart. Most of the others are character pieces featuring various magic items, which range from a little odd (the dragonborn on page 235 seems to be levitating his spear… maybe it’s supposed to be a dodge, though) to nice flavor pieces (the rogue on page 234 with the dagger, leaping to attack, or the flying carpet and rider on page 254). Chapter 8’s splash page is another impressive, I-want-to-jump-into-a-game-now piece; there’s only one other piece of art in the short chapter, beneath the Quests header, but it’s likewise a nicely styled and atmospheric one.

On the whole, I’m pretty favorably impressed with the artwork this edition.

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One Response to PHB Chapters 7-8: Equipment and Adventuring

  1. […] the PHB chapter by chapter. PHB: Overview, Making Characters, Races, Classes, Skills and Feats, Equipment and Adventuring, Combat and Rituals, DMG and Monster […]

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