My pack was bumping up against the weight limit the evening before my most recent trip to Africa. Looking at a tough choice between a couple extra battery packs for my Canon and a 16oz jar of Jif, I chose the peanut butter.
I live a mile from Target, so I don’t think about inventory management much on a day-to-day basis. But I do spare a thought for encumbrance however. I choose my Macs largely on weight, hoping to shave a few precious ounces to keep my work bag light. And I prefer smaller phones to the beefier ones, simply because I don’t want the extra weight in my pocket.
But when you travel, you’re smart to think through scenarios, really imagining what you might need for a variety of situations, knowing you might be cut off from that precious supply run. I traveled to Africa with my buddy Bob. I knew he was loaded up on heals, as he devoted a pretty good portion of his pack to a really nice first aid kit, which included antibiotic ointment and the like. As a result, I only packed a few Advil.
Instead, I loaded up on ordinances and field rations. Canon? Check. GoPro? Check. Jif? Check. My point: It’s important to spread the responsibilities across the adventuring party.
Now, I should dial back the theatrics here. Heck, I stayed in a swank villa a couple of my nights in Africa, so it’s hardly like I was trekking into Mordor with my life hanging by a thread. Still, it’s important to remember that in certain situations, the exact contents of what you are carrying in your backpack can literally mean the difference between life or death.
Those who are climbing Mt. Everest immediately come to mind, as do those who are stationed in the Arctic. Alaskan frontiersmen need to keep close tab on their inventory, as do those engaged in diving or mining operations. I live in Minnesota, and we’re actually encouraged to keep a survival kit in our car during the harsh winter months because, IDK, we might drive across a frozen lake or something.
Weight is a real life issue too. The 70 pound packs that soldiers often carry in places like Iraq can literally compress ones spine to the point of making them shorter.
In Defense of Inventory Management in D&D
Although we acknowledge that there actually are legitimately life or death situations when it comes to inventory management, we often gloss over it when we game. Video games will often allow us to stack two dozen long swords or whatever into our backpack, while D&D doles out Bags of Holding, mainly because accounting for inventory feels too much like paperwork.
But I think there are times when inventory management should be played up in games like D&D. The latest Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden adventure is a perfect example. Set in the frozen tundra of Icewind Dale, the adventures ensures that players stay frosty due to the frigid temperatures, uncertain food situation, and treacherous overland travel.
But it also throws wintery hazards at players. Frostbite is an issue, as is immersion in icy water. The writers of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden did an excellent job of immersing players in the enrovionment, which in turn immerses players into the game.
Players can also purchase a dog sled for overland travel, but the doggos can only pull so many pounds, which must be accounted for. The weight is worth it, as foraging for food is an issue, so if you catch a big knuckhead trout, you’ll want a dogsled to help transport it back to town.
Wood is also scarce, which limits building supplies. It also limits wood-burning stoves, so players must embark upon whales hunts in order to harvest blubber and whale oil, essential supplies for keeping oil lamps lit.
Target isn’t just next door, after all.
So your explorer backpack better darn well have what you need. And you better be wearing the correct clothing. This Minnesotan recommends you layer. Otherwise, you might find yourself rolling an engineering check to try and rig up some gear. And that might work! An improvised item might not be up to your high standards, but it’s like camping coffee. By java, if you’re stuck up sh!† creek without a French press, it’ll do the job.
All of this to say that I really enjoy the inventory management rules in Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, as well as the new items and sub-systems like avalanche rules they created that are solely for a harsh, wintery environment.
Sure, they require a little bit of book keeping, but sometimes inventory management is 100% worth it. The bonus is it adds a full pack’s worth of immersion and a Bag of Holding’s worth of theme to the adventure.
All I know is that whenever I’m playing through Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, I’ll be bringing a 16 ounce jar of Jif to each session. I don’t know how to hunt whales.
You can get Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden here.