Glacier stared at the charging mass of giant spiders and considered his options. "If the ground was a bit smoother, I could really use a good bowling ball right now," he said to Marcus, a knight of great renown, powerful sword, and questionable brain power. "But it's not, and I actually used my bowling ball on that Troll yesterday and it broke. Those things have hard heads."
1) 11' Pole
It's amazing how often things are in 5' increments and a 10' pole just won't span a pit. You just fall right in. An 11' pole lets you span it and hang there for a while. It is also useful for a lever, poking objects from outside of blast range, and wedging into the dragon's maw as it decides to eat you (although it will still eat you, you might be able to jump inside and avoid the whole chewing process, cram yourself down its throat, and maybe choke it to death and save your companions.)
Note also the use for vaulting. It makes a good place to hang clothing to dry out (won't sag into the fire.) Also good for combining with other objects like #5, #6, and #12.
Glacier looked at his companions and shrugged. They all looked shocked that the horde of 200 Kobolds was after them, rushing up the hill, preparing to do unspeakable things to them at the waist level. Five they could handle, twenty even. But why would the Kobolds be so kind as to attack in such low numbers? After all, they had just taken the Eye of the Dragon from their muddy temple.
So it was up to him... again.
Glacier started by quickly lashing his 11' pole between two trees at a low level. The little brutes would have to either go over it or under it, slowing their charge and providing needed seconds to take them out in mass. He quickly jabbed a few broken sticks into the ground to give it just a little more support.
2) Small Wine Skin filled with Chalk Dust
By inflating the skin you can squeeze out little puffs of dust that will show the direction of air flow, or in large puffs to blind opponents or mask other actions. This is also useful for marking a path quickly in any location. It can be useful for bluffing your way through a fight: puff out a bunch around one non-believer, let the assassin kill him very quickly, then listen to the awe as the dust settles.
It is also very useful to have the chalk dust on hands as you climb. The dust can be used for disguises such as very pale or old hair color. The dust can trigger asthma or just a good solid coughing fit (let the dragon try to really breathe fire when it can't catch its breath.)
Screaming out a load of rubbish, Glacier blew hard into the mouth of the wine skin at his hip and then squeezed it hard in the direction of the oncoming Kobolds. It belched out a very satisfying cloud of white that he hoped would intimidate a few of them, choke a few that were probably panting hard running up the hill at them, and maybe give them partial cover.
3) Ball of String (100+ yards)
Amazingly useful stuff. Use it to go around your campsite in a random web and hand noisy things in it. Hang herbs from it between two trees at night near the fire to dry them. Dip it in ink, strip down, then wrap it in random patters around your body: really cool markings that totally change your appearance. Cover it in wax or fat and use it for a weak fuse. Use it as a ball to play catch or to trick a werewolf into playing fetch (I've seen a DM allow this.) Create a makeshift musical instrument for the Bard. Attach a weight (maybe #6 or #9) and use it to have a plumb line. Use it to fasten bundles of twigs together. Truss up a chicken. Play cat's cradle. Emergency belt. Leash for a squirrel.
String has so many uses that it seems like an obvious need, but you never have it when you need it.
There wasn't much time left. Glacier's last act of preparation was to run back and forth with his ball of twine, netting it over the ground loosely in the hopes of tangling a few of the little blighters. If one got tangled it was very likely that it would flail about and make an even bigger mess of the twine, snagging a number more in the mess.
Looking behind him Glacier saw that at least everyone else was beginning to stir. The fighter, Marcus, had a weapon in hand. Tad the Half Elf had his bow out and several arrows ready. Even the Mage, Thurmaturgis the Fantastic, had started preparing a spell.
4) Hammer and a bag of iron spikes (large)
Of course this is really important when climbing or if you need to anchor a rope somewhere. They are also good for makeshift weapons, driving one or more through a club or using them inside of a strong sack. They can be used as chisels and wedges, and I really appreciate this when trying to open a door from the hinge side first. Driving a spike through a prisoner's foot to nail them to a tree upside down can be a good motivator to get them to talk. They also are good for making anchor points for tying your string (#3) off in a dungeon.
The first Kobold to climb and wiggle its way close to Glacier's hiding place stepped up on the log Glacier was behind. In that instant Glacier ignored the idea of killing this one. He drove the spike he held through the creature's flabby, flappy foot and deep into the log. It naturally did its part and screamed bloody murder. Glacier gave his bag of chalk dust another good squeeze making a puff that enveloped the screaming Kobold. Theatrics were very important.
5) Fishing hook and line
Ummm... fresh fish anyone? Okay, I also enjoy hooking objects that I can't reach, snagging an opponent rather painfully, and let's not ignore catching the wizard's hat or barmaid's skirt. I have used these to fake magic at times, making objects rise into the air. Add them to a pulley system and you can get some serious lift. They are also useful when combined with #13 and dropped on a target.
Marcus was good enough to lop one Kobold's head off conveniently close to Glacier. He grabbed the head, hooked the forehead with his fishing line, and chucked it up over a branch above. Pulling the string with his free hand, Glacier wiggled his fingers on his other hand "making the head float."
6) Pulleys (at least 3)
Pulleys make lifting jobs easier. In a set of three or more, combined with rope and light cable you can make a block and tackle setup, effectively making your average strength more than double that of a hill giant. This is very good when trying to open things, lift vast amounts of treasure out of a pit, and creating a makeshift elevator. For matters of sheer strength, pulleys are amazing.
Seeing the sheer numbers, Glacier wished he had just five more minutes to prepare. He could have set up a snap line with his pullies, but instead was reduced to holding them by the hook and bludgeoning one Kobold to death. Too bad.
7) 25' light cable
Rope is rarely strong enough for serious work. Cable is much more reliable though harder to work with. Cable can be used to et up a more reliable bridge over a chasm (use #4 to anchor and #6 to tighten, then #15 to make hand rails.) When dealing with those horrible lightening elementals or lightening breathing dragons, cable and a crowbar (#27) makes a great grounding weapon. It makes a superior trip line. (And, if you have that wonderful spell, Shocking Grasp, think of the possibilities.)
Cutting through bars, sharpening things, and let's not forget a proper manicure.
9) Bag of Marbles
Smooth surfaces instantly become difficult terrain. They are excellent sling and sling shot stones. Heat them in a fire and drop them into a knight's armor (and watch the stripping commence.) They work as short term bearings.
10) Magnifying Glass or Glass Sphere
Seeing things better is just one use. You can also use the sun to burn things. Light from a lantern can be focused using a magnifying lens.
11) Dutch Oven
Cooking is great, but you can also carry hot coals in a dutch oven all day (tie the handle to your 11' foot pole so you can sling it over your shoulder.) The coals are great in battle or simple to get a smoke free fire going. The oven itself is heavy enough to be a weapon.
12) Water Tight 10' Tarp or Hide
This has been one of my favorites. It's an incredible tent, sure, but it can be so much more. It can be put under a leaky row boat to make it water tight again. Put into a box it becomes a large basin for holding liquids. A large frame makes it into a bath tub. Cover yourself in a rain storm or shield yourself from liquid attacks. Surprisingly, it is a better shield from fire than a water soaked blanket. Speaking of fire, this works great for putting someone out. It shields armor from the elements.
13) Net (not fighting, fishing)
Fishing is great, but this can also be covered with branches and leaves to make a great camo. A light net can be hung overhead to keep those little spiders from dropping down on you. If you need to carry things under water this makes a great, lightweight bag that won't drag you under.
14) Grappling Hook
The obvious, yeah, but don't forget that it's a great weapon. If need be you can use it as a rag anchor for a boat or a cart. Hang it in a tree, tie it with a rope and your 11' pole to make a hammock, then use your pulleys to raise yourself up in the tree at night.
15) 50' Rope (I can't believe some people don't carry this!)
Don't forget that this is also a weapon, great at disarming people, and wraps around a target to immobilize them.
16) Lantern with Shutters
Light's great, but sometimes you need to ditch the light. It warns your opponents that you're coming.
17) Flask of Lantern Oil
Never run out. It also helps to lubricate things, protect metals from rust, and make leathers resistant to water damage. You can make a weak wall of fire, but it doesn't do much.
However, let's not forget all of those doors you run into. Oiling the hinges makes them easier to open and quieter. If you can get to the hinges (usually when the door opens toward you) and they are the peg type, a little oil means you can open the door from the hinge side rather than the lock side (this really messes with traps.)
If you're being chased on smooth floors or climbing a rocky ledge, pour a little oil onto the surface or hand holds and you've made your escape possible. Speaking of escape, if your prison cell has a lantern, douse the lock in the oil then light it; often this will crack iron locks or at least make them brittle.
18) Flask of Brandy
Drink up. Dump it on an opponent and light it. Take a swig and spray it through a torch flame. Pour it into wounds to stop infections. Pour a little bit onto a piece of wood and you've got a long burning blue light. Use it to clean surfaces, particularly stone. You know that thing with writing with lemon juice for invisible ink? Works with Brandy, too.
19) Bag of Salt
Cooking with salt is good and all, but all of those mucous covered monsters are really messed up by a handful. In some game areas, salt acts as a ward against magic and particularly fairy magic. A handful of salt thrown into anyone's eyes is blinding. Salt is an excellent cleaning agent, either on its own or in combination with other substances. A solution of salt and turpentine restores the whiteness to yellowed enamel bathtubs and lavatories. A paste of salt and vinegar cleans tarnished brass or copper. A strong brine poured down the kitchen sink prevents grease from collecting and eliminates odors.
Salt helps destroy moths and drives away ants. A dash of salt in laundry starch keeps the iron from sticking and gives linen and fine cottons a glossy, like-new finish. A thin paste of salt and salad oil removes white marks caused by hot dishes or water from wooden tables.
A box of salt is also an important item in many bathrooms. In mild solutions, it makes an excellent mouthwash, throat gargle or eye-wash; it is an effective dentifrice; it is an effective antiseptic; and it can be extremely helpful as a massage element to improve skin complexion.
Extinguishing grease fires - Keep a box of salt handy at your stove and oven and if a grease fire flares up, cover the flames with salt. Do not use water on grease fires; it will splatter the burning grease. Also a handful of salt thrown on flames from meat dripping in barbecue grills will reduce the flames and deaden the smoke without cooling the coals as water does.
Drip-proofing candles - Soak new candles in a strong salt solution for a few hours, then dry them well. When burned they will not drip. Removing soot - Occasionally throw a handful of salt on the flames in your fireplace; it will help loosen soot from the chimney and salt makes a bright yellow flame. Treat bee stings, nettles, and poison ivy by dampening a cloth, adding salt, and packing on affected areas.
20) Bag of Pepper
Herbalists swear by pepper for many common cures including stomach ailments and decongestion. It also makes a good airborn weapon. One of the best uses I've ever seen is when being tracked by creatures with incredible senses of smell, pepper can be sprinkled behind you, effectively "blinding" the creature's sense of smell. It can also be sprinkled around a camp sight to keep most wildlife away.
21) Wool Blanket
It gets cold out there. You can use these to sleep, but it's also useful for an extra layer against the cold. A good wool blanket can also be stuffed into the bottom of a barrel, covered with charcoal and sand, and used to filter out almost all contaminants from water (it's as good as a Britta Pitcher.) In stead of tying up a person you want to hold as a prisoner, wrap them in the blanket then wrap that in ropes; they get less bruising and move much less. Wool blankets can be soaked in salt water to allow you to pass unhurt through flames.
22) Several Candles
Candles are actually very poor sources of light, but this can be greatly increased by using mirrors and a magnifying lens. Wax makes a good lubricant for wood screws going in and can be rubbed over the wood afterwards to seal the wood. Speaking of sealing, melted wax seals the area from nearly all liquids, even all but the strongest acids. Your string (#3) can be waterproofed with melted wax. It can be used to seal envelopes and scrolls.
Oh, let's not forget my favorite use: loss wax molding. Get the key from the guard for a few minutes, press it into some softened wax, and make an impression. You can now make a mould and create as many duplicates of the key as you need.
23) Extra Cloak, Heavy
My cloak is always getting destroyed. I like to have an extra. Cloaks make good shields, too.
24) Change of Clothes
Okay, how many of you are guilty of wearing your armor everywhere? And let's face it, you skip on the bathing a bit, too, right? By the end of an adventure you need a change after a long bath.
Drying off is good. Also useful for hand to hand combat. (If you want more, read Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.)
26) Bar of Soap
You stink, clean up. Wash not only yourself, but your clothing and armor (not your leathers.) Wash the dishes (yep, you can do that with a bar of soap.) mix a little bit of soap shavings in warm water and it makes a mild antiseptic for wound care.
If you make a mix of 1:1 water and soap and then cover exposed skin in it, mild irritants like poison ivy and contact poisons will not get through. This same mix is very good on bug bites to remove all itching. Mixed with the brandy (#18) at 1:1 you get a leeching mixture that will draw poison out of a wound and induce vomiting.
Also you can make cool shapes from it. Mix in a small amount of water and you get a clay like substance that adheres well to skin and very well to hair to make costume effect, prosthetic noses and ears, patch over a tattoo, and so forth: all very useful for disguises. Carve it carefully and you can make soap bar dolls (or extra minis for the out of game needs.)
Crowbars or Iron Crows make opening things much easier. Also, if you don't want to use the door you can instead shift a few stones and make your own passage. You can also break locks when the door is too daunting. In reverse, the crowbar can be used to wedge a door shut.
I've also used them in a pinch to cause a cascade of rocks to fall on someone foolish enough to chase me up a stoney hill. I've hit opponents with the hook end through the back of their armor to give me a good hand hold and keep them facing the other way. I likewise broke the man code and hooked a target in armor through the groin. Bad for Karma, but I won that fight. One rather useful but nasty use is to heat one end to glowing and shove it into eyes, mouthes, and other openings in opponents' bodies either to make them speak or to keep them from doing so.
Crowbars also can be used to hammer dents out of armor and shields, or as a small anvil for fine work.
28) Oiled Pig's Bladder
These things are cool. They can be inflated to about the size of a large child. Inflated partially you can use them to create an inflatable boat. They make great life preservers. When not in use, however, they are only the size of a tennis ball.
29) Bag of Candied Nuts
I like candied nuts. They are also good for attracting small animals for whatever use you might have.
30) Spare Large Sack(s)
Your backpack can only carry 1' square of that hoard of treasure.
Put a rabid squirrel in a sack and throw it to an enemy.
Cut a hole or three and you have emergency clothing.
Fill it with the heads of your enemies and leave them on their boss' doorstep.
Fill with dragon dung and do the same as above.
Fill them with fluffy stuff and carry them over your shoulder, acting like they weigh a ton. Then say, "Six more sacks of gold outside for anyone who wants them." Lock the door behind those that head out out.