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Game items that can be equipped.

In games where players can get hold of many types of items that can be used or worn, players need to actively choose which items to use. This is typically done by equipping them, and since not all items necessarily can be equipped it makes sense to distinguish between those that are Equipment and those that are not.


Roleplaying Games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Mutant have many Equipment such as weapons, armor, tools, and for some cases magical items. While neither players nor game masters necessarily keep exact track of what is equipped (except maybe armor) since this can be negotiated as necessary, computer-based examples such as the Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age series requires that players explicitly choose which items are equipped. NetHack and Minecraft are games sharing similarities with Roleplaying Games, including the requirement to equip items for them to be usable or affect gameplay beyond what they weight.

First-Person Shooters such as the Quake series and the Left 4 Dead series have a limited set of weapons (and medical equipment for the latter) that players can use. At any given point only one of these are usable, but all can be said to be Equipment in that players have to select one for it to become active.

Using the pattern

Besides deciding which ones should become Equipment, making Game Items possible to equip consists of deciding if they are actively or passively equipped. Actively equipped Game Items let Agents be prepared to use specific actions while passively equipped Game Items either constantly provide a benefit or does so when Enemies perform actions against them. In both cases this is done to receive New or Improved Abilities compared to what one currently has, although this can also be seen as selecting the most appropriate ones for a given situation if the items selected from are available most of the time. Types of Game Items commonly equipped for active use is Weapons and Tools while Armor and Equipment are commonly done so for defensive use. Game Items that are intended to be usable as Upgrades need to be Equipment since they are to be applied on other Equipment to modify the Improved Abilities they provide - this is one example of Upgrading. One way of supporting this is through Sockets.

Regardless of if Equipment are to be used actively or passively, using them can cause Deterioration. This, or simply having a Limited Number of Uses, makes the Equipment into a form of Resource and the actions they provide into Temporary Abilities. Likewise, linking the loss of Equipment to Death Consequences (but not Permadeaths) make them into Temporary Abilities.

A special case of Equipment are cursed Game Items. These, most often found in Roleplaying Games (and NetHack), give Decreased Abilities. Equipping them are Irreversible Events to avoid them simply being removed, or at least until some type of Privileged Ability has been applied on them. For games wishing to avoid Purchasable Game Advantages (primarily Massively Multiplayer Online Games), making equipping of Equipment into Irreversible Events is an option - but here it is not the equipping that cannot be reversed, it is that having done so once makes it impossible to use in Trading with other players.

Who should be able to use the Equipment is another design choice. This may be Avatars and Player Characters, but also Companions and Non-Player Characters, and allowing this only for some is a way to provide Privileged Abilities.

Agents that are to equip Game Items need to have Ownership of these in some form. This can be proven by having Equipment in Inventories or Equipment Slots. For Equipment Slots, some Equipment can be said to be possible to equip twice - once when acquired and placed in a slot (e.g. picking up a weapon in the Left 4 Dead series) and once when that Equipment Slot is chosen to be active.

While Equipment can be made available just like all other types of Game Items, the option to make them Loot is somewhat more plausible than for other types of Game Items since they can be assumed to have been used, or at least intended by the used. A special case however regards games with Player-Created Characters. Here, equipping the Characters is part of creating them so what Equipment should be available before gameplay begins become a necessary design choice in these games. The use of Budgeted Action Points is a common design solution in these cases, and adds a level of Freedom of Choice regarding this.

Diegetic Aspects

While any Equipment can affect the diegetic presentation of Avatars, the purpose of Cosmetic Game Items is to have this effect. This can be the sole purpose why the Game Items are Equipment.

Interface Aspects

Equipping Game Items are typically done through adding functionality to the Secondary Interface Screens used for Inventories and Equipment Slots.


Equipment provide a Freedom of Choice for players, not only by having the option to use one particular Game Item but also indirectly because there typically are several Game Items to choose from. The typical reason to equip is to access Improved or New Abilities of Game Items so in one sense Equipment make these changes possible as well, and since this is often done through Inventories of systems of Equipment Slots the pattern changes how these are used as well. However, equipping cursed Game Items and thereby receiving Decreased Abilities are Traps likely to cause Surprises since Game Items rarely are equipped if one knows their effects. While all Game Items can cause players to have Gain Ownership goals, the Improved or New Abilities that Equipment can provide give direct gameplay rationale for having these goals.

Equipment can be Resources in the cases where they can stop functioning (e.g. through Deterioration) or where possession of them is not permanent due to them being Transferable Items.

When equipping Game Items is done through choosing which out of several Equipment Slots should be active, this provides a form of Limited Set of Actions - players can choose which action to be ready to perform out of a limited selection.


Can Instantiate

Decreased Abilities, Freedom of Choice, Gain Ownership, Improved Abilities, Irreversible Events, New Abilities, Privileged Abilities

with Death Consequences, Deterioration, or Limited Number of Uses

Temporary Abilities

with Equipment Slots

Limited Set of Actions

with Decreased Abilities and Irreversible Events


Can Modulate

Avatars, Companions, Inventories, Non-Player Characters, Player Characters,

Can Be Instantiated By

Armor, Game Items, Tools, Weapons, Upgrades

Can Be Modulated By

Budgeted Action Points, Cosmetic Game Items, Death Consequences, Deterioration, Equipment Slots, Freedom of Choice, Limited Number of Uses, Loot, Player-Created Characters, Secondary Interface Screens, Sockets, Upgrades, Upgrading

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Purchasable Game Advantages when used together with Irreversible Events


New pattern created in this wiki.