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The space containing game elements carried by diegetic characters.

There is often a need to support functionality for managing items in games where players control characters that can carry several of these. Inventories prove a solution to this by letting players examine, discard, upgrade, repair, and in other ways through a separate representation that the main game world.


Roleplaying Games grew out of Miniature Games by focusing on individual characters, including their equipment. This lead many such games, e.g. Dungeons and Dragons, GURPS, and Mutant, to have Inventories and rules for how much the players' characters could carry (although these were often ignored).

This was carried on both in text-based computer versions (e.g. Kingdoms and the Zork series), "character"-based ones (e.g. Nethack and Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress), and graphical ones (e.g. the Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and Dragon Age series). Dragon Age II make use of a common Inventory between the player's character and his or her companions.

Inventories can also be found in other type of computer games, e.g. Maniac Mansion, Minecraft, and Torchlight. The storage areas available to players in CityVille, FarmVille, and Zombie Lane can be seen as Inventories also.

Using the pattern

The typical design of Inventories consist of deciding how to provide functionality for how the Game Items carried by Characters (or Parties) can be interacted with. The most common characteristic of Inventories is to limit the number of Game Items that can be stored in them, effectively creating Resource Caps.

While probably the most common action available through Inventories is that of dropping Game Items from them, many games provide other functionality where selecting which Equipment to outfit oneself with is common - often through Equipment Slots. The Fallout series provides ways of negating the effects of Deterioration while Minecraft supports Crafting. While it may be natural to consider Inventories available to players those of their Characters it may also be that they can access the Inventories of other Player Characters or Non-Player Characters. This since Inventories provide the basic functionality on which many actions that enable Transferable Items rely on, e.g. Stealing and Trading.

A case where it may not be possible to drop Game Items from Inventories is when these represent Resources rather than Game Items (the two types may be mixed). This is typically combined with Pick-Ups that cease to be Game Items and become pure Resources when retrieved. In this case, Pick-Ups can be seen as a way of modulating Inventories since they provide ways of affecting the Resources available, but when the Pick-Ups maintain their identities as Game Items after being retrieved Inventories can instead be seen as modulating the Pick-Ups. Resources that are also Non-Localized Resources can be given their own areas (so they do not compete with other Game Items) within Inventories.

Free Gift Inventories are a special case of Inventories which contain Game Items that players can give to other players but not to themselves. They are typically present in games (e.g. CityVille and Zombie Lane) on social media platforms, primarily Facebook.

Sockets have similarities with Inventories, and may in some cases be a feasible alternative to Inventories. Dragon Age II does a combination of Inventories and Sockets by having a common Inventory for the Player Character and the Companions but Sockets for the Game Items actually equipped by them.

Interface Aspects

Inventories are often instantiated as Secondary Interface Screens, e.g. in NetHack, the Fallout or Dragon Age series. Dragon Age II combines this with functionality for exchanging Transferable Items while Minecraft provides support for Crafting in its Inventory. Both Fallout 3 and Dragon Age II use their Inventories to let players install Upgrades. It is quite common to begin Game Pauses when these kinds of Secondary Interface Screens are entered, although this can break Thematic Consistency (Minecraft is an example of a game which does not do this).

However, Inventories can be shown in other ways. Tabletop Roleplaying Games often make the Inventories part of Character Sheets while games with Illocutionary Interfaces, which are typically text-based, do it as part of the main interface.


Inventories are a way to modulate both Characters and Game Items, often to introduce Resource Caps by limited how many of the latter the former can carry. Since Agents that have Game Items in their Inventories are control of those items, the pattern instantiates Ownership. Having to manipulate the items in Inventories can become Excise to players.

While Inventories may support Thematic Consistency in that one can carry Game Items, it may also conflict with a Thematic Consistency simply because they represent Game Items differently than in the Game Worlds or that they allow unrealistic amounts of Game Items to be carried. This issue is significantly magnified if entering Inventory game modes through Secondary Interface Screens that invoke Game Pauses and provide interface elements with Non-Diegetic Features. The use of Inventories does however often help maintain Diegetic Consistency while making gameplay smooth since it can allow quick access to Game Items not in public sight.


Can Instantiate

Diegetic Consistency, Excise, Non-Diegetic Features, Ownership, Resource Caps, Stealing, Thematic Consistency, Trading, Transferable Items

Can Modulate

Characters, Deterioration, Game Items, Parties, Pick-Ups, Resources, Upgrades

Can Be Instantiated By

Character Sheets, Free Gift Inventories, Illocutionary Interfaces, Secondary Interface Screens

Can Be Modulated By

Equipment, Equipment Slots, Game Pauses, Non-Localized Resources, Pick-Ups

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Thematic Consistency


New pattern created in this wiki.