Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: These Boots Were Made for Adventuring

Combat boots.
Combat boots.

When I was in high school, I had a pair of boots. Not just any boots. Grinders. 10 eye. I got a friend to buy a pair for me in Poland because they were less expensive there. I loved those damn things. I wore them with skirts. I wore them with Dickies. I wore them with fishnets. I loved them. They made me feel like I could kick someone in the ass and break them. I loved how heavy they were on the concrete streets of NYC. I loved how they looked and hugged my feet. They were perfect.

My mother was not as enthusiastic as I was. My mom’s taste in clothing and definition of what is feminine is a bit different from mine and I got a lot of looks and offerings of shoes with heels and flowery dresses from her. Those boots moved with me to the Pacific Northwest and got me through many rainy days till my pregnancy made my feet too big to wear them. I passed them on to a young woman who I’m sure is getting good use out of them but I miss them like whoa and am planning on getting a pair of Corcoran Jump boots when we move back to Portland.

Shoes can be useful. The right shoes can make an arduous trek easier. Wearing basketball sneakers on astroturf to play soccer is really not the best idea. Wearing hiking boots that are a size too small on a long journey is a recipe for discomfort at the very least, physical deformity or injury more likely. Footwear made of porous material can be miserable in wet weather. Too big, too small, too unsteady can make for poor adventuring. Showing up to a ranger’s lodge wearing the daintiest of sandals will raise brows as much as wearing the clunkiest, furriest boots to a formal ball. Ranging in materials from animal hides, plant fibers, wood and more, protecting one’s feet from injury, keeping them out of rough weather and whole, shoes can be an adventurers best friend. Important tools or status symbols, they can get you into or out of lots of trouble.

In some places, barefoot is the way to go. In other locations, it is a sign of being impoverished or even a slave. Some cultures frown upon shoes being worn indoors while others insist upon footwear staying on most of the time. Different religious orders have taboos or rules about feet and footwear while the secular world might call for highly embellished shoes. What your characters chose to wear and where they wear it can mean the difference between fitting in or offending a very important person.

For GMs

  • What is standard footwear for the everyday citizen? Is this for people across class? Gender? Position?
  • Do shoes or any special types of footwear symbolize anything? Are shoes used in ceremonies?
  • What are shoes made of?
  • How do shoes differ from culture to culture? What shoes are appropriate for the different climates?

Plot Hooks

  • When an important individual is murdered in the inn, the only clue left is a strange pair of shoes left by the killer. The PCs must use the shoes as a clue as to who has committed the crime. What do the shoes look like? Where are they from? Do they actually belong to the murderer?
  • The boots of a long dead historical figure go missing from their tomb and it’s up to the PCs to locate the relics. Who has taken the relics? Why did they take the footwear, of all things? Is there something about the shoes themselves that are special or is there something hidden in them? What are they planning on doing with the shoes?
  • Unhappy with the local government’s excess and hedonism, the citizens begin to wear simple but well made shoes to show they are good enough to wear such things. The PCs are sent to confiscate any of these simple shoes they find and close down any store selling them to curb the solidarity and demonstrations of the populace. How did the shoe movement start? Who started it? What do the shoes look like? Who is selling them? Who is making them? What are the people’s reactions to the shoes being taken?
  • In order to infiltrate a fancy dance gala, the PCs must wear very awkward but fancy shoes in order to blend in with the crowd, each design saying something about whoever they are pretending to be. What shoes do they manage to get and what will people assume about them because of their footwear? Why do they need to get into the gala? How long do they have to perfect walking in the shoes?
  • When an enemy invades the town, they learn the spiritual leaders go barefoot to be closer to the earth; they then inflict a strict shoe-wearing policy. All found barefoot on the streets are thrown in prison. The spiritual leaders go into hiding and the PCs must try to maneuver the bizarre rules enforced by the invaders while keeping the spiritual elders safe. What is the result of the religious clergy now being shod? How do people react to the new, strange rule? How is the rule enforced/how do they encourage the people to follow it?

For PCs

  • Do you wear shoes? Why or why not?
  • Do you have a favorite pair of shoes? What are they like? Why do you like them? What do they say about you? Do you take care of them? Are they worn? Broken in? Stylish?
  • If you could have any pair of shoes, what would you have? Why?
  • How do you feel about other kinds of footwear? People who go barefoot?
  • When is it appropriate to wear shoes? When is it appropriate to go barefoot?

What say you? What shoes does your adventurer wear and why?

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