Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Brain Storming about Resource Tracking

A few comments on Brendan’s recent post on resource tracking:

1) If you had told me a few years ago that Dungeons & Dragons is primarily a game of resource management, I would have had no idea how that could be. If it really is that fundamental to the game, then it should be central to how you present the game.

2) Resource tracking is largely irrelevant for novice adventurers. They are going to charge right in like it’s some kind of rigged video game and then either hit the jackpot or die horribly, and either way the number of torches and rations they used won’t matter. Do not bring out the resource tracking mechanics until the party shows adventure strategies that actually merit them!

3) If you only track one resource, the vials of oil are probably it. The gold piece cost is enough to actually put a dent in whatever share of treasure your character is likely to get… and if you come back with nothing to show for several sorties, you may not be able to afford it. In the epic hobgoblin battle, I lost track of who had what and how much and it really mattered to the tempo, tone, and tension of the game.

4) Light sources… I only want to track on a per hour basis. Food I only care about on a per day basis. Water I don’t care about– I assume it is available at the party’s camp site near the dungeon. I assume that the ration packs the party characters include a day’s water. There’s some accounting to do with that maybe, but I’d rather it stay in the play aid design rather than cluttering up play.

5) Wilderness adventures require totally different resource tracking systems than dungeon adventures. I guess that the wagon train or whatever will have its own card… and the players will load up on chits from it before entering the dungeon. This can be ignored for Basic Set games, but maybe some sort of streamlined system can be rigged up that would work with the Caves of Chaos.

6) Encumbrance rears its ugly head at some point. I kill so many characters, this is something I usually hand-wave, but… if I were to use this… I’d want armor cards with the player’s light, food, oil, and loot chits on it. Maybe choice pieces of loot have actual cards that the player arranges in his sack or backpack areas. However this is set up… I want it to be very easy to calculate encumbrance levels and movement rates just by looking at the cards. I want some kind of sign or flag that indicates a character’s movement rate that is easy for me to see from my end of the table.

7) The type of game that emerges is one in which players explore and hand me chits every hour of game time. Players will spend resources to case a dungeon location. When they sack it… they will want to go in with as little as possible so that they can carry more out. Or maybe they will clear the area while their hirelings guard the entrance… haul stuff slowly out… then divide it all up to head back to camp. When a character dies… there will be obvious things on the table for the players to divide up. If they leave the body behind, I know exactly what the monsters get off of it without looking at someones crappy character sheet. When the players are out of spells and loaded with loot… I’ll immediately know who is the slowest and who still has food to drop in attempts to distract the monsters that are following them.

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3 responses to “Brain Storming about Resource Tracking

  1. Runeslinger April 1, 2012 at 4:36 am

    I am really enjoying your reports of playing with these rules. They were my first rule set, and stayed that way for quite awhile. Although I did not know it at the time, my original group were among those rejecting the transition to AD&D and just planned to play on with Basic forever. The heretic in the bunch allowed a little more latitude, and thankfully introduced me to more ideas and more games when I started running my own sessions.

    What is really intriguing is how something (resource management) which when we were young and in danger of being nuked, either caused incredible frustration or was glossed over in favour of forward progress through dungeons and stories, can become a source of so much interest and enjoyment as we march on toward dotage.

    Great posts~!

    • jeffro April 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      I find that when I set aside what I think I want and just play a vintage game by the rules and in the spirit with which the designer intended… I am usually pleasantly surprised. Thanks for joining me in this process of rediscovery!

      • Runeslinger April 2, 2012 at 10:11 pm

        Understanding the spirit of the rules is absolutely essential, which is another reason why it is such a blast to read this series. Now I can just point at these posts and say, “See?”

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