04 May 2015

Too Picayune?

A stack of poker chips, pennies, an index card with tally marks, a simple hand-written note ... all ways to track expendable resources. Resource management is an integral part of the challenge of playing OD&D. My favorite method for tracking arrows was to hand the player a stack of poker chips, one for each arrow in his quiver. Each round he fired an arrow he had to hand a chip back to me. When the chips were gone, so were his arrows. A bow without arrows is called a stick. Parties who just watched their last torch sputter and go out are in a bad way if they haven't planned ahead.

In like manner, tracking and using encumbrance is a big part of adventuring. OD&D had a wonderfully simple way to track player-character encumbrance: assume players are carrying 80 coins or 8 pounds of gear (basically, a backpack full of stuff) in addition to weapons carried and the encumbrance of their armor if any is worn. Alternately, I'd allow players to itemize gear carried if they enjoyed that aspect of the game. Any treasure or items recovered during the course of the adventure counted against their encumbrance.

I'm always curious why both players and referees balk over a shield granting only +1 to armor class (for example) but have no issue at all with assuming players have unlimited numbers of arrows or iron rations. Along with this wonderful boon, they are able to easily transport treasures weighing a thousand pounds with no problem at all.

Encumbrance and resource management adds another challenging aspect to play. If your players find 100,000 gold pieces but can only carry a few hundred of them back to civilization, what happens to the rest of them while the party is away? Do they divide up, some of them taking what they can carry to safety while the others guard the remainder? Do they hide what they can't carry away? Leave it behind, sacrificing both XP and financial gain? Similarly, if the party opts to flee from an encounter they are faced with hard choices. Drop non-essential items to increase movement rate? Or, do faster moving members leave the over-burdened compatriots behind? Drop part of the treasure hoping it will deter pursuit?

I'll accept you telling me you simply don't like that aspect of the game. By all means change it if you don't like it, that's how you're supposed to approach OD&D. I'm a bit less inclined to accept all this is "too complicated" because I've been running games with resource management for 40 years.

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