Stuff Which Never Works

Stressed Out Over BooksI love RPGs. You probably figured that out by now, given that you’re reading the RPG blog which I update five times a week. I think they’re a fun, community-building form of entertainment, which offers nearly limitless possibilities for those who play. But for all that is good about RPGs, there are some things which simply do not work within the medium. At least I’ve never seen them work, but maybe I’m just missing something. Thus, in the interest of exploring these failings of the medium, I’ve gathered three elements of gameplay which have never been anything but a game-slowing nuisance for me. I’ll detail why it would be nice if they did work, why they don’t work, and if I can think of one, I’ll offer a possible solution.

I’d really like to encourage readers (no matter how old this post is when you read it!) to chime in on this one. What game elements have you encountered which never seem to work well? Do you have any solutions to the three outlined below which I didn’t think of? Is there a system which actually handles any of these well?

Ammunition is an easy one to start with. In the real world, any projectile weapon has a limited number of uses based on how many projectiles are available. Once you’ve fired your revolver six times, you either need to reload, or come up with a new plan. In a medieval fantasy game like Pathfinder, arrows and crossbow bolts take the place of bullets, and the threat of running out adds an exciting depth to the game. Not only does limiting a player’s ammunition force them to use it more intelligently, but it also forces players who favor ranged weapons to have a plan for how they’ll contribute to the battle once their quiver is empty. After that happens once or twice, players will start to understand the necessity of scavenging for unbroken arrows after a battle. And eventually, when the GM chooses to include a Quiver of Unending Arrows in a pile of treasure, it will become a player’s most precious possession.

But keeping track of ammunition is a pain in the ass. Amongst the player’s starting equipment, they purchase fifty or a hundred arrows. And then what? Every time they fire their bow they’re supposed to take the time to erase that number and replace it with one number lower? Players are focused on whether or not they hit what they were shooting at. If they did, then they’re concerned about damage, and if they didn’t, they’re concerned with muttering to themselves about how badly they’re rolling today. Keeping track of ammo is even more burdensome if the GM tries to handle it. GMs are the center of everyone’s attention during combat, and they need to ration their time carefully in order to keep things moving. Giving their attention to minor details like how many arrows a player has left would kill combat flow. Every group I’ve been in has just house ruled it so that once you purchase arrows once, you have a full quiver for life.

Truthfully, I haven’t thought of a good solution to this one yet. I did consider making ranged weapons usable only a certain number of times per combat / certain number of times per day, but that’s just lazy game design. Fortunately, Telecanter of Receding Rules came up with a solid alternative called simple ammunition tracking. Rather than reduce the total amount of ammo by one each time it is used, players using projectile weapons each get a stack of poker chips. After each encounter during which the projectile weapon was used, the player gives up one chip to the GM, regardless of how many or how few arrows they fired. Once they’re out of chips, they’re out of arrows. It’s a good house rule. It doesn’t suffer from the inane number tracking problems that the core game’s method does, and it grants most of the benefits of keeping track of / running out of arrows.

To be honest, though, it doesn’t seem like a good fit for my games. Solid as Telecanter’s simple ammo tracking rule is, it doesn’t allow for the possibility of running out of ammunition in the middle of combat, which is the most interesting time to run out! For the present, I’m still looking for a better system of ammunition tracking.

Encumbrance is a problem which goes hand in hand with ammunition. Including a good encumbrance system in your game places reasonable & interesting limitations on the player characters. It rewards strong characters for being strong, which helps take the edge off how overpowered casters can be. It also provides the GM with a multitude of adventure options which wouldn’t be available if characters could carry whatever they want. Removing treasure from a dungeon, and finding a place to store that treasure, become adventures in themselves. And like the Quiver of Unending Arrows, an encumbrance system turns items which have become commonplace and boring, such as exceptionally light armor, or a bag of holding, into treasures worth questing for.

Unfortunately, encumbrance suffers from the same problem of excessive calculation that ammunition systems have. When a player is looking through the equipment chapter of the core rulebook, and they see that each and every item has a weight calculated down to ounces, they can’t help but balk at the idea of keeping track of it all. Every time anything is added to a pack, or removed from it, its weight must be added or subtracted from the grand total amount of weight being carried by the character, and then checked against the character’s maximum load to determine whether or not that character is now encumbered. I’ve never met a single GM who bothers with such rules. I have met a few who use simplified versions of those rules, but even those simplified rules often seem overly complicated to me.

I discussed this issue with a friend at length last night. He was of the opinion that encumbrance rules should simply be discarded as useless to gameplay. Despite the benefits, he said, there’s just no way to make things simple enough to be fun. I tried to come up with an example of an ultra-simple encumbrance system to use as a counterargument, and inadvertently struck on an idea which I think I may start using in my games.

A character’s strength score is the maximum amount of significant items which can be carried without becoming encumbered. Significant items are identified by the GM at the time of acquisition, and may include: a 50ft coil of rope, a 10ft pole, a sword, a suit of armor, or five hundred coins of any denomination. Items might qualify as significant based either on weight or on size, but no item which is not significant counts against encumbrance in any quantity. A character may carry as many non-significant items as they like without them counting against encumbrance, even if the sum total of their parts (such as fifty potions) would be heavier and more unwieldy than any single significant item (such as a sword). In some special cases, the GM may choose to make a particularly heavy or unwieldy item count as two or more significant items, though it is recommended that this be used only in special cases. Common adventuring equipment such as armor should never count for more than one significant item.

Chase Scenes are a huge problem in RPGs. What’s great about them should be obvious: they’re exciting. They’re a unique kind of encounter which, if I could figure out how to run one, would make escaping just as much fun as standing your ground to fight. But what’s exciting when every character has a pre determined speed? If your speed is 30, and your pursuer’s speed is 35, then eventually you’re going to be overrun. Numerous books discuss methods to make chases more engaging for players, but when speed is a set number there’s only so much you can do.

I think the best way to overcome this problem is to encourage our players to think creatively while escaping (or giving chase). Halflings, with their lower speed, should try to use their size to their advantage by going places where larger characters can’t. Other characters can attempt to use obstacles, or creative shortcuts to overcome the static speed problem. And of course, players being able to do this is contingent on the GM’s ability to improvise a constantly changing environment for the players to dash through. Being intimately familiar with Pathfinder’s movement and running rules (Pathfinder Core Rulebook Pages 170-172) can’t hurt either. They provide useful mechanics for exhaustion, which determines when somebody in the chase is forced to give up.

There are a number of other things which I’ve never been happy with. Keeping time is nearly impossible, and the game makes it far too difficult to sneak up behind someone and knock them out. I’m sure there are others as well, but I think three is sufficient for this post. Particularly because I’m currently operating at a significant sleep debt, and very desperately need to get in bed early tonight!

As I mentioned above, I’d like to encourage comments on this post. On every post, actually, but on this one in particular. Let me know what elements of gameplay have never worked to your satisfaction. Or even better, let me know if you’ve got any better solutions than those I’ve come up with!

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38 thoughts on “Stuff Which Never Works”

  1. –This is an imported comment from the old blog–

    Name: -C
    Date: Nov 22, 2011 12:25 AM
    Comment:

    Your encumberance system is very close to the LotFP encumbrance and it’s derivitaves.

    I have never found keeping time to be particularly difficult, and in fact is a key component of my games (for monster checks and such). The key is, they can safely move their movement (6″ 9″ or 12″) in 10 foot squares in 1 turn. When they tell me where they go, I count off and mark off the turns.

    Also, older editions have facing, which simplifes the sneaking up behind someone. 360 vision in pathfinder (only using stealth when in cover and concealment) can have some silly results.

  2. –This is an imported comment from the old blog–

    Name: LS
    Date: Nov 23, 2011 12:51 PM
    Comment:

    My problem with sneaking up behind someone and knocking them out is that even if you successfully sneak up behind a character, are a rogue who gets sneak attack damage, have high strength, and use a sap…you still probably won’t knock somebody out. You’ll need to spend some time in combat doing more non lethal damage in order to get the guy down.

    Regarding time, I honestly can’t figure it out. If, for example, the villain says “get the treasure for me in an hour or I cut your son’s throat!” then I have a difficult time figuring out how to keep track of time in a meaningful yet not game-slowing way.

  3. For firearms, ammunition tracking can be probabilistic. I think I ran a futuresque game once where if you rolled a 1 on an attack roll with a firearm, your weapon went ‘click’, and you needed to reload. It kept the PCs from doing the standard metagame bullet-counting measures, and may also simulate panic fire or weapon jams. Weapons with particularly low ammunition per magazine ran out on a 1, 2, or 3 on a d20. However, this approach completely fails for bows…

    1. I like the idea of having a gun’s clip run out on a specific range of low attack rolls. That’s exactly the kind of simple, elegant solution which I’m always looking for. One which can easily be built into a pre-existing action, in this case the attack roll. Though, I don’t particularly mind players who count bullets.

      As you said, though, it doesn’t work for bows. I’d still really like to find something which does.

      I’ve considered going the old Zelda route of having each shot of a bow automatically decrease your silver pieces by 1. But that doesn’t hold up either. Not only are you still tracking numbers, but even low level adventurers quickly amass nearly infinite amounts of silver pieces.

      1. How about the idea you mentioned of poker chips being handed over by players for ammo, only instead of one after each battle is over, they do it when they roll a 1 in combat? That way, assuming there aren’t many chips or there are lots of d20 rolls, you could get that desired effect of them running out of ammo during the battle. Maybe give them one chip per 10 arrows bought or something.

  4. Labyrinth Lord has pursuit rules (page 52). The dungeon chase rules are pretty weak (basically, faster movement rate wins, but you can throw food or treasure to potentially distract monsters). The wilderness chase rules are a bit more interesting, and are actually based on relative group size, not speed at all (I guess there is an assumption that a slower party could duck down an alley or dive behind bushes and hide or something).

    I don’t think I’ve ever run a chase scene. I have vague memories of something like a contested skill challenge (before skill challenges were a thing).

    Here’s the rules text (check the free download for more details):

    Sometimes one group will want to escape from another group before they have come within close proximity. When two groups meet and one side is surprised, the other side can automatically flee successfully. Otherwise, determine the probability that one group can escape from another by looking at the Wilderness Retreat Table. The more chasing group members there are relative to the fleeing party, the greater chances the fleeing party may escape. This is because larger groups cannot move as fast, or as quietly. Note that one side will have a minimum of a 5% probability of escaping.

    http://www.goblinoidgames.com/GBD1001_no_art.zip

    I have some ideas regarding tracking resources which turned into a post and might go out tomorrow.

    1. I may need to read this Labyrinth Lord game. You’ve mentioned it a number of times, and it seems to have some decent ideas on how to improve the basic D&D rule set.

  5. Hey there,

    Great post, below I shall contribute some ideas for solutions and then some things that never worked in my games.

    Ammunition
    In my earliest games I made them all keep track, and as you said, it made for some really interesting encounters, but eventually got too tedious. In later games I made ammunition costs part of the monthly upkeep variant rule in the DMG. Essentially you paid 1gp per upkeep to stay stocked with arrows or whatever. Magical ones had to be tracked, though. In the twilight years I made the player pay an extra charge to get unlimited mundane ammunition, and everyone always paid it.

    Encumbrance
    Sadly I’ve had as many headaches as you on this one. I’ve tried a similar method as the one you’ve described with limited success. There always seemed to be unexpected things that didn’t fit either category and eventually I just eyeballed it as a DM. There would come a point where I’d tell a player “you are carrying too much, gotta drop something.”

    Chase Scenes
    I usually ad hoc’d chase scenes and based success or failure on role play and how I wanted the story to go.

    Here are some things that I could never get right:

    Spell Components
    One thing that makes casters so powerful is a lack of holding them accountable to their spell components, which are designed to keep them honest. I never let go of making them pay for the expensive ones (> 1gp) out of their gold. So if you needed 250gp of diamond dust for Stoneskin, the player could just pay 250gp out of his purse and presto! Stoneskin. Once and only once I tried making them keep track of bits of guano, candles, needles, and other items for spells, and while this was fun for like one session, it soon became far too tedious as well.

    Skill Points
    I know, right? But it never worked right in my games, owing mostly to the fact my players seemed to lack basic mathematical skills despite the fact by the time 3rd came out they were all college students. Every time I checked their sheets, which was about once a month, they were always off. Too little or too much. I love skill points, but eventually I was forced to use the variant rule of + level + 3 for trained skills and + 1/2 level for untrained. It was a sad day.

  6. In my experimental RPG system we use a square of paper for an item (or bundle of ammo etc) instead of an inventory list. It’s satisfyingly tactile. It also helps with some of your problems:

    #1: A bundle of ammo (say 10 arrows) has a bunch of little boxes along the bottom. When you use one up, put a mark through one box. When all are gone, discard that bundle, it’s empty.

    #2: Each item has a weight rating on it; this is just a pure number in the system under discussion, you could adapt this to items weighed in kilograms or pounds I suppose. Be aware that the ratings I discuss here are logarithmic though.

    Your inventory is kept on a grid (item squares are stuck on with adhesive putty). Each grid square is marked with the maximum weight rating you can put in that square. You can only put one item on a square (a container counts as one item, e.g. a quiver full of the arrow-bundle items described above).

    The grid squares are marked at character creation time depending on your Physical Strength attribute. Squares are: 1x (Str+4), 2x (Str+2), 4x (Str+0), 8x (Str-2). Lighter items are not tracked explicitly, pack them in a container or something. Notionally I like to think of the (Str+4) space as back/shoulders, and the (Str+2) spaces as your arms. This helps me think about bulk as well as weight.

  7. This is my way of handling ammo:

    Instead of poker chips, use pennies. I usually play with a group that don’t generally use ranged weapons unless they actually use them on a regular basis. So I have taken to giving all my ranged players a cup with pennies (although any small and easily discarded object would do), and they can simply discard a penny into a dish when they expend an arrow. To make this less cumbersome, I have a drawer in my living room where I keep all my dnd stuff, and the cup goes in there so that the player doesn’t have to keep track of them between sessions.

  8. Software can solve a lot of these problems. Herolab calculates encumbrance for you as you create, update & outfit your character. Hardcopy from Herolab provides checkboxes to mark-off ammo as it’s used, plus checkboxes for daily stuff like ki points or bloodline powers.

    I noticed you’ve got another post on Initiative. A VTT like Maptool helps with this tremendously, especially when coupled with a macro framework. Compiling initiative is literally a split-second enterprise, for all participants in the combat.

    Pathfinder’s GMG also has a great section on running chases.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I love it when these older posts get attention.

      I’ve experimented with using software & other technological tools for my gaming stuff, and I actually find that I really dislike it. It’s purely a preference thing, mind you, but I prefer to use simple tools when I’m doing tabletop stuff.

      I’m actually much more comfortable with all three of these now. I’m still not found a system for running chases which I absolutely love, but I’m very comfortable with the one from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Which, essentially, is this:

      If you’re in a big open field, whoever has the higher movement rate wins. Otherwise, each side rolls 1d20+(movement rate divided by 10).

  9. About encumbrance –

    I like the idea that one’s strength corresponds with the amount s/he can carry. It reminded me of something I like about the video game Diablo II – your character has a limited amount of inventory space, shown in a grid. Small items, such as potions, take up one square. Larger items, like a wooden buckler, takes up 4 spaces.

    For simplicity’s sake, we could say that large items take up 6 slots, M = 4, S = 2, tiny = 1. The size of a player’s inventory grid would correspond to the character’s STR. A fighter with a STR of 18 would have 18 squares.

    [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]

    Let’s say this fighter has few extra swords & stuff she’s carrying: a long sword (LS), kite shield (SH), a short sword (SS), and gauntlet (G).

    [LS] [LS] [LS] [LS] [SH] [SH]
    [SS] [SS] [SS] [ ] [SH] [SH]
    [G ] [G ] [ ] [ ] [SH] [SH]

    The player could “store” more stuff if s/he organizes the inventory like a well-fit puzzle.

    Characters that have lower STRs (such as casters) would have smaller grids. A wizard with a STR of 10 could fit fewer things. A quarterstaff (Q), wand of cure light (W), and a spell book (B), perhaps.

    [B] [Q] [Q] [Q] [Q]
    [B] [ ] [ ] [W] [W]

    I’m a visual thinker, so I like this kind of thing, but I don’t know if it would work, or work for other DMs.

    1. While this isn’t an idea I’d personally pursue, it does have an interesting appeal. I particularly like the idea that a player who organized their inventory well could carry more. Turns inventory management into a game of tetris. =P

  10. My GM usually asks us to use a d20 to count ammo. Every time a character fires a shot, the count a number down on the d20.

  11. I personally handle bookkeeping like ammo by tracking how many I’ve used rather than how many I have remaining. Addition is easier to do and record than subtraction. I also record hitpoints this way by tracking how much damage they taken rather than how many hitpoints remain. It also makes sense with ammo because quivers can only carry 20 or 30 arrows. So if you used 20 arrows out of your quiver, you’re out and need another quiver.

    Pathfinder committed the cardinal sin of forcing gun users to keep track of two items for their ammo: bullets and gunpowder

      1. And at my table that d20 approach would last right up until the next occurrence of the phenomenon I like to call “projectile d6es”. :-) When d6es attack, nothing at the table is safe!

    1. Wow, this is really good! I may have to give it a try.

      The only drawback I really see is that it still requires a lot of attention. Ideally ammo tracking would not. But I like it all the same! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Over at IntWisCha, they have a system for keeping up with rations, ammo, and the like. I love the sound of it, but have yet to use it in a game. It’s called Cascading Dice, and the way that it works is that you start with a particular die. For arrows, let’s say that it’s a D12. Every time you fire your bow, you roll the D12. If you come up with any number but 1, you’re good. If you come up with 1 however, you go down a die size. This happens each time until you hit the D4. Then once you roll a 1, you have a single arrow left. Restocking arrows at the general store is as simple as paying some gold and resetting your die size to D12.

    Link: http://intwischa.com/2011/05/house-rule-for-tracking-ammo/

    It seems like it could be a simple rule, but I can also see a player easily forgetting to roll the die each time they use their bow. But most of my players are pretty good at picking up new rulings when it benefits them (and less paperwork definitely does!).

  13. You said “no matter how old this post is” :)

    Been playing since 1978. I have the same problems that everyone has with ammunition, and I tend to ignore it.
    Encumbrance, however, I think works for my DM’ing style. As far as regular gear is concerned, its the common sense approach – you can’t carry 6 chests and 5 polearms.
    I treat coin treasure differently. Every 10 coins = 1 pound. Max carry is your STR score x 10, in pounds. So 16 strength can carry 1600 coins, but any more than that, they are encumbered (my definition is half-move speed, can’t roll for surprise, -4 to initiative and -4 to AC against ranged attacks [Nothing like bandits raining arrows down on PCs bogged down with loot])

    As far as things go with stuff that never works, I got a few gripes.

    Languages. Unless you are prepared to simulate them (and god help you if you do), and you have really really tolerant/patient players, they are useless. I primarily use them to tag where creatures/groups are from or what organizations that are attached to – I have scads of cants and pidgeon languages that I make up as I need them for various cults, guilds, temples, etc…

    Grappling. ‘Nuff said.

    PS – Really enjoying this blog. Hope its still running. I keep getting sidetracked by the referral links in the text, and yeah. Been here two hours :)

    1. I always appreciate feedback, and I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the blog. I’ve got some more links to distract you with!

      “Making Encumbrance Work” a few months after this post was the result of me sitting down and really trying to work out a way to handle encumbrance that makes me happy:

      http://www.paperspencils.com/2012/03/18/making-encumbrance-work/

      It produced some interesting discussion, probably the best of which was a post by Brendan which is pretty close to my ideal I think:

      http://untimately.blogspot.com/2012/11/another-encumbrance-system.html

      (Though, currently, I’m using the encumbrance system from LotFP, which is also really good. I’ve also been considering a house rule for random inventory audits on the characters. )

      Tangentially, there was some really impressive improvements on Goblin Punch a bit later:

      http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2013/11/armor-and-inventory.html

      http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2013/11/armor-and-inventory-jr.html

      Regarding ammunition, I cannot for the life of me remember who wrote it, but somebody had a really good idea which I use these days. Anytime you visit town, all ammunition are automatically replenished. Whenever you use your bow (or other device), roll 1d12. If it comes up with a 1, then you only have 1 arrow left. (I usually let players ignore a 1 if they roll it immediately after leaving town).

      So those two problems of mine are pretty much solved. I’m still not happy with case scenes, but the LotFP rule for them is decent enough considering how infrequently they come up.

      Regarding your issues:

      Languages – I hear you on this. In truth, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about how languages could be handled better. (Though I did once write a rather expansive fluff piece about languages and learning them). Perhaps this is something I should consider.

      I think the thing to keep in mind with languages is that they’re a locked door. The players need X information, Y person knows the info, but speaks Z language. Perhaps a post along the lines of “10 situations where using a language other than common could improve your game” would be in order.

      Regarding Grappling, I’ve got you covered!

      http://www.paperspencils.com/2013/03/19/simple-attacks-grapples/

      Sorry to spam you with a mountain of links. And, to answer your hope, yes this blog is still updating. Updates have been a lot more sporadic, though, since I’ve been putting more of my effort into developing adventures modules, etc.

      1. cheers for the links, i’ve got a fistful open now :)
        module writing eh? yeah i did that for a time, but I had such hatred for 3.5 that I kind of lost interest.
        Here’s hoping 5th ed fixes the complicated nonsense of 3.5 and the idiotic thinkings of 4th ed (although 4th did have one good aspect, and that was building monsters on-the-fly was so goddamn brilliant and easy that I’ll miss it).

  14. For my group, ammo is typically hard to find… most people don’t want arrows (which, like all projectiles in my groups, are nerfed to 1d2, and usually are used for called shots to disable), they want silver, gold, enchanted, flaming, or acidic arrows. Some of these are exclusive, some of these must be protected, etc. Arrows, like spells, should be powerful and limited. An archer pulling from a quiver with multiple arrow types can pull the wrong one if doing so while moving, etc…

    But I’m also the kind of DM who expects a wizard to know how to do more than cast spells; if a wizard doesn’t bring salt and pepper into an encounter (salt to track the feet of invisible opponents, pepper for sneezing/blinding), I’m really going to start wondering what he’s on about. I set spells per day capped at level/2, round up, regardless of class.

    For time management, I have a small app for my phone which increments in 6sec, 10min, 1h, 1d, and 1w marks at a tap, and my “uninterrupted path” (i.e. what happens over time in the universe if players do nothing) in a calender attached thereto. Makes the universe feel alive and fluid, but gives the players the ability to effect things already happening (I found, as a player, I don’t like feeling like the hero in a book, but, like in Final Fantasy Tactics, like one of the players in a larger world).

    Chases are always opposed rolls, as a party is going to move as a group. The party leading is going to be trash-can-dumping to get away, and the group behind has nets and knives which the front group has to stay aware of. In 2.0, I used castle/group combat rules, which worked pretty damn well…

  15. I actually created a world (and system, named Shadowlight) where the gods had killed themselves to create something where NO missile weapons worked. Bullets bounce off eyeballs. Unless you are flying… It makes sense in-system. Anyway, to fight, you have to get close. Coupled with the fact that combat is really lethal, I have a system where my players spend a lot of time being really sneaky, ensuring that they have an overwhelming advantage, or running like stink. Chases are handled by success accumulation, and clever Ideas accumulate automatic successes, as do pre-prepared traps and whatnot. Encumbrance is largely ad-hoc, governed by common sense. Try running in plate mail and carrying a pair of greataxes and a sack of loot. Now try doing it quietly…

    1. That sounds pretty awesome, actually. I realize I’m late as all hell replying to this, but do you have a link to any campaign materials?

  16. for my ranged characters each quiver as a 20 side dice… usually 5 quivers in my pack… and i keep track of the 20 sider’s… as one empties, i know to replace it…. and take the time to pull the new one out of my pack…

  17. I’m actually designing a game myself and my issue right now is how to handle buying ammo/arrows.

    Before I had it by the bullet/arrow which was okay but a bit of pain. Right now I have it by increments of ten but that creates issues when you want to stock up but don’t have the points (everything is point buy) to go to the next level so a lot of characters start out with 10 bullets/arrows which MIGHT be fine.

    I haven’t playtested yet but even for a starting character ten bullets/arrows seems a bit light.

    Anyone have any idea which would be better: by the unit or in sets of ten?

  18. I just discovered this pearl of a blog today and have been skimming though things as the titles strike my fancy, i especially enjoy the dangerous dungeons.

    I had in my early DMing career let the players just forget about ammo tracking, but once i began playing around with sunder attempts it seemed severally advantageous to the one or two ranged players in my groups. i agree erasing the number and keeping track like that after each shot is pain stakingly slow, so i sat down and thought of the easiest way to do it,

    A second sheet off paper for the player to tally each shot, it is much quicker, and counting 10-20 clusters of five is easy. it also is a better visual for the player than just a number of how much ammo he has used, rather than what he has. it helps make them think about pacing their shots, and deciding to let that goblin run back into the cave, or using one of his last 15 arrows to try and drop it as it flees.

    thank you for this blog, i found it tring to find some new monster ideas for my pathfinder game, and the rest has not been a disappointment

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. It means a lot to me to hear them.

      Regarding ammunition tracking, I’ve been playing with emptying quivers randomly. When you fire an arrow, roll a d12. If it lands on 1, then you’ve only got 1 arrow left.

      It works well for the most part.

  19. Thoughts:

    Ammunition. It’s a bit finicky for some people, but I think it’s easy to keep track of ammunition. A player doesn’t do much bookkeeping after each turn. It’s not too much work to put a single hash mark beside “20 arrows”.

    OR you could do the token thing, where a player can buy enough arrows to last 4 fights or whatever, BUT I would add that when you get down to your last arrow, you instead get 1d6 arrows to use. At the end of the combat, you’re out of arrows, even if you technically have arrows left.

    Encumbrance is usually better left ignored UNLESS you are playing a game where inventory management is an issue. Like, I would ignore inventory until the party went into the desert, when water and rations become super-important.

    Chases. . . I’m convinced that chases just need special rules. I haven’t met the right rules yet, but I’m sure that they’re out there somewhere.

  20. Since you said no matter how old this post is, having a go at it. (what I’m about to say may or may not be covered by earlier comments, but there’s a lot of them, so…)

    Primer: I run OSR-type of stuff.

    What I’ve been using for ammunition is cascading dice, so instead of a exact number for ammunition, you have a die for the whole bundle – the actual size of the “starting die” may vary, key point being that you have a bunch of arrows that can be checked by rolling the die against a target number – results below the target drop the die by one size, and once you’re down to d4, a failure means that you’ve ran out. Just pairing the ammo die with a d20 for the attack roll cuts down on the time taken to resolve the rolls, if that’s a concern.

    As a bonus, this can be used as an unified system for tracking light sources, rations etc. So all consumables follow the same ruling – roll its die for every use/each turn used, as is appropriate: on a <4 drop the die size for future rolls. Obviously, the stuff runs out when failing on a d4, as its impossible to roll a success with anything smaller.

    Simple unified system, with minimal bookkeeping.

    It's mostly (partially second-hand) loot from Logan Knight's lastgaspgrimoire.com, so refer there for details.

    Incidentally, the guy also has a good system for encumbrance as well, if the way LotFP (being the hands-down best published encumbrance system) deals with it isn't to your liking.

    1. Logan is a good dude with tons of great ideas. I don’t think I’ve ever read his encumbrance system, though. I really like the one used in base LotFP, I should give his system a look!

      Thanks for the comment! <3

      1. No problem. :)

        Just to clarify, i was referring to the older encumbrance system – the arts-and-crafts-thing looks interesting, should give it a spin to see how it works as well.

        I particularly like the breakage chance of carried items and “to find an item in a pack, check against its slot number with a d30” – as a system to discourage hauling unnecessary items around instead of having a bunch of varying degrees of encumbrance penalties that need to be checked constantly.

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