March 14, 2011

Three Quick Equipment Tips

Ladder

"You were carrying what this whole time?"

From Mark of the Pixie

Equipment

I don’t sweat the little stuff. Characters have signature items (gear they have paid XP for), wealth (a bonus they can use to get little stuff as needed, see below) and possibly a few personal items (which may give a +1 or +2 bonus to one thing). Otherwise, I don’t bother recording or tracking it and just use common sense.

This works fine, but I have few dungeon haul games, and treasure is rarely the point of a game. Some of my games the PCs have not picked up new gear in several years of regular play. It’s a very different approach to most D&D style games.

Supplies

I don’t bother to track supplies. I may say, “If you are going to cross the desert you will need more supplies,” or “After six days at sea, the supplies in your life-raft are running low,” but I don’t bother to specify quantities of food or water. It’s a motivator, but exact details are not important.

In tight situations, the successes on a PC’s survival roll or hunting roll gives how many people they can feed that day.

Shopping

I handle this backwards.

Characters can buy the ability Wealth, which gives them a bonus +2 to put into any items once a game. It must be reasonable, available from shops and able to have been with them all along (“Where were you keeping the 16′ ladder?”).

A character can spend Wealth over the course of each session, either all at once or in bits as they need it.

For example, I could spend +2 wealth to get a sword that is +1 attack, +1 defense (total=+2) that lasts the rest of the session, or I could get +1 dagger and later buy climbing gear +1. At the end of the session anything bought with Wealth goes away.

It is highly abstracted, but it means I do not need to track coins, regular equipment or other minor stuff. Just Signature items (stuff bought with XP) and current Wealth bonus. If the PCs find a big treasure haul, I give them a big one-off bonus to Wealth (which carries over games until they have spent it all).

Gail

I like the picture! We actually had a character who had it know he was carrying a ladder. He was able to attach it to his horse. I think the DM intentionally took us to the short cut underground where the horse could not follow. But the PC still carried his ladder through the adventure and even used it as a weapon when we were ambushed!

Da' Vane

This is definitely a milage may vary scenario, and depends entirely upon your playing style.

It needs to noted that the degree of recordkeeping with equipment and supplies is always relational to the abstract nature of equipment and supplies within the system your system.

In general, equipment and supplies are noted and designed, because they have specific uses. A flask of oil has different uses from a crowbar, and quite often the system itself will provide uses for equipment. If not, the GM and the players normally will.

For example, medusa can be easier to handle if you have a mirror, thus knowing if a character had a mirror was important in such encounters, and making mirrors available for this purpose was important.

A lot of the reason equipment worked like cargo manifests was because a glance at a character sheet was often an aid to puzzle solving and improvisation – knowing what your character had, from the big things to the little things, was often key to spurring on ideas for how to use things inventively.

More abstract systems often takes this very useful device away from players and GMs alike. Improvisation can be hard on those not used to it, and while good GMing urges them to reply “Yes, but…” to player suggestions, they also need to give the players something to work with, and when it comes to equipment, this was a big part of equipment lists.

Without equipment lists, players have to go with their own experiences, and quite often, they end up in a rut which kills improvisation. But if you actively define their wealth in terms of gems, jewels, coins, and so forth, you arm them with tools of the imagination which they can use to help drive the scene.

I totally get the point of not sweating the little stuff though – this is the big issue here. A lot of systems take inventory management and ram it down your throat until it detracts from the game, and nobody cares any more. Use what you want to use, and go with that. Everything should be helping you get the most from your game.

Just be aware that ignoring the details in favour of too much abstraction may be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Don’t be afraid to bring it back in if it is necessary. There’s more to equipment than treasure than just wealth, and this abstraction simply doesn’t do it justice. If that’s fine with you – go for it!

josh

I agree that it can be extremely tiresome to keep track of everything the party has… and situations can arise where a player says “did I pick up that stormtrooper blaster, or did I leave it behind? I dont remmeber!” I will admit that keeping track of gear has been a bane of mine for awhile… i have always struggled with this in games. lately, however, I have developed the habit of keeping very painstaking notes as to not only what the characters are carrying, but also as to which PC in particular is carrying it. I just make very extensive use of the gear section of the character sheet to do this ;) I guess my philosophy has sort of become “If it is important enough to your PC to take the trouble to pick it up and carry it with you, it is important enough to record it on your character sheet”.

But, i also agree that if you find a system that works with your group and playing style, and gets you through the sessions with no hangups or inhibited play, then you have truly found what works best for you, and that you should use it! Every group is a bit different, and players are very different, so I definitley agree that sometimes, and for some groups, not sweating this issue of gear just might help your players enjoy the game more.

Tynam

A GM for a fantasy campaign I was in once didn’t track wealth at all, but did require us – between games – to explain exactly how we were _carrying_ all of our gear.

The player-magic-weapon-arsenal suddenly shrank enormously. I put some serious thought into my collapsible, hinged, sectional 10′ pole. And he paid attention to the details… so if you were carrying a wooden box in your pack to protect the healing potions, you couldn’t just grab one in a hurry. And you’d better have specified that the box was padded…

This works well for fantasy/medieval settings, where what you own = what you carry.

In modern settings I prefer to abstract more.

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