In my unending quest to find (and use!) cool new game mechanics, I’ve happened upon a real gem from the Gumshoe System. This ruleset, dreamed up by Robin D. Laws and implemented in Fear Itself, The Esoterrorists and Trail of Cthulhu, is designed for investigative campaigns — not hack-n-slash battlemap adventures. As such, the system strips out a lot of the crunchier record-keeping elements, including the notion of equipment lists. Instead, each player has the Preparedness skill; this single stat reflects his or her ability to show up equipped with the right tool for the job.
So if a player needs a chemical torch to illuminate a dark, underwater grotto (as happened in a recent Fear Itself adventure I played), it’s just a die roll away. Clearly, the more complex and/or inappropriate the tool, the tougher the die roll will be, thus countering situations where a highly Prepared player might produce a seemingly endless array of useful, situation-specific gadgets from his or her pocket, just in time to save the group, ad nauseum: the “rocket launcher in your pants” effect, if you’ll permit me to coin a term.
And as much as I like equipment lists and all the bean counting that goes into them, I also really like the Preparedness stat — mainly because it encourages improvisation on the part of both player and GM. A mousy librarian facing down a flesh-eating zombie might not be able to roll high enough to pull a loaded revolver out of her purse — but she stands a pretty good chance of finding an oversized letter opener perfect for skewering an undead abomination.
In other news, I talked myself out of buying Little Fears, a wonderful little horror game I played back in 2003, at the used book store, by arguing that I've got so many books on my shelf and it would just sit there and ... it's a really cool game and ... maybe it'll still be there if I go back tomorrow ...