Monday, September 29, 2008

Rations and record-keeping: Fun?

Question for you OD&D DMs out there: Do you make your players mark off rations or man-days of food during wilderness campaigns? I have a strong desire to do just that in Autumn Frontiers, my burgeoning Points of Light/Savage Worlds mashup setting — but I’m also conscious of the lameness of such record-keeping, especially in the casual group that I’m expecting for the game.

12 comments:

jamused said...

Why not keep track of it for them? After all, you're almost certainly keeping a campaign calendar if you're running a sandbox setting...

PatrickWR said...

Good suggestion. I was trying to foist most of the bookkeeping onto the players (to make them feel invested in the campaign) but this is one particular metric that I (the GM) could monitor without losing too much of the game's wilderness flavor.

anonynos said...

For me it really depends. Most times I don't really keep track of things like rations, arrows, torches, their encumbrance, etc. Because I don't make resource management a part of the game. It only becomes relevant if players really go overboard. (i.e. never go to town, or try to carry the entire dragon's treasure in their backpack)

However, were I running a game where that was important.... where resupplying was rare, or the difficulties of just saying alive is the point of the game then I 'd make them do it.

Alex Schroeder said...

I know that I'm not going to waste my time keeping track of their rations because I don't think that's time well spent. And if I don't feel like doing it, then why should I force them to do it?

Scott said...

The only time I've ever bothered with tracking food or encumbrance was when I ran a survival campaign. The theme was that a magical disaster led to a new ice age practically overnight, meaning a scarcity of resources was a large part of the point of the game.

In normal circumstances, it's just not that important. I just have the players deduct a couple of gold every game-month or so to cover living costs and resupplying basic items.

If it's dramatic for the party to run out of torches or nonmagical arrows or something, and if they haven't been to town to resupply in a while, I'll inform them they're running low and give them a set quantity. This seldom happens.

Tom said...

What irks me is not so much being a stickler or not being a stickler about rations as it is when a GM exhibits inconsistent behavior in this regard. I hate being the only person in the party who dutifully ticks off a day of food and drink while on the march, but I hate it even more when I have to remind the GM to remind the party to do so.

jamused said...

I think some of the commenters are picturing something a lot more elaborate than I am, which is basically just making some tick-marks to keep track of how many days since they were last in a settled area or took time to forage.

A somewhat more Savage Worlds-esque approach would be to drop the actual bookkeeping in favor of making running low on food the result of a die roll (something like the way ammo levels are handled for allies). Then every day when you roll for the day's encounters, roll to check their food level.

PatrickWR said...

jamused: I'd thought of that too, and you're right that it does seem perfectly in keeping with Savage Worlds' free-wheeling feel. Plus it keeps things random...a botched roll could mean mold spoiled the rest of the rations, or a wererat made off with two bundles of salted meats.

arcona said...

I find players are sometimes way too spoiled by lax DMs who never keep track of things like food, ammo, money, and a big one that always annoys me - torch/lantern times. Seriously, one lone torch isn't going to stay alight for eight hours.

I recently had a player get irritated by the mere idea of having to actually buy food and keep track of it. She was all "What is this? I'm supposed to be an adventurer! I should just have food automatically." So she decided her character (a thief) would just start stealing food because she didn't want to waste coin on it. Unfortunately, she was stealing fruit in broad daylight... AT THE CITY WATCH MESS HALL! Her character got away with a light punishment at the end of the day, but she almost ended up throwing a perfectly good character away because she was upset over 'record-keeping bogging down the game'. Which it wasn't. It was, as you say, ticking off a box. Nothing more.

Then again, this player had serious problems because she had always played with her boyfriend as DM, and he never enforced any rules with her.

So I suppose what I'm saying here is, if your players are indeed just into very casual gaming, you might want to ignore record keeping or just do it for them.

PatrickWR said...

Arcona: Real good points there. My group is composed of casual players, but we've sort of decided to push the envelope ever so gently with this new fantasy campaign. Get back to the earth, so to speak, and actually use skills like Wilderness Lore and Tracking. So I think we'll embrace the small amount of record-keeping that comes with tracking food and torches...but you can understand how I want to make sure I'm not opening up a larger can of worms.

Jeff Rients said...

The nice thing is that in most D&D settings oil-measures probably aren't accurate, food portions are best guesses, and torches aren't manufactured to exacting standards. This can lead to things like:

DM: Magic-user, your torch starts sputtering out.

Player: But, but I only lit this one a turn ago!

DM: Yeah, must be a dud.

OR

DM: Okay, you rest. Mark off a couple days rations.

Player: But we've only been in the dungeon a few hours!

DM: But you've fought three battles and are positively famished. Ferreting out evil burns a lot of calories.

Current Version said...

If the character are far away from home, I always say that they have to keep track of rations and/or forage for food, even if the setting is high tech. There's nothing like hunting rabbits with laser rifles. . .