Any good experiences with starving / exhaustion / encumbrance?

edited July 2018 in Story Games
@2097 's recent posts on useful ways to manage starvation and encumbrance in D&D got me thinking:

I've always liked an element of girtty realism in my fantasy adventure gaming. For me, nothing elevates a weird monster (from some art and stats in a book into a memorable experience) better than facing it as an imaginary person who might be too tired to react quickly, or too sick to fight well, or holding things other than weapons, or carrying too much crap to pivot and run. Let's dive into what it's like to be in those shoes, inconveniences and all!

At the same time, I've never found a mechanical system for such things that came even close to providing sufficient bang for the accounting-requirement buck. It's always been track and calculate and track and calculate and then sometimes we apply those quantities to a situation where they don't really have much overall effect and then every once in a great while they really matter but then it's back to track and calculate and track and calculate. No one at the table wants this responsibility, so the players try to pass it to the GM, and the GM tries to pass it to the players, and in the end "track and calculate" is sometimes dropped completely... and then when it does matter in a dramatic moment, the experience of that moment is utterly destroyed by an epic iteration of "track and calculate" catch-up.

My solution, as GM, has been to abandon mechanical simulation entirely, and just include hardship and inconvenience as part of my color narration, allowing the players to wrangle with it as they wish, and letting the characters' state impact the mechanics per improvised "what would happen" logic (GM proposal subject to table agreement).

I've had fun games where, e.g., the characters got stuck in terrible weather and most of them got sick and then an enemy they'd previously outclassed became more of a threat. "Instead of having damage modifiers from your usual excellent Strength scores, you now have damage modifiers that someone with a poor Strength would have, as befits your weakness," or something.

I suspect this sort of ad lib is good enough for me.

At the same time, I do still have some temptation to encode some inconvenient life concerns into the procedures of play, such that, when I GM, such things can still surprise me, or at least arrive without me keeping an eye on them or pushing them.

So! Has anyone had any awesome RPG experiences resulting from using rules for such things? Encumbrance? Starvation? Exhaustion? Others?

Stories, please!

Thank you. :)
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Comments

  • This is an excellent question. I have NOT had any good experiences with this; I've never been with a group that's managed to make this gameable and enjoyable or interesting, except as a logistical challenge (and even then, it's rare).

    I also hope to hear some stories!
  • In Burning Wheel, I've currently got a player with large armor penalties to Stealth who sneaks everywhere. Well, fails to sneak. It's been hilarious, and he's increasing Speed and Stealth. Not quite encumbrance.

    Back when we were playing Torchbearer, encumbrance was a big part of the game -- even if it didn't produce awesome moments in itself, it molded how folks acted. Like attacks in Race for the Galaxy.

    In 5e, the encumbrance rules kinda drove a few awesome moments, insofar as those limits are what inspired us to find the silliest mundane items that seemed to break the rules a bit, and adventure with lots of them around. Among them were, at various points in the game, IIRC, chalk and bear traps. Actually the bear traps were pretty awesome, we laughed every time we made sacrifices to bring along as many bear traps as we could, and also when we bear trapped everything. Especially the flying mutant thingy we bear trapped lots of chain/rocks to so it couldn't fly. I don't think we would have ever found that line of play without the encumbrance rules pointing the way at things we couldn't do.
  • (Good example, Guy. I always enjoy the "limited selection of equipment" challenge, which is roughly what I meant by "logistical challenges", above. I've been looking at ways to do that without encumbrance rules, but the point still holds.)
  • (Dave: I have some thoughts on *why* traditional approaches to things like starvation and encumbrance don't do the trick. Would that be useful input, or a derail?)
  • I used the OSR module Meatgrinder with Freeform/Universal and I made specific conditions to match the gritty and brutal tone of the story. It worked great!
  • A basic simulation technique in accounting for minutiae not worthy of detailed tracking is to make spot checks for them at appropriate intervals. Gygax already recommended this approach for tracking disease in the AD&D DMG: you roll disease saves for every character every month (or whatever), and on months where they fail, they have to deal with catching some sort of disease.

    The contrasting approach would be to maintain constant tracking of some sort of health score. Gygax has the advantage on this by not asking us to burden the everyday gameplay procedurally: the disease thing is basically only relevant during extended downtime. It might be something you add to your between-adventures process.

    You can improve on Gygax's method further by detaching that disease save from time-keeping, and instead rolling those checks when certain fictional circumstances occur: at the start of downtime (to determine whether disease strikes during this particular downtime), when descending into a sewer or grave or hospital, when exhausted or injured, when traveling. This way it's no longer a tracking issue at all, but rather an issue of operational friction - disease just is something that occurs now and then, and although you can reduce it by avoiding the circumstances, in practice you're going to face it sooner or later.

    Now, apply that to things like starving and encumbrance: instead of tracking scores, make spot checks where dice carry the imponderable elements of the question. A particularly happy-go-lucky group might not wish to track rations, for instance, so replace that with a hunger check: a Wisdom-based survival/camping skill check made at certain times to see if this is the time to address a starvation crisis. A character specced for it will pass these checks as supply sergeant, managing to keep the party fed; a less competent one is likely to come up empty. The check should be timed by having the first check when the party realizes that their wilderness journey will take longer than accounted for, and one check every day after that.

    Note that you can also combine tracking and saves, and they combine well: a player who can show their work could cancel a logistics crisis like this by showing that the party is not yet out of food. This is better than the usual routine because the careful book-keeping is not mandatory, and doing it is not an unfair power move either: it merely saves you from having to do one or two petty dice rolls, no more and no less. Some players will prefer to do the dicing, trusting in their characters to micromanage their own lives, while others will enjoy reducing that element in favour of tracking carefully.

    Applying this method logically will result in humdrum logistics receding into the background of the game until such a time as a roll is failed and an actual crisis is at hand. The crisis itself will provide that flair of realistic vulnerability without being boring. The players are not asked to track munitions, but they are asked to deal with it when the munitions run out and alternate means are required.
  • For us starving, exhaustion, encumbrance has worked great! The thread was just about one specific loophole.

    A few years ago in Curse of Strahd the characters were teleported to a distant region and their force marching sent them into a death spiral. It was a very lucky roll that saved them.

    And for this campaign, what we do is that once they've set up a routine — this many raincatchers, that many hours, this is our current water/food intake including horses — we don't play that out until something changes. Currently they eat 8 portions of food everyday and can keep 8 from the previous day. We do roll for forage every day, I have proposed ways to fast track it but the players grumble. But at least we don't have to count as carefully. They have 8 portions in storage from yesterday and if they roll at least 8 portions today, they've filled their stocks for tomorrow as well.


    They, or some of them, want to slow down the days. I'd rather be like [clatter clatter] "ok, another quiet day", [clatter clatter] "one more" [clatter clatter] "ok, this morning, as you're walking near a big pale tree, you think you might've heard something, what do you do?"

    Outsourcing the weather and encounter checks to the group was a mistake in that regard because they love taking it slooow! They want to have like at least one of their soap opera conversations every day!

    I'd be like one roll: morning encounter, afternoon encounter, a handful of forage dice, night encounter, tomorrow's weather. Then they can do disease saves, navigation rolls and such during the morning then again the one roll.

    Perhaps wresting control over foraging is too much but I could roll 2d20 twice a day: both encounter checks in the day, and encounter+weather the next day. And be like "after a quiet day it's time to make camp. what have ye to eat?" or as a way to fast forward their night time soap operae "it's a heavy rain this morning".

    The soap opera is so toothless because we didn't do the Hillfolk setup for this campaign. So it's just tavern bantern
  • When I was young I saw GURPS and fainted. But now we have all of these convoluted rules in our D&D game. How did that happen?

    Because I enjoy it. Started simple, and curiosity and enjoyment drove me to add more and more.

    The rules give us answers and answers are why we play. To find out.

    So start simple. Add stuff like this gradually. It's frustrating at first, you'll be out of sync with the sweet spot "manageable amount of rules" and "satisfying amount of answers", you'll either have too many rules or too few answers at first. We were running LMoP and there were some hickups there, like "uh, I have to guess at / handwave this question because we haven't been tracking X and Y enough…".

    But soon enough you'll lock on to the sweetspot and then as your desire for answers grows, your rules burden will appropriately grow in lockstep with it.

    This is why it's good that the game uses minutes, days etc (nat lang) instead of "Undertake A Perilous Journey" and "+ Gear + + Ammo Wealth Stress Track" abstractions. Those are simultaneously harder to handwave and harder to expand.
  • And don't be afraid to put rules on the chopping block. I've removed plenty of rules. Such as initiative
  • I forgot to write the good part but I've written about it many times. When water is more precious than magic swords… that's pretty awesome. Ofc you might grow tired of that trope eventually. I haven't yet but that's why the game is so malleable
  • The One Ring hits my sweet spot for this; It doesn't track food/water specifically, but it does track "how much junk are you carrying." and the fatigue mechanic does a good job of folding all the inconveniences of a long, hard journey into a comfortable amount of bookkeeping.
  • I have some thoughts on *why* traditional approaches to things like starvation and encumbrance don't do the trick. Would that be useful input, or a derail?
    Paul, thanks for asking. I'd consider that a derail. For now, I just want stories about it going well!
    Back when we were playing Torchbearer, encumbrance was a big part of the game -- even if it didn't produce awesome moments in itself, it molded how folks acted.
    Can you offer one good example?

    The situation where you as the player have to worry about stuff that your character would have to worry about, and that feeds into your decisions -- all else being equal, I'm definitely a fan of that.
    In 5e, the encumbrance rules kinda drove a few awesome moments, insofar as those limits are what inspired us to find the silliest mundane items that seemed to break the rules a bit
    Ha ha! Oh man, that brought back fond memories. Yeah, I used to do that with simulation-ish games when I was a kid. "Everyone totes bear traps"-type stuff was always a great emergent thing we felt like we'd discovered/invented.

    Rules-based contrivance is directly at odds with what I'm going for now, unfortunately.

    There's probably some overlap in the form of specific attention to pros/cons of different tools, though.
    A basic simulation technique . . .
    Got any stories of when that technique led to something super fun in play?

    Any stories of the more detailed / RAW version leading to something super fun in play?
    A few years ago in Curse of Strahd the characters were teleported to a distant region and their force marching sent them into a death spiral.
    Now that sounds like a cool story! Care to elaborate?
    once they've set up a routine — this many raincatchers, that many hours, this is our current water/food intake including horses — we don't play that out until something changes.
    That's exactly how I handle such things in Delve. In my experience, the fun part is when the players come up with the routine. A raincatcher is pretty neat the first time you realize you need one!

    I haven't found formal game rules to have any effect on this, though. I worry about water as GM because I care, and I've seen plenty of GMs in games with rules for such things not care. So I'm curious, how did the rules factor into the formation of your group's Raincatcher Etc routine?
    The One Ring hits my sweet spot for this; It doesn't track food/water specifically, but it does track "how much junk are you carrying." and the fatigue mechanic does a good job of folding all the inconveniences of a long, hard journey into a comfortable amount of bookkeeping.
    That sounds promising! Got any fun anecdotes to share of when that came up in play?

    I remember being impressed by Ryuutama's system for tracking travel fatigue because you always travel and the impact of fatigue could eat 3/4 of your HP. Crank up the relevance enough, and now tracking is worth it. :)
  • A basic simulation technique . . .
    Got any stories of when that technique led to something super fun in play?

    Any stories of the more detailed / RAW version leading to something super fun in play?
    My play has alternated between the traditional approach and the looser "logistics save" approach outlined above. I have experiences with both, let's see...

    I used the logistics save type of issue tracking extensively in 2012 or so, when I was GMing a mercenary crew in the fantasy Italian Wars. The mercenary company had had a few of its members contract ghoulism, which I was treating as a partly memetic, partly biological disease that spread via social contact. The party was combatting the problem with disease control methodology, so quarantines, hygiene, etc.

    I could have approached this with concrete tracking tools, the way e.g. food rations are traditionally dealt with. As the campaign scale was pretty large, though, and the players weren't particularly into complex spread-sheet budgeting, I opted for the more lightweight solution of making the ghoul issue an abstracted check, the way I described earlier: I would make the "ghoul problem check" after every day of marching, every battle, etc. to find out when and if the PCs (who captained the company) would have to deal with ghoul-related discipline problems. I never determined how many ghouls the company had, exactly, or who they were (apart from their being so-far unnamed NPC retainers); I just had a single target number representing the number and self-discipline of the ghouls. When the company was e.g. sermonized by a priest about the dangers of cannibalism, the number would go down to represent the infected men trying to keep their unnatural appetites in check.

    I didn't get to run this little ghoul logistics sideline very long this way, as the party soon seeked asylum in Venice, where they were quarantined to a leprosy hospital island for a bit of an island survivor adventure that did ultimately succeed in smoking out the ghoulified members of the company, killing the infection. Still, the way I was handling this at the time felt pretty good, and worked seamlessly with the similar logistics check routines I had for e.g. food supplies.

    Contrariwise, the traditional tracking is something I tend to like as well. My absolute favourite experience with that was a couple of years later in Helsinki, where I was a character player in a sandbox campaign similar to my own. Over several sessions I took over the party's logistics management and improved upon it in several respects: we had a logistics train of pack animals, enough retainers to take care of the support tasks, all the good stuff. This was paid for by the party investing into shares of the adventuring company, such that a part of the adventuring profits were channeled into the company. I maintained effective records of everything from retainer morale and combat readiness to available food, water and firewood. (This is all fun stuff to do if you're an organized sort of person so the notes aren't just a random mess of scrawling.)

    The funniest part was when I started up a general good store in the local adventure HQ (think Keep on the Borderlands) for the sole purpose of converting unnecessary inventory into cash. The party had crushed a robber gang and collected a large number of general store goods (rations, tools, some armor and weapons, etc.) alongside our own stolen equipment, so we had a large surplus. I used the stuff as starter inventory for our store, renting space from the keep castellan and setting one of our more crippled and less adventure-worthy retainers to mind the store while the party continued our slow excursion into the Stonehell megadungeon. We happened to have our own logistics pipeline into the civilized world due to the adventure hook we were working, so I could even refresh the store inventory as necessary.

    While the store turned a tidy profit (which in turn helped finance our field HQ - a guardpost we established at the mouth of Stonehell to control and constrain the movement of the monsters), it also helped make possible my Big Plan in conquering Stonehell: I determined that the best way for us to reach the third level of the place and find the plague cure we were looking for at the time was to arm one of the humanoid tribes living in the place so they could crush their enemies and help us stabilize the place. To this end I started selling key equipment - chain mail most important of all - to the cave men. They unfortunately experienced something of a palace coup a bit later on, turning them against us, but it was good as long as it lasted - and we did of course support our own pretender to the crown in the civil war, so it wasn't like the difficulties weren't manageable.
  • Of course the rules are what drove it…? System matters…?
  • I'm not presuming your rules didn't matter. I'm just asking how exactly they did, because it's not obvious to me!

    And also, what happened in the Strahd forced march, rules-wise?
  • when you walk for more than 8h you need to do con saves or get exhaustion
    and they got into a death spiral where they were getting disadvantage on those saves
    but they really really wanted to make it home, i think they were short some resource but i'm not sure what it was
  • Gotcha! So Exhaustion grants Disadvantage on... everything? (Sorry, haven't played 5E!)

    And I guess the raincatcher engineering stemmed from avoiding the Exhaustion penalties they'd incur from going X amount of time with less than Y amount of water?
  • that's right!

    (one level of exh is disad on checks [i.e. almost nothing] and at three levels you get disad on attacks and saves [i.e. almost everything])
  • Gotcha! Thanks. :)
  • I misread your question earlier, Dave, I apologize.
    I didn't see the "how", I just thought you asked if they factored in.
  • S'all good!
  • edited July 2018
    @Eero_Tuovinen that campaign sounds amazing! I love helping turn adventuring parties into companies with stores and whatnot. I'm not usually very good at the "keeping track" part, but everything you just described sounds like sufficient motivation to bother.

    "Let's track our valuable possessions" is something I have experience with, but I've never managed a logistics train of pack animals, nor paid close attention to a staff. Were there game rules that played a big role in all this, or was it mostly you parsing stuff however it seemed to make sense?
    I would make the "ghoul problem check" after every day of marching, every battle, etc. to find out when and if the PCs (who captained the company) would have to deal with ghoul-related discipline problems.
    I think the "ghoul" color here might be the star, but I can imagine this still being quite fun with something more mundane like hunger or illness. Well, illness anyway, because managing it can include dramatic gambles or exciting changes in fortunes or quests for cures. Hunger, I'm not so sure -- that might move back more into "chore" territory.

    Did you have any experience making a "hunger problem check"? If so, did that contribute to the fun?

    I'm also curious about the timing of your checks. Was "day of marching, every battle, etc" intuition or "when it seemed worth checking in" or something more simulation-y or rules-y or what?
  • "Let's track our valuable possessions" is something I have experience with, but I've never managed a logistics train of pack animals, nor paid close attention to a staff. Were there game rules that played a big role in all this, or was it mostly you parsing stuff however it seemed to make sense?
    I would myself characterize it as the same exact process that an old school GM uses to produce rulings, which then turn into systematics. I just needed to offer my work to the GM to legitimize it at suitable times. So it started as notes-keeping, turned into determining simulation systematics, and finally turned into rules on how to deal with various things.

    As an example, I decided to start tracking the combat-readiness of our retainers, because we tended to take in mostly inexperienced farmhands and riff-raff which we then tried to turn into semi-useful dungeoneering crews with training and experience.

    (The team's tactics of the time were predicated on both heavy equipment and having many hands on the expeditions. The various tasks required of the men ranged from holding lanterns to fighting in the shield wall.)

    As LotFP (the mechanics du jour at the time) understandably doesn't really comment about the differences in fighting capability between 0th level people, I unilaterally decided to categorize and track our NPC crew in combat experience categories:

    Civilian - Not approved for combat duty.
    Green - Theoretically capable, but untested.
    Regular - Been on expedition, hasn't broken.
    Veteran - Multiple expeditions, personally committed.
    Broken - Not fit for combat duty.

    (Retainers would be promoted between these categories largely on my judgement - I tended to assume that trial by fire turned all Greens who didn't turn tail into Regulars at the end of the expedition, for instance.)

    Once I had figured out the numbers here, I could cycle retainers between the field HQ and the active party to spread out experience and maintain an optimal personnel mix where more experienced members of the company could transfer their organizational lore to newcomers. We tended to always be somewhat short of personnel (thin population base in the area) compared to what we'd like to have, so the goal was to develop an organization that the retainers could be loyal to.

    In practice the retainer classification scheme comes to impact a mechanization like LotFP in various subtle ways that do not have a direct impact on attack bonuses or such. Morale is the most obvious, but the complexity of tasks we could trust to the retainers was also important. In practice this stuff was conveyed to the GM through the normal game process negotiation/argumentation scheme. "Hey GM; I think retainer B should be able to figure this out - by my record he's been both capable and dedicated in the past. In fact, we should agree that anybody established as veteran-competent shouldn't be making these comedy sketch mistakes we come to expect of retainers."

    Other examples are things like figuring out the operating reasoning of our store, calculating encumbrances, and calculating the fresh water logistics of the expedition. The GM has plenty to do without having to do these for the party, so in practice I developed the systematics for them myself and just had the GM rubber stamp them when the fiddling came to impact the strategic proceedings to a meaningful degree. This rubber-stamping isn't usually a difficult task, as you presumably can explain the logic you used for calculating things if you did the calculations yourself, and the GM presumably can follow along, because being the GM tends to mean that you're a pretty smart cookie yourself.
  • Did you have any experience making a "hunger problem check"? If so, did that contribute to the fun?
    I've done it with food as well on occasion, but I'm not sure if I remember any particularly noteworthy events over it... The basic conceit, as I intimated above, is that you simply don't track supplies in any way until something goes wrong, at which point you start rolling these hunger checks with bonuses for having "ample supplies" and penalties for being explicitly out of anything edible. The check's supposed to encompass wise use of remaining supplies, personal fasting fortitude and survival food-gathering all at once, so when the check hits there's lots of leeway to figure out what exactly went wrong.

    I think that this was the procedure in one hex-crawl adventure sequence we did early in our 2012 campaign. The party was searching for a dungeon about a day's journey out of civilization when they got unfortunately lost due to a combination of a navigation error and player inexperience with those. (They didn't realize that they even could get lost, so their map soon became more of a hindrance to getting where they wanted to be.) The party had established the logistics in a pretty light-weight manner to begin with, so it was quite natural to my mind to get into dice-rolling pretty quickly: "Being as how we don't know how much food you've packed, exactly, let's just roll a Wis check for your logistics officer and see whether you have anything to eat tonight."

    Once we did that, it was quickly established that the party was now eating the last of their rations while camping out "somewhere" in the wilderness. Next day the hunger checks took on more of a constitutional nature: "Given that you haven't had anything to eat for a while, does that affect your stamina yet? Let's find out."

    I think that this was when the party stumbled upon some backwoods farmers who fed them before letting them go on their way. The hilarious part is that they then got lost again. The next hunger check predictably involved establishing whether the characters might have saved any morsels from their last meal with the farmers.

    The party ultimately managed to make their way to civilization, and it took a long time for the players to forget the local landmarks after their "adventure" - in the future they would always ask me about e.g. the prominent local mountain, and the sun, as they hex-crawled, just to double-check that easily verifiable facts agreed with what their characters thought they knew. I think it was the first time we had any real tension over the concept of wilderness travel being challenging in itself.

    Not a very exciting story, but it's just about the most prominent one I can think of where I'd have used periodical checks for food specifically. It's more usual for us to use a single check at the start of the sequence to determine that the party has X rations, and then go on doing traditional precise tracking until the situation comes to an end.
    I'm also curious about the timing of your checks. Was "day of marching, every battle, etc" intuition or "when it seemed worth checking in" or something more simulation-y or rules-y or what?
    For me these things tend to be a combination of those two categories: technically speaking the checks are simulation, and therefore flexibly applied as necessary, but they're also procedure of play, so there is value in being consistent and mechanically predictable about them.

    It's exactly like random encounter checks, really: you do one every three exploration turns or whatever, plus you make one when the party makes a loud noise, or comes to a busy dungeon intersection, or otherwise something happens that makes you think that it could trigger a random encounter. It's rules, but not in the sense of being inflexibly predetermined.

    I think that one of my "ghoul trouble" checks at the time occurred because one of the prominent warrior PCs gave a particularly bloodthirsty talk to the company before a certain defensive engagement during their retreat towards Venice. In general I had great fun with the conceit that while Christian piety could slow down and suppress the hunger of the beast within, the stereotypical martial sword-jockey behavior so beloved of D&D gamers tended to encourage it, if anything. The more bloodthirsty and, well, ghoulish PCs were also personally more liable to contract the ghoulism in that scenario, of course.
  • I don't have any super great examples of The One Ring's rules creating moments, because it's not really there to create "And you've run out of food in the wilderness, and now you are all starving, what do you do?" moments, but rather to drive home a sense of competent people struggling with difficult conditions. It doesn't track food, but there is a "journey role" for Huntsman, and a more competent huntsman may be able to better insulate the party from food related Hazards (problems). Similarly, all characters have a Travel skill, which represents their ability to struggle through the wilderness, day after day, without becoming fatigued. And characters make a Lore check at the start of a journey to help them determine the best route/take appropriate "travel gear"/listen to the right advice, etc.

    To be clear - this is absolutely NOT a "player skill" system. There is no "packing extra rations" or devising rain catchers. What there is is the assumption that your characters make the best preparations for the journey that they know how to make, and that they, being natives of Middle Earth, have a better idea of what that is than you modern layabouts. ;) And that even with the best preparations, things can easily go wrong (I'm pretty sure there's a quote about this exact thing from The Hobbit, but I can't remember it right now.)

    In spite of all that, however, TOR is the only game I've ever played where a player actually changed his character's gear because his initial selection was weighing him down too much.
  • Yeah the One Ring's system for travel, gear, and encumbrance is super spiffy. One of my favorites. There is a nice balancing act between Fatigue and Endurance.

    In one of our sessions they group got a late start in the year going up on over the Misty Mountains. Some failed Travel checks and Fatigue was racking up. They had to deal with an ancient burial bound and wight which jacked things up more. By halfway through the mountain pass Torvald was stripping off his armor, shield and other hear just to keep moving. Everyone else was similarly ground down.

    We still joke about all the equipment left scattered across the Misty Mountains.

  • edited July 2018
    I would myself characterize it as the same exact process that an old school GM uses to produce rulings, which then turn into systematics. I just needed to offer my work to the GM to legitimize it at suitable times. So it started as notes-keeping, turned into determining simulation systematics, and finally turned into rules on how to deal with various things.
    Very interesting to see you do that as a player! I have all sorts of curiosity about how that developed and how it intersected with play (face-to-face or otherwise), but I'll holster that tangent for now.
    In practice the retainer classification scheme comes to impact a mechanization like LotFP in various subtle ways that do not have a direct impact on attack bonuses or such. Morale is the most obvious, but the complexity of tasks we could trust to the retainers was also important. In practice this stuff was conveyed to the GM through the normal game process negotiation/argumentation scheme. "Hey GM; I think retainer B should be able to figure this out . . . "
    I think "making a compelling case for desired positioning" is an interesting criteria for tracking stuff. I think this really depends on two separate processes and where they overlap:
    - How assets are introduced, developed, and employed, and to what effect.
    - How untracked stuff is adjudicated.

    Getting other people to do stuff that you want done could either be an intense resource management game or just a matter of the GM saying "yes" a few times. My personal tastes lie somewhere in between. I'll have to think about this more. I feel like there are some generalizable takeaways here, but I'm struggling to pinpoint them.
    figuring out the operating reasoning of our store, calculating encumbrances, and calculating the fresh water logistics of the expedition
    . . .
    I developed the systematics for them myself and just had the GM rubber stamp them when the fiddling came to impact the strategic proceedings to a meaningful degree.
    Man do I wish I had players like you in my games. As GM, I love it when the players put in the work to achieve some useful thing and I get to rubber stamp it. This has happened quite often when they put their heads to leveraging specific influence or new magical devices, but not that often with mundane logistics.

    Alright screw it, maybe this is a tangent, but maybe it isn't:

    How did you do all these calculations and systematizations while sitting at a table with people and spouting fiction? I'm not sure I've ever seen that sort of multitasking. I've definitely seen players calculate and systematize during a horribly dull game where there's nothing to do, but if that were your experience, I assume you wouldn't be speaking so positively of it here. Did you do all your work between sessions?

    In my experience, such work just interrupts the players' fun.

    Perhaps my groups would get mileage out of a quick system for building modules for various concerns as they come up. Maybe a template like:

    Concern:
    Relevant capacity:
    Approach:
    Improves when:
    Worsens when:
    Time passes:


    So then the first time you start caring about water and coming up with an approach to getting it, then the group fills it out together:

    Concern: water
    Relevant capacity: keep PCs hydrated, avoiding penalties to Con and everything that uses Con
    Approach: raincatchers!
    Improves when: it rains
    Worsens when: time passes without rain
    Time passes: one check per day

    (More to come on your 2nd response when I have more time.)
  • edited July 2018
    @Airk and @akooser -- great examples, thanks! I really need to play this game at some point. I've heard good things about the way social encounters begin too. I get the impression that One Ring has a variety of elegant solutions for common RPG adventure situations.

    It's not my personal sweet spot for the reason Airk mentions, that it's not significantly about player skill. At the same time, I absolutely believe that challenging a bunch of modern day players to think of stuff their Middle Earth characters would obviously know is a pretty underwhelming challenge. So I'm not really sure which system details are going to be perfect or "not really my thing" until I hear them. Thanks for bearing with me! I may yet come up with a coherent request for a few further details...
  • Man do I wish I had players like you in my games. As GM, I love it when the players put in the work to achieve some useful thing and I get to rubber stamp it. This has happened quite often when they put their heads to leveraging specific influence or new magical devices, but not that often with mundane logistics.
    I like it as well. That's actually part of why I've become the sort of player I am today: I always did more GMing than play, but early on I was just the same as everybody else - mostly audience or at best a passive tool, waiting for the GM to put us to work. From late '00s on, when I've had opportunities to be a player in somebody else's game, I've striven for a new kind of ideal: to be an active creative participant who understands and cooperates zealously with a common goal, whatever that may be. No less responsibility for the outcome than the GM, no less pride in success.

    And yes, active players are really rare. This is a great shame, as most games get their quality from pairwise quality of the creative relationships between the players, which in turn are geometric in nature: a GM doing '10' towards players who do '1' may be pretty good (like, 50 points for the GM interacting with five players, and a few points for when the players do their little interactions towards each other), but nowhere near the sort of intensity you can get if you have two or three people at the table working as hard as a good GM does towards each other and the GM.
    How did you do all these calculations and systematizations while sitting at a table with people and spouting fiction? I'm not sure I've ever seen that sort of multitasking. I've definitely seen players calculate and systematize during a horribly dull game where there's nothing to do, but if that were your experience, I assume you wouldn't be speaking so positively of it here. Did you do all your work between sessions?
    I did a bit of stuff in between sessions for that campaign, as I did for the second OSR D&D campaign I played in in Helsinki. Not nearly as much as during session time, and it was always the kinds of things that benefit from a concerned treatment on computer. For example, I created an alternate class, magic system and that sort of thing for the campaign at home. And when I did a short stint as GM, I of course prepped the adventure at home.

    Most of the immediately pertinent book-keeping stuff was done at the table, though. This works well for wargamey D&D specifically because of how specialized and structured the player tasks at a well organized table get: when some other player is doing party leadership, there are long periods of time when an individual player literally needs do nothing except listen and interrupt if they have anything add.

    So what I would do was that I worked on the book-keeping during routine hex and dungeon crawling, setting the stuff aside whenever something notable occurred to draw our attentions. We had a good quality group with like three leadership-capable players present in most sessions, so it was easy to distribute tasks: I'd be the logistics officer while somebody else did the tactical leadership ("calling", as it's sometimes known).

    Obviously enough not all sessions would be structured like this, but those would then be sessions during which I wouldn't be working on any extracurricular stuff. Even during our most regular megadungeon arc I would spend maybe one third or one half of the sessions doing something so involved that I wouldn't have time for extraneous book-keeping. Still, there was easily enough idle time over multiple sessions to keep the books up to date on everything we decided to track.
  • An interesting thing that's tangentially related to this that I just thought of while contemplating The One Ring and the stories it emulates.

    Food in RPGs tends to be very... binary. "Do we have food today? Y/N" Either you've got yourself your Iron Rations for today, or you don't and you are going hungry. This is how the infinite majority of games model this stuff. Everything is fine with the food until suddenly it is 100% gone.

    This basically never happened in The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. People would always talk about how they were RUNNING OUT of food. How they were tightening their belts and trying to eat less. How "One more bite and all the food’s ended, save the Elves’ waybread." And so instead of going from "Everything's fine!" to "OMG STARVING!" there is the slow buildup of hunger and thirst as the characters (very intelligently, contrary to what most game systems would tell you) start to ration their supplies. The One Ring models this sort of tribulation via increasing Fatigue.
  • Yeah, spot on Airk! 5e also handles this well. I shouldn't have tried to fight against it
  • 5e system actually seems kinda wonky. It seems like you can not eat for three days (assuming no CON penalty) eat for a day, repeat indefinitely and take no penalties.
  • It would definitely take out most of the pretense of realism, but could all the consequences be listed and left for the GM to apply as it suited for a failed travel/survival roll? I mean, most probably this type of logistical problems would be fun to play once or twice but then players learn to be prepared and the threat vanishes. By higher levels it's nelligible. (Also, things like having a Goliath Barbarian with the Outlander background in the party lessen it further even from level 1. This character can carry all the party and find food/water anywhere without even need for a roll)

    At our table travel prep eventually became a bit of a waste of time, as players prepped in detail for each travel, so it turned the chance of getting lost or starving to almost zero.

    However it could be brought back as a problem if the party were given the choice to run away faster or going further on a day by dropping important things.

    I think I would definitely use a detailed system for encumbrance, starving and exhaustion for low levels only and put it aside once players become good at it. Like, the third time they get it good we just keep that prep list frozen and assume they do the logistics the same way for each travel unless they state it differently. Then you can always give the party the ugly choice of risking penalties later to run from a monster or go further on a single day by dropping things.
  • 5e system actually seems kinda wonky. It seems like you can not eat for three days (assuming no CON penalty) eat for a day,
    Exactly the sort of tightening your belts, parceling the last crumbs out game play you were advocating for, instead of the binary "oh we instantly went from fine to desperate"
    repeat indefinitely and take no penalties.
    There is a penalty (your exhaustion sticks) but sure, it's pretty easy to deal with that if you have other basic needs met. So that's a problem with it yeah
  • Also, things like having a Goliath Barbarian with the Outlander background in the party lessen it further even from level 1. This character can carry all the party and find food/water anywhere without even need for a roll
    We have a Goliath now and we've had outlanders in the party.

    Goliath can carry double his strength which isn't nearly enough for the party's needs. But it's a good choice for them and they're happy to have one

    Outlanders we've ruled that they can choose between the normal foraging roll (if you succeed you get D6+wis) or they can forgo that to autofind 6.

    Where they are now, their water is not safe though.

    Clerics with their create food, create water, purify water spells are really useful♥

    But I don't see it as a problem that exploration features are rewarded

  • 5e system actually seems kinda wonky. It seems like you can not eat for three days (assuming no CON penalty) eat for a day,
    Exactly the sort of tightening your belts, parceling the last crumbs out game play you were advocating for, instead of the binary "oh we instantly went from fine to desperate"
    repeat indefinitely and take no penalties.
    There is a penalty (your exhaustion sticks) but sure, it's pretty easy to deal with that if you have other basic needs met. So that's a problem with it yeah
    Doesn't seem that way, unless I am reading the SRD wrong. It says:
    A character can go without food for a number of days equal to 3 + his or her Constitution modifier (minimum 1). At the end of each day beyond that limit, a character automatically suffers one level of exhaustion.
    So no exhaustion until the 4th day you go without food. And:
    A normal day of eating resets the count of days without food to zero.
    So you can fast for three days, eat normally on the 4th, reset your "days without food" to zero, and repeat.

    A slightly more effective system would be for each day of normal eating to reduce the count of days without food by 1, but that's awkward to track and still means that you can not eat for three days, and then eat for three days, repeat, without penalty.

    Awkward.
  • They've several times gotten in trouble b/c they were relying on their cleric and bard and when they died the rest of the party was in serious trouble
    The eggs/basket dilemma is part of logistics too

    That said I've nerfed the spells Goodberry, Light and Dancing Light
  • I think I would definitely use a detailed system for encumbrance, starving and exhaustion for low levels only and put it aside once players become good at it. Like, the third time they get it good we just keep that prep list frozen and assume they do the logistics the same way for each travel unless they state it differently. Then you can always give the party the ugly choice of risking penalties later to run from a monster or go further on a single day by dropping things.
    We set up routines and then when the situation changes we work out and establish the new routine. Like they got a horse and horses eat and drink more so how are they dealing with that? Etc
  • Yes, we considered rations for the animals too. What I meant is that once players learn how to deal with this problem you would use it less or just focus less on it, like how CR1 monsters become less and less of a challenge as PCs level up, but you can bring a few of them as cannon fodder later, instead of using them as the main boss.

    (Not saying that you can't, given a good excuse, but I guess you get my drift) :)
  • I'm playing in an occasional Tomb of Annihilation game right now being run by a first-time game master and came to play ready to do a lot of bookkeeping that unfortunately I'm not doing. Raincatchers haven't been discussed, but even worse—at the start there's an “everybody gets a magic item” thing and one of the other characters got a bag of holding, after I had spent my hard-rolled-up money on a mule :(
  • WM, you're basically right but all I'm saying is that there's a difference between "not focus on" a set of rules, vs "break" them. If a particular set of characters is dealing well with their situation there's no reason to go over the logistics again and again. We set up a routine such that if they, for example, have to leave in the middle of the night we can work out the details then. Watch schedule, raincatcher schedule, tent arrangement, etc etc is all sorted. And then we don't have to address it as long as everything is normal.

    Adam, that's too bad :bawling:
    It's the "D&D 5e is all things to all people" problem. It makes it easy to find modules and monsters and spells for your game but hard to find a group that plays it the way you want to play. I sometimes talk to the elderly janitor at my church who also plays in a Tomb of Annihilation game, as a player. And they started as level nines and they have a slowed rate of decay on their death curse and they don't focus so much on the logistics etc.

    Online that's also advice that's being given a lot.

    I sometimes get to talk to people at parties and such who also play 5e, they see my t-shirt or something or overhear me discussing scroll components (I, uh, am kind of one-track). And I kinda tease them by talking about my game in a way that'll be shocking to them. "Oh our game right now is all about encumbrance" etc etc. Which… it is? We haven't had progress or adventure in like 17 sessions, over a hundred diegetic days. They're just slowly trekking across a continent. They chose to start the journey over at one point (after everyone had died).

    It's just… I came to D&D via an OSR group. Hexcrawling, encounter checks, turn- and torch-counting… and to me that was the appeal, coming from games like Pantheon, Munchausen, OTE, Fudge and Everway and then finally seeing the point of crunch. Not everyone has that background.

    One of these DMs told me about his campaign where they were all playing gods, fighting godkiller bosses etc etc. And I was thinking that Pantheon or Munchausen would suit such a game better? Idk…

    It's weird how my tastes have 180°d so much in my life. As a kid reading spell lists, monster stats, gear lists, castle building rules etc etc made me roll my eyes. That was so boring to me, an obstacle to fun. But now I'm running a game that depends on that kinda stuff. An unusual use of a spell can be something I smile about for weeks.
  • We're on the same spot then Sandra, nevermind, it's just the language barrier on mi side :P
    Also, D&D has so many flavors that before starting the game everyone has to be on the same spot about which flavor the group is going to focus on. Like, to make logistics a thing you need to leave out everything that makes it unnecessary. If you want to focus on the story then you leave out logistics using those same tools.

    It certainly moves the difficulty dial up and down. That's something that the players must be aware of from the start of the game so they can learn to enjoy it. I'd even say that it's a kind of fun that takes long to learn to enjoy, as most people would like to run through dungeons and go straight face and kill dragons, since the title of the game says it's about that, when most of the rules make it about crawling through the dungeon carefully 5' at a time and praying not to find a dragon until they get enough magic items and spells for it.
  • Yeah, I could also have been clearer, language-wise
  • On a recent conversation players told me that even with the goliath carrying stuff using the encumbrance rules actually kept them concerned about which things were absolutely necessary to carry and when to stop buying stuff. I find interesting that while no starving nor exhaustion happened, players always had one more reason to worry when travelling.

    So my idea of using encumbrance rules just for the first few sessions is getting scratched. I was expecting to use those rules on a more active way and totally missed their passive effect.
  • edited July 2018
    Bit of a double whammy - I have to go to extra effort to make my character perform worse? uh, no thanks.

    turn it upside down and give players a reason to track it - say you can use a certain number of 'bursts' or whatever per fight. Obviously the more tired, sick, exhausted, encumbered you are, the less burts you can do, dropping to 0.

    Now players will eagerly keep track of how many bursts they have available and do their utmost to stay well fed, refreshed and unencumbered.

    Want an extra burst in this fight? drop that bag of coins...
  • Oh, hell yes.

    Asking people to track stuff that penalizes them is just bad design.
  • Good point, @stefoid -- I've played with folks who were happy to take in the fictional detail that their character is sick or overburdened or whatever, but none of them ever wanted to track boxes for how close they were to incurring penalties. If instead there are cool things you can do when you're unburdened or in perfect health, that might be different.

    Honestly, it works very well for my take on gritty adventuring to assume that the characters probably are a bit sick and tired and underfed at any given time.

    I'm not sure what special "I'm in perfect condition!" feats make sense for a game with a gritty realism angle... maybe just a +1 to everything (which in my 2d4 / 2d6 system is significant)...

    Perhaps the overall system could be something like "to get the +1 Good Condition bonus, check off 4 of these 5 boxes; a check indicates enough to not just survive, but thrive":
    food
    water
    sleep
    rest (recovered from exertion)
    mobility (i.e. not being overly encumbered)

    And then if something happens to put you in Terrible Condition, that can be the GM's job to track until the players clear the condition.
  • I think there may be three small sweet spots re: encumbrance and provisioning where they add to the fun:

    • understandably unprepared
    • cleverly ambitious
    • constraints

    By understandably unprepared, I mean the characters enter a new situation in which they are unaware of the hurdles they'll face, and that creates problems they must solve. (As opposed to when the players are unprepared but the situation should be totally obvious to the characters -- that's no fun in my book.) I think this is tricky, because if the rules or the GM just tell you the relevant concerns up front, then it's just a matter of tracking and calculating, which is not fun in itself. So, it's like, the truth should be out there, but if there are reasons why our young, ignorant peasant characters don't yet know it, great! But if the players are playing very methodical ignorant peasants, then never mind. Hmm.

    By cleverly ambitious, I mean that the players can apply their wits and resources to a situation to generate new opportunities for themselves, opportunities that wouldn't be present without skillful handling of food, encumbrance, and other logistics concerns. Eero's examples upthread are perfect. In this case, the constraints of the world/system become springboards for the players to transcend what's normal or obvious.

    By constraints, I mean that the realities described by food and water and carrying capacity present the group with some interesting choices and trade-offs. Doing the math on how far you can travel over what types of terrain is possibly the least fun process ever for assessing one's options, but I do quite like the logic behind it and the result it produces where everything feels organic and grounded. It seems to me that this should be achievable using a system that tracks only the relevant concerns, possibly eliding specifics of weight or how much who eats. I wonder if we can abstract it out to cost per day, with a default level we can then add to for special difficulties and subtract from for special advantages?
  • That said I've nerfed the spells Goodberry, Light and Dancing Light
    Tell me that you renamed Goodberry to "Just Okay Berry."
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