Friday, June 15, 2012
I love resource management in D&D. Enforcing limited resources on the PCs provides tension to the game, and often forces them into situations where they have to make tough choices. The more interesting choices a player has to make in a game, the more engaged they become.
Types of Resources
There are many resources specified in the rules that are inherently limited, and thus subject to resource management. Some that come to mind are: money, hit points, hit dice (D&D Next), rations, arrows, torches, spells. In order to avoid having the game degenerate into a tedious session of bookkeeping, we need tools to help us manage these resources in game.
What I do to help alleviate the tedium is to use physical props to manage some of the more mundane resources I want to track. For example, I use poker chips to represent coins. When a PC has to hand over physical coins when paying for something, it's a much different feeling than erasing a number on their character sheet and writing a new one in. It's far more immediate and creates a feeling like they're actually spending money.
For money, I use red poker chips to represent copper, white for silver, and green for gold. I also use a black sharpie to write denominations like 5, 10, 25, etc. on the chips to make this easier to manage. Since I use a silver standard in my games (see below) copper is relevant.
I use black poker chips for hit points, toothpicks for arrows, and glass beads for rations. The players appreciate that they don't have to constantly scratch out or erase numbers on their character sheets.
I have another approach for gear, weapons, and other items the PCs carry. When someone gains an item, I quickly write it down on a half index card. I write down the item's name, it's weight, and any important properties it has, like damage for weapons, then hand the card to the player. A PC doesn't have an item unless they have the card! If the item has a number of uses, like vials of oil, I draw little circles on the card that the player can check off as uses are expended. When a PC loses an item, they really feel the loss because they have to hand that card back!
The Silver Standard
In previous campaigns, copper had always become somewhat of a worthless denomination, since prices are mainly expressed in gold. Players would even ignore any copper pieces found in treasures. That's why I adopted a silver standard in game. Basically, any book price listed in gold is actually silver, and any price listed in silver is actually copper. If a price is listed in copper, I make it 1 cp, or allow the copper piece to be physically split into quarters. But I hint that using quarters is for the poorest folk only, so the PCs always round up to 1 cp minimum.
Now, the PCs actually care about finding copper in treasures, and you should see their eyes light up when the find those elusive gold pieces, not to mention platinum!
Using physical props like poker chips provides a tactile element to the game that can produce more of an impact on a player when their PC gets wounded or spends money or other resources. For the resources that you as a DM feel are relevant and worth tracking, this technique can make resource management more painless, and even fun.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
One of my favorite parts of Warhammer Quest was the Gold Treasure card. The card instructs the player that they can roll as many d6's as they like to see how much gold they find, but if any of the dice come up a 1, there's no gold at all.
I use this little trick all the time when PCs loot bodies and find small treasure stashes. It's a perfect "tough decision" that plays their fear against their greed. I can almost see the wheels spinning in the players' brains as they agonize over how many dice to roll.
The more interesting choices you can throw into your game for the players, the more the game will hold their interest. This little Loot Roll is a great way to inject some tension into an otherwise static part of the game.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
World Building Example
I might describe a store room with barrels, crates, shelves of nails, tools, and other building materials. At this point, one of the players might ask "Is there any rope here?" At this point, I'll assign a DC based on likelihood of such an item being in this room. There's a good chance that this storage room would contain rope, so I'd set the DC at 10. Then, the player would roll a WIS check to see if the item in question is present.
No "Me Toos"
If it's one thing that I dislike about the ability check mechanic, it's when one player fails a roll, then all the other players chime in and say "I'll make that check too". For purposes of world building, only the player who asked about a certain item is allowed to make the check.
It's assumed that the longer the players look for things in a room, the more difficult time they'll have finding them, because you'd think they'd be able to spot most mundane items right off the bat. To represent this, subsequent world building checks in the same room by the same player are made at a Disadvantage.
Consequences of Failure
If one of the WIS checks results in a Hazard (the player rolls 10 or more below the DC) then something bad has happened. Maybe they made too much noise and alerted a guard patrol. Maybe they disturbed that patch of Yellow Mold. This should keep the players from abusing this option. The more "out there" items they look for in a room, the greater the chance of a Hazard.
Tap into the Players' Creativity
Allowing the players to help build the details of the world not only takes a burden off the DM, but also hopefully makes them feel more invested. Who knows what kind of twists the adventure can take with the combined imaginations of all participants involved? I'll find out after my first D&D Next playtest, which is scheduled for tomorrow!
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
A PC examining the liquid will note a slightly syrupy consistency, a deep amber color, and large flecks of something black floating inside. The aroma is that of deeply spiced honey.
A PC consuming Orcade must pass a DC 11 CON check or suffer intense cramps, and Disadvantage, for 1d20 minutes. If this check results in a Hazard, they are knocked out for this amount of time. A successful check invigorates the PC, granting them 1d8 additional hit points. If this places them above their max, they revert back down to their max after the next Long Rest.
Monday, June 4, 2012
When a PC tries one of the keys to open a lock, roll 1d6 (this costs an action during combat). On a 5 or 6, the key fits the lock. The keys can be tried in this manner one by one, but once a key's lock is determined, it cannot be used in future attempts. The PC should track how many available keys are left on the ring.
During combat, if a PC wants to lock or unlock a lock for which they had already discovered the key, they must pass a DC 10 INT check. If they fail, they fumble around with the keys and try the wrong one this round. Clever PCs might somehow mark the keys to bypass the need for this check.