Sunday, March 13, 2016

Some ideas about alternate resource management in the D&D Rules Cyclopedia (and I just thought this title isn't long enough ...)

There is this German blog I like to read, Tagschatten, and this guy, +Tag Schattenseems to be writing a D&D retroclone (Hic Sunt Dracones and I can't tell you how happy that title me makes). A few days weeks ago (it's been weeks already, goddammit) he also wrote a post asking what ideas people have for resource management systems that don't require lots of buerocracy and character sheet abuse (it's all in German, of course, so you have been warned). Got me thinking, too. It is not an easy question to answer and I think I got at least two proposals and waaaay too much text for just a comment. So here we go. I hope he doesn't mind.


I like to think that I know a bit about the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, so this is where I will go looking for inspiration. I also believe that we should check what is already done before we start inventing new rules, so I will loot that game relentlessly. Another fine aspect of an approach like this is that those rules are already tested where they were used, so we have an idea how they could work when used somewhere else. It will also mean that the results should be highly compatible with other D&D games out there (Hic Sunt Dracones seems to emulate Mentzer, so it should work without any problems).

1. That thing about the Mystic

I wrote about this in 2012, but it bears repeating: the mystic's acrobatic ability is flawed for many reasons, but the concept itself might have merit in the game. Since Resource Management is a bit more complex than just affecting one Ability Score, I'd go and use 2 instead: Constitution (two times) and Wisdom (one time). So the formula for that additional ability a character could have (we could call it Survival, for lack of a better term) would be:

[(Constitution x 2) + (Wisdom) + (level x 2)] vs. d%
is the Survival Test

Or something like that. A group could decide for someone taking care of it (the roll) or the one with the lowest percentage is the one to check if stuff went sour. This being a percentage roll, allows for some shenanigans with bonuses and so on. They could look something like this:

  • add 2 for every factor that could have a positive effect on the groups resources during their travels or night camps (well equipped, well traveled road, being in an area full with (natural) resources)
  • add 5 for every class or skill that could be useful to the group, but never more than 30 (having a cleric, a hunter, a field medic and/or a cook)
  • reduce by 1 for every negative effect on the groups resources during their travels or night camps (no fire, wet, fear of being hunted ...)
  • reduce Survival by the number of days since the last time the group restocked their resources completely
  • reduce Survival by (3 x Dungeon Level) if they have camp there
  • reduce by 1 for every additional non-player group member they have with them (horses, henchmen, dogs ...)
  • and so on ...

That's basically what the DM needs to keep track of. If he has a modifier for that Survival roll, he'll be able to interpret the result as he sees fit according to the circumstances. As a guideline I'd say, the greater the gap between difficulty (that is: Survival +/- modifier) the harsher is the effect on the group.

This could mean just the loss of some of the resources with a low gap (moldy food, damaged oil containers, wet torches or ruined cloths, resulting in another modifier to add to the next roll) or real damage to the resources with a middle high gap (horses or NPCs get sick or really unhappy, also resulting in another modifier and adding some in game difficulties, like not regenerating any hp) or in a worst case scenario real consequences for the group (critical failure or a gap bigger than 90, here the characters get sick, maybe from food poisoning, lack of fire, wet cloths, stuff like that).

Damaging Con or Wisdom would have a direct effect on the Survival ability, of course. And if a player describes something exceptional for a night, like sharing his precious brandy with the others or doing something entertaining, it could end in something extra for the roll ...

I'd have this checked every time they make camp or once per travel. A DM doesn't need to know what exactly the characters have in their backpacks and might even come up with the results of a failed roll as he sees fit, but the trade-off is (might be) that it's not very precise.

Example: Buckaroo, the group's fat level 4 Halfling, is the one managing the resources and really gets busy when they set up camp. He has a plan what needs to get done and when, so he sends people into he forest for fire wood, tells the henchmen to take care of the horses or raising the tents and cooks a nice, warm meal for the others to get in their stomach. His Con is 16 and his Wis is 12, so he has a Survival of 52 %. They are well equipped, travelling through a forest in late summer, met some travelers on the road and the weather has been very pleasant, netting a +10 there. They also get the +30 for having other useful people in the group. So that's a 92 they have going for them right now.

It's been 12 days since they last had a chance to refill their supplies, they have 8 horses, two donkeys, a dog and three henchmen with them and think someone is following them ... so I'd end up reducing that by 30 (26 plus the four for being extra cautious that night). That means Buckaroo needs to make a roll of 62 or lower. Seeing morale is a bit low since they haven't seen proper lodging for almost 2 weeks now and see monsters in every shadow, he decides to make his favorite biscuits for the group and takes care that everyone gets a good sip of that Elven wine they found a few days ago, getting another +8 for the roll (or 70 %) ...

2. That thing about the Cleric

And that would be re-purposing the Turn Undead Table, of course. It's basically the above but with 2d6 instead of 1d100. I think it might end up being even less precise, but it'd fit all into one nice table, so that's certainly something. It could look something like this:

This is how one could re-purpose that Turn Undead Table from the D&D RC (p. 15, changes by me)
It is untested, of course. But I imagine a DM could make it work. Still no bookkeeping and the group could actually die from exposure and all the other fine things characters die from if they aren't taking care of their equipment ...

Example: A group with an average level 2 is in over their head. They are deep in the Dungeon (level 3) and their cleric died, leaving them with only a cook and too many mouths to feed and as they lay down to sleep, they are at severity level 7. No roll. The lack of a proper fire and the damp air will have them all lose 3 Constitution and it will get worse if they don't manage to get out of there ...

Some loose ideas

I had the vague idea to re-utilize the D&D combat system. Something like using the Severity levels from 2 as hd and environment (like Dungeon Level, et cetera) as AC and have each of the characters roll their attack (as per level) and for damage. But it feels a bit excessive to have a group fight it out every time they make a rest, so I'll just mention it as a road not taken (in this post, at least). I still believe it could be done. Maybe if people just where to roll damage and if they overcome the severity, nothing happens. But if they don't ... Anyway, just food for thought here.

The lazy answer, by the way, is to bridge this stuff with the Dungeon World set of rules (a page with all the rules can be found here and Truncheon is a PWYW pdf sporting the same rules and can be found here). The DM tools are easily enough ported into D&D and they are in the cc, so they could be used in a D&D retro-clone, for instance. Well, whatever that's worth, I thought it couldn't hurt to mention it.

This is it. I hope I was able to show some possibilities how resource management could matter without having a huge amount of bookkeeping in there, too. Those ideas are untested and merely pointing the direction.

At least there would be almost no character sheet abuse, right? :)


  1. Another way to handle this would be to fold it into the random encounters / wandering monsters mechanic along with inclement weather. Such as roll 1d6. On a 1 you get an encounter, the encounter might be a monster, a flash flood, mold in the food, monster spoor, etc.

    1. Good one! It could definitely work as a third aspect of things you encounter in a D&D game! Maybe combining it with saves would show how hard the characters are hit ...