D&D drowning in resources

edited October 2014 in Story Games
A lot of the interesting resource games have been eroded in 5e since the light cantrips make torches no problem and the outlander background make food no problem. How to fix?


  • It wouldn't be difficult, or particularly unbalancing, to remove the magical logistics-aids from the game. The game balance of modern D&D - insofar as one cares about such - is all about peak effectiveness in combat (damage per round, to put it in simple terms), which has nothing in particular to do with logistics. As long as any changes one makes do not impact the combat math of the character classes, I don't really predict any balance issues.
  • The first question is, are those interesting resource games? If you think yes, Torchbearer is probably the game for you.

    D&D has for a long time moved away from tracking torches and rations. Even back in 3rd edition they were rarely a problem after 1st level or so.

    But if you really want to return to a more gritty feel, just eliminate sources of free resources in your game. I'm not familiar enough with outlander background, does it give any other benefits? Would really change the game to simply eliminate it?
  • One idea I've had is to introduce other scarcities.
  • It's a great background overall and I guess the feature could be changed for campaigns where it mattered. The "free food" feature could be changed to a "foraging subgame" where you would still get the food, but at a risk (monster encounters?).
    As for Light, it could have material components maybe, adding the resource factor right in. Or, could play stricter with issues such as dim light, being seen etc.
  • I'm strongly with you on this one. One of our favorite aspects of rpgs has always been detail items and resource management (encumbrance, finances, upkeep/maintenance, material components, tradeskills, sustenance, etc). While early D&D had some minor focus there it never really was explored enough. By 3rd it was all but dead and now in 5th it's wholly irrelevant.

    I also agree that Torchbearer is pretty fantastic as a focus on these things, though even there some things benefit from expansion.

    My problem is that I'm a fan of cantrips (in theory, if not their application in 5th), so wouldn't want to see those things eliminated. Instead I'd rather see the high utility value of casters balanced against other weaknesses in the class or system to prevent their exploitation from invalidating an entire play style.

    Conversely I'm not a fan of the background system in 5th at all. I think those things should generally stay a roleplaying element with no mechanical impact, except possibly via a proficiency/skill system of some sort (though again, not the one offered in 5th).
  • The resources normally tracked in D&D are spell/ability usages, limited-use items and hit points. It's actually hard to balance all of these things properly already (resulting in weird things happening at high levels, most famously), introducing more would be very challenging.
  • That's great -- identifying the existing scarcities
  • Other finite resources you could make into a resource subgame:

    * spell components
    * shelter
    * armor and weapons upkeep
    * clothing upkeep
    * information

    Another easy fix: make the light cantrip require some kind of component. Make the outlander background supply just one character with nutrition, not the rest of the party (if it doesn't do this already?).
  • Make the light cantrip require concentration, that way the caster has to dismiss it in order to do anything else. The idea is that it becomes less useful than a torch but still can be used in ean emergency.
  • not play outlanders and wizards who can cast light?

    I mean, the fact that the players are taking character options that explicitly let them provide food and light for themselves says something, yeah? It's a meaningful choice, and deserve to get rewarded.
  • Hence looking at other scarcities. But it was also the case of going from like torch-counting play to "Oh. I guess we don't need that now." with a disappointed tone when the light-cantrip-caster joined the party.
  • Making characters really take on the costs of their social resposibilities to lieges, mentors, hirelings, henchmen, family, and dependants is another way to balance things. In life, being a genuine lone-wolf is exceedingly rare and has a huge number of negative consequences that you can play out.

    For example, dungeoneering requires hirelings to cook, clean, carry, and maintain things. A knight needs squires and pages. A cleric needs acolytes to light candles and make offerings to keep their god pleased. Somebody, just to buy the candles. The gods don't give away all that clerical magic for free, eh!

    It goes on and on...
  • I'm planning a campaign where the PCs will be responsible for several dozen noncombatant NPCs, more than can be provided for with magical means. Resource scarcity will be a major theme.
  • Hence looking at other scarcities. But it was also the case of going from like torch-counting play to "Oh. I guess we don't need that now." with a disappointed tone when the light-cantrip-caster joined the party.
    If I read you correctly, this is first and foremost a case of the tone of the whole game changing because of one player's choice of character, right?
  • Right, and that character choice was pretty much a random choice, with some random cantrips.
  • edited October 2014
    So, the RAW game includes some economy of (material) resources at the lower levels, that a few character options make irrelevant. This should be a matter of group discussion re: the desired tone.
    • If you as a group like the torch-counting, rule out the "light" cantrip. If you randomize characters, just reroll.
    • If you don't like the torch-counting, always include the ability to cast "light". If you randomize characters, add "light" as a bonus cantrip to one or all casters.
    EDIT: Same applies to any other such interactions: food with the "outlander" background, etc. Since the RAW game basically tries to be everything to everybody, when you discover a character choice has such wide repercussions on everybody's play experience you have to make group decisions about it.
  • edited April 2018

    I’ve tried to start adding some spell component costs, but man is it guerre contre les moustiques!

    Last session it was Purify Food & Water. That doesn’t even have any spell components in the rules as written, and I’m not sure how to cost it either. For the light spells Stuart’s lume-unit made it easy. For goodberry I compared it to rations.

    This spell felt super disruptive, it doesn’t even cost a slot.

    I guess having access to this spell is fine. It makes river treks and even ocean journeys easier but there's still some risk at running out.

    Moradin is a powerful god :(

  • edited April 2018
    I need to remember my cardinal rule of D&D "balance":

    "Don't worry, DM, they die soon enough anyway". That has saved me from going down any number of iffy roads, buffing "bosses", scaling up encounters etc etc.
  • edited April 2018
    I always wanted to alter D&D’s spell components to match Unknown Armies magic. Now that would make for some very interesting adventures.
  • That would be pretty awesome
  • Can you explain what that would be like (I'm not familiar with UA)?
  • Like having to get drunk in Paris on stolen wine in order to get your spell slots back.
  • That's part of the problem of plenty — with 5e and all of the spell cards etc etc that we have it's hard to house rule to that extent. A game like LotFP with a shorter, focused spell list would be more amenable
  • edited April 2018
    Can you explain what that would be like (I'm not familiar with UA)?
    Magic (for the most part) is powered through obsession. Adepts, in order to gain power, are forced to act in accordance with their obsession. So the more power you want, the crazier you are going to have to get.

    In D&D, this potentially could make for some amazing adventures—where the magic-user’s obsession takes the rest of party in a totally unexpected direction. Magicians in UA are junkies—it’d be like watching a Breaking Bad episode that took place in Greyhawk.

  • An important resource with no significant magical source: rest/sleep/meditation time to reload spells, heal, etc.
    Due to watching and disturbances, characters under serious time pressure might need to choose between deadlines and recovering fully from various forms of fatigue and exhaustion.
  • That sounds fantastic!

    Gives me lots of ideas...

    How exactly is that implemented in the game? Are there any tables or charts or even just an example someone can refer me to?

    It's hard to imagine what it would look like in d&d, as well.
  • That sounds fantastic!

    Gives me lots of ideas...

    It's hard to imagine what it would look like in d&d, as well.
    I think that is what has always given me the most trouble—trying to convert the modernist setting of UA into D&D.

    Take a look at this link: http://projects.inklesspen.com/fatal-and-friends/oriongates/unknown-armies/#6
  • I'd like to see the wizard as an npc whose magic is more related to the actual rules of magic, but who needs the PCs to get all the things needed to make the spell, making each session a quest to cast a single powerful spell that can either solve things, make them possible to accomplish for mere mortals or even make things worse by bringing a more powerful entity into the bargain.

    You could still give the players scrolls to cast magic, but otherwise the wizard wouldn't be a field operative here.
  • You’ve got the usage die (TBH) on one end and heavy bean counting on the other (Torchbearer). What’s out there that’s in the middle for resource management?
  • I've been working on a fantasy hack for Red Markets, the economic zombie RPG. It's pretty awesome. Everything takes charges to use: when you swing an axe at a zombie, you burn a charge of your rations to fuel the swing, but you can burn more to improve your chances of hitting. A hit also uses up a charge of your axe to represent wear and tear. Everything costs money to recharge and fix: your rations, your axe, your hit points, your emotional health.
    The rules call it "a poverty simulator with added zombies;" every time you make a decision, you have to consider its effect on the bottom line. Rescue an orphan? Great, but that takes time away from earning money and the orphan needs to be fed and clothed, so you just made your own chances that much worse. Leave the little guy to take his chances like everyone else, and it will cause you psychological stress which, you guessed it, costs money to fix.
    It seems like a natural system for resource-limited dungeon delving.
  • I don't consider the usage die light weight compared to just tracking your supply.
  • Like Eero, I think the logistics side of D&D is just legacy/OSR stuff now.
  • After playtesting with these changes for a year now they have worked out well. Logistics and starvation and light became super relevant.
Sign In or Register to comment.