The Seven-Sided Die

Bookkeeping-free provisions and torches in AD&D

Posted Monday November 10, 2008 at 06:10 PM

Joshua at Tales of the Rambling Bumblers has a lot of great posts about running Savage Worlds that I've been reading this morning. In Savage Bookkeeping Joshua extends the minimalist bookkeeping Savage Worlds uses for allies' ammo reserves to group provisions and torches.[1. Joshua's post is itself a response to PatrickWR's post Rations and record-keeping: Fun? at RPG Diehard. There are a bunch of good comments to that post.]

For background, an ally has their ammunition level abstractly represented on a scale of Very High–High–Low–Out (usually starting out at High). After combat a roll is made to see if the level drops, and if they botch a Shooting roll during combat it drops immediately.

Extending this to provisions, a once-daily roll can check to see whether the group's provisions drop a level. This frees the players and GM from having to track individual meals or days of rations, but still gives them reason to pay attention to their supplies. The level is reset after restocking in civilisation. A string of bad rolls can result in running out of food only a couple of days out from town, yes, but that nicely captures the rare bad luck of ruinous mold, wild animals tearing apart the food cache, or having been sold expired stock.

So far I've just summarised Joshua's post. It got me thinking, though. At the outset of my current AD&D game the players vociferously objected to having to track encumbrance, torches, and so on. I stubbornly insisted, because having players care at all about managing their equipment is important for the exploration style of game. In practice though, I haven't been holding them to it very strongly—we've been having too much fun with the adventure for me to constantly interrupt with reminders to track provisions.

I can see adapting Joshua's provisions system to 1e as a solution. Every day ask for a Wisdom check from the party member with the highest Wisdom, or from the party's quartermaster if they should be so organised as to have one. Give them a +2 (or so) bonus on the roll if there's a ranger or hunter in the group, to represent their ability to supplement supplies by foraging. On a failure the group's provisions drop a level on the typical SW scale of Very High–High–Low–Out. Allow a day of successful hunting to raise it a level. When in a town or city the level can be reset to High by spending 5gp per party member, or Very High by spending 10gp each. (These numbers may need tweaking after playtesting.)

I can do the same for torches, rolling every hour the party is underground. A party that is deep in the dungeon and hits "Low" on their torch supplies is going to be nicely on-edge. Probably even moreso than if they were tracking torches individually, since a player can always look at a sheet with "2 torches" written on it and say "oh, we're good for another hour of exploring, let's turn around in 30 minutes." A party looking at a torch gauge running on "Low", though, is going to have to think hard about whether to press on or to seek daylight.

I think adopting this system will make players care about the logistics of adventuring without making it a bookkeeping chore.

Comments (1)


Tuesday November 11, 2008 at 10:16 AM

I dig it. Like the excellent D20 Modern wealth system, but for any arbitrary kind of item collection. That would neatly solve all of the problems that Sandy and I were having with the equipment tracking, I suspect. Keeping track of consumables can definitely add tensions and motivations to a game, but keeping track of them on the level of individual rations and torches is just non-optimal for fun in a tabletop setting. This looks like a good compromise.