Is Resource Management “Fun?”

JohnSnow

Hero
One of the things I find myself frequently going back to these days is the oft-quoted that “A session of D&D is 30 minutes of fun stretched out to fill 3 hours.”

And while I don’t entirely agree with the ratio, the simple fact is that both D&D and all other tabletop RPGs definitely have slow moments where the game can start to feel like a slog. I know that there are rules-light RPGs that “fix” that by relying entirely on improv and storytelling, and while I know that works great for some groups, I don’t want a character’s effectiveness to hinge on their player’s ability to improv or justify their actions. That doesn’t work at every table.

In the early days, Dungeon Delves relied a lot on resource management as the key to the game. And while that kind of accounting may be “fun” to some players, to some of us, it’s a bit too close to what we do for a living. And I wonder if resource management and “attrition-based play” is what plays into that.

When you’re starting with people who got into the hobby from a tactical wargame, that approach makes sense. These are the people for whom strategy, tactics, and logistics are fun, and something they want to do in their spare time.

I can’t help but wonder if leaning on that last piece is the source of the “15-minute day” problem and the “30 minutes of fun in 3 hours” comments. All games benefit from strategy, and that’s a big part of why people play them, but not everyone who likes strategy and tactics also enjoys logistics.

Thoughts?
 

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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Hey Lord Snow, it might help to describe what you mean by resource management, since it's a good idea for a thread but like a lot of other RPG terms, its definition might not be shared (or understood) by all.

I, for one, will probably have a thing or two to say on the subject once I'm sure we're talking about the same thing 🤓
 

Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
I feel about it like I do any “grounding.”

We can hand wave nearly everything if we want to. Why not have unlimited spells along with torches, food and spell components?

It hi k resource scarcity creates challenges but also limitations which are part of the fiction.

It’s on a sliding scale and where people fall on it is individual. Many folks like the strategy of logistics. Some want the character drama and big events to be main stage without much thought to how much food has been brought on the quest.

The emphasis has changed so much over the decades!

My group still sees it as an outgrowth of war gaming and the challenges that implies. When Crawford says “telling your story” I think he is speaking to an emphasis on decreased grounding and limitations.

My group has an idea of our preferred story, but we see if it emerges. Often it does in part but not always. So for me the resource management piece is a philosophical one about the game.

In short, some find it a necessary evil to provide grounding. Some hate it as a boring distraction. Some like my group walk the middle ground and have some resource management but when it is interesting. Other times the DM might note you pack animals are laden with provisions, you get there without event…
 

JohnSnow

Hero
Hey Lord Snow, it might help to describe what you mean by resource management, since it's a good idea for a thread but like a lot of other RPG terms, its definition might not be shared (or understood) by all.

I, for one, will probably have a thing or two to say on the subject once I'm sure we're talking about the same thing 🤓
Very reasonable question.

It was occasioned by me taking a look at the pitch for the Shadowdark RPG, Five Torches Deep, Dungeon Crawl Classics, or any of a number of other OSR games. It seems that some of the presumption is that there’s fun to be gained from tracking torches, rations, pints of oil, or what have you.

This led me to have a bit of an epiphany about the whole concept of attrition-based games, and whether resource management should be a requisite part of a tabletop roleplaying game. That decision has vast implications for game design generally, but most directly for damage tracking, narrative control, and spell-casting. And I’m not even sure we’ve ever questioned whether or not it should be a part of the system. It’s so embedded in the DNA of RPGs, I feel like it hasn’t really been looked at critically.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I very much enjoy the adventuring day and resource attrition. That is, abilities, spells, etc.. planned and used strategically to make it through the day. I enjoy my fantasy RPGs to be built this way.

I do not enjoy tracking food, water, ammo, etc... I dont mind moments in the campaign where these items are an issue temporarily to be navigated, but I dont want to track them in detail in perpetuity. That said, I do really like the dice management system in Free League's Forbidden Lands. Thats an abstract system that is easy to use and does the minute resource management game without being a total PITA.

Folks that don't like being caught unprepared, or go through the resource management motions prefer encounters based adventuring day like you get in 4E and PF2. 5E sort of straddles the line between the two. Not really to the satisfaction of either camp, but good enough for the casual gamer. YMMV
 

In a sense, it depends on what sort of problems you like solving in a ttRPG. Personally, I'm better at identifying with characters who feel the need to make plans and use ingenuity to solve difficult problems, rather than ones who are sure that the fiction is on their side and they are destined to succeed.

It's also possible for resource management to be an solved problem that suddenly comes un-solved. A campaign I'm in at present has the potential for that. We're a party of four, who had a pack-mule for supplies until we parked it three days ago. We have a large bag of holding, and the big strong character who carries it doesn't need to eat or drink, so food supplies have not been a problem. But it's now looking as if we may be about to rescue 40-50 villagers. We weren't expecting to find them here, and we're about a week's travel from their homes. Judging by the condition of the captive we've just rescued, the villagers are likely to be half-starved. Suddenly, we need lots of food. Water should not be a problem in itself, given the fast-flowing river nearby, but ways to carry it will be.
 

Yora

Legend
I think "fun" is the wrong thing to ask for. Keeping count of your stocks and subtracting what is being consumed is probably never going to be a exciting or entertaining.
But I think what resource management can do is to make other parts of the game a lot more exciting and interesting. The fact that you have to manage your supplies means that you have to plan differently when preparing for long journeys or deep delves underground. And once you are running low, it creates tension between the option to continue going forward and risk having a problem, or turning back and getting new supplies while it is still safe.
And once you run out of important supplies you are faced with the option of making do without them, which changes how the game plays, or finding creative ways to get new supplies in other ways than waiting to reach a store.
And when you manage to get your hands on vital supplies that end a very dangerous situation for the party, then adding those supplies to your inventory might actually feel like "fun".
 


J.Quondam

CR 1/8
I think "fun" is the wrong thing to ask for. Keeping count of your stocks and subtracting what is being consumed is probably never going to be a exciting or entertaining.
But I think what resource management can do is to make other parts of the game a lot more exciting and interesting. The fact that you have to manage your supplies means that you have to plan differently when preparing for long journeys or deep delves underground. And once you are running low, it creates tension between the option to continue going forward and risk having a problem, or turning back and getting new supplies while it is still safe.
And once you run out of important supplies you are faced with the option of making do without them, which changes how the game plays, or finding creative ways to get new supplies in other ways than waiting to reach a store.
And when you manage to get your hands on vital supplies that end a very dangerous situation for the party, then adding those supplies to your inventory might actually feel like "fun".
I think this is it, for me at least. I don't think it the tracking per se that's fun, but the adventuring conflicts that threaten to emerge if/when it all goes awry. In that way, resource management effectively serves like a countdown clock that's (partially) controlled by the players.

Exactly how that resource management happens varies a lot, too, and probably impacts how different gamers perceive the "fun" of it. Some love it in nitty-gritty detail tracking every last torch, arrow, and ration; others (like myself) prefer something more abstract, like "supply" counters; and still others would rather ignore it completely to focus on conflicts arising from different sorts of sources.
 

Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
It’s probably worth realizing too that it’s not all tedium in detail.

You have 4 weeks of x. Your getting to the dungeon means you have 2 weeks of x left. After some adventuring and thinking “man, we have been at it a while! It’s been 9 more days?”

DM aays “yeah, you are down to 5 days of x! Any thoughts about that? Is that a concern?”

The ranger chimes in he want to hunt/forage. Now he is using his skills and perhaps some wandering monsters?

I don’t think it is like accounting myself but neither is it the central focus all the time. It helps to ground the game for me as does making sure we have arrows.

“Damn! I recovered like 8 of them! We need to get some more when we can!”

Looting enemies for ammunition can be rewarding. Just another complication.

But I think it’s the complications and problem solving that can be fun. Not the accounting.

Meanwhile some people like shopping in town (not me!). Ymmv

There is no right or wrong but I wager a lot of long time wargamer/rpg players are more likely to find value in the mini game implied
 
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