Is Resource Management “Fun?”


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Aldarc

Legend
The better game systems don't use hit points....
I'm increasingly of the opposite opinion.
Funny. I'm increasingly of the opinion that anyone who believes that whether or not a tabletop roleplaying uses hit points says anything substantial about the overall quality of a tabletop roleplaying game probably have some pretty unreasonable game opinions that can be reasonably ignored. This is probably not an argument worth having as neither position will win you either friends or good will. ;)
 

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?
Full disclosure: I'm a wargamer at heart. I only dug into "true" TTRPGs after growing tired of the predictable, birds-eye view present in typical wargames, so I might be one those old-school players you're referring to.

With that said, I prefer a detailed and thorough inventory system, even if makes the game take a little longer. Now, I know it depends on the person, but IMO, a fictional world without inventory tracking just feels unbelievable, and not in a good way. If I'm not consciously aware of what my character is hauling around, that really breaks the immersion for me. It really helps me get into a game when I can actually outline the items I have to work with. Otherwise, the game's just a bit too abstract for my taste. I think resource management is a must for plunder-heavy adventures such as dungeon crawls, but YMMV
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
That's something else I haven't seen in nearly forever: a party using pack animals. For anything.
Two campaigns I’m running concurrently both have parties with mules and carts. One campaign the main character and his two henchmen had one mule. They then overwhelmed some bandits and took their two mules. Now they have three. The other bought a cart and mule at first level, and take it everywhere. And they often go into towns or ruins, leaving the cart, and forget key pieces of gear that they left in the cart to save space and increase their foot speed. It’s hilarious to watch them get creative when they once again ‘forgot something on the cart’, usually when the stuff hits the fan.

We are enjoying paying attention to encumbrance, and resource management. And my son, who is 13, stopped playing 5th, and said he likes OSE ‘because worrying about rations and torches is like it’s own mini-game’ and ‘it’s fun’.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Did you ever come back to find the mules had been devoured by the hirelings?

Or worse, the opposite? :)
Once, a DM had our hirelings turn out to be bandits, and once we went into the dungeon, they contacted their fellows and we ended up having a bandit encounter once we escaped the dungeon!

I don't think the DM expected us to live however, because they got really annoyed when we asked about xp and treasure from the bandit encounter...
 

Celebrim

Legend
Funny. I'm increasingly of the opinion that anyone who believes that whether or not a tabletop roleplaying uses hit points says anything substantial about the overall quality of a tabletop roleplaying game probably have some pretty unreasonable game opinions that can be reasonably ignored. This is probably not an argument worth having as neither position will win you either friends or good will. ;)

Possibly not, but it is an argument I'd be willing to make in another thread.

Almost the entire time I've been playing ttRPGs, the consensus of the "smart people" was that the hit point was stupid, along with Vancian magic, linear fortune mechanics (as opposed to dice pools with normal curves), and classes and levels.

And the longer I play the less reasonable those criticisms become. And if there is any one aspect of the system that has survived all criticism it's the hit point.

And after spending two or three years GMing a game without hit points, and indeed on one of the strongest hit point-less systems I know (D6), I really miss them. They make game preparation so much easier. I can't think of anything that the lack of hit points do that hit points don't do better.

And one of the strongest proofs of that is that despite all the other different mechanics that I have been created to replace the hit point with something better, none of them have much penetration into the market. Video games without a hit point system are vastly less popular than ones that have it, despite the heavy math capabilities of video games making alternative more complex systems viable.
 
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So, apropos of resource management, I've recently started into playing Horizon Zero Dawn, and it does feature extensive foraging and crafting - and yes, tracking individual arrows.

An interesting thing about HZD is the only thing you have to keep track of (at least by the point in the game I've reached) is your arrows. Everything else, with one exception, is kind of optional - but you get a benefit out of taking the time and effort to forage and craft stuff - more potent "enchanted" arrows, scavenged tech allowing you to get advanced weapons or traps, healing potions, upgrades to your gear.

So the game has kept me engaged with inventory management (not to the point where I'm trying to optimise, but at least where I'm actively working on it) by making it a boon to manage your inventory resources instead of a bane when you don't do so. More on the carrot side, less on the stick side. (But don't run out of arrows!)

(The non-optional thing you don't have to keep track of as such is your pouch of medicinal herbs, which is how you restore your hit points - yes, HZD has hit points! - if you don't have potions. You have to forage for herbs to keep the pouch stocked, and you're probably in trouble if things go wrong while you're attacking enemies if it's empty.)

There might be something in there for TTRPG design space.
 

That's something else I haven't seen in nearly forever: a party using pack animals. For anything.
They's a staple in every non-modern campaign I run. Except our current campaign, which is set in the American Revolution. Mules were uncommon in the New World until after we gained independence. George Washington was instrumental in introducing mules to the new United States.
 
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This. The number of players at the table determines the game you are playing. The more players you have at the table the more the focus of the game has to be on what everyone is doing together. The fewer players you have, the more you can focus on what that player character is doing and feeling at any given moment. So many games are written where the basically are only playable by one or maybe two players with a single GM because the sort of gameplay they want and the pacing it implies, implies continual spotlight on a player.

This is actually the real determining factor in what a game is about. You can have six or eight players and put spotlight on the actions of an individual player, but what that player is then doing better be really entertaining to watch.
I currently have six players (I normally restrict the group to five, but that's another story), and I find that resource management is a useful tool for keeping the group busy. Resource tracking duties are spread out among the players, and likewise travel duties.
 

Neither, kind of.

There's a point in the game where tracking the basics* becomes less necessary - where magic can largely replace the need to track e.g. light, water, and food .....
In some games, D&D and clones particularly.

In other fantasy systems, light, water, and food are still purchased no matter what stage of development your PC has reached.
 

That's something else I haven't seen in nearly forever: a party using pack animals. For anything.
I'm a fan. It's common in my games I run for that reason.
We are enjoying paying attention to encumbrance, and resource management. And my son, who is 13, stopped playing 5th, and said he likes OSE ‘because worrying about rations and torches is like it’s own mini-game’ and ‘it’s fun’.
It is weird how things like foods, and fads and fashions keep coming back around.... Even Game Styles.

The vast bulk of gamers from the last 20 years have been very opposed to nearly any resource management, even for things like spells and abilities.

My 5E Spelljammer group was one of them. Six months ago they played a game with zero resource management: they would just have all items, equipment, abilities and spells at all times...because it was "more fun".

They ask me to run them a 5E Spelljammer game. I'm firm that I will only do it my way. And they agree. Now a little over six months later and they are loving all the resource management. They love having something to do and keep track of and find it.......fun.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I'm a fan. It's common in my games I run for that reason.

It is weird how things like foods, and fads and fashions keep coming back around.... Even Game Styles.

The vast bulk of gamers from the last 20 years have been very opposed to nearly any resource management, even for things like spells and abilities.

My 5E Spelljammer group was one of them. Six months ago they played a game with zero resource management: they would just have all items, equipment, abilities and spells at all times...because it was "more fun".

They ask me to run them a 5E Spelljammer game. I'm firm that I will only do it my way. And they agree. Now a little over six months later and they are loving all the resource management. They love having something to do and keep track of and find it.......fun.
It is strange, while having to keep tabs on my personal rations and the like is annoying, I do admit, I did have fun when I found my party in command of a ship in a pirate game, where I had to find solutions to water, food, ammo, maintenance and hiring a crew. However, I won't lie that we also solved a lot of these concerns with magic.

Similarly, I had fun with Kingmaker, until we discovered the rules for kingdom management were pretty much busted. So I'm willing to say that, in the right circumstances, logistics management can be fun, but it can also be a chore if not given the right weight and presentation.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, it has to matter to the player as more than simply a tax to play the game.
 

JohnSnow

Adventurer
Possibly not, but it is an argument I'd be willing to make in another thread.

Almost the entire time I've been playing ttRPGs, the consensus of the "smart people" was that the hit point was stupid, along with Vancian magic, linear fortune mechanics (as opposed to dice pools with normal curves), and classes and levels.

And the longer I play the less reasonable those criticisms become. And if there is any one aspect of the system that has survived all criticism it's the hit point.

And after spending two or three years GMing a game without hit points, and indeed on one of the strongest hit point-less systems I know (D6), I really miss them. They make game preparation so much easier. I can't think of anything that the lack of hit points do that hit points don't do better.

And one of the strongest proofs of that is that despite all the other different mechanics that I have been created to replace the hit point with something better, none of them have much penetration into the market. Video games without a hit point system are vastly less popular than ones that have it, despite the heavy math capabilities of video games making alternative more complex systems viable.
I used to have all the same complaints, and I will confess to having come around on all of those but Vacian magic.

Hit points aren’t realistic, but they’re elegant and simple. The problem with D&D isn’t hit points per se, it’s that the pools start too small and get too large. And that cracks the system at the edges.

My Vancian magic issue isn’t that the system doesn’t work, it’s philosophical. Without some kind of check, magic is too reliable. That level of predictability doesn’t feel like magic to me. But that’s not the Vancian part. Although I like the rather elegant solution to the problem in Shadowdark.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I used to have all the same complaints, and I will confess to having come around on all of those but Vacian magic.

Hit points aren’t realistic, but they’re elegant and simple. The problem with D&D isn’t hit points per se, it’s that the pools start too small and get too large. And that cracks the system at the edges.

My Vancian magic issue isn’t that the system doesn’t work, it’s philosophical. Without some kind of check, magic is too reliable. That level of predictability doesn’t feel like magic to me. But that’s not the Vancian part. Although I like the rather elegant solution to the problem in Shadowdark.
A poster on another forum once pointed stated that "You cannot and should not balance bad mechanics by making them annoying to use". The complaint was that magic should be reigned in by meticulously tracking spell components, or some other restriction (like chance to backfire).

Grod's argument was that the problem with this rationale is that it doesn't really solve any problems. Wizards are still just as powerful, but now the player has to go out of their way, detracting from the campaign and story, so they can scrape their spell juice off the dungeon floor.
  • The disruptive munchkin ignores it, argues it, or forces the rest of the group to suffer through it. His power remains the same, and he gets more annoying to play with.
  • The inappropriate powergamer figures out how to circumvent the restriction. His power remains the same.
  • The reasonable player either figures out how to circumvent the restriction (rendering it moot), avoids the class (turning it into effectively a ban) or suffers through it. His power remains the same and/or his enjoyment goes down.
  • The new player avoids the class or suffers through it. His enjoyment goes down.
 

JohnSnow

Adventurer
A poster on another forum once pointed stated that "You cannot and should not balance bad mechanics by making them annoying to use". The complaint was that magic should be reigned in by meticulously tracking spell components, or some other restriction (like chance to backfire).

Grod's argument was that the problem with this rationale is that it doesn't really solve any problems. Wizards are still just as powerful, but now the player has to go out of their way, detracting from the campaign and story, so they can scrape their spell juice off the dungeon floor.
  • The disruptive munchkin ignores it, argues it, or forces the rest of the group to suffer through it. His power remains the same, and he gets more annoying to play with.
  • The inappropriate powergamer figures out how to circumvent the restriction. His power remains the same.
  • The reasonable player either figures out how to circumvent the restriction (rendering it moot), avoids the class (turning it into effectively a ban) or suffers through it. His power remains the same and/or his enjoyment goes down.
  • The new player avoids the class or suffers through it. His enjoyment goes down.
I agree about making it annoying. Making it unpredictable isn’t necessarily about making it annoying. Are critical failures unfair to mages? Only if they’re only applied to them.

Is spell failure annoying?

If we can balance magic by letting it stay powerful but making it unreliable, then it feels different. If you make magic both more powerful and reliable, then logically everyone would use magic. Because there’s no reason not to.

And that’s boring.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
Making it unpredictable isn’t necessarily about making it annoying.
I think, it kinda is. Expending a valueable resource, only for it to have no effect for no fault of your own, I'd say, is annoying, yeah. There's only so much randomness you can introduce before things go sour.

Making a really hard-hitting option really hard to use works well for videogames, where the only determining factor is player's aiming skill. It's way harder to make it fun in a tabletop setting.

If you need to mix spellcasters with non-spellcasters in a single gaming group, your options get even more limited. Making magic require weeks of preparation for complex rituals, for example, would probably be unviable (or turn magic users into a bargain bin martials for the vast majority of the time).

While, yeah, I like the aesthetics of unreliable magic, of a threat that an unspeakable horror from the outer space will slip through a crack in reality you've created to cast a spell, I don't think making it unreliable for the player is the right approach.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I agree about making it annoying. Making it unpredictable isn’t necessarily about making it annoying. Are critical failures unfair to mages? Only if they’re only applied to them.

Is spell failure annoying?

If we can balance magic by letting it stay powerful but making it unreliable, then it feels different. If you make magic both more powerful and reliable, then logically everyone would use magic. Because there’s no reason not to.

And that’s boring.
What loverdrive said, and yes, spell failure is annoying; I know people who would refuse to cast spells with even a 5% chance of failure (such as due to old school magic resistance).

As to whether or not everyone would use magic...well, yeah. Why wouldn't they? In fact, the better question is why don't they now, since 5e gives no reason whatsoever for people not to use magic.

Don't get me wrong, magic does need to be contained, but lowering it's power would be better than having a greater chance of spells to fail (since some already require attack rolls, allow saving throws or both) or worse, turning everyone into a wild magic sorcerer, where the party is constantly wondering if today is the day they will be engulfed in a miscast fireball.
 

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