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Is Resource Management “Fun?”

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
You can have resource management that is quick but when things with resources happen, mistakes or bad luck, exciting adventure and danger can result.

I have found that when the GM is actually worried about logistical resources, the party, in response, worries over, and takes large amounts of prep time, considering them. When I have only a few hours every couple of weeks, spending a session planning how much food the journey will take, or how big a wagon is needed to haul stuff, winds up to be unsatisfying in hindsight.

Everyone is different of course. For me, making a hash mark for a shot arrow is a negligible time commitment.

Compliance issues aren't often about speed. They are largely about remembering to do it at the time. Forming the habit can be a bit of an issue. And again, while it might have some impact on play, I don't see it being interesting enough an impact to track most mundane stuff.
 
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Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
I have found that when the GM is actually worried about logistical resources, the party, in response, worries over, and takes large amounts of prep time, considering them. When I have only a few hours every couple of weeks, spending a session planning how much food the journey will take, or how big a wagon is needed to haul stuff, winds up to be unsatisfying in hindsight.



Compliance issues aren't often about speed. They are largely about remembering to do it at the time. Forming the habit can be a bit of an issue. And again, while it might have some impact on play, I don't see it being interesting enough an impact to track most mundane stuff.
Yeah sounds like a lot variability based on the person or group.

I just have not seen ton of time dedicated in our group’s play.

Your point about forgetting to do it here or there…yes, that can happen. We have also forgotten to apply bonuses from items or had spells last a few rounds too long. I know a few times someone asked how many rounds combat went if they forgot to mark arrows used or whatever and we then made the subtraction.

Other times we probably forgot and never remembered. When that was, I forget ;)

This is an individual thing. I find some level of grounding to be more immersive. Playing a wargame for example, supply routes and fuel etc. is part of the game. It’s limits your moves and creates problems to solve. How can I advance on this axis while still maintaining supply? Is this calculation “fun?” I think the problem solving it leads to is the fun. The limitation and bookkeeping is the necessary circumstance for that particular payoff.

This is about what you want from the game of course and how to get it.

For me/my group, we want more of the game’s wargame roots to show. Others do not. For me, (individual taste!) story games and cooperative story telling is insufferable. Not what I am looking for. I want the game to present complications to my plans here and there that flow from my planning or lack thereof. I want numbers involved at times.

Others don’t want to mark off arrows. I get it. But my experience tells me there is payoff in complications like supply.

One thing about higher level play that I don’t enjoy is the ubiquity of magic that circumvents everything save other magic.
 

Staffan

Legend
Yes, resource management is lots of fun! Seriously. It's something I enjoy about TTRPGs. What really bothers me is when media pays no attention to resources. The action hero who never reloads his gun.
You have a problem with Ashley Williams?

The travelers who never think about food. The medic that always has a first aid kit with the right supplies.

That's why I don't just sit around telling stories with my friends. We play a game instead. A game that forces us to keep track of such things. It's boring for the heroes to have exactly the tools the plot demands. It's a challenge to know what you'll need, and be under pressure when you don't have it.
But I'm a sedentary dude living in the relative lap of luxury of one of the world's richest countries in a time of unprecedented prosperity. I don't know much about what kind of food a medieval/renaissance wanderer would bring on their travels, or how much of it they'd need, and how often they'd resupply. I don't have the first clue about medical supplies. But my characters do not live in this world. They live in the world where they need to know these things. Just like my character doesn't get to use my knowledge to invent gunpowder by mixing the right proportions of charcoal, saltpeter, and sulfur, they don't need to rely on my knowledge in order to survive in their world. They know what they're doing, even if I don't.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
Allow me to expand with possible scenarios that would make the most mundane resource management more engaging for your players. Note, this is for those that do want to engage in the mundane, survival-type resource management. There are more fantastical variations, though:


Let's say they're trekking over a long distance in the open. Typically, there's really only two relevant resources, food and water. The typical problem is that food and water are so easy to procure, but it only does one thing and that's keeping the characters fed. But it doesn't take much food at all to accomplish that. It almost feels like players have to want to starve and dehydrate themselves on purpose.

But what if starvation wasn't the only thing food and water was good for? See, perhaps now they're in lizardman territory and rather than coin, they require meat as currency. Maybe even with the steep price of your own weight in food to make peaceful passage.
 

reelo

Hero
But I'm a sedentary dude living in the relative lap of luxury of one of the world's richest countries in a time of unprecedented prosperity. I don't know much about what kind of food a medieval/renaissance wanderer would bring on their travels, or how much of it they'd need, and how often they'd resupply. I don't have the first clue about medical supplies.

How about taking it as an opportunity to learn something?
Researching such things is a huuuge part of the appeal of RPGs for me.
 

bloodtide

Legend
So what does resource management add to the game? i.e. In what way does it make the game more fun? Examples are appreciated.
Pete has his character the Elven Archer Ezar. He starts with just 20 arrows in his quiver. So first off he has to be aware he can't just spam arrow attacks. Even with the rule that he can find 50% of his missed arrows intact, he will run out quick if he shoots of arrows every round. Ezar is ready with quick crafting improvised arrows. Pete has to stay alert and pay attention: any time arrow materials are found he has to take some. Pete does not just sit back and ask "can we do the next combat encounter now?". He is always engaged in finding and making more arrows. And at times craft some arrows. This also brings in the fun twist that he can make arrows of found special materials too. If the adventure will take place in a general area, Ezar will make some safe spots of arrows (and other things). He is also on the look out for other archers, so he can buy or trade or steal arrows. Arrows are also treasure for Ezar. A notable adventure setting was the Siege of Castleguard, where Ezar had to jump, run, climb and tumble all over the castle battlefield. He'd shoot off an arrow or two, dodge for some cover, then shoot another arrow. Then melee fight over to a dead goblin archer and grab his quiver, shoot off some arrows and then dodge back into cover.

Compared to the other side, player Donny and his Archer Bowie : where the DM and Player say "keeping track of arrows is no fun", so they make the house rule "the archer has infinite arrows as that is more fun". So every round of combat, the player just spams arrows. Really at any time the character just shoots some arrows.

So take something simple like the evil wizards familiar bat. It's a small, hard to hit target. With Ezar only having three arrows left, Pete does not risk trying to shoot the bat....he waits for a good shot when he will have some advantage. Donny, just spams the sky full of arrows...10, 20 shots don't matter. Sooner or later he hits the bat and is all happy he "did" something. The same way at the siege Bowie just sits in a tower and spams arrows every round as Donny tries not to fall asleep.


Another great example is doing a Spelljammer "Firefly like " game. A band of misfits on a spaceship doing jobs for money:

The Soft Firefly Game: By agreed house rules the player characters infinite mundane items, both for all the characters and the ship. So that is infinite air, food and water. Infinite repair supplies. And infinite mundane items for each character. Plus as typical adventures the PCs are super rich. Ship damage and such is just auto repaired in sudden 'downtimes' because it's more 'fun' that way. Though the DM adds a pathetically low 'upkeep cost' that the players can pay automatically. So this plays out like a typical such game: the players only want levels, power, and magic loot. They only care about money if they can by magic stuff with it. They don't have a "need" to even take any Jobs. When an NPC offers a job and the players don't like it, they just tell the DM "pass". And the DM agrees not to force things, like have the evil NPC force the characters to do the job. They just want to have aimless fun, they don't care about fictional problems of NPCs.

The above game(not mine) lasted three whole weeks before the quit as it "did not feel like Firefly".......

Enter my game. Where they have to keep track of every item. Not just all the PCs personal items, but all the ships supplies and food, water and air. Only two hours into the first adventure and all the PCs are quite poor. They have to pool all their money just for ship supplies. At the start of that second hour they spot a pirate ship....and blindly attack. the fight does not go well for them, but they escape....now with a baddy damaged ship. And no money. This has them limp over to the closest asteroid port...of thri-kreen. they are not too welcome, but have no choice but to role play and act nice just to get some repairs done on their ship. They have no choice but to do three jobs for various NPCs just to get some repairs done. They betray the last NPC and try to steal a ton of loot...but as they (both players and characters) fight over the loot...they loose all of it. But they get away in thier now slightly fixed ship. As they are being chased they chose to hide in the 'outer rim'. It's a bunch of short adventure jobs, as they limp from place to place....just barley getting enough supplies to continue on...and now a bit of loot. They do suffer a huge setback trying to hunt some space whales, but do get on the good side of a young radiant dragon who does fix up the ship a bit. They finally make it to an outer rim lizard man town, and find a thri-kreen warship waiting. They don't have any supplies left so they have to sneak into town....and they do, barley. Now they are hiding and trying to keep a low profile while they get supplies and fix their ship...if they can get enough loot to do all that.......
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
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.”
That's more play time than the super bowl, and it's only stretched out to 3 hours!

Resource management can be fun, but some I find to finicky to want to bother with. I don't really care to track arrows, spell components (love the replacement of the component pouch or spell focus for this), or rations unless the PCs are put in a dire situation, like being stranded in a desert or island somewhere and have to find their way out. For standard adventuring, I don't really worry about it though because I don't find it to be a fun part of the game.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Not being snarky here, I genuinely don't know who is saying this or why it would be true. If a 3-hour gaming session has half an hour of fun and 2 1/2 hours of tedium, that sounds like a problem with the GM, players, or both, not a problem with the gaming system. Even in a spreadsheet game like Red Markets, I don't know that a ratio of 1/3 fun to 2/3 bookkeeping is typical.
Let me just answer this without any edition warring, since that's kind of where the notion comes from.

Yes, I find most sessions of D&D to be true to this, but that is because I am not interested in the minutia of things like tracking torches or rations or how do we painstakingly explore the dungeon so as to avoid gotchas.

Now if I'm playing another game, like Torchbearer, where this is what the game is advertised as being about, it becomes more of a meta exercise with those mechanics. That can be fun because that's what the game is designed for. D&D is designed to have those things be important ... until they're not. It's no accident that the number of characters who have darkvision is constantly expanding.

When I'm playing D&D I'm about finding interesting things and doing exciting things. Solving mysteries, finding the truth of things, having fun social interactions, and, yes, getting into battles.

Tracking torches and managing how long we can stay doing something interesting? No thanks

But I also acknowledge that a lot of people do like tracking all that stuff. I think WotC is telling us that it is not a priority with the rules, but then there are many games (looking at OSR) where it is still front and center.
 

I don't know much about what kind of food a medieval/renaissance wanderer would bring on their travels, or how much of it they'd need, and how often they'd resupply. I don't have the first clue about medical supplies. But my characters do not live in this world. They live in the world where they need to know these things. Just like my character doesn't get to use my knowledge to invent gunpowder by mixing the right proportions of charcoal, saltpeter, and sulfur, they don't need to rely on my knowledge in order to survive in their world. They know what they're doing, even if I don't.

I'm not advocating for anything like you are suggesting. My current character sheet lists rations in terms of days of food, not a breakdown of the ingredients. What I'm talking about are meaningful choices in terms of how things are allocated. How much space to spend on food vs ammo vs tools vs etc. I can assume they know what food to bring, how to buy the right kind of arrows, etc. Getting into minutia like that has potential to be interesting, but it's outside of the scope of the real discussion here.

Pete has his character the Elven Archer Ezar. He starts with just 20 arrows in his quiver. So first off he has to be aware he can't just spam arrow attacks. Even with the rule that he can find 50% of his missed arrows intact, he will run out quick if he shoots of arrows every round.

...
Compared to the other side, player Donny and his Archer Bowie : where the DM and Player say "keeping track of arrows is no fun", so they make the house rule "the archer has infinite arrows as that is more fun". So every round of combat, the player just spams arrows. Really at any time the character just shoots some arrows.

This is more in the line of things that I was attempting to address. Personally, I have an expectation that if you don't want to keep track of arrows, the solution is simple: don't be an archer. Be a warlock with unlimited Eldritch Blast or a sword based fighter that doesn't use ammunition. There are so many ways in D&D to mitigate resource management if the players put in just a bit of effort. Goodberries for food. Decanters of Endless Water. Magical storage devices that can lug around hundred of pounds of resources. Heck, in 5e darkvision is so common that even torches are almost obsolete.
 

Irlo

Hero
Another great example is doing a Spelljammer "Firefly like " game. A band of misfits on a spaceship doing jobs for money:

The Soft Firefly Game: By agreed house rules the player characters infinite mundane items, both for all the characters and the ship. So that is infinite air, food and water. Infinite repair supplies. And infinite mundane items for each character. Plus as typical adventures the PCs are super rich. Ship damage and such is just auto repaired in sudden 'downtimes' because it's more 'fun' that way. Though the DM adds a pathetically low 'upkeep cost' that the players can pay automatically. So this plays out like a typical such game: the players only want levels, power, and magic loot. They only care about money if they can by magic stuff with it. They don't have a "need" to even take any Jobs. When an NPC offers a job and the players don't like it, they just tell the DM "pass". And the DM agrees not to force things, like have the evil NPC force the characters to do the job. They just want to have aimless fun, they don't care about fictional problems of NPCs.

The above game(not mine) lasted three whole weeks before the quit as it "did not feel like Firefly".......
Those are some ... interesting choices from folks who supposedly want to emulate Firefly.
Enter my game. Where they have to keep track of every item. Not just all the PCs personal items, but all the ships supplies and food, water and air.
And on the other end of the continuum, your approach would not appeal to me for a Firefly-like game, either. Firefly wasn't about spreadsheets and logistics. The ecomonic desperation was driven by dramatic need. It was never about trying to loot 30 gp to buy 5 meters of conduit to repair the shuttle. Tracking every item would suck the fun out of the game for me.

There is an enormous, rich middle-ground between the extremes of your two examples.
 

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