Hello. My name is Creighton, and I love resource management.
I recently published a post about why I think at-will 0-level spells are broken and how I’d fix them. It’s safe to say, the post attracted a fair amount of attention—much more than I’d thought it might garner—for a fairly minor rules tweak.
In the ensuing conversation, it became quickly apparent resource management seems to have fallen out of favour among many gamers. Apparently, it’s no longer fun or cool to track a PC’s expendable resources.
This saddens me as I think resource management is a critical part of the game. Sure, it’s not as exciting as annihilating enemies with fireballs and what not, but tracking rations, ammunition and other expendable resources is part of the Old School gaming experience and one I try to keep front and centre in my games. (Certainly resource management will feature extensively in my own megadungeon—Gloamhold).
Sure, running out of arrows in the depths of a dungeon sucks—my son’s rather aggressive ranger can attest to that—but similarly, having the right kind—or enough—of a given kind of equipment is the hallmark of an organised, superior player.
Beyond injecting a decent amount of realism and verisimilitude into the game, I track resources for two main reasons:
Tracking resources can heighten tension.
The party got trapped in the lower levels of the dungeon when they fell foul of a well placed pit trap. With no way to climb back up to the upper levels, they had to find a way out before their food and light sources ran out. As both began to dwindle, the tension palpably grew at the table—would the party escape or would they—running out of light and food as they were—be forced to try something foolish? As it turns out, they did escape (well, most of them) and the sessions dealing with their escape were exciting because we tracked resources. They were fighting not only the dungeon’s denizens but also time’s inexorable progress. If we’d just decided they had enough food and water to last them an indefinite time, the dungeon crawl would have been much the same as a normal adventure. There would be no reason to escape quickly.
Having the right kind of equipment—and enough of it—is the hallmark of a superior player.
For example, in my Borderland of Adventure campaign the party were planning to explore the lost dwarven hold of Khundrukar (featured in The Forge of Fury—another super dungeon adventure which I muse on further here).
One of the party had learned trolls had been seen in the area. At the time, the party were relatively low-level and trolls were still dangerous enemies—the obvious, logical thing to do was to buy alchemist’s fire (in large quantities!) Tracking their supply (or lack thereof) of the stuff was a good way of building tension and rewarding clever play. Did they have enough? Should they retreat to replenish their supplies? It would have been pretty boring to just assume they had enough—and cheesy to retroactively let them buy more when they ran out. (As it turns out, the PC in question forgot about the rumour and the party turned up at the ruin without any alchemist’s fire—which I found rather amusing…)
How do you feel about resource management? Do you track some resources—perhaps ammunition—but not bother with things like food and water? Do you obsessively track everything or just hand wave it? Let me know in the comments below.