Movement, Encumbrance, and Material Components

To quote Hack & Slash: On Movement
"Now the real world movement rates are very slow. Several people by themselves have done 'tests' where they map their environment or attempt to cautiously move around in these environments. In every case they say, 'I am able to walk so much faster then the listed rate'. They then reach the conclusion that the listed rate is wrong. In every single case none of the following is considered. 
What you can usually see in the dungeon, if you're lucky
The environment is cramped and pitch black. The ground is uneven in the best case. The light is torchlight. Mapping is done with either parchment and charcoal or an ink pen. There are no hash marks or clear markers to indicate distance, it must be measured. Groups range in size from 4 to 12. Many are uneducated hirelings. Many are wearing metal armour and carrying heavy gear. Movement must be coordinated and silent. The rate is an abstraction, looking around corners, stopping to listen (and having to get everyone silent first) and quiet hurried discussion about what to do make up for the time spent moving slightly faster down an open corridor. 
When you look at real world examples of these things the movement rate is much more realistic. Getting people in line and moving orderly is time consuming. Exploration of caves tends to take much longer (with modern equipment) than people assume, and we know they aren't trapped, filled with demons and monsters, and actively inimical to your survival."
I know I don't take as much notice as I should of party movement and timekeeping; it often feels like pettifogging book-keeping to no purpose, like being strict about encumbrance.

However, a large part of old-school D&D style gaming is resource management and exploration, and to play that sort of game properly you really do need to know exactly what resources you have to manage, and how far and how fast you can get those resources to where they'll be useful (i.e. the massive piles of treasure).

I've been pondering for a long time on ways to make keeping track of encumbrance as painless as possible, because I know that if it puts players to any trouble at all, 99% of them will just try to ignore it. And I think I have a workable solution, though it will mean a little bit of design work on my part.

I'm thinking of separate sheets — index cards, maybe — for each container the characters are carrying, each card marked with the container's dimensions and a number of encumbrance "slots" that can be filled with Stuff. To this end, I'll largely hark back to Gygax's old AD&D equipment encumbrance values, since they took into account not only the item's weight, but also its size and general awkwardness. There will still have to be a certain amount of common sense employed (no putting barrels into belt pouches, for example), but in general it should work out easily enough. Plus, having a bunch of cards to sort through for all your packs, pouches, sacks and porters  should neatly represent the problems of having to find that thing you knew you had but just can't quite remember where you put it...

On a semi-related note, I think I'm going to return to the idea of having set material components for spells again, a la AD&D, rather than just hand-waving the matter. Again, it's to do with the resource management aspect of the game. If you don't have the components available for the spell you want for the situation at hand, what do you do? Try and substitute something else and hope it works? Or find another plan?

1 comment:

  1. I see movement as just a mechanic in the game that tells the DM that this amount of movement or searching takes this amount of time in turns so that wandering monster checks can be made, spell durations can run it's course, torches, etc. I don't think it's meant to be accurate in the real world. Like combat it's an abstract mechanic strictly for game purposes.

    I like how Swords & Wizardry handles a character's backpack (a 'normal' level of miscellaneous equipment) as being 10 pounds. Obviously if a character is carrying 3 crowbars that may not be 'normal'.

    Besides armor and weapons, treasure is weighed at 0.1 pound. So I usually just have the players keep track of Armor, weapon weight and gold plus 10 pounds. Early adventure movement is usually around 9 while late adventure movement is usually 6.

    I'm not too much of a stickler and I let the players keep track of their own resources with dishonestly meaning angry DM gods.