Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ammunition Tracking It Isn't very hard

For some really weird reason ammunition use and tracking has generated a lot of attention and subsystems over the years. I suspect part of it is from folks coming over from skirmish level wargaming... i.e. Warhammer where ammo tracking is based on dice rolls because tracking the precise ammo use of 10-100 different guys would be a pain in the butt. Others claim keeping track of individual arrows flies in the face of the abstract nature of D&D combat which is nonsense an arrow in your opponent isn't abstract, there is nothing abstract in the discrete capacity to harm a foe 100-600 feet away at one chance per arrow. It's gotta be a new thing because I don't recall bumping into the issue in the 20th century.

Here how I track ammo when there is no spaces for it on a character or equipment sheets:

Quiver (20)
 I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I

I cross one off as a I shoot, If I can reclaim it or get a new arrow I put another little line at the end. It works every time, no fiddly rules to worry about.

Why get more complicated?


  1. You are hiding a lot of the complexity of dealing with individual arrows in "If I can reclaim it". How exactly does the DM decide if an arrow breaks or doesn't? How long after every battle are we going to spend messing about with rolls and such on something that is often handwaved in the literature?

    1. You get a turn (a full 10 minute dungeon exploration turn). Don't spend the turn you get no arrows back. You only get half the arrows back in any case. Run away and come back later, you'll only ever find one stray arrow, samee thing for running battles in the outdoors (brush and grass seems to eat stray arrows, I lost two of my brother-in-laws arrows this week). No roll actually required. If you want to link it to a dice roll use the hit roll on an even roll the arrow is recoverable, on an odd roll it's lost or breaks.

      There's a lot of things assumed in the game that are hand waved. No one ever seems to worry about sharpening their blades, or stitching up their surely ripped up clothes, bathroom breaks never seem to happen. Even looting the dead is pretty quick and effectively hand waved in many a campaign. There's a point where rules for simulation isn't adding a thing to the play experience.

    2. Those are pretty good suggestions. As with most adventure game rules, I think it is the challenge of trying to balance verisimilitude, player choice, bookkeeping and general rule complexity. It is all complicated by the fact that even the simplest, most abstract rules, if you get enough of them, can make for a system tough for newbies to learn.

  2. I think one argument follows this path: 1. Arrow strikes are like melee blows. 2. Melee blows per turn are abstract and of variable number. 3. Consistency in this sort of thing is important (for some reason), therefore 4. The number of arrows shot per turn should be abstract and of variable number.

    Of course I would reject 3. Arrow shots are simply different from melee blows in this sense. "An arrow in your opponent isn't abstract." That just nails it (so to speak) I think.

    As you hint, there's no evidence that Gygax, Arneson or anyone else at the time considered this "problem". The very fact that the NUMBER of arrows in a quiver was explicitly mentioned in the original Equipment List is pretty good evidence against the "abstract" viewpoint. And then there are Manticoras with their numbered tail spikes and other similar supporting examples.

    1. The way I tend to think of it is that much of the time where you would swing with a melee weapon to try and batter your way through a defence, you simply don't have a shot with a ranged weapon. This is a good reason to reject #3.

  3. One thing I often use for tracking anything where you have a constantly varying value is to use physical counters, (chits, beads, M&Ms, etc.). If you think tracking arrows is bad, consider Stun and End in Hero which both constantly go up and down in a fight.

    One thing counters also gives you is an easy way to track how many you have fired in this fight for trying to recover arrows afterwards. This works really well if you have buckets of D6s because you play games like Hero or Titan. Searching for arrows after the fight? Roll them bones, keep the ones that come up 1-3, (or 1-2 for the fight next to the cliff).