... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tracking Supplies

DaveL raised an objection on the Light post, not because of what I said about the Light spell, but because of a comment I made about the at-will Light cantrip I'm hearing reports about in D&DNext. I said that it didn't bode well; Dave's response was "Seriously? You want to count torches and keep track of how long they've been lit? I guess some people like that sort of thing, but the less crap I have to keep track of at the table, the better I like it..."

Yes, seriously. Not every style of fantasy adventure RPG needs to track torches -- or food, or water, or other resources. But for a dungeoncrawl, I can't imagine not tracking these things, any more than I can imagine hand-waving away the necessity of mapping. The dungeon is, basically, a puzzle; all the players know at first is that it will be dangerous. It will also definitely be dark, and any food or water sources found in the dungeon are untrustworthy. The object of the dungeoncrawl is for the players to survive the dungeon, and careful planning and clever use of resources is the method of survival.

But on to the practical issues. Is tracking torches or other items that big of a problem? It doesn't have to be. There are lots of time tracker aids; I did one specifically to address what I consider to be the bad part about tracking torches: erasing and rewriting numbers. My tracker uses a printed scale along the edge of the sheet. Using paperclips, you can mark the current torch status.

This could be improved, though. Other people have noted that, since a torch burns 6 turns, and six-sided dice are common, there's no reason not to use a d6 to track torch status. What I'm thinking is that I need to redesign the sheet with tracks along the edges (as before,) but these tracks are for oil, torches, food and water. In the center would be several labeled boxes for the current torch or lantern, as well as other common items to track (potion effects, hour of day/night.) When a torch is lit, move a paperclip to show the number of torches remaining, then put a d6 in the Light box with a 1 showing. Each turn, increment the d6. If the d6 is already at 6, the torch burns out on the next turn. For a lantern, use a larger die, depending on how long lanterns burn in your opinion.

It's not really necessary, but it might be nice to have custom d6s with numbers superimposed on flame or water symbols to remind you that they are trackers for torches or potions.


  1. Maybe I come across as being overly critical, I apologize for that, it is not necessarily my intent. I understand that a lot of your posts are mostly thinking aloud about this or that issue, and much of what's discussed doesn't make it to the table. But i do think my threshold for keeping track of stuff is a lot lower than most DM's threshold for that. I'm lazy, what can I say.

  2. No, not too critical. I just figured you were shocked that I'd suggest tracking torches was a Good Thing. So, I explained why I would track torches, and how.

  3. I'm digging the idea of using a paperclip on the side of a character sheet to track the main resources (I would probably do light, food, and ammunition, maybe with one side unlabelled but still graduated, in case the PC had a custom resource to track or a second type of ammunition).

  4. @Brendan: I was thinking of redoing the tracker with multiple tracks, but more as a GM aid than a player aid. Players could use it too, though. It's always good to eliminate erasing stuff.

  5. A GM aid would be nice, but I'm with Brendan on incorporating some kind of supply tracker on the side(s) of a character sheet. That's a "why didn't I think of that before?" idea.

    -Ed Green

    1. I seem to recall that Sorcerer incorporares a damage tracker into the character sheet in the same way. So, it's not unheard of.