Encumberance and Game Coherence

Nothing says “RPG Dinosaur” like an equipment list.

Back in the old old days, itemised equipment lists were the norm, and were a working component of the game: a component that a lot of us could comfortably ignore, but in many ways given equal priority to levels, hit points and saving throws.

In our modern era of hippy games, there are no equipment lists. Games like Don’t Rest Your Head and Hollowpoint don’t even require equipment per se. DRYH‘s talents are entirely contained within the dice system–it doesn’t matter which power, all that matters is scale. Hollowpoint’s gadgets are a kind of one-use trait–so if it’s not really possible to separate a character from their equipment because it’s a trait, is it really equipment?

In the two decades in between, we have a whole load of games where equipment was sort of implied and sort of not. We didn’t bother tracking how heavy something was, or itemising the contents of a pack. Equipment was relegated to a little box at the very bottom of page two of your character sheet (you know, the page no-one reads).

That’s interesting. A whole part of the game system was deprioritised, despite having a defined game effect. As with most things it started with Vampire, where there was a little space on the sheet for weapons, and nothing else.

When I ran LotFP there was a clash of these two cultures. Some my players didn’t look at the second half of their character sheet; they’d all assumed they had a basic level of equipment (or objects to hand) that would allow them to perform whatever action they chose. Case in point:

GM: he’s drowning in the quicksand.

Player: OK, I’ll throw him a rope.

GM: what rope?

Player: the rope I carry everywhere.

GM: is it on your character sheet? If it isn’t, you don’t have it.

This isn’t the player’s fault. In a modern game, or even a 20 year old game, we’d assume a basic level of fluidity and common sense with carried equipment. But this was an OSR game, and I was being a bit of a prick about it.

In a hippy game the discussion might be:

GM: he’s drowning in the quicksand.

Player: I need to get him out!

GM: what’s your plan?

Player: well, I have my pack with me–it’s got all sorts of stuff in it. Maybe a rope or something.

GM: roll COOL. If you get a success you have the rope and you can help him. Otherwise, find another way.

The hippy game sidesteps this whole issue with a trait-based resource management mechanism. In doing so it also sidesteps the issue of game world economies, but in many cases that doesn’t matter if what you can do is wholly encompassed in your dice pool (or whatever).

Equipment still matters in games like D&D with long times between levels, as it’s the only mechanism the GM has outside x.p. to reward the players or give them an advantage.

Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe

What is kit, and what is just a trait by another name? Kit is anything that forms a transferrable bonus (e.g. someone borrows your armour) or anything that’s essential for the use of a skill (e.g. a lockpick). It’s only worth differentiating as “kit” if you intend to separate it from the original owner.

Games without transferrable/deniable kit can wrap “kit” up with non-transferrable character traits; equipment function is secondary to character ability. It’s a very “story” or “mythic” approach. Everway is an example: in the example fight between Fireson and a couple of ghouls, it’s noted that Fireson is armed with a sword, but it’s nothing more than one nebulous advantage in the fight–the main factors are the Fire and Earth scores of each side and the draw of the Fortune Deck.

It raises the question of whether or not your players actually like mucking around with equipment lists. For the Everway player the weapons, tools and armour of a given character are motifs that project their image into the game, just like habits and speech. D&D however will appeal to players who like to organise/optimise their own resources, accepting penalties if they fail to do so.

Currency

But seriously, who wants to keep track of gold pieces, much less dollars? That’s the problem with games like Vampire: Resources or Wealth is a dotted trait, but the stuff that matters–swords, guns and armour, things with in-game effects–are measured in dollars. Of course you can always apply some kind of conversion but even so, a PC with no dots of Wealth will chose to go naked as long as they can scrape together enough pennies for bullets.

All of this links back to the Currency of the game, and I’m talking GNS Currency with a capital C. If equipment provides an advantage it should be measured on the same scale as all the other traits, or otherwise not measured at all.

If you don’t bother to measure it, then the GM simply decides to allow equipment for all, or prohibit it for all. That’s desirable for several reasons–say your game is in a totalitarian state where firearms are just not allowed, then posession of a prohibited weapon becomes a plot point. Or say you want to up the threat level of that state, so you arm everyone equally. In each case having a weapon stops being the thing that differentiates PCs from NPCs, forcing the group to focus on what does make them different.

Otherwise if you’re going to make players “pay” for equipment, there are a few ways you can achieve this:

1. Set Menu (dietary restrictions apply)

There is no choice. You assume that a flautist has a flute, a mechanic has a monkey wrench and a thief has a mask and a bag with SWAG written on it. Spell foci in Runequest work like this–if you can cast the spell, you’re assumed to have a focus. If they player has the skill, they’ve already paid for the kit.

If you play this way then you remove a lot of the negotiation around “can I have XXX”. However just because you remove the negotiation it doesn’t mean you remove the equipment as a tangiable object, i.e. something that can be taken away. The decision to deprioritise equipment (as in Everway) is a separate choice.

2. All-you-can-eat Buffet

Players sign up to a particular “package” where they can pick out as much stuff as they want up to a certain level of functionality. In Vampire, for example, you could make equipment availability dependent on a certain threshold–wealth, status or rank.

Conspiracy X uses a point-buy approach for resources. In a lot of ways it’s not much different from assuming kit based on skill set, although it’s a shared resource.

Since players will often use the best available equipment–it doesn’t matter how many guns there are in the armoury, they want the big one–there’s no need to break things down into dollars here, either. A point system equates to a certain level of performance in-game and has the same Currency as other performance indicators (skills and whatnot).

3. A la Carte

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p>Players can buy anything they can afford, as long as it’s available to buy (D&D model). This puts the responsibility on the players to plan everything they would need in advance. While that’s unfashionably old-school, it is part of the game that some people like–kit is another PC resource and a factor in winning or losing.

It may seem that this is the most complex approach, but it can absolve the GM of a lot of responsibility. There’s no tiresome negotiation on whether the BFG2000 comes with the Illuminati Orbital Mind Control Laser Package. It’s their money, let them spend it how they want.

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  • Dude – I like your quicksand examples but seriously that isn’t hippy enough…

    I shall demonstrate:

    GM: he’s drowning in the quicksand.

    Player: I need to get him out!

    GM: what’s your plan?

    Player: well, I have my pack with me–it’s got all sorts of stuff in it. Maybe a rope or something.

    All the others players then vote on how likely/dramatic it would be for the narrative that there is in fact a rope in the pack. Taking into account both their desires as characters and their director stance in how they as players want the fiction to unfold. Hopefully at the same time making an important moral decision.

    Or even:

    GM: he’s drowning in the quicksand.

    Player: “try another way”

    Or even

    Player: so I’m walking through this jungle, gee I feel like there should be more drama in this scene.

    Second Player: how about some quicksand?

  • I think there’s a prominently used option 4, which could be labelled “ad hoc”. Whenever someone asks to use equipment, they are assumed to have that equipment, if it would be reasonable for them to be carrying it.

    So, the rope – what are you actually doing when you fall into the quicksand? You’re on the way to a climbing expedition: you obviously have rope. You’re on a walk in the park: you obviously don’t. You’re on the way to a dungeon crawl: we don’t know whether you’d have it, but it’s not unreasonable to assume you would, so you have it.

    I think this approach gets used a lot, maybe not formally in rpg systems but by actual GMs who can’t be bothered to track lengthy equipment lists. It leads to occasional aggro when there’s a mismatch of expectations, but mostly it works ok and saves a lot of admin hassle.

    Finally, I don’t think you necessarily lose the transferability/losability of equipment by making it tied to a stat or otherwise trait-ified. So you have a gadgets stat, cool. That doesn’t change the fact that if you are narrated as having been captured, stripped and tied to a post, you don’t have any equipment now. It doesn’t change the GM’s ability to steal the laser beam you just pulled out of your jacket pocket, and block you rolling again to get a replacement in-scene. (I don’t know if Hollow Point addresses this in its rules, but it is sure as heck how I’d GM it.) Once an item comes into existence through whatever mechanic, it’s manipulatable in the same way as any other item.

    • Look at it another way: having defined equipment lists only solves the problem of “what do I own, and what do I typically carry with me”. As soon as you’re in an atypical situation (ie. not on a mission/dungeon crawl/whatever) it comes straight back to negotiation. You were surprised in bed? Maybe you don’t have that rope after all. You are in a tavern having a drink? Well, where is your backpack right now? Equipment lists were designed for an age when all games took place in a fixed context, classically the dungeon. they work a lot less well when you are operating in a more varied setting, which is perhaps why we ended up with wealth stats and the like.

    • I think there’s a prominently used option 4, which could be labelled “ad hoc”. Whenever someone asks to use equipment, they are assumed to have that equipment, if it would be reasonable for them to be carrying it.

      That’s what options 1 or 2 do, as long as you take situation into account. Only option 3 precludes negotiation, because that’s not part of the game.

      Option 2 has a specific “these are my resources” stat, while Option 1 doesn’t bother with that. In the case of Option 1, any trait which implies a resource is fair game for negotiation.

      

So, the rope – what are you actually doing when you fall into the quicksand? You’re on the way to a climbing expedition: you obviously have rope. You’re on a walk in the park: you obviously don’t. You’re on the way to a dungeon crawl: we don’t know whether you’d have it, but it’s not unreasonable to assume you would, so you have it.

      

I think this approach gets used a lot, maybe not formally in rpg systems but by actual GMs who can’t be bothered to track lengthy equipment lists. It leads to occasional aggro when there’s a mismatch of expectations, but mostly it works ok and saves a lot of admin hassle.

      Avoiding admin hassle and managing expectations at the same time is the point of Options 1 and 2.

      

Finally, I don’t think you necessarily lose the transferability/losability of equipment by making it tied to a stat or otherwise trait-ified.

      You don’t lose it, that’s the nature of the negotiation (in this case, working in the opposite way). However the system starts to get incoherent when you start to lose and gain equipment with in-game effect (e.g. +armour) based on negotiation and totally separate from the system Currency.

      So you have a gadgets stat, cool. That doesn’t change the fact that if you are narrated as having been captured, stripped and tied to a post, you don’t have any equipment now. It doesn’t change the GM’s ability to steal the laser beam you just pulled out of your jacket pocket, and block you rolling again to get a replacement in-scene. (I don’t know if Hollow Point addresses this in its rules, but it is sure as heck how I’d GM it.) Once an item comes into existence through whatever mechanic, it’s manipulatable in the same way as any other item.

      As I said above, Hollowpoint counts gadgets as another kind of Trait. I don’t believe it’s possible to separate a PC from a gadget owing to the way Hollowpoint is played, so Hollowpoint has no “kit” per se. Hollowpoint is Option Zero.

      Also I understand your approach, but some people might consider this to be unfair if you limit the use of a trait based on arbitrary circumstance–which is what you’re doing when you take away trait-based kit.

      Look at it another way: having defined equipment lists only solves the problem of “what do I own, and what do I typically carry with me”. As soon as you’re in an atypical situation (ie. not on a mission/dungeon crawl/whatever) it comes straight back to negotiation.

      Atypical situations are the bread and butter of many rpgs, which is why you have Option 1 if that’s the way you want to play (as most of us do).

      You were surprised in bed? Maybe you don’t have that rope after all. You are in a tavern having a drink? Well, where is your backpack right now? Equipment lists were designed for an age when all games took place in a fixed context, classically the dungeon. they work a lot less well when you are operating in a more varied setting, which is perhaps why we ended up with wealth stats and the like.

      As said above, equipment lists (option 3) are one approach to a coherent system design. It’s out of fashion with a lot of us, but it’s a valid approach. Also, the examples you give show that option 3 is not incompatible with negotiation, just incompatible with equipment springing up from nowhere.

  • Also I understand your approach, but some people might consider this to be unfair if you limit the use of a trait based on arbitrary circumstance–which is what you’re doing when you take away trait-based kit.

    They may do so, but they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if they did. All traits can be limited by the fiction. I can take away your gun, sure. I can put you in a pitch black room so you can’t use your fancy shooting skills. I can tie you up so you can’t use your kung fu. If the fictional situation stops you using something then you can’t use it! Circumstance (hopefully not arbitrary – your gun is gone because you were searched on entry to the building, it’s pitch black because the power just got cut, you’re tied up because your character has a bondage fetish and just got surprised in bed) is the bread and butter of most tabletop roleplaying and I’d be disappointed in any game that failed to reflect it.

    • They may do so, but they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if they did. All traits can be limited by the fiction.

      Now, to play devil’s advocate:

      1/ You say all traits can be limited by fiction–whose fiction are we talking about? I say player agency demands PC traits generate fiction. A GM stance that uses fiction to club the players over the head prioritises GM-led fiction over player-led fiction.

      2/ Furthermore, if “GM fiction” is king, that’s back to the mess of Storyteller games where the GM railroads the players into their set pieces; and part of my point was how badly that era of games handles stuff like equipment, etc.

      3/ The “leg to stand on” depends on the game being run. In most cases we (as in most GMs I know) deal with “unfairness” caused by system deficiency with our judgement, and it works because just about all GMs I know have a strong sense of what is a fair and just way to treat a player, so negotiation works.

      There have been instances where it hasn’t worked, however. Take the example of a long-running live action game where traits are prioritised 1 to 10; some of those traits represented physical capability, some were social, some were magical and some represented tangiable resources. Not all traits were created equal–tangiable resources were much easier to steal or destroy permanently than the other kinds of traits, to the disadvantage of those players who prioritised those traits above others.

      That’s an incoherent design. It’s made up for by the fact that the GMs try hard to be fair to everyone; but with the sheer numbers of players it’s impossible. That’s also where negotiation comes in as a trump card, because someone who can write a creative turnsheet full of flowery prose may be favoured over someone who writes a terse four-line action. It’s a case of systemless negotiation for additional resources with in-game dice effects giving an advantage (or disadvantage) that exceeds the parameters of the orignal character. I’d say that’s a legitimate complaint.

      A tabletop is easier to manage by a fair GM, but the principle doesn’t change.

    • Woah there, nelly. To answer your first question: no, not necessarily the GM’s fiction. You may be strip-searched/blindfolded/tied up (hmmm, I sense a theme here) by the GM but equally it could come about in a GMless game. What matters is that we all accept the fictional situation. If I (as GM, or whoever frankly) say “you are searched as you enter the building”, you are free to say “no way would I let that happen” or perhaps “come off it, it’s a corner shop, are you seriously telling me they have security guards” or “pfft, this game sucks, I’m leaving”. Once you do not do those things, you’ve accepted the situation[*]. It doesn’t matter who narrated it, it would be inconsistent to then ignore its in-fiction effects.

      I’m not saying this is without problems, of course. As you say, fairness can be somewhat nebulous and maybe your game design fails to create the kind of game everyone wants to play (I thought I was the gadget king but then a gadget-eating virus was unleashed in session 1 and now I’m just this guy wearing a nice suit). But there again, the same thing could be said of any way of doing things in any game – maybe instead of the above, the gadgets trait turns out to render all other traits superfluous since you can always get a gadget that will replace any other stat. In essence, it’s always, under any system, possible to run a crap game, and all you (as GM, player, or whoever) can do is plan to avoid it, watch out for it happening and issue course corrections, and learn lessons afterwards.

      I can’t disagree with your last point, that players can often garner in-game advantage through social skill, superior narration, the fact the GM is their girlfriend or whatever. That’s a separate issue though. If the GM says “everyone gets searched on entry to the building; except John, they overlook him because he’s my boyfriend” (or other less blatant example) then everyone is free to call foul. If the GM says this and nobody challenges it then (a) it’s hard to argue that John should not be able to use their gadgets stat and (b) it’s hard to argue that anyone else should.

      Going back to encumbrance, the system has to reflect the needs of the game. Traditional D&D-esque games (a) placed a very high mechanical premium on what kit you are carrying, (b) were intended as tactical resource-managey min-maxey games (or if they weren’t, the designers epically failed in their intentions), and (c) were focused on these largely unvarying dungeon-based scenarios. In that context, encumbrance works, in that it creates the game experience the authors intended. That doesn’t obviate the need to occasionally apply judgement, e.g. because the players are asleep in bed and therefore not carrying their pack.

      To put it another way: system does matter, but it isn’t everything. Or perhaps: everybody’s system includes an element of human judgement.

      [*] Maybe you later go “what? I missed you saying that, no way would I have allowed myself to be searched” – then we have a problem. But for the sake of argument let’s assume you didn’t do that.

    • The point of my post was a commentary on how very old games handled encumbrance one way, new games handle it completely differently, and the ones in between were a compromise and generally did a bad job.

      To put it another way: system does matter, but it isn’t everything.

      I never said that it was. I just said that if you’re going to have things you can measure in a game, measure them all by the same yardstick or don’t bother at all.

      everybody’s system includes an element of human judgement

      As I said above, not true for Hollowpoint or DRYH, at least as far as denial of resources goes. In Hollowpoint I can’t even choose to make things harder as a penalty.

      You’re also implying that D&D encumbrance has no value outside a dungeon crawl; I suggest we then redefine what a dungeon is. Itemised equipment is appropriate for all kinds of survival horror, isolated mission-based games, and in fact any game where the PCs are isolated. That’s a broad scope.

      the system has to reflect the needs of the game

      Yes, I agree. However your “option 4” isn’t a system at all, it’s just a policy. Really you’re saying that, in absence of a structured system, we all just tend to come to some sort of consensus. I agree with that, in fact it supports the case that Vampire’s incoherent middle ground relies on GM judgement and player acceptance over anything else.

    • As I said above, not true for Hollowpoint or DRYH, at least as far as denial of resources goes. In Hollowpoint I can’t even choose to make things harder as a penalty.

      Interesting. Does this mean that it’s impossible to get captured in Hollowpoint (a valid and interesting design choice), that you can get captured but you also miraculously manage to sneak some gadgets with you, being constrained by that situation (valid, but it sounds like Hollowpoint does not do this) , or that being captured can never constrain your ability to produce kit (not exactly invalid, but is beginning to break down any sense that Hollowpoint has a coherent fictional world)?

      You’re also implying that D&D encumbrance has no value outside a dungeon crawl;

      Not at all, just that it was designed for that situation. D&D was never really intended to cover situations outside of “the adventure”, in so far as it can be said to have had a single design intent. Certainly it’s mechanically designed to focus on “the adventure”, not the bits in between.

      Yes, I agree. However your “option 4” isn’t a system at all, it’s just a policy. Really you’re saying that, in absence of a structured system, we all just tend to come to some sort of consensus.

      That depends how you define system. You’ve been using Forge terms a fair bit so I (perhaps incorrectly) assumed you were using their definition of system, which is extremely inclusive. Option 4 isn’t a *mechanical system* but it is a valid way to decide what happens in the game world, which is how the Forge uses the term, rightly IMO.

      Option 4 is slightly more than just consensus; it is saying “when considering whether someone might have something, first look to the situation the character is in, and err on the side of letting them have it”, or something like that. It is very barebones though. I guess my chief point was that it’s the most common method I’ve seen so it seemed a bit odd to omit it, though as you’ve said that your option 1 is essentially the same, I guess you didn’t!

      None of this is intended to critique your post, in case that isn’t clear.

    • I already wrote about Hollowpoint in a previous post this month.

      As for Forge terminology, Currency and Coherence are (moderately) useful terms I like. I neither know nor care how the Forge-ites define System. They certainly use the term Procedure, but I don’t think Option 4 is even that. Option 4 is what you do when you don’t have a defined system to track resources. Nothing wrong with that, as I mentioned some games even deprioritise the managing of “kit”.

      On that subject, now you’ve clarified Option 4 I’m not so keen. Err on the side of the players, but fiction can always deny traits? How does that work? Why not err on the side that doesn’t favour the PCs? That would at least create more drama.

      Anyway, my three options were prefaced with the line about getting the players to “pay” for their stuff, with the in-game currency. Option 1 is a basis for negotiating a variable level of in-game ephemera on the basis of competence, and Option 2 does the same on the basis of an explicit resource trait.

    • On that subject, now you’ve clarified Option 4 I’m not so keen. Err on the side of the players, but fiction can always deny traits? How does that work? Why not err on the side that doesn’t favour the PCs? That would at least create more drama.

      Either would be legit, of course; it just seems to me that in practice if you’re using option 4 you (as you say) have deprioritised tracking kit. Erring on the side of “no” pushes the game in the direction of the players specifying everything they have brought with them, so that you can’t deny it to them later on. If you’re not going to track kit then the players need to trust that this won’t be used against them.

      Incidentally, I think that’s an indication of why the Forge uses the term “system” the way it does; option 4 seems like it should be “systemless” but the simple question of where you err if there’s no strong reason to say yes or no to a character having a particular item is actually an important design choice. By labelling it “systemless”, you elide that choice, and potentially fail to notice its consequences.

      Anyway, my three options were prefaced with the line about getting the players to “pay” for their stuff, with the in-game currency. Option 1 is a basis for negotiating a variable level of in-game ephemera on the basis of competence, and Option 2 does the same on the basis of an explicit resource trait.

      I think option 4 does tend to merge into option 2 a bit, in that “what you might logically have in the current situation” will vary depending on who you are. You’re a security guard? Maybe you have a gun with you even though you’re just on a walk in the park. You’re a college professor? Maybe you don’t have one even though you’re on a mission to infiltrate a military base.

      As you say, it’s certainly true that option 4 is dropping any use of currency or indeed Currency for kit, by definition. Though i have seen it mixed and matched with systems that give you certain defined items. For instance, Amber Diceless allows you to specify an item or items that are yours and would therefore be assumed to be available to you when you need them. Any other item probably uses option 4 (though in practice it’s so easy for an Amberite to get any item they need that it isn’t particularly important to even have the negotiation).

    • I think option 4 does tend to merge into option 2 a bit

      No, it doesn’t, because

      As you say, it’s certainly true that option 4 is dropping any use of currency or indeed Currency for kit, by definition.

      At best, they’re procedurally similar for a given context. They’re systematically different.

      Furthermore Option 2 is granting permission to the players to pick and choose their own (functional, measurable) stuff, and therefore implies a level of player agency. There is no such permission granting in an ad-hoc approach, even if for practical purposes the outcome is the same (because the GM trusts the players, and vice versa).

      Amber Diceless allows you to specify an item or items that are yours and would therefore be assumed to be available to you when you need them.

      Yes, Burning Wheel does a similar thing. I would call that Option 1–specific to character, no foundation trait so based on overall competence (or just style, if kit has no in-game effect).

    • think option 4 does tend to merge into option 2 a bit

      No, it doesn’t, because

      As you say, it’s certainly true that option 4 is dropping any use of currency or indeed Currency for kit, by definition.

      At best, they’re procedurally similar for a given context. They’re systematically different.

      I think I meant option 1 rather than option 2. My bad. The merge is where my flautist has a flute, but does he have sheet music? How about an ipad loaded with e-sheet music? You always get back to negotiation at the margin; like option 4, option 1 relies on a common understanding of what is reasonable for X character to have, but more situational.

      Yes, Burning Wheel does a similar thing. I would call that Option 1–specific to character, no foundation trait so based on overall competence (or just style, if kit has no in-game effect).

      Sort of; Amber requires you to stipulate specific items, which you pay points for, and which you have defined (or if you pay enough, indefinite) amounts of the said item. They aren’t specific to character type, and can be quite complex to define, so it’s more laborious than option 1, albeit you can choose just not to buy any items at all and save yourself the trouble. As I say, it’s a bit of an oddity because there are so many ways to get stuff; if I have Pattern Imprint I can just reach through shadow to get what I need. The difference is that a bought item has a higher level of guarantee attached to it – the GM needs to justify why I can’t have my magic sword on a given occasion, whereas I need to justify how I got it through shadow, each and every time I want it. Which, when you come down to it, is always the difference with pre-specified equipment. If in the quicksand example there happened to be a climbing store a few feet away then I could probably have a rope even if it wasn’t in my equipment list.

    • Amber sounds more like option 3 then, but with no requirement to itemise everything else. It raises a good point–the three options I gave don’t have to be exhaustive beyond the bounds of the game being played, they just have to define resources and kit that matter. Ephemera (no game effect, only a stylistic one) come free anyway.

      You always get back to negotiation at the margin

      Which in turn pushes you towards itemisation of material up front. If a player tried to blag a free ipad mid-game because “of course, that’s where I keep my sheet music” I’d tell them to take a hike: it’s clearly an advantage (for communication and info gathering).

    • Interesting. My natural response would be “sure, have an ipad” simply because anyone above a certain level of wealth can be assumed to have something of that ilk. If they asked for one in a 1990s game I’d be more reluctant. I guess it depends at least in part on the kind of game you’re running; if one character has abilities that are crucial for information search (Call of Cthulhu librarian for ex) then giving someone else a search engine could make them redundant. Then again, in a 21c game the librarian will probably have a high Research skill or whatever, which would make them better with an ipad as well as a library.

      For me it’s not about whether the player can get an advantage (they’ll be getting advantages all the time whenever things happen to go their way), but whether it undermines the challenge in hand. In your quicksand example, the equipment list eliminates an argument, but you were never going to give them a rope anyway, since otherwise why bother with the quicksand encounter? It would be like telling the character the door to his apartment is locked “well I get the key out then”. If the same character had asked for a rope outside the context of a challenge where it was immediately useful, maybe the GM would be more willing to discuss. And indeed, even if the player has a rope on their character sheet it would be valid (if likely to prompt whining) to set up a challenge where they have left their rope in their saddlebag (or whatever) and fall into quicksand. This might be considered a dick move in some games (or indeed, mechanically impossible as per Hollowpoint), but it’s no different from any other challenge; the GM tries to set up something that won’t be straightforward to overcome, because otherwise the game will be dull.

    • In your quicksand example, the equipment list eliminates an argument, but you were never going to give them a rope anyway, since otherwise why bother with the quicksand encounter?

      That’s a straw man. You played in the second iteration of the same game so you’ll remember
      – encounters were randomly generated
      – I intentionally played with the LotFP rules as written.

      Also, when the quicksand encounter happened they’d had at least 2 hours of weird danger, plenty of time to prepare themselves. Fact was, it didn’t occur to some players that resource management was part of the game–because they never looked at the second half of the character sheet, and because it just didn’t fit their definition of “the game”. q.v. the post and this whole discussion.

    • Well, apologies, as I’d forgotten/not noticed (I’m actually not sure which!) that this was referring to a real game. I wasn’t trying to imply anything about your game.

      Out of interest, if they had packed a rope, would you have run the encounter anyway but ended it with a trivially easy success? Or would you have introduced some complicating factor to ensure the encounter had some drama to it?

    • No apology needed. However it’s still a straw man argument, whether or not it’s a real example. I don’t think denying resources on principle to serve drama is a good thing–that’s moving the goalposts. If you did that with non-kit traits you’d have a lot of discontented players.

      Of course it’s valid if your game is all about who can argue the loudest–the players blagging the most extreme favours and the GM trying to adapt and put bigger and bigger obstacles in their way to counter. That’s not how most games are played, though.

      As for the example–they didn’t bring the rope, so they were forced to burn a different resource (or let an innocent perish). Had they thought in advance, they wouldn’t have been penalised.

      The times when I would introduce something new is if the PCs did something to escalate–like following a trail of corrosive slime into a pitch dark forest.

    • I don’t think it *is* moving the goalposts. Sure, if you said “you’re in quicksand” and then when the player pulls his rope, go “uh… you must have left it at home”, then that would be crappy. But if the scene opens with “you have made camp, and it’s late at night; you get up to take a wizz and… quicksand!” – that’s not moving the goalposts. It introduces an element of drama – sure, you have a rope, but will it reach you in time. Ok, it will probably mildly annoy some players that they don’t get to use their rope straight away, but you haven’t taken it away permanently, and they’ll no doubt find uses for it in other situations. (It’s not the best example ever, but it illustrates my point, which is that taking away kit can generate interesting situations, which are the staple of any roleplaying game.)

      As for the trail of slime, *that’s* a strawman. Nobody would ever follow a trail of corrosive slime into a pitch dark forest, especially if one of the party had already been neutralised by said slime, and they definitely wouldn’t split the party to do it. If you’re going to come up with examples, at lest make them realistic.

    • I mostly agree. Your example is introducing some new parameters which change the scenario though–in my examples the threat was fairly well telegraphed, in your example it’s a surprise, and that changes the burden on the players. But I don’t have a problem with your scenario.

      Back OT, the progression from Options 1 through 3 sees the onus shift from the GM (to allow unless they can plausibly forbid ownership) to players (to claim in advancem, or lose their kit). Your point about Amber being a hybrid is useful, since this progression could be a continuum. But where you place your game along that line affects the player-GM relationship which is why it’s interesting and worth talking about.

    • Back OT, the progression from Options 1 through 3 sees the onus shift from the GM (to allow unless they can plausibly forbid ownership) to players (to claim in advancem, or lose their kit).

      In terms of what the character owns, yes; I think the onus remains on the GM to say why the character does not have their item *on this occasion* in all three of your options, which is why option 4 is different. Option 4 puts the onus on the player to say why their character has this item when they need it – what the possess is left undefined until the moment of use. Come to think of it, Hollowpoint and other such “hippy games” similarly leave your equipment undefined until you roll your gagdets stat or whatever (assuming I’m understanding HP correctly). As you say, it has an impact on the player-GM relationship which is interesting; I’d add that it can increase or decrease the cognitive load entailed by the game (option 1 minimises search time because I just have a few specialised items associated with my skillset, while option 3 is potentially burdensome to administer, but reduces the risk of disagreement once in play).