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Archers and arrows - a trope we hang on to


(Typoko) #1

Hi!

Instead of replying in the episode 20 Q&A, i taught i would bring this up as a new topic as it started to feel a bit trolly down there, and there is no need to start to feed the flames. But anyways, the discussion about counting how many bolts Persindgetron has left made me think: Why do we even count the bolts and arrows in 5e?

It's a common trope for games to run with. Everything else is self repairing and maintaining except ammunition. If not maintained with care, no one would have armor or clothes. Weapons would be in horrible condition from fighting rock golems and suits of armor. Then why count the arrows in storytelling sense if everything else doesn't need to be maintained?

Mechanically having few hundred bolts is not an issue in weight and most of the cases not an issue of money. It's just a small thing that people usually don't stack up. Like, no adventurer would leave for a trip that is expected to last few weeks with the amount of arrows that one needs in two fights. Still 20 is the "standard" amount that is given at the start of the game. It's like they aren't even supposed to be counted.

PHB p.146 states that one can recover half of expended ammunition by taking a minute to search the battlefield. This is something that will most of the times be forgotten in normal play and in the case of the CoS show, there are many other things happening and usually asking if you can get the ammunition back is just taking time for nothing. Having to ask for ammunition is something that should be automatic. I feel like there should be a notification from DM if there is no way to get the ammunition back.

IMHO i don't find it fun or adding any benefit for the game when someone runs out of ammunition in a fantasy game. To me counting ammunition feels like that it's something that is usually done for the sake of it.

Why do you guys count ammunition? I would like to know the answer as i can't come up with any.

PS: In my game i don't track ammunition. It's just an extra mechanic that doesn't add any fun to the game. I don't need people going to subtract ammunition from their character sheet mid combat when their focus should be in the combat. I'm also completely sure that i would forget to expect that from players and when trying to force the issue i would have no idea how much they should have.


(Karamor) #2

First adressing your P.S.: How many they can carry is written in the book, no guessing required.

Also, if your players can't make a simple mark each time they shoot an arrow, they can't track their HP either. Edit: I mean, Monks have to track KI, Spellcasters spell slots and fighters maneuvers, if arrows are too much, those players can not be trusted with any of these other things. EDIT END There are more than a few character sheets flying around with an ammunition tracker on them. Mark how many you have and when you reach that mark, you're out. Easy.

Now to the general matter:

How important or unimportant tracking this is depends on game system and type of campaign.

D&D5 has devalued ranged combat so much by introducing free ranged combat through cantrips that making the archer track their ammunition is somewhat cruel. In the times when spellcasters could only shoot by using a spell slot, magic item, or ranged weapon having "unlimited" ammunition was a huge benefit and was rightly limited to the realm of having a magic quiver.

In other systems where ressource management extends to all equipment and/or were ranged combat is more powerful, the choice of when to use that advantage is interesting and adds depth to an archer character. It also balances out with melee fighters whose armor wears down more when the archer has to restock arrows.

I've happily played in campaings that tracked a lot more things than this, too, and it created quite interesting moments. Especially when it was a choice to use up your arrows and not, like in Star Wars, a roll of the dice that says you run out of ammo.

But to be honest, when you're already leaving out ammo, I'd chuck rations right after. It's as tedious to track and has about as few moments where it becomes important apart from "GM introduces ration loss" as "you run out of ammo".


(Karamor) #4

From Adams answer I was kinda guessing it doesn't matter for "this" chracter because of guest status and soon gone anyway.


(Typoko) #6

I run my game on Roll20 so it's a bit more hassle to mark simple things than with pen and paper. Atm i'm not running any pnp games but those that i play in i track my ammunition. I usually keep track of many things on the side of the character sheet. HP is tracked automatically in roll20. :stuck_out_tongue:

From what i have played rations are something that actually can come to be an issue. In places like dungeons it can work as a timer how long the party can go without refilling. Rations also weigh a bit more than ammunition in general. It's also something that is important to the party as whole. I also don't feel like it has to be "GM introduces ration loss" situations. If one is using random encounter tables, many crazy things can happen without planning.

But yeah, in general it's something that isn't an issue and could be done with. To make matters more trivial, the Goodberry spell for druids and rangers or the Outlander background are a thing.


(Typoko) #7

But why would you assume arrows? 5e doesn't require one to maintain their gear in many other aspects. Rations is something that everyone needs to keep in mind but somehow ranged weapons have this special clause that they need to keep track of their ammunition. Is someone assumed to sharpen their blade even when there is whetstone (PHB p. 150) in the item list. Soap?


(corran1189) #9

The whetstone is interesting. I'm looking at that page now, and I think every other item has a description as to its purpose, but the whetstone does not. I wonder if it was meant to be removed and just was missed in the table.


(Unfortunatename) #10

Tight resource management requires a lot of effort from the DM to be relevant. And that means you have to hack the game. Why?

This is because 5E isnt designed to be a resource management game although it thinks it is some of the time.

Imagine a game where managing your food was a core part of you game.
You will need

  • a limited supply of food
  • decisions which drain or refill the food amount (they should generally affect other parts of the game but they dont need to)
  • a limit to the amount of food that you can carry (RAW in 5th you can hold hundreds of rations because you are limited by weight)
  • there needs to be a risk of the resource running out
  • there should be clear rules for managing the resource that are consistent

In 5th edition everyone gets 10 days worth of rations. If you are traveling overland you can cover hundreds of miles on foot and you are going to find a place to buy more unless you end up in a situation designed by the DM to take the resources away from you.

The outlander background 100% invalidates the need for tracking rations and foraging overland. If you wanted food to be an important resource in your game you wouldnt give it to all players if a single one of them makes a character choice. Create water is a cantrip that removes the need to get water (and having no water is what actually fucks you).
So if you want resources to matter and you tell your players it will matter then they can take 1 0thlvl spell and 1 background and then it wont matter. That's fucked up if its a core part of your game.

There are 13 background to choose from in th phb so if players pick different backgrounds at random then 30% of 4 player groups and nearly 40% of 5 player groups would have the outlander anyway. This is INSANE.
(1- ([12*11*10*9]/[13*12*11*10]) & (1- ([12*11*10*9*8]/[13*12*11*10*9])

Think about it like this. COMBAT is a core mechanic. There are no class options that you can take which say "ignore the rules of combat you simply win combat if you are not in a barren wasteland" And if there was people would lose their shit. Instead the rules for combat are detailed and create meaningful choices for the PCs and the DM.

But for resource management everyone starts with more rations than they can reasonably consume and 30-40% of 4-5 player groups win and ignore the rules for food management 90% of the time .

Resource management becomes an issue in an environment you have to spend a lot of time in that you cannot resupply. But nowhere does the game tell you this or explain how to implement it fairly. The game does not provide mechanics of structures that will lead to meaningful choices.

Most DnD bookkeeping is masturbatory and pointless,

Why else would electrum be a thing?

Why the hell would adventurer need to track copper ever when after about level 3 or 4 they can afford any mundane item in the game?


(Utherix) #12

I don't see why tracking arrows matter. Unless they are special arrows, they don't give you any kind of advantage. It's like counting how many swings until your sword becomes dull.

There might be some special case I guess where a player needs to narratively fire many many arrows.


(Unfortunatename) #14

Running out of ammo is a shitty thing to happen to you and tracking ammo is tedious and only matters if you do run out.

Having enough ammo is also trivial. Just carry more quivers or take enemy archers arrows. Encumbrance is a joke. Average combat last for 4 rounds so you can do 9 encounters in a row with only 20 arrows (on average) if you pick arrows up.

Managing arrows isnt interesting. It doesn't involve any meaningful decisions. It does waste time. It can make somebodies character useless because they weren't being pedantic.

Also think about how shitty it would be if everyone had to stop go back to town so snidge can buy 20 arrows and then travel back to the dungeon and it took up a whole session.


(Unfortunatename) #16

It's only important because its punishing.

And the weight of quivers does make it trivial when encumbrance is 15*STR lbs and a quiver weighs 1lb 20 arrows weigh 1lb.
10 lbs of weight is 100 arrows which would last nearly 198 rounds on combat on average (which is 50 combats or 8 "adventuring days") and worth a good 4 levels of xp.
Even with the more restrictive encumbrance rules, 2-6 lbs of weight means you will not have to buy arrows again for maybe in a year in real time.

Its a a bunch of effort to solve a problem that doesn't need to exist.

When it comes to snidge if you look at the tone of the game they are playing and consider that they havent diligently tracked arrows saying "you should have been tracking arrows the whole time i guess you are fucked" could derail everything and would need to serve a purpose.

As i said earlier, if you want resources to matter you need to hack the game.


(Unfortunatename) #18

Carrying Capacity: Your carrying capacity is your Strength score multiplied by 15. This is the weight (in pounds) that you can carry, which is high enough that most characters don't usually have to worry about it.

You are intentionally supposed to not have to give a shit about encumbrance

So any resource limited by how much you can carry is redundant because you can easily carry more than you ever need.


(Unfortunatename) #19

The Tone of the game is very important. It informs players expectations. If DM and the player are very clear that they need to be keeping track of stuff and the player doesn't, then the DM can enforce the rule.

But pulling out rules that players were unaware of, that would have affected their decision making is horseshit unless the person bought in to you doing that to them.

Suddenly deciding to apply a rule you have been to lazy to follow is also bullshit.

If you are not being consistent with a rule when you apply it against the PC's it comes off as unfair and undermines your job (which is to be consistent). Once you start handwaving things you need to warn people before you decide you aren't going to be handwaving next time.


(Typoko) #21

Jabba is extremely set on following rules if they are written in the book and he clearly can't see the correlation of needing to maintain the gear in any other form is essentially the same as counting ammunition. The reason why whetstones aren't important is the fact that there are no rules for them to be used and not the fact that they are in the game. This is because swords never break or dull. They don't do that as there are no rules for it.

There is no reasoning that can go trough to someone when they just go "No, i'm right because i'm right." No need to feed the flames and just let him have his opinion if he doesn't want to participate in the conversation.


(Unfortunatename) #22

Some rules are best left in the garbage. I think when you introduce a player to the game you have to have priorities and that is more or less why this happened (and how tracking pointless crap works in a game).

btw if you have time (god knows i fucking do) this is a relevant and interesting piece which concerns resource management.


(Karamor) #23

Hmm. Sudden surprise here we go.


(Karamor) #24

As currently they can not just go back to town and are in fact only using looted ammo, we could have that rare scenario where it would matter.

Personally, I'd say they probably loot enough so it doesn't matter, but it is a scenario where the DM could very well put them in a spot where running out was possible.


(AdamKoebel) #25

The thing is that it is an impossible thing to measure now. Maybe I'll just ask at the start of the next session how many crossbow bolts he has and if he can't answer, i'll say "cool, well, you're out."


(Karamor) #26

But both of those scenarios, suddenly telling him in fight, or at the start of the show, are a bit unfair to Sean, too.

Ammo tracking wasn't really a thing up to now and no one, neither you nor him, has established any ammo count, so how should he know?

Edit: If you wanted to establish a count, I'd say, Quiver's 20, so I'd probably have him roll 2d10. He's obviously not out yet, but might be surprisingly low on ammo.


(AdamKoebel) #28

If someone did, I'd love to know what it was, so we could just use that.


(Kol_Saresk) #30

They haven't counted the whole show, what's the point of worrying about it now?