[End Times] Quick Inventory System

johnthedm7000

Social Justice Witch
Validated User
#11
If a choice is easy, then that choice shouldn't really be a significant part of a system. It's like tracking rations in modern D&D: the wealth-by-level guidelines and encounter design encouraged by the system mean that "do I eat or not?" isn't a significant choice. Even at 1st level, in something like 5th edition it's not a choice: characters are rich enough to start with (and strong enough to carry) three weeks worth of food on them, and can pay for a lifestyle that includes regular meals.

I dig the "ammo check" rule. Is there a specific reason why that's not the default? I feel like if you want to drive home the scarcity of the End Times, make sure that your system enforces it rather than relying on GM advice to do so. This is more than just driving home theme too: it also takes the burden of regulating ammo off of the GM, so that they can worry primarily about emulating the world and making it interesting for players characters to survive in. The alternative is second guessing whether any given attack by raiders with AK-47s is going to result in players being inundated with ammo.

I ran into a similar issue during a one-shot of Dungeon Crawl Classics I ran recently, where I had 0-level characters keep track of arrows. I thought to myself "This is going to be a real pain in the ass when characters get to 1st level and start having the money where restocking arrows is just a speedbump." That more or less sums up the ammo problem for me.
 

Marmalade

Bottlecap Joe
Validated User
#12
If a choice is easy, then that choice shouldn't really be a significant part of a system. It's like tracking rations in modern D&D: the wealth-by-level guidelines and encounter design encouraged by the system mean that "do I eat or not?" isn't a significant choice. Even at 1st level, in something like 5th edition it's not a choice: characters are rich enough to start with (and strong enough to carry) three weeks worth of food on them, and can pay for a lifestyle that includes regular meals.

I dig the "ammo check" rule. Is there a specific reason why that's not the default? I feel like if you want to drive home the scarcity of the End Times, make sure that your system enforces it rather than relying on GM advice to do so. This is more than just driving home theme too: it also takes the burden of regulating ammo off of the GM, so that they can worry primarily about emulating the world and making it interesting for players characters to survive in. The alternative is second guessing whether any given attack by raiders with AK-47s is going to result in players being inundated with ammo.

I ran into a similar issue during a one-shot of Dungeon Crawl Classics I ran recently, where I had 0-level characters keep track of arrows. I thought to myself "This is going to be a real pain in the ass when characters get to 1st level and start having the money where restocking arrows is just a speedbump." That more or less sums up the ammo problem for me.
You may be surprised but the groups and GMs who tested the system outside my guidance almost always fall on the standard Ammo Tracking systems, with notable exceptions. The ammo check penalty speeds up game-play, and for many groups that's just what they need. They're heavily focused on role-play and story, and they don't want any traffic getting in the way. However, the random nature of how much ammo you actually end up having is frustrating to many players. They like to know what they have. Part of the reason that End Times has no concrete currency system because items and equipment are currency, they tell you what your character and party can do. A weapon with a cap of 10 can "have" anywhere from 2-effectively infinite ammo at a given time. The ammo counting systems can slow down game-play, but it sparks table discussion and planning more often then not, and I consider that to be game-play. I'm working on the ammo check system to make it better, because I think the people who want it should have a "complete" system that works, but I don't want it to be the standard.

As far as how scarcity is represented in the game I think too many people are afraid of "bad GMs" and design game concepts to make Tabletop RPGs more foolproof, so that someone can still run a fun game in the presence of a not so great GM. A lot of good has come of this, I think anyone who has watched a group of enthusiastic middle schoolers play 5th ED can attest to this, and streamlining isn't a bad word. However, I don't think a mechanic is automatically bad if it relies on a GM being good at what they do, especially if a fleshed out, streamlined alternative exists. At the end of the day it comes down to people, if you're in a bad game you're in a bad game. I'd rather have my stated core mechanic support GMs and give them the resources to make a great game than be cautiously designed for fear of a bad one.
 
Last edited:

johnthedm7000

Social Justice Witch
Validated User
#13
But assuming you have a 6-secondish combat turne number of bullets you fire is going to be an abstraction anyway, right? I mean no one really thinks that with a semi-automatic weapon that you can't empty an entire clip in around 6 seconds? In the same way that nobody's going to argue that you can only stab someone with a knife in six seconds: it's an abstraction, a unit of "I'm trying to kill this guy" time where we roll once to see how it goes because rolling 6 times to stab a guy is maddening when the question at hand is does this guy end up stabbed (and if so, how badly).

I'm also curious to see exactly what manner of table discussions individual ammo tracking led to. It seems like a binary concern: either you have plenty of ammo and it's not a choice or you have very little ammo and there's a choice but not one that is especially interesting unless guns are drastically more lethal than other weapons. You're going to save those bullets for when you need to hit something at range (like a zombie that spreads a horrifying disease or something), and use melee weapons for other combat. Or you're someone who's specialized in ranged combat, and your solution to everything combat related is going to be "I shoot it."

Using an HP system exacerbates these problems, because it means that because you can't meaningfully hamper someone before their HP hits 0 that the best combat strategy is more or less always "pound them into a greasy paste before they do the same to you." Which makes "do I use this bullet" even less of a choice, especially if as you've previously stated characters are fairly fragile. Speaking as someone who's run a great deal of DCC there's nothing like fragile characters to make people fans of "kill it with fire, then kill it again to make sure" as a survival strategy.
 

Marmalade

Bottlecap Joe
Validated User
#14
I think a lot of the issues you are bringing up really do apply to the older version of End Times I was kicking around 4-5 years ago. However End Times does abstract the combat, it's not trying to be a Sim, it just doesn't abstract it down to 1 shot or 1 burst per turn. Melee weapons make 2 attacks and non-automatic weapons are attacking 2-3 times a turn, with automatics being able to make 5-6 (if you're new to End Times, compare this to the previous 7-10 standard and it's pretty clear where Johnthedm's concerns are coming from) attacks if the user chooses, but this is situational. "Gatting out", or firing all the attacks you can with an automatic is infrequent in practice due to recoil penalties, an inability to make all your attacks while moving quickly, and, well, the ammo system. It's a risk reward system as well, since you need to announce all your attacks before rolling, so how many shots do you think you would need to kill that guy and whats the price of failure? Weapons also have gimped capacities to make reloading and weapon swapping a relevant mechanic. I want the game to be in some ways tangible and immersive, but abstraction is still absolutely needed. In a "single attack burst" system, automatic weapons are often neigh indistinguishable from many other weapons, save I suppose for minor stat variations and aesthetics. I want to have a game where weapon and equipment choice are a tangible choice the player makes, and they feel how a player would expect them to feel. Automatic weapons saturate an area with lead, and they should mechanically feel that way, not just being flavored as a burst of fire.

Though ammo is sometimes a binary "have or have not" concern, different ammo represents different capabilities. A party who is decently stocked on their "bread and butter" rifles, pistols, and shotguns has a different toolbox than a party who is dry on most ammo types save for an alarmingly high amount of shotgun and grenade launcher ammo, and will bring different things to the table in terms of options and discussions.

All in all I see the concerns you have but, in the light of an ammo system that already promotes the more streamlined game-play and book-keeping you want, I don't understand your vehemence that is has to be the base mechanic. I'm really not flexing or trying to be defensive, I'm just a bit confused.
 

johnthedm7000

Social Justice Witch
Validated User
#15
All in all I see the concerns you have but, in the light of an ammo system that already promotes the more streamlined game-play and book-keeping you want, I don't understand your vehemence that is has to be the base mechanic. I'm really not flexing or trying to be defensive, I'm just a bit confused.
It's a matter of design: make a game with rules that point towards the sorts of play that you want. I really dig the risk vs. reward theme in character creation, and it jives very well with the game's setting. You want your game's combat to follow that same theme. I'm pointing out that by tracking individual bullets, you dilute the theme of your game by letting players opt out of the risk vs. reward question either because there's way too much ammo and the answer is "of course I'm going to shoot it" or there's way too little and the answer is "of course I'm not going to shoot it". I'm not saying that there aren't edge cases, but for the most part characters are going to end up in one of those two situations. Especially if you provide a lot of tools for characters to specialize in shooting things, the answer is always going to be "yeah, I shoot it-I'm built for it".

The reason why I like the ammo check system is because (beyond being an interesting emulation of what actually happens a lot in firefights between people without military trigger-discipline) it forces the question of risk vs. reward. It doesn't let characters opt out of the question by having 60 rounds stored on their person. Now it's not perfect, as it doesn't directly reward resource management (which I gather is also a priority in your game) but it's a mechanic that has character and that says something cool about firefights: they're chaotic, messy, and sometimes you're not going to quite know whether you fired six shots or seven...so you're asking your opponent: do you feel lucky? Well? Do ya? Punk?

Mechanics that make a statement are (at least in my view) always preferable to those that go *shrug*. With that being said, it's a shame to hide mechanics that do make a statement with mechanics that don't.
 

Marmalade

Bottlecap Joe
Validated User
#16
It's a matter of design: make a game with rules that point towards the sorts of play that you want. I really dig the risk vs. reward theme in character creation, and it jives very well with the game's setting. You want your game's combat to follow that same theme. I'm pointing out that by tracking individual bullets, you dilute the theme of your game by letting players opt out of the risk vs. reward question either because there's way too much ammo and the answer is "of course I'm going to shoot it" or there's way too little and the answer is "of course I'm not going to shoot it". I'm not saying that there aren't edge cases, but for the most part characters are going to end up in one of those two situations. Especially if you provide a lot of tools for characters to specialize in shooting things, the answer is always going to be "yeah, I shoot it-I'm built for it".

The reason why I like the ammo check system is because (beyond being an interesting emulation of what actually happens a lot in firefights between people without military trigger-discipline) it forces the question of risk vs. reward. It doesn't let characters opt out of the question by having 60 rounds stored on their person. Now it's not perfect, as it doesn't directly reward resource management (which I gather is also a priority in your game) but it's a mechanic that has character and that says something cool about firefights: they're chaotic, messy, and sometimes you're not going to quite know whether you fired six shots or seven...so you're asking your opponent: do you feel lucky? Well? Do ya? Punk?

Mechanics that make a statement are (at least in my view) always preferable to those that go *shrug*. With that being said, it's a shame to hide mechanics that do make a statement with mechanics that don't.
Haha I do see your point, the one game I did see it get used did have a lot of good moments liken to the the type of thing your describing. I remember the one party member with an Uzi who thought he was impervious to running out of ammo due to that weapon good ammo check modifier clack dry on the first shot vs an enemy who then almost killed him. However, I still consider ammo counting as the mechanic more native to the system. The binary have or have not situation you describe is less of the norm, even in games I don't run or advise (save for anything GMs read in the book). End Times AKs load ammo from 17 round magazines, not 30, and for example I've never seen someone able to reload with a full magazine for that weapon. Actually, revolvers and weapons with multiple, individually loaded barrels are just about the only End Times weapons with accurate ammo counts,, and the book stresses that "having enough ammo to fully load a firearm that has 10 or more shots twice is a lot of a ammo" (I'm paraphrasing). A GM who doesn't like or doesn't follow that advice will create a game more suited to creating those binary situations but ammo conservation in End Times is usually more like "I'll just fire 3 shots because I'm low on ammo and after that the recoil get's really bad" and less like a question of shoot all out vs hold your fire. In fact, I would argue that the ammo check system is more likely to create that kind of binary choice, but I've only seen it in action once, so that's just my opinion.

On a related note since we're talking about it so much I may put up the "Alternate Ammo Rules" in a post to get feedback. It's not the primary system but I still want it to be good.

P.S.: Your trigger discipline comment uses improper military terminology but I won't correct you because It's perfectly clear what you're talking about. I just want you to know I just made a conscious effort to not be "that guy".
 
Top Bottom