Friday, February 6, 2009

Policing Their Crap


I have not, as determined, set about creating a series of cards for my player’s equipment until just this last week. I’ve been busy, I’ve been lazy…and I’ve known since the beginning that it was going to be a huge hassle. But this week, I’ve started. With tomorrow night’s running I will begin the process. And it isn’t going to be pretty.

My party has been very supportive of the idea—which I admit has been the inspiration to finally start the change. In a lot of ways it will make it easier for them, as they won’t have to keep lists or make changes, but merely hand over the appropriate cards/items when eating food or firing missiles. I can see, however, from my first efforts at creating the cards that I’m going to like it too. But let me first explain:

Due to the expense, I am printing the cards myself on heavy stock and using a paper cutter to cut them. There are hundreds of cards involved and that is too many to handwrite; plus, having them professionally done so that they’re pretty is just out of my income range. So, the cards will be a bit rough but also replaceable and practical.

For coins, I’m making cards marked 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10000…for copper, silver and gold. I can see that the cards will make it much easier if I ever decide to create a system based upon multiple monetary units, a nightmare for the party but deliriously fun for me. I would love to have the party fucked by having thousands of g.p. which they can’t spend because the country they’re in won’t accept their money or worse, will only accept it at half value. This is very possible when you consider that a poorer country’s gold coins might contain a far smaller percentage of gold than a richer country’s.

But then, there is the question, will a “gold coin” that contains 40% gold provide more X.P. than a “gold coin” that contains 20% gold? No idea. I haven’t tried to install national coinage into my world since the campaign I had in the late 80s, and it was a complete disaster due to the confusion. I had no program then that would help me print cards and the paperwork was horrendous.

But cards which would read, “20 silver dinars” as opposed to “20 silver rubles” would be easy to manage, if annoying in their having to be exchanged by the local usurer. So in a year or two I might give that a try.

Meanwhile, regarding the party’s present equipment.

What is it with players? They’ve written out lists of the equipment they have, and I’ve made the mistake of accepting them at the end of the running and not looking them over while we were playing. Of five players, two are carrying no food. One has not included her weapons or her armor. Two has no clothing at all and three have no boots or footwear of any kind. One has a ton of stuff but no backpack. Of the party, one player has bothered to include their mount, or anything on their mount. There are other things. But they’ve all carefully remembered their money and their gems/jewelry.

It would be easy to be an asshole in this situation. Only I know that these things were purchased, as I harassed them to do so at various times more than a year ago. And I can guess what’s happened. I expect my players to be responsible for their characters, and of course these get forgotten at home or misplaced or whatever. Most players in my world have five or six pages covering their junk, various notes about their past and associates, their spells, henchmen, hirelings, land and so on. And since players never seem capable of simply keeping this all in a folder that is never opened outside of the game; or they copy it into computers without backing up the information; inevitably, stuff disappears.

As tempting as it would be to make them pay for everything again, I would rather piece together what we can both remember and establish a baseline of equipment we know the player must possess. And then price the remainder and fix the mess.

Meanwhile, remembering that the card system is being designed to get rid of this nightmare. I’ll be an asshole then—in the meantime I’ll consider this their last warning. And I will tell them so.

I don’t know if you’re the sort of DM who checks their parties’ equipment. Sometimes it seems that a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy seems best, though in the long run that will bite both you and your players in the ass.

Sure, I know no one wants to be the “boss” checking over their player’s shoulders, but some degree of policing is involved in the game. If you haven’t for a couple of months, you ought to consider setting aside a little time in your game and making sure that everything is straight and clear regarding their equipment, carrying capacity of items, overall encumbrance and logic—I seem to have players with equipment which does not actually exist on my equipment table (which consists of about 1,200 items). I have no idea how that was possible, given that when I invent something new I always add it to the table automatically.

Anyway, as I said, Saturday night is going to be an unhappy affair. But we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, enjoy this:


Carl said...

Ah, the Dreaded Audit.

I used to do this every few sessions. "Let me see your sheet," produced catcalls in our group for a while. I got tired of it. I felt more like a dick than a DM. I'd have to correct player's math, rule misunderstandings, experience point discrepancies (often NOT in their favor), and other sundry horseshit. I hated it, and I gave up. "Fuck it. It's supposed to be fun."

When I read about your cards and tokens set up, I couldn't wait to try it out because I saw it as a way to 1) make inventory fun, and 2) reduce the need for auditing. The first thing I did was hand everyone a yellow index card, "This is your backpack. Write down all your stuff. Any stuff not written down is not in your backpack." Next I handed them a pink index card, "This is you. Write down anything that you have on your person." Finally, I layed the smack down, "Anything not in your backpack or on your person doesn't exist. I no longer care what you have written down on your sheet. Character sheets are for game-specific stats and to help you execute more efficiently in combat and skill use. These two cards are all that matters in terms of your gear, so don't lose them."

From there we moved on to consumables: food, water, ammo, oil, spells and potions. I gave each player tokens to represent these things in the amount they carried. They placed these tokens on the table in plain sight of me and everyone else. When a day was over, I took food and water tokens. As players used arrows or bolts, I took ammo tokens. It was marvelous.

I felt much better doing things this way. Everything was out in the open. Everyone was proud of their carefully-chosen equipment, their daily spell allotment, their extra water and food. And I didn't have to audit any more.

Anonymous said...

Heh... I don't even check their character sheets. For anything. I figure that part of the game is for them. If they wanna be sloppy or cheat, what do I care? I'm here to play the monsters, not to police the players. :D