Friday, February 26, 2010

SoG: Encumberance?

Okay, so I'm listening to the latest "Roll For Initiative" podcast, and they're discussing the topic of "Encumbrance" and how cumbersome it is.

...Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Now here in "less crunch land", the first reaction of many of us might be to blow off encumbrance entirely. In fact, most of us old-school AD&D'ers usually did blow it off, or at least not mess with encumbrance too much until a PC pushed it too far. ("Really? You're carrying 3 halberds?")

However the excellent point was made that by blowing off Encumbrance you also miss out on a lot of story-related opportunities:

  • "How are we gonna get all this treasure out?"
  • "They're gaining on us! Drop the treasure!"
  • "I don't have to outrun them--I just have to outrun you..."
  • "How are we supposed to fight carrying these sacks of gold?"
  • "I left my plate armor behind so I could carry more, see? Smart, huh?"
  • "Who knew priceless tapestries were so heavy?"
  • "That pit looks awfully wide..."

...and so on.

Given my goal for the SoG implementation is supposed to provide the gaming group the feel that they've been old-school gaming in Greyhawk while still using the awesomeness of FATE, I'm electing to attempt Encumbrance of SOME sort.

So, how might this be accomplished in FATE?

My first reaction is to look at what usually happened at the gaming table. Quoting myself, "...not mess with encumbrance too much until a PC pushed it too far."

So that says to me: Aspects.

I am thinking about doing some sort of GM-discretion maneuver test, where the player might try to get creative (especially with judicious use of stunts):

  • Might (the obvious answer--just schlepping it)
  • Resources (I just happen to have this scroll with "Tenser's Floating Disc" handy...)
  • Empathy (con someone else into carrying it)
  • Craft (MacGyvering some kind of travois or some such)

...and so on.

The GM could elect to do the maneuver against each individual PC.

However, I'm thinking it might be more fun for everyone (PCs and GM) to consider the maneuver as a test against the party as a whole. Or stated more mechanically: do a maneuver test against a single PC and the rest of the party tries to help that PC's skill. So this way they cooperate, divvy up and work together to figure out how they're going to get the booty out of the dungeon.

With respect to the description of any Aspects applied, and having them be of "BAM!" caliber, I think the GM should also take the DESCRIPTION of the treasure into account: Gold pieces versus copper pieces versus gems versus priceless sofa cushions. In other words, it's not just weight that needs to be considered.

Sandbox Example:
If a party is presented with a treasure of "Epic" weight (+7), and the designated PC (Dwarf fighter) for the Manuever test has a Might of +3...

...the Gnome Thief in the party decides to use his Craft skill (+2) to complement the Dwarf's Might and helps find a way to jerry-rig the load (considered a complementing skill, so it's good for +1 even though it's less than the +3 Might?)

...the Human Fighter in the party might pitch in with carrying treasure too, electing to use his Might at +2 as an additional complement of +1 to the Dwarf?

...Additionally if the Dwarf and Human decided to discard their armor (both have "Heavy" Armor), what would that be worth? Noodling it around as a GM, if the party offered to strip off their armor and leave it there, I would be inclined to offer at least an additional +1.

That would put the Dwarf's Might effectively at +3+1+1+1 = +6 (Fantastic).

So the impact of this would then depend upon the nature of the treasure:

  • If the treasure was "splittable" (eg., piles of coins), they could elect to carry most of the treasure equal to the party's +6, meaning they would have to leave some behind and now have a +6 (Fantastic) treasure to their names, without having to incur an Aspect (though the fighters wouldn't have their armor).
  • Given that same splittable treasure, the party might get greedy and try to carry the whole thing out anyway, and they'd be assessed an Aspect of something like "Can barely stay upright" or something along those lines.
  • If the treasure wasn't splittable (eg., Heward's Mystic Refrigerator) they would likely also have the same scenario above where they take the Aspect, or just leave it there.

Some Other Thoughts:
  • For purposes of lifting heavy stuff, could you also consider the members of the party without the Might skill as "minions"? That way, 2-3 minions would be good for +1, 4-6 minions = +2, etc. Currently I think so, because here's another compelling reason to go old-school about bringing henchmen into the dungeon with you. However this would also mean that the "Can barely stay upright" Aspect would apply to them, too. The more I think about this one, the more I like it.
    Cross reference: 1,000's of people working together to move the enormous blocks to make the pyramids. :)

  • Though it wasn't explicitly stated above, I personally don't consider this a "roll the dice" opportunity. You can either lift it, or you can't. I don't see where randomness is required in this situation.
  • Would you think it's too crunchy if the GM might then consider an Endurance test in subsequent scenes to see about exhaustion, or even consider payment in Physical stress boxes or even a Consequence?

  • Fate Points. According to SotC RAW, the Might and/or Endurance skill are eligible for using a Fate point to get a +2 push, I'd probably at minimum continue to assess that cost on a per-scene basis. But I'm not entirely sold on this.

  • One thing I glossed over in the "splittable treasure" writeup, was the question of how to divide ladder ratings. In other words, does 1 Fantastic (+6) treasure divide into 2 Good (+3) treasures? I haven't done enough research to determine if the ratings are linear or not, but I currently think it does not. Anyone got anything more definitive on that?
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