ammo rules from Gamma World

I never played Gamma World. I’m just not a post-apocalyptic guy, I guess. Some people’s inner psyche resonates to a brutal, hopeless desert world filled with mad Maxes. My “quiet place” is a verdant forest, dotted with wildflowers and limpid pools, and it’s being set on fire by orcs.

Although I’m not the Gamma World demographic, I do want to read the Gamma World rulebook. I like reading RPG combat mechanics. I have this 19th-century idea that RPG game rules are steadily progressing towards perfection. (That’s opposed to the classical worldview of old-school bloggers: that every RPG generation is a further-debased descendant of a Golden Age.)

WOTC preview articles have shown ff some of the Gamma World rules. One of my favorite of these mechanics is the rule for ammo use.

Ammunition is a problem in D&D. Do you make all the players count arrows? (Probably not.) Do you let people buy a sheaf of 20 arrows, and let them use that from level 1 to retirement? (Probably.) What about magic arrows? should PCs count them?

The Gamma World rule is this: when you use ammo, you may either try to conserve it or be profligate with it. If you conserve it, you can use it once per encounter. If you’re profligate with it, you can use it as many times as you like during this encounter, but at the end of the encounter, you’ve used it up.

This strikes me as a great way to introduce ammunition-conservation decisions without adding an irritating arrow-counting step to every ranged combatant’s turn. It wouldn’t work with normal arrows, of course: you can’t have a ranger who fires one arrow per encounter. I’d prefer to handwave normal ammunition and use this rule for what it was designed for: limited, powerful resources: a sheaf of magic arrows, perhaps. It could also replace the pre-4e rules for magic items with charges.

There’s an extra benefit of this rule, besides avoiding accounting. In video games as well as D&D, do you know how many times I use magic ammunition/items with charges? ZERO. I hoard. I like a rule that circumvents my hoarding instinct.

8 Responses to “ammo rules from Gamma World”

  1. Dave says:

    Cool idea. I’ve never considered bookkeeping to be one of the fun parts of D&D, so tend to ignore counting mundane ammo. If I want to play a game where counting resources is important I’ll play Settlers of Catan.

    Another approach I heard of that’s similar to this profligate rule was for a FATE-based game, but could easily be used in any system. Basically, you ignore ammo, but if you end up using it a lot in an encounter (or perhaps, it seems reasonable that you were low to begin with) then the GM can give you a temporary aspect called “The final bullet” or “One arrow left”, etc. (this happens mid-scene). You can then use this aspect to make your last shot more accurate (very cinematic, so not for all games) or to give you an edge as you run away.

  2. Neuroglyph says:

    It’s a quandary for sure. I usually DM, but in the few instances where I am a player, I am kinda obsessive about monitoring my resources. I check off every arrow, every ration, heck I even measure out my mount’s food. But when I DM, I rely on my Players to be honest but I don’t worry the small stuff. It just isn’t worth the stress of pushing Players to check off resources, so I just mentally tell myself they picked up all the arrows after the combat, repaired the few that were broken, and move on. Magic ammo I am sticklish with and only hand out a few at a time. I never hand out a quiver full of magic ammo, but instead drop 2-4 into the mix and then add more after they are used up.

  3. paul says:

    I think I decide whether a resource deserves to take center stage. Tracking something means that it takes center stage. Normal arrows don’t usually make the cut; an expendable treasure that I’m excited about might.

    Even if I plan to give center stage to a game element, I find that in actual play, I gloss over a lot of stuff that seems to be messing with pacing.

  4. Rory Rory says:

    There was ONE game I played where arrows actually mattered. I had purchased about 40 of them (I believe) for my ranger in the delightful EQRPG (a roleplaying game based on the Everquest mmorpg). Due to the rapid shot feat and a cool bow I could fire three shots a round, which meant that in a typical combat about 20-30 arrows littered the field. We were tracking these bandits far from any cities or towns. Even using rules for recovering arrows, my supply was dwindling after the first few fights and suddenly arrows become a precious resource. I stooped to breaking out my greatsword and hacking people apart. It was sort of interesting, but not so interesting that I didn’t purchase about 120 arrows at the next town so the problem would never come up again!

  5. fauxcrye says:

    I have to admit I love tracking of resources when it comes to food and ammo. Some of the adventures I run are based on that sort of resource management and I have used it for adventure hooks as well. An encounter with a ghost ship at sea spoils all the food and water supplies, and so forth. Plus we run with rules on limits on amount of quivers you can carry before you affect your movement. The PC’s end up splitting up the quivers for long dungeon crawls. I think it adds a great detail to the adventures and forces ranged martial classes to balance themselves for multiple types of encounters. The ranger in our campaign some times sweats in nervous glee near the end of some runs as his arrow supply dwindles. And keeping track of magical ammo adds more choices to his tactics. Use it now or later? I think game is balanced around resource management. Action Points, Healing Surges, Dailies, and so forth are about being managed during encounters and between extended rests. Otherwise you are removing some of the challenge of the game.

  6. […] Paul beat me to the punch on the new ammo rules. But I will say I really like the abstract mechanic of choosing whether to […]

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