Friday, 6 November 2015

Easy Rule for Broken Arrows

Among the logistics of adventure gaming that I currently handwave is the depletion of arrows and other missile ammo. In practice it's too tedious, forgettable, and character-sheet-messy to cross off every arrow (and pick them up again).

So, if there is a thing that people are supposed to do, and they don't do it, and you think it adds to the play of the game, it's on you as the rules hacker/designer to make it easy. I think as long as people are buying arrows in lots of 12 or 20 they should pay attention to depletion. But until now I haven't come up with an easy rule that makes some kind of sense.

So happy, sucking up all your ammo.
Here it is:

1. If an arrow or crossbow bolt does damage but does not kill its target, cross it off; in effect it gets stuck in there and broken off by the still-alive creature. Sling bullets are hardier, so do not suffer this fate.
2. If the party flees the scene of a combat without time to rest and pick up missiles, anyone who shot missiles crosses off two if the fight was short, five if the fight was long, and more for epic fights. If a player thinks this is too many, they are free to keep track of their missiles one by one.

If your players are marking down TWELVE ARROWS or TWENTY ARROWS IN QUIVER, they can just cross off letters from those phrases as ammo gets depleted. Same goes for TWENTY BULLETS IN POUCH and TWENTY QUARRELS IN CASE.


13 comments:

  1. I've never understood why so many people have an issue keeping track of ammo. Just put the total in parentheses and use tally marks for every arrow fired (also works for wand charges); don't worry about erasing until later. That seems far simpler and more intuitive than most alternatives I've seen

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    1. I'm with you, I don;t understand the difficulty and need for rules more complicated than a tally.

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  2. As a DM I've always used hits are recoverable and misses are not. As a player I draw ink boxes for each possible projectile and cross them off as they're fired / lost. But I think I'm also usually the only player tracking ammunition.

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  3. I've also seen "you can recover half the arrows fired" as a nice rule of thumb, if you can spare the time post-fight.

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    1. I just roll a dice roughly equalling the number of shots (4, 6, 8, 10 ), but the player has to notify that he does actually try to recover his arrows.

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  4. That's a clever way to keep count.

    I also use "half of shots are recoverable" IF the player bothers to ask.

    Of course, if we accept D&D combat as abstract (not every d20 roll represents a single sword stroke), why shouldn't the same apply to missile fire? Perhaps a single roll represents as many as three or four actual shots. That being the case, you could simply roll d12 after a battle to determine arrows remaining ... or even use an "ammo check" for a truly lazy approach--an attack roll of 1-3 indicates "low ammo" and a second without resupply means you're out.

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    1. Why aren't missiles abstract? Becasue missile attacks aren't an abstract element that can be expressed in a multitude of ways that express ever deepening complexities, they are a discrete opportunity to attack while (seemingly) not exposing the attacker to immediate counter attacks due to proximity to the target, they are different beast from the melee attack.

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  5. I don't ask my players to count (and I never count for monsters using ranged weapons either), and the "get-half-back" rule tends to make my players waste shots just because they're on an even number.

    Instead I rule that on fumbles (1s) there is a 50% chance to snap a bow string (or equivalent), and a 50% chance to be out of missiles. If they get the "out of ammo" fumble, they are welcome to start running around the battlefield to where they shot arrows before and try to reuse them.

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  6. I'm with Matthew, sort of. On a fumble, cross out ten arrows (unless it's the first round, in which case the bowstring snaps). If you want to make sure you won't run out of arrows, just bring several quivers -- I do keep track of encumbrance, though with the brilliant super-easy Lamentations of the Flame Princess method.

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  7. When I play I use a scrap sheet to track HP and Ammo. At the end of the session I update the permanent record. Not sure why tracking Ammo is considered hard but everyone tracks HP.

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  8. How peculiar I had never noticed the number of letter in the that phrase! Neat.

    Personally I have two modes of gaming.

    1. I just keep track of each arrow, one by one.
    2. On a fumble, you are out of arrows and need to restock next time you're in town.

    Recovering arrows I just ignore.

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  9. Oh, and because it needs to be said:

    "I'm not sure which is worse, that we lost ammunition, or that it happens so often there's actually a term for it!"

    (With not-too-many apologies to Giles, from the so-bad-it's-good Broken Arrow movie)

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