Wednesday, January 27, 2016

5e Musings - Simplified Ammo

The tracking of ammunition is very similar to the management of encumbrance in Dungeons & Dragons. They're both rules that should be used do to the effect they'll have on the adventuring lifestyle. However, I can count the number of groups that actually enforce these rules as written on one hand and still have fingers left over.

The most common reason for this is it tends to bog down the actual gameplay with a particularly boring level of bookkeeping, especially in regards to encumbrance.

This inspires people such as myself to attempt to create alternate ways to implement these rules that do away with the negative aspects while maintaining the interesting elements.

Today, I'm going to present a house rule for ammo tracking that's inspired by the Ammo tag from Dungeon World.

Instead of tracking individual pieces of ammunition, players will purchase a specific bundle based upon the weapon being used. Bows use a quiver of arrows, crossbows use a case of bolts, and a sling uses a pouch of bullets. The price of these bundles match the prices for the ammunition listed in the Player's Handbook (pg. 150).

Each bundle has a numeric rating of 3, abstractly representing the amount of ammunition the character has on hand at the time. As long as the bundle has a rating above 0, the character is considered to have ammunition for the appropriate weapon.

Every time the owner of the bundle rolls a natural 1 on an attack roll with the appropriate weapon, she will lower the bundle's rating down by 1. When this rating hits 0, the character has run out of ammunition and must purchase a new bundle.

I believe this rule does a good job at keeping the actual tracking process incredibly simple. All you need to do to see if you have ammo left is look at the rating of your bundle. Furthermore, you only decrease that rating on a critical failure instead of every attack roll means you will not have to worry about it too much during the actual session.

However, there is still an annoying wrinkle that I have yet to iron out: magical ammunition. There's a part of me that wants to air on the side of caution and just keep track of it as normal due to most characters rarely having a large amount of it at a time, but another part of me wants to keep things uniform. Maybe one could have "magical bundles" with a much lower rating to represent the rarity. I'll come back to this when I find a satisfying answer to this situation.