Friday, July 7, 2017

Tracking Ammunition STINKS!

Tracking arrows and other ammunition in a RPG stinks.  Your paper gets all messed up with little tick marks, and besides, people will sometimes just stop doing it because it's such a drag.

In a one-minute combat round like the ones in the very oldest versions of D&D and CHAINMAIL*, an archer or slinger will probably take many shots.  He will only get in one telling blow, like a melee guy does, but who knows how many arrows that takes?  Therefore tracking individual arrows makes little sense.

For these reasons, we should look for a system that feels good but doesn't require granular arrow tracking.

What we could do is this: buy arrows by the "bundle" rather than by twenties.  A bundle is whatever you can jam into a quiver.  So one quiver holds one "bundle," which is the new unit of measuring ammunition.  Same for a bolt case or a handful or rocks, but we can call it a quiver for consistency's sake.

Then we can say you will have enough arrows to use for the next instance of combat.  But after that instance, roll 1d6.  On a 1, you have run out of arrows!  That quiver is empty.

If you have some ability that allows you to fire off two arrows in a round, (the Haste spell, for instance, or if you are a Royal Archer), then you are out on a 1-2 on 1d6.

The exception to this rule is for magic ammunition.  Magic arrows and so forth are always individual entities and must be tracked individually, even if you have a quiver full of them.

This is a pretty swingy rule and some people might not like this level of abstraction.  But I think it is analogous to rolling Hit Point damage from a sword swing or a Saving Throw or even generating a treasure hoard.  So if you like those things, you might like this too.

Some people might find a 1-in-6 chance of running out of arrows after his first instance of combat to be too harsh.  If you like, you could make it a 1d8, 1d10, or 1d12 roll instead.

This system can also be used for other resources that might run out, such as bandages, a crumbly old holy relic, or lock picks.  The possibilities are interesting!

What do you think of this rule?


  1. Nice rule!
    Dungeon World (which uses a resolution system somehow inherited by Chainmal's magic system) is a good teacher as well:
    - a quiver has a "ammo" attribute (a number)
    - each time you do a near shot (rolling 7-9 with 2d6 in Dungeon World) you can take the option of reduce ammo.

    I use a similar rule for general adventuring equipment (taken always from Dungeon World): you buy a general set with a given number of uses and not each item singularly, you decrease that number each time you draw one item from that set.

    1. Oh that's wonderful! What a wonderful rule and thank you for sharing it here.