Assets in games are not something that I think about as often as I probably should. This comes from a life time of free form RPing over strict abeyance to any sort of ruleset governing multiple assets. Or, when I was active in 3.x, I was used to light being ignored, arrows merely being a suggested number that may or may not be ticked down, encumbrance being a suggestion than a rule half the time, rations ignored completely etc. However as I’ve spent more time with old school style games, I’ve come to appreciate more and more the importance of these aspects of play. Veins of the Earth was probably the first time where the importance of tracking light sources was really driven home for me. What I had first just thought to be a chore of the simulation, instead became a major source of drive that profoundly affected play style. So here I’m going to go over a few assets and how I use them now or plan on using them. I’ve absorbed much of this through a sort of osmosis and barely any of this is unique to me, so I apologize if something here was originally your idea and I’ve not credited you. I’d love to hear your alternatives in the comments too!
As I walked further from storygames and Adventure Paths, I found myself bringing more and more folks down into the bowels of the earth. Though I’ve yet to get up the nerve to try to actually delve into the Veins, I have been digging ever deeper into increasingly dark dungeons. As such light has become a much more important asset for me and my players. The method I currently use for this is through a Light Depletion Die, which I believe is pretty standard for a number of old school DMs. The Light Bearer keeps a die on hand that represents the life span of their light source. Stronger light sources have bigger dice. For each hour that the light source burns through fuel that isn’t replenished, the die ticks down a notch until it degrades into the next type of die. Whenever something happens that might threaten the integrity of the lightsource (a stiff breeze, the light bearer being knocked about etc.) the Light Die is rolled. If it rolls less than half of the total left on that die, it automatically degrades to the next lowest die. A d4 Light Die goes completely out when a 1-2 is rolled. Generally speaking I have a candle as a d4, a torch as a d8, a full lantern as a d12. A magical source of light might be a d20 or above, but my players have not encountered something like that yet.
So I’ve not always been good about tracking rations, but rations have always been something interesting to me. I’m something of a closet foodie so anything related to something edible immediately grabs my attention. Skerple’s Monster Menu-All and Dungeon Meshi have especially driven this home for me (even though I had long in the works been working on a food themed dungeon). With my current use of GLOG, rations have been vaulted further into a place of importance as they are the only reliable source of healing for the system.
Players have access to two sorts of rations. The first is simple iron rations, it will fill your belly but it won’t be an experience. I still enjoy encouraging my players to envision these as culturally appropriate. A dwarf’s iron rations might be a piece of hardtack, an especially dense and salty cheese, and a mole sausage. An elf’s might be dried fruit and a dense honeycake. Etc. This is especially fun for weirder races and I enjoy seeing what players might come up with. My wife plays a Really Good Dog in my home campaign and her Rations are made up of dead opossums. Regardless, rations of this sort are simply counted and checked off from the inventory as they are used up, something that can easily just be bought and replaced at the next town.
The second sort are foraged rations. These are Ingredients obtained from picking mushrooms, gathering berries, slicing steaks off of a giant lizard etc. I usually have to make a call at the moment to decide how many of an ingredient takes up an inventory slot, but each unique ingredient takes up its own slot generally. These can be prepared alone or together to produce a variety of effects depending upon the materials used and the method used to prepare them. More times than not, it is simply slightly improved healing, but on occasion I can pull out the Monster Menu-all or Jame’s Dungeon Masterchef Rules to make the whole experience a little more interesting. While my players have not taken fully to the complexity of James’ system, they have been less disappointed when a monster doesn’t drop gold since they can always eat it instead.
This is probably my favorite change over in assets, coming into GLOG from 3.x. Wizards have a number of d6 Magic Die equal to their class level/template (up to 4) which represent their magical power for the day. Whenever a spell is cast, they invest however many magic die they like. Higher rolled on the die, the more powerful that individual spell is. However when the die is higher than 3, the power of the die burns out for the day. Thus magic tends to go between weaker but repeatable or powerful but single use. This is of course in addition to rolling doubles or triples resulting in Mishaps and Dooms. I’ve really enjoyed this method (and the limited spell lists) as it has made the use of magic something that my players weight more heavily before using. Since they do not have a dozen different spells, they need to be creative in their uses of each spell obtained and they need to decide how the investment of a spell will affect the rest of their day. For a lot of my players (who are new entirely or come from Pathfinder) this has resulted in a significant increase in lateral thinking when applying magic to solve a task. It has also resulted in one player looking something like a wickerman as they have hoarded wands for just-in-case situations.
Potions and Scrolls are also assets that have become more interesting. I use Arnold K’s method of potion identification. Without a big fancy alchemical laboratory, the players can only guess at what a potion does by testing it with their senses. What was it look, smell, feel, and taste like. I’ve not had anyone try to listen to a potion yet, but that might be viable too. Since potions run the gambit of possible effects, among the least common of which is healing, they’ve become something of a special entertainment all on their own for the players. I had one player find a potion of Iron Skin and use it to turn into X-Men’s Colossus for a minute to wreck a room full of traps. Scrolls are like little derringers, easy to use and cast aside in the heat of the moment. Non-wizards can use them but they burn them up upon use. Wizards, with their Book-Casting, can reuse them if they are careful. This has made keeping track of the scrolls and interesting decision between players as they decide if a situation warrants burning one or waiting on the caster and has allowed for some fun coordinated efforts.
Things like arrows or sling stones are a chore to just tick away at so I’ve taken to using Arnold K’s Triple X Depletion system for these. Every time non-magical ammo is used in combat, flip a coin or roll a d6. Evens/Heads your ammo doesn’t deplete, Odds/Tails your ammo depletes. A single inventory slot of ammo can deplete 3 times before it needs to be replaced.
Hirelings are a special asset as they can act upon other assets on their own and require assets for upkeep. I think hirelings and camp followers are really neat, BUT I have not personally run a game where players have actually used hirelings until like literally the last session I’ve played and it is an extremely smelly, cowardly horse-whisperer. I will update how that goes at some point…
GP=XP is something I’ve really come to appreciate and I’m excited about how my new to OSR players will handle it. Thus far they’ve been significantly more willing to take chances for treasure while also being less willing to dive into direct conflict. The fact that they need to choose between leveling and upgrading/replacing gear is also a very interesting dynamic and has helped them to realize that there are multiple paths towards improvement beyond the limited direct leveling (since GLOG goes to 4 before increasingly reduced returns.)
I know that many other folks in the OSR and elsewhere are a lot deeper into the meta and the mechanics of much of this, but I’m a lowly goblin that primarily vomits d100 tables and sees where they go. Hopefully as my games are more consistent, I will develop a deeper and fuller understanding of these Assets and maybe one of these days give something that is a more profound contribution. It was kinda nice to type this all out and sort my perceptions and ideas though.