Counting Rations

So my players and me have decided to give Burning Wheel a go and the thing we have come up with seems to be a quest of the remnants of Humanity fleeing from an invading force trying to find a land of safety. Yes it is basically fantasy Battlestar Galactica.

The thing that all of us kind of agreed on was there must be a sense of survival to it. That the food and other things would slowly dwindle and we would have to keep an eye on it and deal with it if it becomes low.

I thought this sounded cool but realized I didn’t have any machanical way of really simulating it. The counting of rations if you will, what would make them go down? How would we get to those juicy crises points without me artificially creating them?

So basically I’m looking for a way of being able to machinacally have a way to have the rations be an issue in play they will have to deal with from time to time.

I think counting specific items isn’t the BW way. It’s way too tedious and that sort of tedium is exactly why there are mechanics like Resources. Many don’t even count ammo, much less worry about food.

But in a game where such is a focus, may I recommend that rations are used/lost/destroyed with each and every failed test. Rations are a constant stake, thus will be behind every decision. Fail enough and the result is that there is no more rations. When that happens, players begin accumulating starvation Obstacles. At any time, they can test Survival, Hunting, Fishing, etc to get more of it. But that’s where time becomes a stake. If they are being pursued, can they really take the time to set traps?

In BSG, time was the currency of failure. The cyclons were waiting behind every failed test. Eventually, yes, supplies became a currency, too. And not having enough led to many adventures trying to get more. Great BW stuff!

I think this is a great campaign idea.

People need food. As the players what they’re doing to get food; if you really want to emphasize food as a scarce resource, have one or more of them write a belief about getting food. Once they’ve told you how they’re going about getting food, have them make some tests. If they succeed, congratulations, then now have food. This lasts until the situation changes, and it no longer makes sense for them to have food. If they fail, well, I’m sure you can think up something…

If they players are constantly on the move, it might make sense to have them need to find a new source of food every time they enter into a new area. Additionally, you can use “the food runs out; what do you do now” as a failure condition for various rolls. This is where you, as GM, really get to set the tone of the game. How long does let it ride last? If one of the core premises of the game is that food and other resources are scarce, then probably not for very long. The characters go into the foods and hunt for game? That’ll probably keep them fed for a while. Better hope they don’t run into any Orc hunters who also want that game. Or that the game doesn’t migrate south for the winter. Or that it doesn’t get over hunted.

I don’t think I would mechanically track rations. I would decide at the start of the game what the situation is. Maybe they have enough food to feed 200 people for a month, maybe everyone’s on half rations, maybe stocks are so low some people are going hungry. As time progresses the situation gets worse fictionally. The big questions are how does the food problem manifest in NPC behavior and how does that impact the PCs and their beliefs. And that depends a lot on what their role is in the society and what their beliefs are.

So one person gave me an interesting idea. Connect food to the resources cycle.

So the idea is that we would have a resources test every week which is basically whether people are getting fed. Failure is tax and going to 0 means that you are hungry and maybe others as well. If everyone has 0 resources then everyone in the wider group is hungry as well.

I would add that getting a job would be changed to getting food where you can hunt or fish to get taxed dice back. I also think you can get extra food dice to help the resources test later.

I kind of like the idea but obviously don’t know if it will work. Can anyone see any glaring problems rules wise?

I think connecting food to the resource cycle is the natural fit anyway. If you want a harder survival game, it could have a more frequent cycle so people spend more time worrying about where to get food. In a food-poor setting you can raise the lifestyle maintenance Obs by 1 to reflect the fact that its more expensive and more of the poor are hungry than in the “base” setting. Failing Ob means hunger… Health tests to avoid illness etc.

I mean you could use Resource if they had a way to buy food from people. But if they don’t then I think you should have them do Hunting+Cooking/Foraging to get food, and a Survival test to get water. Say if they fail this test does not mean they do not get food, they could get sick from not cooking meat right, or they could have eaten poisonous berries! That could then call for a health test. Many things that you could have as a failure state.

I see your point - but does a person living in the wild as a beast would, making all his own stuff and foraging and hunting to survive have an Ob 0 lifestyle then? Where does the border between Getting a Job with skills that could feed (e.g. Fisherman or Farmer) you and surviving on skill roles lie?

To me, the man-in-wild has access to a hunting ground that should count as property and give him a resource that he can put to productive use by hunting and making a resource check to pass the lifestyle test and I would save the Hunting skill roll for when the belief is really at stake to hunt the Snipe.

I would keep it closer to whatever the story is about “right now”. Resources are always a thing in BWG and shorter maintenance cycles are hard, especially when you are cut off from your non portable funds or localized resources. If the current storyline is about getting supplies, let the characters beliefs be written about it, let them do tests to get them with the consequences being things that get in the way, slow them down, or otherwise need to be resolved before they get their supplies (captured party member, opposition shows up, trap is set, rival factions need them to solve a dispute, etc.). Your story depends upon them getting the supplies (no food, they die), but not on them getting them the way they envisioned

You are talking about materiel wealth, that is only one part of resources. A big part of it is influence and status. A poor king can still have high resources.

I honestly see it more like having credit than a pocket full of gold.

Now a survialman could have resources, by selling things he catches/gets in the wild for profit trading and acquire resources that way.

Honestly I don’t see Get a Job really working for failed “get food test”, that is supposed to recover failed resource test. I would give the player a failure and they would have to get food/water another way.

Thinking about it more, you could get a resource test if circle up someone with a right here right now +3 Ob.

Basically the idea is that in my game Resources wouldn’t really be connected to money or credit, it would be connected to food and water for the group.

I feel in this game where its mostly going to be set in the wilderness Resources as written probably won’t come up as much.

The social portion of the hunting would be the hunting rights themselves. Its even built into the Great Wolf rules, for example, the wolves dont keep a property system but when you buy the hunting grounds as resources what you have bought is recognition from other predators that those hunting grounds are yours.

Using Resources cycles to represent having food seems perfect to me for a personal use (each character tracking his own means of getting food). But as BSG seems, to me, to be more about the collective survival, I’d use skills like accounting, command, perhaps some new management skill (caravan management?), if PCs are the leaders of this community, to track whether or not there’s enough food for the community as a whole. And since “there’s no food” seems like a boring way to represent an ever present threat, I’d resort to tools like the clocks of Apocalypse World. You might have 5 levels of food stock: surplus (+1d to next management roll), enough for everybody, low on stock (+1Ob to oratory, command, and other social skills, as people start getting anxious), starving (+2Ob to social skills to command people, +1Ob to all other rolls unless the character has his own means of getting food), in crisis (+2Ob to all rolls, perhaps +3Ob to social skill tests to command the people, but it seems a bit harsh). At the “in crisis” level, I’d also have people start to riot, steal food from others, new leaders want to seize power, some groups leave the community, etc.

You might pace the struggle for food to evolve through many sessions, or instead have crisis explode due to a single failed test. If you determine the level of food stock by degree of failure (failing by 3 means crisis, by 2 starving, by 1 low on food), then you get a faster pace. If you have the leader roll every session, and each failure, no matter the amount of successes, leads to the food stock dropping from 1 category to the next, then you can play the painfully slow decay of your community.

Damn, now I want to play this campaign.

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