Since I started D&D, I have really only played with one group of friends, and never personally DM'd. In this group, DMs generally ignore certain aspects of gameplay, such as having to declare which spells are being recharged during a rest, figuring out the amount of food supplies we have, and actually counting the amount of arrows/crossbow bolts we have. These aren't really house rules, they're just the custom among my group. They allow the campaign to proceed more quickly, and decrease the effort required in planning gameplay.

Now, though, I am going to DM my own campaign with another group, and I'm not sure if I should continue to use these customs, or if in this separate campaign, I should use the normal 5e rules, and include all these things.

What benefits are there, and what pitfalls can I expect by ignoring detailed resource tracking like we have been doing with a group of new players?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. This question might be better suited to a discussion forum, given the broad latitude the DMG presents to the DM in term of being Master of Rules. The SE model seeks the "best" answer to a question, and this question will have answers from a variety of perspectives. What problem are you trying to solve, or more clearly, what problems are you anticipating having to solve with this gaming group? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 7 '17 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Blapor Asking people for "what they did" is not an "answerable question." It may be a question, but it is not one with a correct answer. Try phrasing things in a way that makes it less subjective. \$\endgroup\$ – Southpaw Hare Nov 7 '17 at 14:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps rephrase as "What are benefits and disadvantages of ignoring things like this?" instead of just asking for anecdotes \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Nov 7 '17 at 15:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, rather than "aspects of gameplay", maybe call it "detailed resource tracking"? \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Nov 7 '17 at 16:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I gave the question an edit to reflect some of the feedback in the comments, please review it @Blapor, and feel free to rollback if I've changed your question too much. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Nov 8 '17 at 2:23

Consider the style of campaign you'll be having

I was in a DnD party that used detailed resource tracking at first (this was in 4e, but the principle is the same). The Ranger kept a track of her arrows, everyone made notes regarding how many rations they had left. Everyone calculated their backpack contents' weight to make sure they didn't have too much. We got to visit town often enough to replenish our supplies.

What did it add? Lots of bookkeeping but little more.

Since adventurers tend to accumulate lots of wealth and we visited towns regularly, the tension in "what if we run out of food, ammo or torches" fell quite flat soon. We switched over to not caring about food or mundane ammo later, because we didn't find the complexity of tracking these things to add much to the fun. We switched to a model where the GM tells us to pay a few gold pieces for restocking in town and even that feels a bit pointless when one has thousands of gold pieces in their backpack.

When it could be a better idea?

Scarcity is the key word here. We disliked ammo, food and weight tracking because it was tedious and meaningless. However, it's possible to have a campaign where these things are meaningful by theming the game or parts of it around scarcity of even normal consumable resources.

If the players cannot restock their character's consumables at town every couple of fights, tracking and regulating their use will become more interesting. With only eight arrows left, the ranger cannot shoot everything and has to work on their melee to remain capable. The single remaining torch will necessitate a rushed approach to completing the dungeon. However, this will make the players more reliant on following a supply trail left by the GM - if they've got only two days of food and don't know where to get more, they must focus their efforts on avoiding starvation rather than swashbuckling adventures. Alternatively, you can try to encourage the party to forage, making use of their Survival skill if they have it.

Things to consider when omitting resource management

Several spells and magical items get their value from overcoming the issues of consumable resources. What use is a driftglobe for a party that has essentially infinite torches? Is Goodberry worth it without its nourishing properties? What good is a bag of holding if you don't have to fill it with cheeseburgers to survive?

Magical items are the easy part - as the GM, you choose which items your party receives, and can easily avoid giving the players items that are made obsolete by house rules. If you're using a readymade campaign, check if the item is important in the campaign in an unforeseen way before substituting it with something else.

However, as the players pick their own spells, there is always they possibility they inadvertently pick a spell that has been rendered partially or completely useless by not using the full moveset. Due to the rather open nature of DnD, it's always possible for a player to make a spell pick that won't serve them well - eg. picking See Invisible in a campaign that doesn't have any invisible monsters. To avoid souring feelings over this, remind your players to retrain spells they found less useful than they thought and if need be, offer options to do so beyond the normal level ups.

Why not both?

I actually made a little white lie about resource tracking earlier - one of my parties still uses it, nominally. We've agreed that if the group feels that resource scarcity would be an interesting part of gameplay, at some point, we will introduce resource tracking for that part of the game. It hasn't happened yet, but it's a reminder that it's always a possibility to tweak the ruleset when you find the game doesn't adequately lead the adventure in a direction you'd want it to go.

Talk to your players

Ask them how they feel about tracking these things. Do not pressure them, and remind anyone that "it's in the book" is not a guarantee that the rule will improve gameplay. If your group as a whole is undecided, try introducing resource tracking for a few sessions and then discuss and decide whether it added anything.

  • \$\begingroup\$ About avoiding starvation: this could be trivial if one of the party has a high Survival skill, so even party composition could decide what is scarce and what is not! \$\endgroup\$ – BgrWorker Nov 8 '17 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BgrWorker Good point, yep - I was sort of visualizing a nuclear wasteland -ish environment where even that wouldn't help much. I'll edit the answer a bit to add that angle in. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Nov 8 '17 at 16:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ It might serve this answer well to illustrate some of the types of game-play that are sacrificed when ignoring these aspects. You touched on these a bit, but running out of arrows semi-regularly might make a ranger care about developing melee skills. No food management might make spells like Goodberry largely useless. \$\endgroup\$ – Baergren Nov 8 '17 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd agree that it really does depend on the campaign. Just referring to published ones...in some of them you're never more than a day's ride from civilization. In others...you're in the middle of a godsforsaken jungle and it might take you a month and a half to get somewhere you can resupply...assuming you don't get lost. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Nov 8 '17 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Baergren Excellent point there. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Nov 8 '17 at 16:20

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