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  • [Realms hack] Ammunition Variant

    (bold for edit, not emphasis. turns out this was more of a clarification in presentation and a tweak of the default assumptions, rather than a full rules hack / variant, so I decided to edit this post to make clear what it was doing and why)

    Greetings all,


    My table came up with this variant way of using ammunition (or, rather, a clarification) kind of by consensus at the start of last session. It was kind of a cool process. But it fixed a perception mistake one of my players was having, while still keeping the rules assumptions the same, and tying in to the general 'feel' of Pugmire's abstract systems. So I thought I would share it in case it helps anyone else out.


    The problem was that one of my players (a Guardian) has a crossbow for their only ranged option; they mostly only had it as a backup, but it came up several times that using the crossbow was the best strategy. Because she's playing a Guardian, she dumped Dexterity - a +0 I think - which gives her roughly a 45% chance of failing her Ammo save.
    Clearly the Ammo save was designed with Ranged-focused characters in mind, who had a high Dex and are probably trained in the save. My guardian player wasn't aware that her odds were that bad, and wasn't clear on the "first shot is free" rule. So she ended up firing 2 shots in the first encounter of an adventure, and failed her ammo save. And it really sucked to have entirely lost that option, afted the first encounter over a misunderstanding of what the odds were.

    I know this is a problem that spare packs of ammo are supposed to address, and that there's a wisdom throw to retroactively remember grabbing them. But we found it to be fundamentally immersion breaking and against our expectations in a frustrating way to go from a full quiver to empty when you've only shot twice since leaving town. There can be all sort of narrative ways to justify it, like "oh you dropped some in the river" or "they snapped during combat" but when this came up in my game, I was twisting around to find a narrative 'excuse' for a random screwjob, and my player's point of "from a full quiver to nothing" outweighed all of them.
    (It was probably a dumb mistake which one of us should have caught, but my player thought she was choosing a different balance of risks from the way it turned out, and we agreed those risks should have been more clear.)

    So we tossed a few things out. Like she said she would be fine tracking ammo, but the Ratter and Hunter didn't want to touch that one. We considered raising the threshold to after 4 shots in combat or something. Then another player pointed out that there were already tiers for an abstract amount of objects elsewhere in the system - counting coins.

    So here's the clarification we came up with:
    • Every pack of ammunition has 5 tiers: lots, many, some, a few, and empty.
    • By default, each pack starts at 'Many' but some items may be lower or higher. this is effectively same as saying, 'everyone gets 2 spare ammo automatically'; some people might find 'Some' ammo (aka 1 spare pack) to be a better baseline.
    • Character have the option to purchase, scavenge for, or fletch addition ammunition to raise up a tier or two, at the Guide's discretion.
    • Make a Ammunition save if you use the item more than once (two or more times) within the same scene, DC10 Dex; on a failure, drop one tier.
    I'll let you know if we run into any problems with this, but I rather love this, and I hope other people find it useful as well.
    It swaps out the book keeping of how many ammo packs you have to what tier you're at. Tying it to the same tiers as coins made it easier for us to see where the risks and limits were, and to more easily manage those resources. It makes ranged options not entirely frustrating for character that don't spec into it; it enables extended travel adventures where you have many encounters before being able to restock; and it gives a very reasonable amount of forewarning to characters - they'd be able to check, in the story, how many arrows they have at any point ("Oh, I still have Some, I should be good"; "I only have A Few left after that last fight, better save them"). And it keeps the pressure of a dwindling resource and the possibility of needing to change tactics while putting more agency in that situation in the player's hands - they get to see it coming more easily and make a choice to conserve ammo (such as by firing only once), and can better 'own' the consequences of running out of ammo when it comes up.

    Turns out this a small change of wording / flavor / emphasis, but I like this a lot, I think it helps understand the mechanics more intuitively, and I hope other people also find it useful.
    ~Seraph Kitty
    Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 10-21-2019, 05:09 PM.


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  • #2
    I like it. I think that’s a great solution to the issue your group encountered. I may even use it myself at some point.


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    • #3
      I'd be kinda worried about the impact on the other end of things though. High Dex characters that refine the Archery Trick enough times can get advantage on Ammo saves, and two attacks per round... which lets them expend an immersion breaking amount of ammo out of one container if they have fail three saves to actually run out; and you get into the weird narrative space of how ~20 arrows lasts them 40 or 50 attacks.

      I think the issue might be mostly in the way that the Loading quality forces the narration to be one attack = one shot, while non-Loading weapons can be narrated as multiple shots per attack to account for the more abstract ammo tracking.

      I'm curious if giving the Loading quality a lower DC on ammo saves, or advantage on them, might be an easier way to get to a similar place, and not make dedicated ranged fighters feel like they never have to worry about ammo (esp, since Loading doesn't mesh as well with some of the ranged Tricks anyway).

      Edit:

      A bit of math on that last idea.

      At a +0 Dex bonus, your average fail for an ammo save is 45%.

      If you give Loading advantage on it, the average drops to 20.25%.

      If you give Loading a DC 5 ammo save, the average drops to 20%.

      If you did both (or the basic equivalent of having Archery refined appropriately and a +5 Dex bonus), the average failure rate drops to 4%.
      Last edited by Heavy Arms; 10-20-2019, 04:49 PM.

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      • #4
        I will try to test Seraph Kitty rules in my own games. I would only change one thing - players are making ammunition test as normal after fight, they simply slide one level in ammo numbers. For example, from Many to Some. No changes to DCs, etc. Just using normal Realms rules. This would make that those experienced archers are still having almost no losses in ammo - and those inexperienced are burning resources.


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        • #5
          wyrdhamster - those are my rules; what you describe doesn't change the hack as I intended it. Sorry if I miscommunicated in my post, but failures only slide you one tier; the DC and other rules I included were just reprinting the RAW for clarity. But I'm glad you find them interesting; I'll look forward to hearing how it works for you!

          Heavy Arms - You make some good points, but for my mileage, I'm not worried about people who specced into awesome rangers as much. As written, ammunition saves cover both conserving ammo and recovering it; you could easily add quickly fletching a new arrow or two to that description. So even if an ammo pack only has 20 arrows in it, being able to recover an intact arrow (including an enemy's) or coming across enough usable wood and salvageable arrowheads throughout the day to add an arrow here or there, means that you might be able to reasonable fire 30 or 40 or 50 times before running out. And having a high Dex would make you better at all of those aspects which would let you stretch out your ammo pack.

          And, frankly, if a player is going to invest refinements into being an awesome archer that basically never runs out of ammo... I'm pretty okay with them basically never running out of ammo. Refinements are the most scarce resource in Pugmire - there are so many useful and fun things to get with them, and you get a max of 9. If someone cares that strongly about it to spend Refinements... ayight. Maybe, one day, it'll happen by chance, and that'll be a really dramatic moment. Or I can use plot devices to force them into another strategy for a scene or a story, if I feel like it needs to be mixed up.

          So, for my personal opinion as a Guide, I'd be okay with a tricked-out archer not really ever worrying about ammo. I'm much more worried about the situation I ran into, where someone was screwed after a rather unfair number of uses, and as a result was incentivized to never use her ranged option unless she had to.

          I also like how giving tiers to diminishing ammo puts gives the players more decisions and agency. They may be way less likely to run out, but they are able to see the chance of running out before it happens, and make choices based on that - which I think is always a benefit. And I think by making it a choice which is always present adds more and makes ammo more relevant than having a random screwjob that takes away your ranged option. And it's something the characters should be able to do in the fiction. A Hunter would check their quiver periodically, and estimate if they have Many shots before they have to worry, or only A Few. And use that to inform their next conflict.



          But, again, you make some good points. Especially how the 'loading' quality gets in the way of how ammo and various tricks are supposed to work. And I totally accept you might have different opinions from mine, and might want to emphasize different things in game.
          So to respond to your suggestions...

          If I were to implement one of those, I would probably choose giving Loading ammunition Advantage. That lowers the odds enough to feel fair for only firing one shot per round, but it also keeps the DC relevant whether you've specced into range or not.
          Between having a higher Dex score and some of the other bonuses you can get, a DC 5 would be basically trivial for characters that specced into it. Even with only a +3 to dex, which a ranged character will probably have anyway, it would require rolling a 1 or a 2 on the die (10% chance); if they pick up advantage on top of that from a trick or something, that drops to 1%. So while it balances things out for people on the low or middle end of the spectrum, it would still end up trivializing it for anyone that builds for it.
          By keeping the DC at 10, but granting advantage you lower the odds enough to give pc that only have ranged as a back-up enough chance of passing to not cheat them, while also keep enough range in the numbers to not make it way too easy for characters even minimally specced.

          To check the numbers, assuming a +3 Dex:
          - you have a ~30% chance to fail at DC10
          - you have a ~10% chance to fail at DC5
          - you have a ~9% chance to fail at DC10 with advantage
          - you have a ~1% chance to fail at DC5 with advantage

          Comparing those to the odds of failing with a +0 Dex as you posted, I suggest that granting advantage to the roll, but keeping the DC at 10 will probably do the best job at keeping the odds fair for everyone - neither cheating pc who aren't good at it, while still being relevant to most pcs who do spec into it, until they get several bonuses.

          But.... it has the problem of nullifying the Tricks and Artifacts which grant advantage to ammo rolls. So I might edit those abilities to instead grant a +4, or maybe lower the DC, for loading weapons.




          PS: I think the 'wisdom save to retroactively pack extra equipment' rule is pretty indicative of how resources are intended to be played. It's a free second chance on any unexpected challenge or loss of resources, and the same paragraph tells you to err on the side of pcs having the item unless it makes no sense. It really lowers the odds of this being a problem, and implies that actually running out of ammo should probably be pretty rare in general.
          But when I think about that from a player's experience.... there's a chance of being randomly screwed by the dice and totally losing one of my options... But I can make a second roll to have a free 'get out of random screwjob' ticket... Getting that ticket might reduce some frustration, but it doesn't feel that good; it's still a random chance. And I'd expect many characters who are not good at Dex to also not have a very high Wisdom, but the odds even to probably slightly better than just having advantage. And failing both rolls, that feels like confirming a failure, or consigning yourself to having no ways out of this. Often with the additional implication of "yeah, your character forgot extra ammo. I guess they're clumsy and dumb. Very heroic."
          Not a great feeling either way, especially not as a follow up from "you suddenly ran completely out of ammo and had no way to see this coming."

          Personally, as a Guide, I don't like seeing my players get that frustrated by blindsiding them, and I don't like to follow that up with "well, it actually matters so little that you can make a second check to buy off this problem." And to watch them fail that too! That's... extra bad stupid luck. If a player loses an entire option for their character, I would much rather let them have some kind of choice beforehand that lets them feel like they can own the consequence, or give them some choices going forward to mitigate it - and preferably both.

          Let me be clear, I love the intent behind ammo saves and retroactive gear saves. I like the simplicity of it; I like being able to hand wave some situations, rather than be a jerk about how many pitons they wrote on their sheet; I like that they found a way to make ammo matter without it being a pain in the ass to track. I was so excited when I read those rules for the first time. In fact, I like it so much, I've already come up with 2 different adaptions of it for magical items, and I've incorporated those into so many items I've handed out.
          But it has a pitfall of being very frustrating when a player runs into bad luck, and not making a whole lot of sense. So I wanted to find a way to capture those intentions (as I interpret them) and the things it does really well (in my opinion), but seeing if I can empower my players rather than screw them over.
          Again, that's just what I'm looking for.
          Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 10-20-2019, 06:37 PM.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
            I'm much more worried about the situation I ran into, where someone was screwed after a rather unfair number of uses, and as a result was incentivized to never use her ranged option unless she had to.
            I guess this just feels like such an outlier to me I struggle with worrying about it too much. Guardians are a close-combat Calling, and in all my experience with Pugmire (hell, all my experience with D&D and clones in general), combat that leaves the close combat types twiddling their thumbs is fairly rare. I've played through a multiple adventure game with a close combat Stray that only used throwing weapons for ranged (even more limited than ammo checks) and never really felt screwed because I used up my throwing weapons before we had a chance to restock... just like the spell casters managing their spell slots/etc.

            So I just struggle with the idea of things being so dire that a Guardian needs a crossbow multiple combats in a row or they feel screwed; they can't even start with a non-thrown ranged weapon.

            I also like how giving tiers to diminishing ammo puts gives the players more decisions and agency.
            I'm not entirely opposed to the idea, though I'm not sure how it's really all the different from having multiple ammo containers. Mechanically having two spare RAW vs. having one with Many in your house rule are identical. Even descriptively it's a very minor difference in terms of "my ammunition is running low," between one container emptying slow and multiples emptying faster.

            If I were to implement one of those, I would probably choose giving Loading ammunition Advantage. That lowers the odds enough to feel fair for only firing one shot per round, but it also keeps the DC relevant whether you've specced into range or not.
            Seems the better choice of the options yeah.

            But.... it has the problem of nullifying the Tricks and Artifacts which grant advantage to ammo rolls.
            Besides the Archery refinement, I don't remember anything that even does this to worry about. And you can always not refine it that way if you're focused on weapons with the Loading quality.

            But it has a pitfall of being very frustrating when a player runs into bad luck, and not making a whole lot of sense.
            Ultimately though, this is always going to be an issue if something's rolled (though there's Fortune around for a 3rd or more chances).

            I mean, even in your house rule, I could fire twice, fail, and repeat until I'm empty after three scenes...bad luck but possible.

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            • #7
              I'm not entirely opposed to the idea, though I'm not sure how it's really all the different from having multiple ammo containers. Mechanically having two spare RAW vs. having one with Many in your house rule are identical. Even descriptively it's a very minor difference in terms of "my ammunition is running low," between one container emptying slow and multiples emptying faster.
              This is a really salient point, which I didn't realize. Hmm.
              I guess the heart of my hack is what the default assumption is in terms of spare ammo, and the descriptive difference / the presentation of how much is in each ammo pack.
              However, I'm going to argue that's a very important difference. But I'm going to make another point or two before I get to that.

              So I just struggle with the idea of things being so dire that a Guardian needs a crossbow multiple combats in a row or they feel screwed; they can't even start with a non-thrown ranged weapon.
              Guardians can't start with any ranged weapon; a thrown item is not even option with their starting rucksack. It's a fair enough point that they're melee, and have plenty of options for that, and don't rely on ranged attacks anyway. But my player wanted to have a ranged option as a backup - which is not unreasonable. There are some melees you don't want to wade into, there's flying enemies, cliffs and ledges that show up to take advantage of, monsters that get restrained. Even if guardians have plenty to do with just melee, sometimes ranged is a good choice, and when a player asks to have that as an option, they probably have a good reason for it.
              Taking that option away at the very start of an adventure, when they have no idea when they'll have a chance to fix that and no idea what's coming up next - that puts them in a vulnerable and uncertain position, which they specifically asked to not be in.


              Choosing a crossbow instead of a javelin may not be optimal for a guardian, but it has three times the range and its (supposed to) have more ammo; there are trade offs there which make sense.

              When a player chooses to have a crossbow and an ammo pack of bolts, they're expecting that to mean 20 shots. Ish. To me, that sets the expectation of 5 encounters if I fired it every round; and if I'm a guardian using it as an unlikely backup option, maybe 10 to 20 encounters, because I won't use it at all in most of them, and maybe once or twice in the ones I do; but I'm probably expecting 1-3 fights primarily at range somewhere in there. Okay, sure, I'm rolling to keep ammo, I know it probably isn't going to last that long. But if that's where your baseline expectation starts, and then you lose that option entirely after 1 encounter? That's a screwjob. That hurts, and it feels really unfair.
              .
              And my player didn't realize that "you have a 50% chance of losing this after 1 encounter" was one of the trade offs she was choosing between.


              Ultimately though, this ["it has a pitfall of being very frustrating when a player runs into bad luck"] is always going to be an issue if something's rolled (though there's Fortune around for a 3rd or more chances).
              I mean, even in your house rule, I could fire twice, fail, and repeat until I'm empty after three scenes...bad luck but possible.
              I strongly disagree with this argument.
              Even though there is matter of chance with every roll of the die, and therefore a chance to get randomly screwed by bad luck, that does not mean there isn't a substantive difference in play experience.

              When a player is able to make an informed choice that balances risks or sacrifices desires, that makes it meaningful. That puts the power in their hands, empowers them to make tactical decisions, and sets up their frame of mind to own the consequences. When you give players that kind of control, they don't feel cheated or frustrated by failures; they accept the luck of the roll, and focus on making a different choice next time.

              That's why you were okay with using javelins, even with much more limited uses. They have a different experience. You knew how many uses you had, you made strategic choices for when and how to use them, and you knew exactly when you were going to run out. That's a lot of player agency, and because of that you were ready to accept the limitations and own the consequences. You got to manage your javelins. Casters get to manage their spell slots.

              There's not really much you can manage about 50% odds.
              You can choose how much ammo you leave town with (same as with javelins). You get one free shot per combat. Then... it's a literal coin toss. You can't really make decisions around odds like that; you have no idea when you're going to run out (completely unlike javelins and spell slots). And, if I chose a guardian with a crossbow, I'm not doing so for the one free shot every combat; I'm choosing it for the handful of combats where its best (or necessary) to be at range the whole time. It's not unreasonable to expect 20 bolts to cover two or three of those, even if I know I'm not well built for it.
              A lot of this does have to do with player experience. This was my player's third session in Pugmire; all of us are new to it. She didn't know to expect that from ammo rolls, or that her odds were going to be that bad. Once she did, she started making better, more informed decisions around that. But getting surprised by that feels unfair.


              And it's the "getting surprised by that" bit which brings me back to why presentation and starting assumptions make a really important difference.

              If making informed choices is what makes a dice roll meaningful (and I'd argue that's a big part of it), the player's expectations determine how informed their choice is, and the way something is presented shapes those expectations.
              Maybe its my bias, and not the expectation I should have from reading Pugmire's RAW, but when I see "a full container of bow ammunition", I think, "a full quiver of arrows" or about 20 of them. And that's pretty much what my players were thinking. I don't think anyone who goes in with that expectation would find it fair to lose all of them after 1 encounter; even if you weren't specced into being good at conserving ammo, 50% odds of going from a full pack of 20 to nothing in one encounter just doesn't make sense. Because I don't expect a container of arrows to empty that quickly. As I said, maybe that's just my bias.

              If a single pack of ammo was presented as "about 5 arrows", that would match up to my expectation of 50% chance to expend them all in 1 encounter. I would think of that as 'low ammo' or 'having only A Few left'.


              Another major component to rolls being meaningful is what kind of impact they have, and what choices you can make to mitigate the consequences.
              As an example, damage in combat could have low impact or high impact, but there's lots of different ways to mitigate it (defensive actions, taking potions, asking for healing, having a rest after the encounter). Conversely, death saves are really high impact, and the player actually doesn't have any way to mitigate them - they can't make any choices, only their team members can. Which is why they would really suck if you only got one or two saves - because a botch eats up 2 chances, and a 5% chance for the character to die is too harsh; three saves guarantees there's at least two opportunities to fix it.

              Losing your ranged option, and certainly for a guardian, is no where near as impactful as character death. obviously. But, removing an entire option, for an entire adventure, with no idea when you have a chance to fix it, based on the outcome of a die roll with 50% odds is pretty harsh. Especially when the player asked to have that option available.

              Having three rolls does reduce that impact significantly. Yes, bad luck can still happen. But that gives you two opportunities to re-evaluate and change your tactics; at that point, you have pretty good expectations as to when you're going to run out, and you're committing to your risks and choices. It lets you manage your resources.

              So the assumption that ranged items come with 3 packs of ammo, as opposed to one, makes a meaningful difference.



              And for my mileage, you need to make both those changes (a pack is ~5 arrows, and you have 3 packs by default) to really meet the expectations of "having a full quiver".
              Maybe it doesn't change any of the mechanics of the game or what options players have to manage them. But it does make clear what they can expect, and empowers them to make informed decisions. And I think that's an important change to make; that makes it a lot more fair to the player's expectations.
              And then I layered on the stylistic choice of calling it "Many, Some, A Few" rather than, "a pack and 2 extra". I think it makes it more clear, and it has a nice feel that links it to another abstracted inventory system.



              As I said, I am more worried about the not-optimized character not getting screwed, rather than making sure limited ammo comes up even for specced characters. But that's because I have one such pc in my game, and this situation actually came up for me. It is an edge case, but I don't think it's too much of an outlier.
              If, unlike me, you are worried about not giving Hunters unlimited ammo, maybe have the assumption be that everyone starts with two ammo packs, aka a quiver of ~10. I would argue that having the "retroactive gear save" implies that running out of ammo is supposed to be generally rare, so I'm not as worried about it. But I totally get that other Guides might be - Pugmire's safe makes an empty quiver much more likely to come up for a hunter or ratter, without pain in the ass bookkeeping, and that's rather exciting. That was one of my initial hooks too, and it's a possibly I'm still fond of and would like to keep.

              But I think that, even with 25% chance or less of my hunter failing, I expect I'll get to tell him at several points, "you only have Some arrows left" or "only A Few"; and at that point, he'll pay attention to ammo and think about the risks he wants to take. So that even if he never runs out, I think he'll still feel the pressure of limited ammo, and change his tactics to account for it at some point. So I think this change still provides what I'm looking for, even for specced characters.
              But I could be wrong.
              Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 10-21-2019, 12:11 AM.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
                Guardians can't start with any ranged weapon; a thrown item is not even option with their starting rucksack.
                Pugmire divides weapons into Melee and Ranged, Melee weapons can have the Thrown quality on them (a bunch of them do, only one Ranged weapon does). Guardians can start with any Melee weapon with the Thrown quality; aka thrown weapons, such as handaxes.

                It's a fair enough point that they're melee, and have plenty of options for that, and don't rely on ranged attacks anyway. But my player wanted to have a ranged option as a backup - which is not unreasonable.
                I guess there's somewhat of a question of what's "reasonable" regarding a back-up option. While iffy on the general point, Guardians do have all those Charisma based parts of their Calling to be using if something's out of reach, so they have default back up built in besides this.

                Is a backup weapon something you expect to use once or twice, or something you expect to use lots of times? At what points does it stop being a backup and start being a seconadary or something like that?

                What level of investment should be expected for a backup weapon? At what point do we say, "having a backup weapon here is fine, but this particular weapon just isn't suited to your character?"

                The idea that a Guardian might start carrying around a crossbow just in case sounds fine to me, but "just in case" implies... kinda what the system already does. They use it rarely, if ever, rather than something that's a big loss if that usage happens at the beginning of an adventure.

                To me, the bigger case to make for your house rule is an issue of pacing rather than any of this. The Pugmire games I've been part of so far generally don't spend that much time without a chance to get back to a town or whatnot and resupply as needed. If we did an adventure that had one of those 100 room megadungeons as a ruin we're exploring... I'd probably switch to your house rule out of scale rather than anything else.

                Taking that option away at the very start of an adventure, when they have no idea when they'll have a chance to fix that and no idea what's coming up next - that puts them in a vulnerable and uncertain position, which they specifically asked to not be in.
                But it's not you that's doing that, it's the rules of the game that everyone has access to. It's not like you reached down and just snatched the crossbow away, and nobody else in the party had a spare crossbow container they' would fork over to help, or what not. It's the system playing out as the rules go.

                This is part of the tension and fun of any sort of D&D/clone game: a level of resource management risk. There's lots of places in the game where you're not going to know if you want to risk using up a limited (renewable or not) resource now, or save if for later in the scene. A spell caster has to be weighing when to use their non-basic spells, because you never know if you want to save some of those spell slots or not.

                When a player chooses to have a crossbow and an ammo pack of bolts, they're expecting that to mean 20 shots.
                Why?

                Like, seriously, what told them that? The book never says this. Expecting to take a crossbow and an extra ammo pack without reading how ammunition works has to at some point be one the player and Guide rather than the rules. And even then, they could get 20 shots out of it if combat goes long enough and the ammo saves don't hate them too badly.

                But if that's where your baseline expectation starts, and then you lose that option entirely after 1 encounter?
                Have a back up container? It would make plenty of sense for, "I'm not the best shot, so I'll bring some spare bolts," to mean having a minimum of two encounters worth of ammo.

                That's a screwjob. That hurts, and it feels really unfair.
                I'm not trying to ignore this, I'm just trying to make the case that changing the rules focused on this without putting it into the larger context of the game isn't necessarily the best idea.

                One of the first times we played, we almost lost two characters in the first combat encounter because we didn't have a healer and the enemy got lucky hitting our squishy Ratter and Artisan... and they did not roll well on their death saves; we had to drop a Fortune to reroll a botch that would have killed the Ratter otherwise. And.. that would have really sucked.

                None of us went, "holy shit we need to do something about death saves!" we went, "OK... make sure healing and/or stabilizing isn't too hard on the party's action economy."

                And my player didn't realize that "you have a 50% chance of losing this after 1 encounter" was one of the trade offs she was choosing between.
                OK... but the book doesn't hide this rule. Do you think things would have been different if the player had seen the Ammunition rules and realized their math a head of time?

                Even though there is matter of chance with every roll of the die, and therefore a chance to get randomly screwed by bad luck, that does not mean there isn't a substantive difference in play experience.
                Sure, but not every element of play experience is something that's fixed by changing the rules. As you've said, not realizing the harsh math of low Dex ammo saving throws was a big part of the problem with expectations vs. experience... which is very hard to make a solid case that the game's default math has a significant reason for change by itself.

                I do honestly question if the difference between getting six shots in one scene and failing the ammo save after it, and running out of ammo after three scenes in which you fired two shots each is substantive. It's the same number of shots, just spread out differently. They each imply different play experiences, sure, but I'm still not seeing the case for it being that significant.

                When a player is able to make an informed choice that balances risks or sacrifices desires, that makes it meaningful.
                OK... but the situation at hand was the player being uninformed due to not realizing the rules. Your house rule doesn't make players more or less informed about their choices and how to weigh the risks involved... it just changes the balance.

                There's not really much you can manage about 50% odds.
                But having 45% odds (this is exact at +0 Dex bonus) was your choice from the get go. Knowing those odds, you could have worked on getting spare containers. You could have talked to the group about things like the Shepherd using Bless long enough to get +1d4 to your ammo save rather than dropping it at the end of combat, etc. Even if you can't manage the odds directly, there's plenty of ways to manage the impact of them.

                You can't really make decisions around odds like that; you have no idea when you're going to run out (completely unlike javelins and spell slots). And, if I chose a guardian with a crossbow, I'm not doing so for the one free shot every combat; I'm choosing it for the handful of combats where its best (or necessary) to be at range the whole time. It's not unreasonable to expect 20 bolts to cover two or three of those, even if I know I'm not well built for it.
                This is all kind of skipping that you get unlimited shots within the scene itself as part of the trade off of 45% of not having any left over for the next one. Unlike the javelins or spells, you know you're never running out of ammo for that crossbow during the fight. You're making it sound like it's an ammo check every few round of combat, rather than at the end of a scene (which means a multi combat scene is still one ammo check). If you're worried about a handful of scenes... the RAW have you covered, the default ammo + 1 extra, and you should generally have 2-4 scenes (a handful...) of ammo on you at +0 Dex.

                You're literally talking about almost the worst case scenario that doesn't involved Guide judgement (botching being the worst but with Guide judgement, since that could disable your weapon at any time), and treating it as the base-line. And it's worst case because of decisions made to get there, not just the odds of the ammo save.

                If a single pack of ammo was presented as "about 5 arrows",
                The game avoids these sorts of things because it uses an abstract ammo keeping system that's more dramatic than realistic.

                That said... 5-10 arrows/bolts is actually way more common in historical records for a quiver meant to be worn on the move. ~20 arrows is more something archers would be using to transport arrows between static positions and would take all of the arrows out to use with a ground stand - forcing them to remain in place if they want to keep shooting - rather than the more active movement we associate with archery in this sort of game.

                Of course, D&D fairly solidly put the idea of 20 arrows in a quiver into the RPG preconceptions... so it's normal for RPGs to treat them that way.

                Conversely, death saves are really high impact, and the player actually doesn't have any way to mitigate them - they can't make any choices, only their team members can.
                Well, you can prevent one failed roll from adding to your death save limit with a stamina die... which is not great at low level, but something.

                Which is why they would really suck if you only got one or two saves - because a botch eats up 2 chances, and a 5% chance for the character to die is too harsh; three saves guarantees there's at least two opportunities to fix it.
                How much they suck depends on how good your Constitution save is though.

                But even so, as we've noted, you're not stuck with one ammo save ever. You can bring spare ammo. Someone (it does not have to be your character; a Hunter is a great person to have remembered retroactively to bring spare ammo) can make a Wisdom save for more... the system has built in fail-safes to avoid one ammo check and your out for good


                So the assumption that ranged items come with 3 packs of ammo, as opposed to one, makes a meaningful difference.
                OK, but the whole argument seems to boil down to the difference being defaulting to having spare packs so you don't forget to bring them when you have a bad ammo save bonus... which could be solved by just bring them in the first place.

                As I said, I am more worried about the not-optimized character not getting screwed,...
                I feel like you've crossed from "not-optimized" to "outright sub-optimal," though. If someone builds a character that's bad at something... at a certain point don't we stop protecting them from the consequences of that?

                A +0 Dex means you're pretty bad with Ranged weapons in general, not just ammo saves, and it's going to get worse as the game progresses unless you skimp on your primary Tricks and Abilities. All the ammo in the world isn't going to help if you're struggling to hit higher AC enemies, and do meaningful damage when you do. A round or two getting closer to use throwing Melee weapons (so they use Strength to hit and for damage) and closing more to get into close-combat is probably worth it compared to trying to plink away with the base crossbow damage at range; also all those fun buffs like an Artisan casting Flight on you to make it really easy to get over to the enemy.

                But I think that, even with 25% chance or less of my hunter failing, I expect I'll get to tell him at several points, "you only have Some arrows left" or "only A Few"; and at that point, he'll pay attention to ammo and think about the risks he wants to take. So that even if he never runs out, I think he'll still feel the pressure of limited ammo, and change his tactics to account for it at some point.
                This fells... very off to me. I would certainly not enjoy my Guide saying, "oooo I might take your primary weapon away," because I'm good at ammo checks... even if they're never actually serious (that would personally make it even more annoying to me). There's always the 5% chance of botching the ammo check. More pressure isn't necessary, and I'd rather my tactics change because encounters have variety than because of this sort of manipulation.

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                • #9
                  As you pointed out, there's not a mechanical difference from what this hack proposes and what players can, and probably should, already be doing. It's not messing with the numbers at all. I think it helps better clarify the expectations of those mechanics, and it cuts out a pitfall of dumb misstep. Whether or not someone finds that valuable is going to come down to their personal preferences; it sounds like your preferences are different from mine.

                  I'm willing to admit this situation came up because my table (myself included, and this player in particular) had some false expectations and bad assumptions, and that set us up for a dumb failure. We had those bad assumptions because we're all way more familiar with D&D; Pugmire is clearly an adaptation of that, and even after going looking for where the rules diverge, we've still gotten tripped up by some of them, to greater or lesser impact. For a lot of changes we missed, we've done a slow blink, thought about it, and moved onward making sure to note that difference more clearly. Some have been a pleasant surprise which gave my casters devious grins. In this case, the player was not clear on the rules, and they were so extremely different from their expectations and the choice that they had been trying to make, we all felt this needed a brighter line around the difference.

                  Yes, it is against Pugmire's core philosophy to spell out how many arrows are in an ammo bundle, and that's fine; my table and I and most Pugmire players find that kind of abstraction appealing. But it's a variant of D&D 5E - which does say a pack is 20 - and in my opinion there's not clear wording which sets different expectations. They're clear on the math, sure, and that's something that should have been double checked. But there's also a dissonance between the expectations the math describes and what my players and I expected from reading "a pack of ammo". And there's a bit of a learning curve to re-adjust those expectations to better match the system. All my hack really does is add a changed wording to make the system more clear and help adjust those expectations. "A small pack of ammo", "a few arrows", "fast-depleting"; it's a small change which makes a tangible difference.




                  I think I was clear in my OP that this was a situation my group encountered, and a hack designed to fix things for my group. I also acknowledged the existing rules which are designed to address this. I don't have a problem with any of those rules, and I did not actually change any of them, as you pointed out.

                  What I do think, is that those rules could be made more clear. We, personally, found it immersion breaking and surprising (based on our preexisting expectations of what "a pack of ammo" means) to have this situation come up. While the rules might state "one ammo pack" = "one failed save from being empty", that's just not what I or any of my players immediately think when we see "one ammo pack" on a character sheet. We were newbs with bad expectations; and my response to that is "let's help newbs have better expectations". So this is my proposed way to make the existing rules more clear, and better adjust those expectations. This change in wording helped us make better intuitive sense of what we should have expected based on how this system plays.


                  While the desire for that change in presentation came from a sub-optmized player, I think it still helps ranged-optimized players better intuit their resource limits.
                  My guess is that a ranged-optimized character is going to see "low ammo", have a good sense of what their odds are on a Dex save, and make informed gambles on how long they can probably stretch that out. I think it's a small likelihood they'll get confused and take unnecessary precautions as a result of this wording change.Just because they have a really good chance of succeeding several encounters in a row, that does not change the reality of the mechanics being that they are one failure away from empty, and I think they should be keeping that in mind when they decide their tactics and resource management. Saying "low ammo" helps them keep that in mind. So, I argue, this helps ranged-focused characters, and optimized characters, and veteran players who already know the rules really well. It certainly doesn't trip them up.

                  Likewise, my guess is that players who take ranged as a secondary or a backup option aren't going to be as familiar with the RAW, because they aren't using it as much, and might not easily remember "one pack = low ammo". So I think there's a fair change of tripping them up, depending on how familiar they are with the system. That's what happened at my table, and my guess is that it might come up at someone else's. That's why I think it's a more clear presentation to directly say "low ammo". It reduces the learning curve, and makes the choices and risks more clear for the players who aren't using it as often, and who are more likely to fail the save.
                  Even if is a sub-optimal choice, some players choose to take that calculated risk. When they understand what those odds are, and make that choice anyway, they'll own that consequence and be cool with it. Clearer wording helps them more easily understand what those odds are.

                  That emphasis is a valuable change for my group. Maybe that comes from us not switching up systems or editions enough, I don't know. I admit its our perception bias. But I think it'd be a valuable change for many other players coming over from D&D, and maybe a lot of players in general. I think it's harder to retrain yourself to think "one ammo pack = low ammo" than it is to just say "low ammo"; and if that's a perception bias you're working against, the wording change helps a lot; if you aren't coming in with that bias, it doesn't get in the way.
                  But you can probably also accomplish the same thing by re-reading the ammo rules before every fight until they stick, or playing this system for a while. Personally, I prefer a word change, and I'd propose that it helps new players grok the system faster and easier.



                  I furthermore find it valuable to just assume everyone gets a spare ammo or two every time they restock. That's probably what players should be asking for anyway. Not asking for them was a dumb mistake. It's what players who double-check the math would do; it's what characters in the game world who look at that pack of ammo would do. Dumb mistakes are not the same as bad choices, which are also not the same as making a calculated risk that doesn't pan out. Dumb mistakes happen when a player gets confused and forgets to ask for a thing - which can happen to anyone, and is way more likely to happen with newer player. There is inherently a different level of frustration between "can I please not be screwed over by a dumb mistake?" vs "I know this probably won't work out, but I want to try".
                  When the default option is sub-optimal and risky (like having only one pack of ammo), when players probably should not be choosing the default, I call that a pitfall for dumb mistakes. I prefer to remove those kind of pitfalls. And I think Pugmire's philosophy is to remove those kind of pitfalls too - the Guide advice on handling equipment is pretty clear about that.

                  The retroactive gear save is one way of covering this pitfall. But when I look at the player's experience of how that feels to have a dumb mistake of not asking for ammo (or the misunderstanding of not knowing how much ammo you're getting), asking to not be screwed over for a dumb mistake, and being told "if you make another roll for it~" ... that doesn't feel good to me. I think it feels a lot better to just make the default assumption the thing the players should probably be doing anyway (ie, always getting a spare or to). The retroactive gear save is great in a lot of other situations, I'm certainly don't recommend removing it, but in this case I think a new default is preferable.




                  If your mileage varies, that's cool. But those are my reasons, and I'm going to stand behind them. I don't think they're unreasonable or too much of an edge case to matter; I think they can help players of any build and any familiarity with the rules, but especially new players and those who don't focus on ranged. So even if it amounts to a slight adjustment of wording, I don't think its a pointless change.


                  Edit: but what I am going to do is edit my OP. I didn't realize this was more of change of presentation and default assumptions which basically stayed within the RAW. I got excited about how this helped my group understand the rules, and I wanted to share. I still think it's useful, for me and hopefully others, but I can be more clear in the OP as to what this actually does and why.
                  Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 10-21-2019, 06:23 PM.


                  Second Chance for
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                  A Beautiful Madness

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                  • #10
                    I think this is a neat clarification of one of the core systems. In my experience D&D tends to be "swingy" anyway, resulting in weird results, which is generally part of the charm. But if the game is coming up with results that frustrate, I always encourage people to tweak things to make their personal groups happy!

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