Monday, July 30, 2018

Joel Simon's Dungeons I Want to Explore - Evolving Floorplan Elementary Schools

People are programming neural-networks to do all kinds of things these days.* Joel Simon used one to design a new elementary school.
Rather than feed his AI thousands of elementary school floorplans and then ask it to produce a new one that fits in with the others, Simon gave the computer one floorplan and asked it to keep the same rooms in the same sizes, but rearrange the layout, first to minimize the amount of building materials and the time it takes to get between classrooms, and then to minimize how long it takes anyone to reach a fire exit.
Fig 1 - The neural-network's two final designs from Joel Simon
The structures the computer came up with are probably impossible to build, and would likely feel deeply unsettling to be in. He says "I have very mixed feelings about this project. ... By not obeying any laws of architecture or design, it made the results very hard to evaluate." He could probably get a viable building if he also demanded that the neural-net only draw rectangular rooms and uniform hallway widths. Instead, he ended up with a lot of teardrop, hexagonal, and diamond-shaped rooms;** hallways that get narrower the deeper into the building you go (because the expected foot traffic diminishes as people enter shallower rooms); and hardly any windows. He explains: "Windows were also experimented with ... this led to many interior courtyards."+
Joel Simon's elementary schools don't look like any buildings that actually exist, but they do look like they'd make pretty good dungeons. The numerous branching paths and dead-ends would create a non-linear exploration experience, and the frequent use of room-to-room doorways actually creates a number of loops despite the hallways never reconnecting.
I imagine that the green classrooms would be standard dungeon rooms, while the mustard-colored teachers' lounges are caches hidden by secret doors, the red admin rooms and light blue facilities seem like lairs or faction strongholds, while the lavenders spaces are "specials", and the playground is a garden. The organic, space-saving and material-reducing logic of the place even makes a kind of sense if we imagine that it's underground. (Other explanations could be a building constructed by fungal / alien minds, a building rearranged by evil magic, a memory palace as it exists within the subconscious of the victim of your heist, or the Dark Hyrule / Upside Down counterpart to an ordinary building.)
Fig 2 - The neural-network's design process from Joel Simon
* I feel like there is some collective ritual of reassuring ourselves that our jobs are still safe among members of the precariat and various white-collar professions, where we read these things with bated breath and then have a good long post-panic laugh after seeing that neural-nets are still so bad at designing anything. I also feel like that will probably change within my lifetime. I suspect that someday we'll all look back fondly at a time when a computer thought "grass bat" and "turdly" were good names for a paint colors. I can't tell you how relieved I feel whenever the all-seeing eye of surveillance-driven internet advertising offers me something ludicrously inappropriate. It's going to be disquieting when internet ads inevitably learn how to offer me things I might genuinely want.
** I expected circular rooms, and you can see that they are circular in the preliminary floorplan, but then the rooms expanded to fill all the unused space between the circles, leading to a number of odd, hard-to-describe room shapes.
+ I would have liked to see one of the floorplans with an interior courtyard. Again, it's something that you would never build in a real school, but that fits the the underground dungeon aesthetic. Then again, as a child, I used to want to live in a Victorian house that took up the outer ring of a 3x3 grid, with the center square being an interior arboretum - so who knows, maybe AI architects will give us the courtyards we didn't know we wanted.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Two Good Links on Resource Management

I'm not the only one with resource mobilization on her mind.
In his book Art Worlds, Howard Becker proposes that individual genius isn't what creates art, art is created by communities of artists - working together, trading ideas, improving on one another's techniques, discarding unnecessary elements, refining the elements they keep. In this view Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson didn't invent D&D, the Lake Geneva wargaming scene invented D&D. It's obvious that there would be no Tekumel without D&D, it's less obvious, but no less true, that there would be no D&D as we know it without the educational supply companies mass-producing unusual-sided dice as classroom aids. Individual artists get credit and blame for the final products that bear their names, but if those products are credit-worthy, it's because of the community who helped invent, test, prove, and refine the ideas and techniques that went into that product, because of the community's theorists who justified and explained the ideas, because of the community's trained audience members who had already learned to appreciate what the product offered. It might require painstaking historical research to uncover the individual contributions of the community members, it might be impossible if insufficient records were kept of ephemeral conversations. Individuals get credit. But it's the community that creates.
My point is, resource management is having a cultural moment within what I would call the Old School Renaissance roleplaying scene. (Other people might call this scene/community by a different name, the self-identity of any scene is one of the things its theorists and aestheticians argue over and refine.) I've written a couple posts about resource management, but I'm not the only one thinking about it right now. One of my goals is to take stock of other people's ideas, but I'm not even alone in my stock-taking. Another of my goals is to look for places to innovate, but any innovations I think of will not be my ideas alone, they will be ideas I only had, ideas I only could have had, because of what other people wrote and thought.
Other people working on the same idea as you doesn't mean that you (and the world more generally) is in danger of running out or using up all possible ideas on that topic. It means the opposite. It means that's where the action is, at least right now. It means that ideas will come thick and fast from all corners, good ideas getting replaced by better ideas, today's draft torn down to make way for tomorrow's revision. And if someone else has literally the same idea you just had and posts it first, all it means is that you both looked as the same inspiration, both experienced the same eureka. The same idea might be thought up by many people simultaneously, because it's not any individual's idea, it's the community's. Stay involved, keep trying, speak up faster next time. You may not get credit, out of the whole community, hardly anyone will get credit, but you can still be a part of the scene. That's what's going on with resource management in the OSR right now.
Necropraxis offers a great overview of good ideas that have come out of the OSR, almost all of them related to resource management, or at least ideas that make RM-play possible. Half of Brendan's post reminds me of my own rough outline for my post series, half is full of ideas and suggestions that don't necessarily seem to be part of RM-play, but are principles that are necessary to make resource management function at the table.
"Make chargen fast and easy. Support fully random character generation. Determine starting gear randomly rather than shopping."
If you want to free up the cognitive resources necessary to pay attention to resource management, one place to cut complexity and decision-making is in character generation. Making starting gear randomly rather than painstakingly-selected speeds things up a lot, but it also has another consequence I'll talk about in a second. Plus, as Out for Blood (who Brendan links to) explains, random character generation is quick, quick chargen makes frequent character death possible and more palatable, and character death makes random chargen more fair by preferentially culling weaker characters faster, giving players more time to develop strong characters through gameplay.
"Low level D&D is a sweet spot for dungeon exploration games."
A game where you're worrying about running out of food or water or light is inherently a low-power game. Keeping gameplay grounded and low-fantasy leaves room that makes resource management possible. Superheroes don't count matchsticks. Gods don't carry flint and steel.
"Minimize bookkeeping. Not all games demand complex resource management, but I think it is better to let the nature of the game determine rules requirements rather than neglecting the consequences of encumbrance due to the hassle of using cumbersome mechanics."
Figure out the simplest version of things, so that you can use that if you need to, so that you have a baseline to add complexity to if you want to. Use something because you want it, ignore it because you don't. Don't feel forced to include accounting you find unnecessary, don't feel forced to exclude things you want because you can't figure out an easy way to count them.
The Scones Alone also has a recent post about resource management, ostensibly for Into the Odd, but his ideas could be applied to pretty much any old-school D&D-type game. To me, there is one big idea here, and then lots of other smart observations. (Also, I haven't read Into the Odd's latest playtest document, so I'm not completely certain how much of what he's written is new, and how much of it is just new to me.) The big idea is expedition resources. For vital resources like food, water, torches, and rope, one character carries the party's entire supply as a single indivisible object. What impresses me about this idea is that it's simpler than what you might otherwise think is the simplest version of this idea (which would be that each character carries their own supply of torches, let's say, as a single indivisible bundle.)
"If even one character in the group is carrying a single quantity of the resource, there is a sufficient amount for the entire group to use. They have an expected use that does not ordinarily deplete the resource. Creative uses of the resource trigger a Luck Roll that may deplete the resource. Only three states for vital resources: sufficient, resource about to run out, resource gone. If nobody in the group has the resource, the party suffers some negative effect."

Every vital resource has an expected use that doesn't deplete the resource at all (so for food, for example, one ration in one character's gear feeds all party members). Making creative use of a resource triggers a luck roll (Brian's example for food is dropping scraps to distract a monster, you could also imagine leaving a trail of breadcrumbs, eating extra portions to heal damage, or feeding an NPC you just met). The possible outcomes of the luck roll are that the resource runs out, that the resource has only a single use left, or that you get lucky and the resource remains un-depleted.

I like very much that this idea removes the shopping question "how much is enough?" from resource management, and focuses all the attention on the dungeoneering question "how shall we use this during play?" The right amount of anything to buy is one. One is enough ... as long as you use it exclusively for its intended purpose. And this is true regardless of how many people are in your party, so there's no wondering if each person needs to buy extra torches because there are fewer of you this week than last. This approach takes the classic lamp-oil trade off "shall we use it for light or shall we use it as a weapon?" and finds a way to generalize it to all the classic resources. Use your resources as intended and you're done, they're managed. Or use them creatively, which uses them up. Perfect. That's just about the perfect resource management decision, and in The Scones Alone's approach, it's the only RM decision.

"Notice something though? The group has only one of each Expedition Resource. That's a 'sufficient' quantity for the group's expected needs. But if a Luck Roll happens to deplete one of those resources, or one of the characters falls into a lava pit, the group now lacks that resource. We've successfully eliminated the guesswork about exactly how many individual rations, how many flasks of water, how many oil flasks are needed, and instead replaced it with the question of: 'How much redundancy do you want?' Or, what is your risk tolerance? Which is a more interesting question to me. It also happens to be an easier question to manage resources for. Maybe the party hires a porter to carry an extra everything? Of course, porters sometimes get scared and run away with all of their stuff..."
Again, this is smart. If a character dies (or at least dies in certain ways) or if an NPC fails their morale and runs away, you're not just down a person, you're potentially down your entire supply of a vital resource. It's the kind of risk that would basically never occur if you're counting individual torches. I mean yes, you could still run the risk of running out of individual torches, but probably only if you under-shopped. Here the question is not "should we buy 20, 40, or 60?" it's "should we run the risk of carrying only one, or give up the space to bring a spare?"
"Players quickly have so much gold that buying more-than-sufficient quantities of vital resources is trivial."
Resource-management heavy games may inherently be poor and/or low-power games, but if your character is routinely bringing back so little gold from the dungeon that you can't afford flashlight batteries and bottled water, then your campaign world may be a little too crapsack. Remember you're risking death down there. If all you're getting in return is pocket-change that leaves you unsure about whether or not you can afford a microwave burrito and to refill your Zippo lighter, then the risk/reward structure of your world may be too cruel for anyone to survive. Brian's idea would also justify charging non-trivial prices to replenish your expedition resources. Remember, you're not just buying a torch, you're buying all the torches you'll need to get through the dungeon.
"It is difficult for players to know how many individual rations, flasks of water, torches, etc. will be sufficient for the current session. Players will usually have either so much of a vital resource that it ceases to matter or so little that it feels like they guessed incorrectly."
To this I would add that if you are using fully-random character generation, including randomly generated starting equipment, then it feels perverse to punish the players with their characters getting lost in the dark forever and then starving to death, just because you, the judge, made them roll on a random table and then wouldn't let them go shopping afterwards. This is the point I said I would come back to earlier. If random starting equipment is a best-practice that gets games going faster and lets people actually play, then you can't subsequently force them to wallow in misery because they had random starting equipment rather than a painstakingly selected bespoke panoply.
"The more differences items have in relation to encumbrance, the more difficult the system is for players to manage accurately and efficiently. Limit encumbered status to, at most, two states: normal and overburdened. All items are either normal or Bulky. Normal items take 1 slot. Bulky items take 2 slots. There is no 'X quantity of this item fits in 1 slot'. If you have 4 vials of poison, it takes 4 slots to carry them."
"A single treasure is treated as a single, indivisible item. Most treasures are Bulky. Some treasures are Unwieldy - they cannot be carried in your inventory. You must come up with a plan, equipment, personnel, etc. to transport them. An important idea is the indivisibility of treasures. Take this into consideration when making your treasures. A heavy, golden vase makes a better treasure than a pile of gold coins. The latter immediately re-raises the 'how many coins per slot' question. If you really want chests of coins, play the 'It's a game. The chest of coins is a single, indivisible Bulky item' card."
Brian gives his player 8 encumbrance slots per character. Note that the popular encumbrance equal to Strength means an average character in an OSR game will get to carry 10 items, after packing rations, torches, and rope, they're left with 7 discretionary spots. In a party of 3 using expedition resources, each character can pack a single expedition resource and be left with 7 discretionary encumbrance slots. Perfect.
Brian's advice here is also just one more reminder that if you're going to use encumbrance, you have to keep it simple. I'm of the opinion that encumbrance is often difficult to use because we often ask it to do too much, tracking significant items, insignificant items, bundles of items, armors that can take up between 0-6 encumbrance slots, incorporating adjustments for strength, multiple movement rates, etc. Brian keeps it dead simple. A specific number of items, period. No bundles, nothing is special. Just this much and no more, and that's it. Again, if you want to add more complications later, there's still some value in identifying the simplest possible version for now. The simplest simplest version is still just to ignore these things entirely, but the simplest version that actually uses some form of encumbrance is probably going to look something like this.
The treasure rules are dead simple too, and preserve original D&D's challenge of making treasure an encumbering item, not just something that disappears into hammer space the moment you pick it up. I think caches of coins are still do-able, but I would suggest making each cache be a unique currency or denomination. The "late Renaissance gold florins with a rare anti-pope obverse minting" are a separate cache from the "Iron Age iron coins dating from Vandal Savage's third empire right before he was overthrown by Kru'll the Eternal" - and both of them are going to a numismatist to get changed for cash before you can spend them. Brian also points out something that I've noticed recently, and that Luka Rejec is obviously thinking about with his rules for "hacking up treasure", which is that there's a distinction between items that take up 1 or 2 encumbrance slots, and items that are larger than an individual character can carry. While technically, this issue could come up with adventuring equipment too, more often, it's a problem that arises from treasure, and I don't think it's fair that you, the judge, should show the players some cool treasure and then force them to leave it behind because you couldn't figure out what rules would adjudicate how their characters could carry it.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Peter Ward & Alexis Rockman's Monsters I Want to Fight - The Future Evolutionaries

Future Evolution, written by Peter Ward, illustrated by Alexis Rockman, is not another After Man or another The Future is Wild.
Instead it's almost the antithesis.
Ward and Rockman don't imagine a future without humans or without our livestock and pets, where the remaining wild animals have re-inherited the Earth. They don't imagine a future full of new cool-looking megafauna, a return to 20-foot tall rodents and 100-foot long lizards.
Fig 1 - Possible future cladogram (bottom to top) - original dandelion, cactus-like, aquatic, arboreal, carnivorous, epiphytic. painted by Alexis Rockman
Ward posits (and Rockman paints) a future that is grounded in the likely continuation of both the human species and the current human civilization. The future they foresee is one of increasingly smaller and more isolated "island" habitats, where small ecosystems are separated from each other by impassable and inhospitable lines of building and infrastructure, where the farm and the garbage dump are at least as common of habitats as the forest and the prairie.
Their future is mostly full of small animals. There is, quite literally, no room in the world they see us building for animals even as large as the horse and the cow. Speaking of, their future is also mostly full of animals descended from livestock, from pets, from parasites and pests. They foresee us remaking a world that will have no room for today's wildlife, except in zoos, where they will be preserved as evolutionary dead-ends. Their future does see a re-proliferation of species, a branching out and diversification to re-fill all the abandoned ecological niches. But they predict that the progenitors will all be plants and animals that are connected to humans, the ones we raise, the ones that thrive because of or despite us. Many children, but few parents. A solipsistic world, where everything that exists lives because its ancestors had some connection to humanity, where everything disconnected from us has died out. (As I said, this future is virtually the opposite of Dougal Dixon's After Man, although it shares some similarity with the core conceit of Man After Man.)
Fig 2 - Possible future cladogram (bottom to top) - timber rattler, walking, pygmy, millipede, giant, flying, swimming types. painted by Alexis Rockman
They build their future world on eight principles, about how previous mass extinctions (and post-extinction recoveries) have gone, how the current ongoing one might be different and why.
For gaming purposes, most of these principles are irrelevant. But a few strike me as useful, especially if you move from the implicitly post-apocalyptic Dark Age setting of original D&D to the explicitly post-apocalyptic future world of Metamorphosis Alpha or Gamma World or Mutant Future or Crawling Under a Broken Moon or Mutant Crawl Classics.
"4. The modern mass extinction is different from any other in Earth's long history."
"Global terrestrial biodiversity will fall to end-Paleozoic levels because of continued extinction and the functional removal of barriers to migration."
"5. All mass extinctions have been followed by a recovery interval, characterized by a new fauna composed of animals that have either survived the extinction or evolved from such survivors."
"In this case, the recovery fauna is already in place, and consists mainly of domesticated animals and plants, as well as "weedy" species capable of living amid high populations of humans."
"6. There will be new species yet to evolve."
"Many of these new species will be the result of jumping genes, as DNA from organisms created under laboratory conditions by biotechnology firms escapes into the wild."

"Others will be mainly small species adapted to living in the new world of spreading cities and farms. The new animal and plant species will thus evolve in the niches and corners of a world dominated by Homo sapiens."
"The rules of speciation have changed: few large animals will evolve as long as humanity exists in large numbers, and as long as our planet remains divided into innumerable small islands."
"7. Our species,
Homo sapiens, can look forward to both evolution and long-term survival. Of all the animal species on Earth, we may be the least susceptible to extinction: humanity is functionally extinction-proof."
"8. There will never be a new dominant fauna on Earth other than humanity and its domesticated vassals until we go extinct - and if we succeed in reaching the stars, that may never happen."
Fig 3 - Possible future cladogram (bottom to top) - original crow, vulture, raptor, shoe bill, wading, honey-eating, ratite. painting by Alexis Rockman
So how can we translate these ideas into game-able advice? (Aside from placing the twenty-five "future evolutionaries" specifically pictured here into your game?)
You don't need to go as far as eliminating every wild plant an animal from your games. But I would say that, if you want your game to feel like it takes place in a future where the planet has been indelibly marked by humanity's fingerprints, one way to show those marks is to increase the prevalence of monsters derived from domesticated animals, increase the prevalence of domesticated plants as set-dressing, beyond what you would ordinarily consider. And if you want your game to feel suitably post-apocalyptic, one way to do that is to have fewer progenitor species giving rise to more variant descendants, showing that there was a bottleneck, a great extinction, that everything that now lives evolved from what little survived.
A future where the players travel through a jungle of thousand-foot tall trees before finding a clearing where an army of tiger-women is fighting an army of polar-bear-men feels post-human. So much time has passed that we are forgotten, the fact that we ever existed at all is irrelevant.
But a future where the players travel through a forest of hundred-foot-tall cornstalks and fifty-foot dandelions, before finding a clearing where calico-housecat-women fight lamb-boys or teddy-bear-robots? Where they discover that their path though the forest is being cleared by a 10' cube-shaped pig? Where the corn-and-dandelion forest gives way to a Christmas-tree-and-Halloween-pumpkin forest? Or where all the forests are islands, surrounded by oceans of pavement? That's a future where the presence of humanity is still felt, where it is inescapable, suffocating.
Whether or not the players meet any humans, the fact of human existence is still obviously the dominant force shaping the world. If the humans they do meet have only stone-age technology, if they are trapped in a world their ancestors made that they can no longer reshape or even comprehend, that drives home just how apocalyptic the apocalypse must have been. The world might be post-apocalyptic, but it is not post-human, certainly not post-the-relevance-of-human-civilization.
Numenara posits a world where neo-medieval humans live among the relics of incomprehensible super-civilizations. But most other post-apocalyptic games imagine a nearer-term future, where it is essentially our civilization that has become the incomprehensible forebear to the survivors, and where a great deal of dramatic irony derives from the fact that what is incomprehensible to the neo-stone-age humans who live there is perfectly comprehensible to us. Peter Ward's and Alexis Rockman's ideas provide some insight for building a world like that.
Fig 4 - Possible future cladogram (bottom to top) - pig, genetically engineered, rhino-like, aquatic, pygmy, giraffe-like, garbage eating. painting by Alexis Rockman

Monday, July 2, 2018

Mechanics for Resource Management - part 2, Defining our Terms

In my first post about resource management, I argued that the original rules for resource management in D&D are too difficult, that they're rarely used, that they nevertheless saddle us with a legacy of unnecessary bookkeeping, and that a better solution is to truly ignore resources that you don't plan to meaningfully track. A longer-term goal of this project is to think about solutions, about better ways to track resources so that they can be managed, easily, effectively, and at the table. There are a number of creative solutions that have emerged from the OSR that deserve to be looked at in detail.
In the shorter term, I want to take a step back and define what I mean by "resource management" generally, identify the major resources that there are to manage, and talk about what I think RM gaming looks like compared to non-RM gaming (and perhaps, compared to an emerging genre of new-RM gaming).
I don't think I have any original insights here. I'm just collecting my own thoughts in one place. I only have the same intellectual resources anyone reading this blog has available to them: access to the rulebooks, and the wealth of play reports and session reports that let me read what other players and other judges do in their games. I'm not even making a real systematic analysis of those reports, just using what I've seen to inform general impressions of common ways that people play.
(As an aside, because of my time in sociology, my automatic word-association for "resource" is "mobilization" rather than "management". I keep having to stop myself, erase the last word, and rewrite it. It will be interesting to see if this project changes my habit at all.)
Treasure chest interiors from Slam Blogsma
By resource management, I mean the minigame of actively tracking the supply of multiple different kinds of resources, making decisions (both short-term tactical and long-term strategic) to manage the rate at which the supplies of these resources are depleted and replenished, making trade-offs to spend one resource in order preserve another, and suffering consequences or receiving rewards for making these decisions poorly or well.
The resource management within a play-style or campaign can vary in at least three ways. Campaigns can differ in the purpose that resource management serves within the game, in the overall importance of resource management to the campaign, and in the method used to track each resource. I think of these as being semi-independent axes; two different judges might both use the same method to track a given resource, but it might be much more important in one campaign than in the other, and the purpose that managing that resource serves might be quite different. On the other hand, I have the impression that people's answers to these questions tend to cluster to form either "resource-management games" (or "high-RM games", if you prefer) or "non-resource-management" games.
Purpose - Resource management can be a source of active danger in a campaign. In such a game, players are always at risk of running out of something mid-session, and if they do, there are mechanical consequences. There is an expectation that the players will run out of supplies sometimes, and so the consequences, while possibly harsh, are generally non-lethal. (For example, if players are exploring a pitch black cave using headlamps, they would need to continuously monitor the battery life of their headlamps. They might rotate leaving some on and some off, or turn them all out while camping to save power. If they run out of batteries entirely, they'll have to navigate the cave in the dark. This is much harder than navigating with lights, and increases their chances of becoming lost or trapped, but they also might still make it out alive, especially if they have a good mental map or a skilled navigator. The players could probably spend an entire session exploring the cave while blind, although this might be a frustrating experience for both them and the judge.) To serve this purpose, the resource in question has to be something that's important and consumable, but not entirely indispensable. A character with enough hp (or other resources) should be able to finish the adventure, or at least rush back to safety, without dying.
RM can also serve to set the context for an adventure. Here the assumption is that ensuring that resources don't run out is one of the players' primary goals for the session; there might be rules for the consequences of running out of supplies, but if so, they're typically so harsh that suffering them for more than a couple rounds is going to be fatal. Alternatively, the judge might rule the the players can't take any action that would cause them to run out of supplies, or that they die instantly if they do. (For example, if the players are exploring underwater, they need diving suits and oxygen tanks before ever going underwater. The judge might have rules for drowning, but if so, they'll only get used if someone gets a nick in their airhose during combat, or fumbles while switching their oxygen tanks. There's no way anyone could do the whole dive while drowning the whole time, no matter how many hit points they have. Alternatively, the judge might simply rule that the players have to surface rather than let themselves run out of oxygen, or that they die instantly if they run out.) To serve this purpose, the resource in question has to be something that's vital, and that with careful play is not likely to be used up. Any kind of survival gear for harsh conditions could serve this purpose. A horse or guide might also serve this purpose, with their hit points or morale being the resource that has to be conserved.
Resource management could be entirely a downtime activity. Here the assumption is that resources will not run out during play, and that the players don't particularly need to do anything special to avoid it. There are likely no rules about what happens if the character actually do run out of something, and no expectation that such rules would ever be enforced. Here, resource management is essentially reduced to the role of mandatory shopping. It becomes a kind of between-session tax that the judge enforces on the players. Each time they set out, they need to buy new rations, torches, arrows, and anything else that might get used - under the assumption that it likely got used up between adventures and now needs to be replenished. Depending on the prices characters have to pay relative to the treasure they're likely to find, this tax could force them to pick and choose which resources they're going to maintain from adventure to adventure, keep them hungry for their next score, or shade into ritualistic bookkeeping. Any resource that's routinely available in very large quantities could fall into this purpose.
RM could also take the form of pure ritualism. Players track their supplies with varying attentiveness; some monitoring every expenditure, others keeping track only when they remember, others ignoring it except when prodded. There are no in-game consequences either way. Details that have no relevance in play are listed in the rulebooks, where they can be dutifully recorded by players who feel obligated to write down such information. It feels weird, or wrong, or strange to consider not tracking some resources at all, across the board. Such is the power of tradition, such is the power of legacy. The actions, once performed for a reason, are now simply performed for the sake of the performance, for the sake of ritual. Any resource that serves primarily as a quantified version of "fluff" or characterization has become ritualized. There's space to write it on the character sheet, but this information is never consulted during play.
Finally, resource management could be absent from the game entirely. There isn't space to write it on the character sheet; isn't there in the rulebook to be copied down. Since everything that isn't there technically falls into this category, but the only resources that are likely to be considered notable in their absence are ones that are recorded in other games. The Sims computer game tracks every characters' bladder capacity and Fatal famously tracks a number of different genital measurements; D&D fortunately doesn't, and few players are likely to miss them in their absence - but to consider removing gp, hp, or XP might seem like something that would change the game so much it wouldn't be D&D anymore. And yet, there are those who say the same (loudly, angrily, and often) about resources like loyalty, morale, and strictly-observed movement rates.
Hit points, incidentally, can fall into any of the above categories, depending on how many hp characters have, how much damage hazards and monsters deal, how easily hit points can be recovered through mid-session healing, and how the rules around dying are handled. Numbered in the hundreds and backed by healing surges, death saves, and similar mechanics, hit points become something that are tracked more as a ritual or a legacy than because there is any chance of falling to 0 and actually dying.
Treasure chest interiors from Slam Blogsma
Importance - Resource management can range from being so important that tracking various resources practically is the game being played (as in at least some of those early OD&D games, in Torchbearer, and in LotFP's The God that Crawls module) to basically having little or no role in a game that's mostly about combat, mystery-solving, social interaction, or exploration. In between those poles are play-styles where a smaller amount of resource management is used to set limits on how much combat, how much exploration, etc, can be accomplished, so that tracking resource use is done in service of facilitating some other player goal, rather than being a goal, unto itself.
In principle, the importance of each resource can vary independently, but it seems that in practice, these things cluster together, so that either resource management is considered very important and lots of different resources are tracked, or it's considered pretty unimportant and few if any resources are monitored.
One challenge in all this is that there's a kind of paradox to resource management. A situation where the players treat resources as important and plan ahead to have a sufficient supply is almost indistinguishable from a situation where the players and the judge all ignore resource management completely. In both situations, resources don't matter. In both situations, play proceeds without complications created by resource management. There's very little difference between play where the players track their resources but always have enough, play where the judge describes the characters using up un-tracked resources and they always have enough, and play where resource use isn't mentioned at all. I suppose the amount of work put into describing unimportant resources creates a kind of sliding scale of gritty realism, but if all you want is flavor, I think it's better to get it from the narrative you speak aloud to each other, rather than the math you scribble silently on the sheet in front of you.
Resources don't matter when you always have enough of them. The two situations where resources are truly important are when resources run out and players face the consequences or when resources could run out and players adjust their behavior to ensure the they don't. Spells and hit points make paradigmatic examples for thinking about both situations. Spells run out. Players might occasionally hold back from using a spell to save it for later, but in general, players cast spells when they need them, and then deal with the consequences of no longer having them later. The situation where you used to have a spell that could help you, but now you don't, and so now you have to think of a different solution is inherently an interesting situation. It demands improvisation and creative thinking. Hit points could run out. Nothing interesting happens if hit points do actually run out. You're just dead, just no longer in the game (temporarily). But the things players do to avoid running out of hit points, the way they change their behavior from what they want to do to what they have to do to survive, that is interesting. Negotiations, surrenders, chases, combat-avoidance strategies, all of them happen because hit points could run out and players want to ensure that they don't.
A challenge then, for a judge who wants resource management to be important, is to think of why players who care about resources wouldn't just bring enough of them that they don't need to be managed. If you want resources to be important, you can't allow them to be simply a downtime activity, a ritual, or something that's absent from play. Encumbrance is one answer. The characters don't bring enough resources because they can't, they can't carry that much bulk or weight, at least not without the added inconvenience of pack animals and hirelings. The other main answer I've seen is unpredictable resource loss. If resources are consumed at an unpredictable rate, then it may be impossible to have enough of them on hand when you need them. As I'll talk about next time, rations and torches get used at predictable rates, spells and hit points are used up unpredictably. I don't think it's a coincidence that the resources that survive even in most non-RM games are the ones like spells and hit points that almost always matter, that almost always demand to be managed. One final solution is to treat resources as optional benefits. Nothing bad happens if you don't have resources, but something good might happen if you do. Magic items are like this. So would be, for example, gourmet meals, in a game where you assume you always have enough food to avoid starvation, but gain some optional benefit if you manage to eat a really good meal.
Treasure chest interiors from Slam Blogsma
Method - Resources can be tracked by counting them directly, by not tracking them at all, or by using an alternate mechanic to track them abstractly. The original D&D rules seem to me to encourage managing all resources by tracking them directly; not tracking, or allowing unlimited supply, seems to me the most direct alternative to that system.
Between these two poles, there are a variety of experimental mechanics that have been written to try to track resources at some level of abstraction, typically with the goal of making them more important by making them easier to track. A great deal of innovation in the OSR concerns resource management, and coming up with alternate mechanics for tracking resources while making tracking easier than direct counting.
Different resources within the same game can use different mechanics, some resources might be counted, others ignored, the remainder might draw on multiple different sub-systems to track each in their own way. Hit points, gold pieces, and experience points seem to be the most common resources to count directly, even in games that treat other resources differently. Encumbrance, ammunition, and time (especially as it relates to light and wandering monsters) seem to be prime contenders for the choice to either ignore the resource or find a new way to track it. One of my goals for starting this series in the first place was to look at the different systems OSR authors have designed for alternative resource tracking.