December 17, 2013
Most tabletop role-playing games are, at their heart, games about resource management. Characters have pools of resources they are able to draw on in order to accomplish the objectives set forth by the Gamemaster. The number of resources can vary game to game, but there are a number of common ones that most games share, the two largest of these being health/hit points and money. Your health and/or hit points determine just how much punishment your character is able to take before they are taken out of the game. Money determines how many additional resources your characters are able to acquire in game such as improved weapons or armor, things that can restore other resources like life or mana, or even a capability to accomplish specific mission objectives. Need to talk your way past some security at a local cantina? Sure, you could use a number of social based skills or role-play the encounter, or you could have your character slide a wade of money the guard’s way so they let you past. Other resources that games might have include fate/destiny/luck points, fatigue/stamina, magic points for spell-casting characters, and even yum-yums. In most of these cases, it falls on the players to determine how they make use of these various resources in play.
When you look at a game like this, you can start to formulate different strategies of play. Look at what a character has available. Try to maximize your use of these resources. Is health a valuable resource to your character? Then focus on improving the character’s defense so they do not risk losing as much in each encounter. Money? Play more or less conservatively. Magic? Find alternate means of accomplishing your tasks that do not use up your precious mana. A favorite line I hear some of my players utter when playing a spell-caster is “Let’s look for a mundane way first.” Sure, whatever obstacle that is currently standing in their way could be overcome with magic, but that would use up some of those resources. This means that the player is willing to look for alternative, and possibly even more challenging, ways to overcome a problem rather than spending their hard-earned resources.
However, it is also important to realize that there is no need to be a complete hoarder when it comes to character resources. The game is not going to last forever, and if you hold back on using what you have available too much, that can come back to bite you. Remember playing games like Final Fantasy and ending the game with 99 Full Heals in your inventory? It is a lot like that. How much easier would the game have been if you were willing to use some of those potions earlier on? Once the game is over, there is no point in those 99 potions any more.
My advice to players is to remember to think about what resources your character has available to them, but not to be afraid of spending them. You have earned them, and thus they need to be working for you in the game. Using them too readily means you will not have them when you need them, but hoarding them means that you will just be making the journey that much harder along the way. Finding a good balance, which will be different for every player and every character, is the key to getting the most out of all those resources.
As always, have fun and good gaming.
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