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How to do resource management and avoid railroading in a journey scenario?

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#1 Calamari


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Posted 06 September 2017 - 09:44 AM

Pardon the long title. I have an idea for a Delta Green scenario inspired by Kali Ghati, the film The Objective and a recent thread about cults dedicated to Cthuga. Basically, the Agents will have to make a long journey from a US base in Afghanistan to a remote part of Northwest Afghanistan in order to check out what Delta Green believes to be hypergeometric activity detected by observation satellites.


I want to include some level of resource management in this scenario (limited fuel/food/water) but I don't know exactly how to go about it so any suggestions are appreciated.


Seeing as the scenario is ultimately a journey from point A to point B, and there are a number of events I want the Agents to experience, I was also wondering how I might be able to minimise railroading of the players. I guess I could offer various 'crossroads' for the Agents to choose with their own time and resource management costs or which lead to different events, but any examples or different suggestions anybody has for this would help.


The thread about handling descriptions of travel helped me too in thinking about how to describe the journey and not make it seem boring or uninvolved, but with the journey predominantly taking place in what is effectively a wasteland with few landmarks of note I don't know how much good unique description I can do before it just becomes repetition of how desolate and dry the plains are. Again, any suggestions are appreciated.


Thanks in advance for any replies, I can elaborate on my ideas and comments if necessary.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.

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#2 nclarke


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Posted 06 September 2017 - 10:33 AM

You could pop in some IED's on the road, a few hostile or not villages, a minibus (the ubiquitous form of longer distance transport) that has broken down. a Delta force/Seal recon team that tracks the PC's not sure if they are hostiles or not. There's loads of things that could break up the monotony of a long boring trip across dry dusty plains.

#3 johnmcfloss


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Posted 06 September 2017 - 01:12 PM

I've tended to find that resource management's more fun as a series of Difficult Decisions, over a Bookkeeping exercise - give them enough scope to take everything they want or need, and then at certain points along the journey, start removing their capacity to transport it - a ruined vehicle, deserters, requests for aid, etc.

Then tell them they're going to have to leave X items behind, but it's up to them, what it is (I abstracted the weight, so each piece of equipment was considered the same weight/mass).


Occasionally I'd ask for checks, or they'd be in a situation where a piece of equipment was incredibly useful, but I found that the "Okay, we've got to choose between the vehicle repair kit, or the spare fuel" type conversations were far more interesting and tense for the party than any actual repercussions.

I also, personally, wouldn't worry too much about railroading - throw them dilemmas and choices, and reward/punish these sure, but I think a narratively satisfying journey where either choice on a crossroad leads to the same location, is far better than a player-driven bumble through the less-interesting of your events, in a haphazard order.

And, as they're never going to go back and try the other path, they'll never realise how little difference it actually made!

#4 Kuroda


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Posted 06 September 2017 - 01:43 PM

Resource management scenarios are railroads. IMO. And they can be some of the best fun ever.


Hand over the description of the tedious, repetitive, desolate road scenery to the players.  (Obviously, you've steered the "theme" of the game towards characterization, because the players can get into that kind of thing?) The tedium and bleakness is their fault, after all. They WANTED this mission.


Revisit all the events you want your players to experience and turn them something more vague and slushy. Make them into events that can and must wrap around the players as they roleplay out their boredom.


(Be sure to include the irrational and nihilistic horrors of Lovecraft visiting a truck stop. Pumping gas for yourself should be a cosmically humiliating event. In the diner, facing a bottle of Sriracha sauce next to the salt & pepper shakers ought to wreck them, as men, forever again unable to face the filthy mongrel streets outside their doors. My God, man, think of the race-stream!...)


Re-plot your structure of events and meetings and divergences so it's not causal, not a decision-branching tree, but rather a thematic one. Don't let us understand, or even feel much confidence we do, about how these things tie together. Tie them together (sequentially, I mean) by through listening to your players' speculations; let the actual Baddies' plot rock on by itself in your head. (Because in the end, you're the only insane cultist.) Breed paranoia, foment magical thinking, tongue-bath conspiratorial structures.


 Was there anything, in "The Objective", interesting or worthwhile pertaining to the super-cool & clever explanation of it? Or was it good-to-watch because of the characters' being committed to their roles while chasing & meeting the Ab-Natural?


Just let the "game" be a resource-management one, and make the tone a permanently off-footed one, with accumulating uncomfortable encounters that might feel like they're connected, but which don't readily gel in "gaming logic". If your players don't turn that into horror, then what are the odds you could somehow con them into "doing RPG horror" by some clever mechanism or structure?

#5 rylehNC


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Posted 06 September 2017 - 01:55 PM

I'd go with no more than a Supply pool and treat it like hit points. Roll a d6 at whatever interval you think is effective, or when events call for it. If the pool goes negative that starts affecting actual hit point maximums (for food & first aid) and firearms to hit rolls (ammo). Make the players decide who takes the hit each time, so they get jumpy.


Just bear in mind that you will need to have the PCs worry about setting that pool at the base, and replenishing it on the road.


IMO you can't call it railroading when the PCs have a discrete goal. That's just the Keeper setting the parameters of the game in which the players have chosen to play.

Happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes.

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#6 nclarke


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Posted 06 September 2017 - 03:51 PM

Might also be worth looking at how Goodnight Vienna does it - A B24 bomber crew crashed in the North African desert.

#7 PoC


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Posted 06 September 2017 - 03:56 PM

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#8 Gaffer


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Posted 06 September 2017 - 08:24 PM

The distance is going to be around 600 miles and take about 30 hours travel time, which means 4-6 days roundtrip with maybe four overnights. They'll only need around 12 pounds food and 12 gallons of water per person, which isn't a lot to pack on vehicles or manage. Although there may not be a lot of automotive traffic, most of the journey will be on travelled routes it seems, which presupposes fuel availability along the way or a need to pack an extra sixty gallons or so.


It isn't like weeks of trackless waste. I wouldn't make a side game of resource management. Other than fuel, it doesn't seem that critical until or unless SOMETHING HAPPENS.


For descriptive ideas, try Googling images for Afghanistan and for the various locales you plan to use. You don't need to describe mile after mile of unchanging landscape. Instead, focus on the places that break that monotony. Also, be prepared for your players to want to GET THERE and not wasting time at interruptions along the way.


Frankly, if I was your player, I'd be whining about wanting a helicopter. ;)


As soon as one of us was seriously injured, I'd be wanting to abort the mission, too.

"Two in the head, you know he's dead." <heh-heh>

#9 Calamari


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Posted 07 September 2017 - 03:56 PM

Thanks for the replies everybody.


The recommendation of Goodnight Vienna is handy, I will certainly be taking some inspiration from there. I think, upon reading your comments and further consideration, that I will play the resource management on the more abstract side like suggested by johnmcfloss. Thank you all also for the suggestions about structure and the reassurances about my concerns of railroading. I intend to take some creative liberties with travel times, supply capacities and such for a number of things for my own convenience and enjoyment (and that of the PCs). On the topic of the PCs wanting to abort the mission, I intend to make it impossible or highly impractical after a certain point out of logistical and more unnatural reasons, though I hope that by convincing my players in-game of the gravity of their mission they will be more reluctant to want to give up despite danger and setbacks.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.

                                                                                                                            - H P Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

#10 Eudaimic


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Posted 08 September 2017 - 02:05 AM

The Mythos Expeditions book for Trail of Cthulhu might be of some interest to you, even if the system is different. It has a section specifically meant to cover the 'journey to the destination' portion of an expedition game.

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