Wednesday, April 14, 2021

10,000 marbles & PC shopping lists

We're playing Felltower this weekend, and naturally this means planning what to do.

Cue up a long list of places to go, most of which have an attached caveat about equipment needed to pull it off.

Pretty much, every player plan seems to depend on everything going right, and on some very specific equipment requests.

These requests are often qouted in a Princess Bride reference, but this is actually what goes through my head as people plan equipment:

It's never "a holocaust cloak and a cart." It's "8 charged scrolls of (obscure spell), two spellstones of (specific spell) per person, special order equipment, and one (rare item not actually for sale.)" It's always some multitude of things that would have taken a lot of planning. It's a plethora of pinatas. It's 10,000 marbles.

Generally I've dealt with this by saying you can't shop for availability, you can just shop. You try to round up what you need from a limited supply spread across multiple merchants. You can't say, "Let's see if they have 10,000 marbles. If so, we can decide if we want to do this. If not, we don't buy the marbles . . . this time. Next time, we'll know they have 10,000 marbles." What a nightmare.

It's as bad as that time my friend figured out that with some time manipulation and scrying magic in Mage: The Ascension we could reasonably fight out a fight precognitively and then decide if we won we'd actually go through with it. Funny, maybe a great movie or book idea, but in game terms it's useless grinding of time that could be fun and making of misery for the GM. The GM spends a lot of time coming up with answers that may or may not be relevant.

So basically, if you want to know they have 10,000 marbles, take your money out and shop. If they do and you don't get them, they're no more or less likely to have them next time. Do it too often, and it goes to "less likely." It's a GM and player time saver more than anything else.


  1. I don't think I've ever had that problem.

    1. Ditto. Not only as a Player, but as a GM...

      As a Player this would drive me up the wall. We made a plan, we can acquire the necessary gear, LET'S DO THIS! To like, have the ability to bring it all together and then have people say "Ah, no, well..." would annoy me on so many levels. I mean if those Players were against the plan the whole time and were outvoted, sure, sure, but if it was one of the Players pushing for this plan?

      As a GM I'm with Peter. These shops aren't Wal*Mart, they don't keep a set amount of stock. Now, if the PCs buy the gear and then decide to hold off on the plan and do something else, well, that's fine.

    2. Huh. Maybe my groups have just always been weird, because this has been a thing for a few decades now.

      But it can't just be me, or movies wouldn't have cunning plans based on access to very specific gear, or shopping sequences, or training sequences. The idea that you wouldn't end up with people wanting to transport them to game - "Hey, if we had X, and Y happened, we'd get to Z!" - actually seems weirder to me than what I experience.

    3. It's not that I don't have groups that make those sorts of plans (plans contingent on specific variable being present/occurring), it's that if they make that sort of plan and those contingents occur, they don't then decided not to of the plan.

      For the most part, once my group(s) have made a plan, they tend to strongly stick to it unless variables radically alter or they just plain forget. It's very rarely "If we had X and Y we can do Z, let's go check and see if we can buy X and Y and //then// we'll decide on doing Z".

      Instead, they made up their minds for Z and the only stopping them will be a lack of X and Y. And if one is available and non-perishable, and the plan is "we can come back to this later" type, they'll acquire the one they can and special order the one that was absent so it'll be available later.

      But, and here's where we might differ strongly, in the majority of my groups there have been at least one, and often 2, people who really enjoy making lists of items, tracking items usage, acquiring times for group usage that might be useful in the future, and making and sticking to plans. One of those people is me, the other is my best friend since , oh about 96 or so.

      So when I'm playing, the group has someone who strongly focused on planning, accomplishing plans, checking off those boxes, and moving to the next plan. And when I'm running a game (at least since 96), I've generally had a player who enjoys those same things.

      Like, both of us are of the mindset that if plans are presented of the nature of "If X and Y //maybe// Z" and plans of "If X and Y //then// Z" we immediately dump the 'maybes' from consideration and focus on the 'thens'.

      But maybe my experience is less common than two people responding to you makes it seem. I've certainly watched a fair number of games on the tubes that skew more your way than mine, but I've always figured they were either just playing up being wacky, or the group was completely full of artist types not engineers (it's a broad brush sweeping generalization, but I've found artists prefer 'maybe', engineers prefer 'then').


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