This is a site for discussing roleplaying games. Have fun doing so, but there is one major rule: do not discuss political issues that aren't directly and uniquely related to the subject of the thread and about gaming. While this site is dedicated to free speech, the following will not be tolerated: devolving a thread into unrelated political discussion, sockpuppeting (using multiple and/or bogus accounts), disrupting topics without contributing to them, and posting images that could get someone fired in the workplace (an external link is OK, but clearly mark it as Not Safe For Work, or NSFW). If you receive a warning, please take it seriously and either move on to another topic or steer the discussion back to its original RPG-related theme.
The message boards have been upgraded. Please log in to your existing account by clicking here. It will ask twice, so that it can properly update your password and login information. If it has trouble recognizing your password, click the 'Forgot your password?' link to reset it with a new password sent to your email address on file.

Author Topic: Counters vs numbers  (Read 702 times)

Mishihari

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • M
  • Posts: 212
    • View Profile
Counters vs numbers
« on: January 08, 2021, 08:20:58 pm »
I got the Pandemic board game for Christmas, and some of the playing pieces are little cubes of transparent plastic in bright colors, about 8 mm on a side.  It occurred to me that these might be useful for my game as counters.  Rather than writing a number on a scrap of paper, I could just have a pile of blocks.  I like the idea because I find that numbers are detrimental to my immersion, and I can quickly judge how I'm doing on health, frex, by looking at the pile.  On the other hand, if I take a lot of damage, it might be tedious to count out 23 tiny cubes.

Has anyone had any experience with using physical counters for things like health, mana, and fatigue?  If so, how did you like it, and were there any tricks to make it work better?

Omega

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • O
  • Posts: 14553
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2021, 08:46:45 pm »
Its been tries, and tried, and tried.

Theres a reason people tend to go back to just jotting it down.

The main problem is the fiddlyness if it and for many, dicking around with cubes, cones, coins, tracks, whatever, breaks their play far more than just jotting own a number.

And at many tables the DM is the one tracking player HP anyhow and the players dont have to dither at all.

Cubes or whatever are also increasingly onerous to keep track of as the HP count grows.

Then theres the problem of getting cubes. Locally its a total nuisance to get any.

Another problem is it is very open to cheating by players adept at palming cubes or just being dishonest how many they have/have left. Which can and will require the DM to stop and count the damn things. Which will stop the session dead in its tracks while this goes on every time theres a doubt.

No, no, no and no.

Shasarak

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2451
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2021, 08:48:14 pm »
Just one word of caution if using something like candy or M&Ms for tracking health: Beware of hungry neighbours.
"There can be no middle ground with bigots. Bigots want to deny the rights and livelihood of people different from them. They want them to cease existing, either by going underground or by murdering them. There is no "let's meet in the middle" with that. To suggest there can be is ignorance" RPGNet

Ratman_tf

  • Alt-Reich Shitlord
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5828
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2021, 09:04:41 pm »
I prefer jotting down the number.
If I were inclined to use tokens, I'd probably use something like the damage counters I used when playing the Transformers CCG.


https://www.etsy.com/listing/494199755/acrylic-damage-counter-set?ga_search_query=damage%2Bcounter%2Btokens&ref=shop_items_search_16
The notion of an exclusionary and hostile RPG community is a fever dream of zealots who view all social dynamics through a narrow keyhole of structural oppression.
-Haffrung

Steven Mitchell

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • S
  • Posts: 2335
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2021, 10:36:28 pm »
I've tried various versions of that, but I only had one time where I thought it worked OK:  I had a heavily house-ruled version of Fantasy Hero that collapsed Body and Stun into coarse-grained wounds.  (A very tough creature wouldn't have had more than 7 or 8 wounds.)  We had laminated 3x5 inch index cards with information for each PC .  On the right side was a wound tracker, which we marked with a paper clip on the side of the card.  For monsters, I used the same cards but not laminated, or smaller cards for hordes of weaker monsters. 

For the style of game we were playing, that worked better than tracking with ticks (but not by much).  I've tried variations on the idea many times since, and it was never worth it.

David Johansen

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • D
  • Posts: 5403
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2021, 10:47:54 pm »
I've tried a lot of methods and I just find a GM control sheet is the fastest way to go and tally marks are one of the faster methods.
Fantasy Adventure Comic, games, and more http://www.uncouthsavage.com

Two Crows

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 80
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2021, 11:48:17 pm »


There are similar versions of this.
If I stop replying, it either means I've lost interest in the topic or think further replies are pointless.  I don't need the last word, it's all yours.

HappyDaze

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • H
  • Posts: 3046
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2021, 12:10:42 pm »
I don't mind counters for certain things, like luck/fate/destiny points, when the general count of them will be low, but I won't use them for hit points or coinage when numbers are likely to be high. Ironically, I do remember a game of D&D in the 80s where coins (quarters, dimes, nickles, and pennies) were used at their value to track PC hit points. I wasn't a big fan, but the DM thought it was great.

I tried using colored poker chips for tracking spell slots in a D&D 5e game, with different colors representing different levels of spells. It worked OK, I guess, and helped us to police the one guy that just never seemed to know how many slots he had left.

Mishihari

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • M
  • Posts: 212
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2021, 04:34:15 am »
Thanks for your thoughts.  I'll probably try it as an experiment some time, but it sounds like my concerns are legitimate.  It's a shame - those little cubes are so pretty.

And I love the idea of using M&M counters playing with my kids.  I think I'd be hearing:
  "DAD!  He ate my mana"
   "No I didn't!  Nobody saw me!  You can't prove a thing!"
       (stolen from Calvin & Hobbes)

Charon's Little Helper

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 571
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2021, 12:49:37 pm »
I think that a TTRPG system would need to be built with the counters at least somewhat in mind from the ground up to get much out of them - much in the same way that board-games are.

It could work - but there are a TON of TTRPG gamers who hate that sort of thing.

TKurtBond

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 15
    • View Profile
    • Lacking Natural Simplicity
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2021, 11:27:25 pm »
It works well in Savage Worlds, where a PC has 3 wounds and 2 fatigue: I hand out red stones for wounds and white stones for fatigue for the PCs to put on their sheets.  I hand out yellow stones for shaken.  I sometimes use numbered blocks for the opponents, and when I do I put the yellow shaken stone actually on top of the block, so it is obvious which opponent is shaken, and either take the block off the table when killed, or put a red stone on it if it is important that there is a body there.

I don't think it would work well for numbers much larger than that.

Omega

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • O
  • Posts: 14553
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2021, 12:49:34 am »


There are similar versions of this.

I really like these personally and have in the past made some simple ones of my own with cardstock and folding brass clips. The problem again arises with potential player chicanery. But as a DM tool its great and re-usable.

Omega

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • O
  • Posts: 14553
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2021, 12:55:29 am »
Thanks for your thoughts.  I'll probably try it as an experiment some time, but it sounds like my concerns are legitimate.  It's a shame - those little cubes are so pretty.

And I love the idea of using M&M counters playing with my kids.  I think I'd be hearing:
  "DAD!  He ate my mana"
   "No I didn't!  Nobody saw me!  You can't prove a thing!"
       (stolen from Calvin & Hobbes)

1: The transparent plastic ones? Oh so very. This was probably why those flat glass beads became so popular in the late 90s to 2010s as well. They look so nice and a bag of red glass beads was like 5$ for 50-100.

2: You should check out my yearly Halloween Candy Game Handout list over on BGG.
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/73120/halloween-candy-game-or-board-game-handouts

Spinachcat

  • Toxic SocioCat
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • S
  • Posts: 14037
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2021, 01:33:32 am »
Counters in a RPG might work if the total tokens is 10 or less.

I say "might" because much depends on how organized your players are and how they organize themselves.

AKA, that guy who never brings his dice will never remember his tokens. And that other guy who brings dice, but always seems to lose them in the couch during the game will also lose his tokens in the couch.


Two Crows

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 80
    • View Profile
Re: Counters vs numbers
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2021, 01:41:53 am »
1: The transparent plastic ones? Oh so very. This was probably why those flat glass beads became so popular in the late 90s to 2010s as well. They look so nice and a bag of red glass beads was like 5$ for 50-100.

That was because of Magic: The Gathering.

God, bead sets were cheap back then!


Now that I'm thinking about it, I'd bet there are smartphone apps that do this.
If I stop replying, it either means I've lost interest in the topic or think further replies are pointless.  I don't need the last word, it's all yours.