Monday Muse hand waving Rules

Today’s inspiration for my Mondy Muse comes from my good friend over at Rolling Boxcars Blog. My good friend gave me a call and we were chatting about his upcoming Burning Wheel game that is looking forward to. This led us on to the discussion of how systems like Torchbearer are built around the foundation of things that often get overlooked and hand waved in D&D and other mainstream games.

You see it’s not just monsters that could get you killed in Torchbearer. In fact, it is the much more simple things in life that could lead to you and your player’s demise. Poor preparation. Delve too long underground and you could find yourself racing to the surface as the last of your torches begin to die. In addition, your party ranger might be drawing his blade and joining in melee combat far more often in order to preserve his precious ammunition. Pack lightly and being eaten might be the least of your worries as you starve to death.

When you think about it an adventuring party of 6 heading off into the unknown for several weeks is going to need to bring a lot of food and water. Likely more than they realistically will be able to carry if they are not going to be able to resupply along the way. So now we need pack animals & or wagons for feed for the animals. Hirelings to maintain the beasts of burden while the adventures delve the dungeons and so on. Suddenly the life of an adventure begins to look a lot more like an expedition instead of the lone heroes journey.
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Often in most of the games these days, these things are handwaved. It is assumed that our heroes have been living this lifestyle for long enough that they know how to prepare and be ready for any of these hardships. Additionally, in games like 5E and Pathfinder, even the lowliest of adventures can use magic to acquire nourishment with the casting of a simple spell making this element of game moot. In Pathfinder Minor spells can even replace Ammunition.

This brings us to the balancing element being magic. If magic could not be used to replace the need for these items or would prove too costly to be anything more than an emergency replacement. These factors would have weight in the game once again. Yet when we begin to look closer at the casting classes we see the root of where much of this began. Spell components. Likely the King of handwaving. So much so that there were even feats made to justify the handwaving of needing all but the most expensive components!

Imagine if a mage had to find, craft or purchase all of their components and keep track of the consumable ones like a Ranger would his arrows. Spellcasting might become far more stingy in your game worlds and many of our RPG worlds wold be a much different place.

Now I am not saying this is all entirely bad. The handwaving of many of these things came about in a very organic way. The players and GM’s all agreed that it for their games slowed things down, or took away from their enjoyment of the game. Thus the first wave of the hand was made. In the end, as long as your table is enjoying themselves that is all that matters.

So I put the question to you my fellow gamers. How does your group handle and feel about handwaving? Do your groups do it? Do you advocate it or hate it? What are some things that you think should or should not be enforced at the table?  Let’s hear your thoughts.

One thought

  1. I think as long as the handwaving is consistent from session to session so both the GM and the players know what is happening then it is fine. In my f2f game right now I tend to handwave food but not ammunition. The characters are doing shortish jaunts from a safe and friendly base.

    We as a group had been playing from the same rulebooks for 30 years or more and over that time more and more house rules had crept in that the entire game was so stacked in the players favour that for me personally the sense of tension before a combat or a challenge was being lost. In the f2f game I brought us back to the rules as written with the absolute minimum of optional rules required to emulate the game world I wanted to play in. It really bought the players up short when things that used to happen automatically suddenly don’t, arrows do run out, carrying 800lbs of kit does slow you down and no you cannot activate all your magical bonus items all at once.

    With too much handwaving a magical quiver that never runs out is a normal quiver, a throwing axe that always returns to the wielder is just a standard axe. There is a joke about the village idiot that manages to trap a lepracaun who gives him two wishes. The villager thinks for a moment and then asks for a jar of cider that will never run dry. With a wave of the lepracaun’s hand the villager has his jar. Try as he might he cannot drink all the cider as it keeps refilling. The lepracaun asks then what is the second wish to which the villager points to the jar and says that this is amazing and he will have another one of these!

    Too much handwaving and the GM risks becoming a lepracaun.

    Liked by 1 person

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