Tuesday, January 15, 2019

New Inventory System for Stonetop

NOTE: This has been updated on July 23, 2019 to reflect simplifications to the system. I've been playtesting it as described below for a few months... we've got like 8 or 9 sessions under our belts with this system.  
I'm still not completely happy with it, and am seriously considering changing it to something more like the current version of Homebrew World. But as I noodle on that, I wanted to update this for reference.  

I've spent the last few weeks updating Stonetop to use a new inventory system.  Here's the new system at a glance:

And here's the detailed explanation.


When you prepare for an expedition, decide if you’re carrying a light, normal, or heavy load—this tells you how many slots (□) you have available. Fill slots with items you know you want to bring, from...
  • Your possessions
  • Your steading’s Prosperity list (or lower)
  • Trade & Barter (if you have time)
In each blank, available slot, write a “?”. You can Have What You Need to fill it in later.
Tell the GM what you’re bringing, and answer their questions about your gear and where you got it. 

This move mostly takes the place of going shopping before an adventure. The players choose the level of load they intend to carry, define as much of their inventory as they want, and leave the rest of their inventory undefined with "?" instead of specific items. During the expedition, they can use the Have What You Need move to replace a "?" with specific items (see below).  

A character’s load can be:
  •   Light: 3 inventory slots.  Easy to move about, quick and quiet.
  •   Normal: 6 inventory slots. Weighed down; they tend to make noise. 
  •   Heavy: 9 inventory slots. Noisy, hot, slow, quick to tire. 
Some playbook moves interact with load (for example, the Fox’s Catlike move reads “When you carry a light load and move with care, you make no noise.”) Beyond that, there are no explicit mechanical penalties or benefits related to a character’s load. Use the load to inform the fiction and your GM moves. “The slope is steep and somewhat treacherous, but there are plenty of handholds. You can clamber up it, but anyone carrying a normal or heavy load will be Defying Danger for sure. What do you do?” 

Players track their load and current gear on the Inventory insert. After Outfitting, it might look like this:

Most items (like a bow, a quiver of arrows, a cloak) are "□" and take up one inventory slot. "Big □□" items (like a roll-up sledge) take up two slots. Small items (like a dagger or a magical charm) don’t take up any slots, but be reasonable. 

When choosing items, players can pick items from either:
  • Their personal possessions. This includes things that they got during character creation (assuming they still possess them) and items that they acquire through play (as loot, as gifts, via Trade & Barter, etc.).
  • The gear lists matching their steading’s Prosperity or lower. Stonetop starts as a Poor steading, which means at the start of play, players can pick from the Poor or Dirt lists. These lists represent items that are commonly available throughout the steading, things that any household might have or that can readily be borrowed or traded for. 
Here's are the Prosperity lists, for reference. Remember, Stonetop starts as Poor, so only the first two columns are freely available. 

As for possessions, each playbook starts with a small number of special possessions. For example, here's the Marshal's choices: 

PCs also acquire possessions through play, as loot or gifts, by using Trade & Barter (see below), etc.

If there’s something else that a player knows they want to bring on an expedition (something not on the steading's Prosperity List and that they don't already possess), they can Trade & Barter for it as part of Outfitting. This takes time, though!  If the players are in a rush, they might not be able to Trade & Barter more than once, or even at all.   

If a character loses, discards, or expends an item during an expedition, they remove it from their inventory. That space is now free. If they pick something up, remind them to add it to their inventory (and tell them if it’s "□", "big □□" or "small"). A player can absolutely increase their load by picking up new stuff (e.g. go from a normal load to a heavy one), but they don’t get to retroactively put [?] icons in the unused spots; they only get to do that when they Outfit.  

If a follower is joining the PCs on an expedition, then they make this move, too. Have the “leader” character set the follower’s load and populate any slots that need populating. 

Have everyone declare their load and announce any specific items they are carrying. Ask pointed questions about the gear they’re bringing. Frame little scenes, too. Use this move to show what NPCs think of the PCs. Maybe the blacksmith gives the Would-be Hero a new dagger as a sign of respect. Maybe the party’s provisions came from the missing boy’s kin—packing up a good lunch is the least they can do. 
Rhianna says “Okay, let’s go get us some bears. Me, my crew, Caradoc, Vahid, and Blodwen. Plus Andras, the new kid, to see if he works out. Outfit?”
“Sure,” I say. “Don’t forget, you’ll need warm clothes. And a few sledges, one per Surplus you hope to bring back.”
Rhianna looks at her Inventory sheet. She knows she’ll want her long bow, her arrows, and a warm cloak, all of which are  items. She considers taking only a light load, but doesn’t want to be caught unprepared. She takes a normal load and puts “?” in three of the slots. She still has an “anti-crinwin charm” and “bronze dagger” in her Small Items, from the previous expedition, and keeps them there. The long bow and crinwin charm are from Rhianna’s personal possessions, and everything else is from the Poor Prosperity list, so there’s no need to Trade & Barter.  
Rhianna also Outfits for her crew. They’ll each carry a normal load, same gear as her: bows, iron arrows, and cloaks, with three undefined (“?”) slots. 
“What about sledges?” someone asks.  
They're big □□ items, so they take up two slots. Rhianna says that she and her crew are probably carrying them, but they've got plenty of undefined slots; they can figure that out later.
The other PCs Outfit, too. Blodwen takes a normal load, with thick hides and furs (1 armor, warm, crude, big □□) and a staff (close, crude, ). She can’t put the hides and furs in the “Light” slots, so she puts these items in the “Normal” slots and fills the Light slots with “?”. (She also has her sacred pouch, but it’s small and doesn’t take up a slot).  
Vahid brings a normal load: the Mindgem (big □□), a cloak (), and four slots with “?”.  He also puts brings his silver dagger (small).  
Caradoc brings a normal load: the same spear () and shield (big □□) he brought on the last expedition, his lantern (), a cloak (), and one “?”. This is the first time Caradoc has brought a cloak on an expedition, and I feel like exploring that—we know his family is pretty poor. “Where did you get that cloak, Caradoc?”  
“Um… from Morwena, I think.”  
“Oh, totally! She catches you in the square as the crew is gathering. She’s got a bundle under her arm and avoids eye contact. ‘I… I was weaving this for you… before… and, well, the embroidery on the back isn’t done, but if you insist on going out there again… well, you’ll need something warm. So… here.’ And she blushes and shoves it in your arms and runs off.  What do you do?”

Have What You Need

When you decide that you brought something with you, add it to your Inventory in an undefined (“?”) slot (or slots, if it’s big □□). If the item you produce is small, it doesn't take up a slot (but be reasonable). You can only produce items from:
  • Your possessions
  • Your steading’s Prosperity list (or lower) 
  • Trade & Barter (as a flashback, GM's call) 
Whatever you produce, it must be something you could’ve had all along. The GM or any player can veto items that make no sense.
This move lets the players populate undefined ("?") slots in their inventory into specific items. It means that when they Outfit, they don’t have to decide on everything that they’ve brought with them; they determine how much they’re carrying and can define their inventory in the field. 

Small items don’t require that you replace any "?"; they go in the Small Items section of the inventory sheet. The unofficial rule is that can have as many Small Items as they can fit in the box. The official rule is "be reasonable."  

Once they Have What They Need to produce an item, that item is now in their inventory. They can drop it, use it up, break it, give it to someone else, etc.

Regardless of size, this move can only produce items that the character already owns (their possessions) or those found on the gear lists matching their steading’s Prosperity or lower. With your (the GM's) permission, they can retroactively Trade & Barter for stuff via a flashback. 

Ask questions about the stuff they produce. “What kind of provisions did you bring?” “Who did you get that from?” “What made you think to bring that?” You’re not (usually) trying to challenge their decisions; these questions provide texture and help you portray a rich and fantastic world

The “veto” clause in the move is there to maintain plausibility. You shouldn’t need to invoke it often, but it means that you can say “no” when a player decides they’ve been carrying a caged chicken (alive, awkward, loud, big) with them while they’ve been sneaking through a silent ruin. It also means you can reveal an unwelcome truth when appropriate, and say things like “Wait, you’re producing a clay pot? Didn’t you tumble down a rocky slope earlier today? I don’t think anything fragile like that would have survived.” (And maybe they plead their case, maybe you roll a Die of Fate, maybe they retroactively Defy Danger with INT to have packed it safely, whatever makes sense.) 
They creep up towards the cave entrance, and peer in. “It’s really dark in there,” I say. “Are you going in blind, or what?” 
Caradoc has his lantern and says he’ll light it. “You have a tinderbox?” He doesn’t, but it’s a small item off the Poor list, so he can Have What He Needs to produce it, no problem. He lights it and hands it over the Blodwen, so that he can wield his shield and spear. 
“I’ll get out my lantern, too” says Vahid. It’s not on his sheet, but it’s one of his starting possessions, and he’s got four slots with “?” in them.  
“Wait, didn’t you smash that thing on the swyn’s face?” asks Blodwn. “Did you get a new one?” She’s right, and he hasn’t. A lantern is on the Moderate list, higher than Stonetop’s current prosperity, so he can’t just declare that he has one. 
“Could I Trade & Barter for one? As a flashback?” asks Vahid. It’s a reasonable request; I ask him who he’d have asked. “Oh, like a merchant passing through town? Or maybe Braith, from the public house?” Makes sense, so he rolls +Fortunes for Trade & Barter, but the dice are against him and he gets a 6-. No lantern for him!  “Guess I’ve packed some torches, then.”  He erases the “?” from one of his slots and writes down “Torches (3 uses, area, reach, dangerous).” He also adds a tinderbox to his Small Items section, and lights one of the torches.

They finish butchering the bears and Rhianna's like "so, how much did we get?"  I tell them this is probably worth 3 Surplus, if they can get it all home, and I remind them that they'll need one sledge per Surplus. 
Rhianna and each member of her crew are hauling a normal load. They've each got a long bow, a quiver of arrows, and a cloak, plus three "?" slots. Sledges are big □□, so each one takes up two of those "?" slots.  Rhianna adds the "Roll-out sledge" to her own inventory, and then notes that Lowri and Eira each brought a sledge. They've each got one "?" slot left, and the rest of her crew still have three "?" slots. No problem. 


Things don't go so well getting home, and they end up having to camp overnight in the Great Wood. It's freezing cold, they're exhausted, and they've got three sledges piled high with fresh (well, now rather frozen) bear flesh. On the plus side, they killed a whole bunch of crinwin about an hour ago, so hopefully they don't have to worry about them. 
Rhianna and her crew are more worried about wolves and drakes. "A fire should keep them at bay," says Rhianna, "and let's face it, we need one to keep warm."   
They're in the Great Wood, but it's the middle of a deep, snowy winter so any wood they'd be able scavenge would be wet and terrible for burning. "Firewood (big □□)" is on the Dirt Prosperity list. Rhianna Has What She Needs and uses one of her crew member's "?" slots to produce it.  "Let's say that Harri was carrying half, and Aled had the other half" A big item (like firewood) would normally fill two slots from someone's Inventory, but I'm fine with her splitting it up between two of her followers—it's firewood. 
"How do you get the fire lit?" I ask. "Does anyone have a tinderbox?" Caradoc has one from earlier, and soon enough, they've got a fire going.
But even so, it's going to be a long, cold night.  

Trade & Barter 

When you wish to acquire stuff in your home steading, you can freely buy, trade, or borrow anything from the current Prosperity list or lower. For example, if the steading is Poor, you can freely acquire Poor or Dirt items. 
If you want something else, tell the GM what you're after. If it might be available in town, roll +Fortunes: on a 10+, it’s available for a fair price or a good reason; on a 7-9, it's available, but the GM picks 1:
  • It'll take some convincing on your part
  • It's someone you really don't want to ask
  • It's not quite what you were hoping for
  • It'll cause bad blood and/or put people out; -1 Fortunes if you acquire it
On a 6-, it's not available and don't mark XP. 
For assets held in common by the steading, you still roll +Fortunes but treat a 6- as a 7-9.
The PCs have ready access to anything on their steading's Prosperity lists. They might not own a thing themselves, but someone has one they can trade for or borrow. Maybe ask them who they get a thing from, or who they'd go see about __, but again, that's just for texture and to flesh out the town.
For stuff that’s not on the steading’s Prosperity lists, you have to decide whether it “might be available” and therefore whether they should roll +Fortunes. In general, an item might be available if any of the following are true:
  • They’re looking for coin, up to a purse of silvers
  • It’s on the next-higher Prosperity list
  • It’s on the steading’s list of assets (e.g. one of the town’s horses, the wagon, etc.)
  • It’s something that one of the steading’s neighbors has in surplus and it’s any season other than winter
  • It’s something that you’ve already established that a particular NPC has, or obviously would have (e.g. the blacksmith’s anvil)
  • You think it’s feasible (even if unlikely) and want to let the dice decide
Make the decision based on your principles. In particular, remember to both be a fan of the characters and to begin and end with the fiction. Be open-minded, but don’t let them roll +Fortunes to acquire things that just don’t make any sense. 

If you decide that something might be available, they roll +Fortunes to see if it is. The steading’s Fortunes represent the confidence, resilience, and good-will of its people. When Fortunes are high, the steading has more to go around and folks are more willing to trade/sell/loan things.  

On a 10+, the PC can acquire the item “for a fair price or a good reason.” If they’re trying to buy it or trade for it, then decide on a fair price (see Coins & Surplus below). If they’re hoping to borrow it, or just acquire it as a gift, then they’ll need to provide a good reason. Sometimes that good reason will be obvious, sometimes they’ll need to come up with it themselves. Either way, you can either tell them who they need to talk to, or ask them to make it up. Play it out in as much detail as you care to.

On a 7-9, the thing they want is potentially available, but there’s a complication.

The easiest choice is “it’ll take some convincing.” Tell them who they need to convince and reveal why (they want too much for it, they hold a grudge, they just don’t want to give it up, etc.). Ask the PC what they do, and play from there. 

If you pick "It's someone you really don't want to ask," the thing that the PC wants is available but getting it involves a conversation the PC would rather not have. This could be fraught and emotional, annoying, or just uncomfortable. "Steel-tipped arrows? Well, Dermos the merchant is in town from Gordin's Delve... you could probably buy some off of him. But, y'know... he was Ennin's brother, and you just know he's gonna ask whether you've seen her. What do you do?" 

If "it's not quite what you were hoping for," then maybe it comes with fewer uses than normal, or maybe there's something wrong with it. Be careful, though, not to turn this into a 6-! If what they want is something from the Moderate list (like a boiled leather cuirass) and you offer them something from the Poor list (like thick hides), then you've basically said "no, that thing isn't available" because they don't need to Trade & Barter to get something off the Dirt list.  Better: offer them what they want, but with a quirk. Maybe the only leather cuirass in town is make of fine drake skin and it'll cost you twice as many silvers as you were hoping to pay. Or maybe your hands on a hound, but it's a vicious mongrel with a bad attitude, not a good dog at all. 

If you pick "it'll cause bad blood and/or put people out," then you're basically telling them "you can get this, but it'll hurt the town if you do." Save this for resources that really do represent a common good: the town's horses or wagon, the tanner's vats or the smith's anvil, etc. 

On a miss, the thing isn't available. No, they can't roll again, at least not until circumstances have changed. It's not available. You can (and probably should) still tell them the requirements, though. "Well, no one who lives in Stonetop has any chainmail or similar heavy armor, but Duilin'll likely be passing through in a couple weeks, and he often has stuff like that. So you could wait. Or, I guess you could head up to Gordin's Delve and get it there."  

For town assets (like the horses, the wagon, etc.), a 6- counts as a 7-9. That stuff is available, it's just a question of whether they can use it free of consequence.

If a PC uses Trade & Barter to buy or trade for something (as opposed to just borrowing or, or getting it as a gift, or commandeering it for the public good), then they should add it to their list of Possessions.

Blodwen has a bad feeling about the bear hunt and would like to bring a healer's kit with her, but that's on the Moderate Prosperity list and she can’t just take one. It’s reasonable that one might be available (Blodwen’s mentor Gwendyl is the town healer), so I tell her to roll +Fortunes. On a 10+, I’d have Gwendyl press the kit into her hands with some snippy remark like “You’d best take this, Danu knows that boy Caradoc is going to need patching up.” 
But Blodwen gets a 7-9. Gwendyl’s the obvious person she’d get the healer's kit from, and I don’t think she’d need convincing nor is she someone Blodwen would want to avoid. I could pick “not quite what you were hoping for” and say she can only get 2 uses instead of the usual 5. But instead, I play up the fact that there’s no Surplus left and folks are getting desperate. “Well, you could a healer's kit from Gwendyl, but her supplies are running thin. If you take it, it’ll clear out her shelves. Others will go without and the town will take -1 Fortunes.”
“Really?” says Blodwen. “We’re only going to be gone for a day. What if I end up not using it? Will we still lose the Fortunes?”  
“Well, you know Gwendyl… it’s not like she’d keep her mouth shut about you taking the last of the town’s healing supplies, even if you do bring it back unused.”
“Ugh. You’re right.” And Blodwen decides not to take the poultice after all. 

Coins & Surplus

The PCs can't produce coin or Surplus using the Outfit or Have What You Need moves.

Stonetop's economy is mostly based on barter and sharing, so coins aren't really important for day-to-day living. Many residents go their entire lives without holding coin. Thus, there's no real need for the players to track individual coins they possess or carry. It's abstracted: "a handful of coppers" or "a purse of silvers." 

If the PCs want or need coin (for example, because they're heading to Gordin's Delver or Marshedge and want to pay for an inn or other services), they need to Trade & Barter for it. Copper and silver might be available in Stonetop (so they can roll +Fortunes) but gold won't be—at least not at the start of play.

Exchange rates are anything but standard, but use the following as a guide:

"Surplus" is a steading-level resource, representing the food, fur, whisky, and other wealth that the town has generated, above and beyond what its people need day-to-day. The steading generates Surplus in summer and autumn, and consumes Surplus in winter. Surplus can also get consumed when the PCs have the steading Pull Together on repairs or construction, or when the PCs trade it (on behalf of the steading) to a merchant or another community.
The PCs eventually return to Stonetop with 3 Surplus of bear meat, which is good for them because the town had none left and they consumed 2 during the winter. When spring breaks forth, they've got only 1 Surplus left.  
Vahid and Rhianna really want to work towards the "Palisade" steading improvement. The first requirement is that they acquire a whole bunch of timber. Cutting down trees in the the Great Woods is off limits because of an old pact with the Forest Folk. "How about we set up a logging camp for a few weeks in the Foothills?" suggests Vahid. "Sure," I say, and we Make a Plan. The requirements are:
  • You'll need to wait until most of the tilling and planting is done
  • You'll need to borrow the town's horses and wagon
  • The steading must Pull Together, taking the rest of spring and costing 1 Surplus (to feed the logging crew)
  • You'll risk the crew getting attacked by monsters and beasts in the foothills!
They wait until spring planting is done and then Rhianna tries to borrow the horses and wagon. They aren't her Possessions, so she needs to Trade & Barter and roll +Fortunes. "Crap, a 4."  These are town assets, so that 6- becomes a 7-9.  I tell Rhianna that it'll take some convincing. "There's a lot of grumbling, and while they're objecting to you using the horse and the wagons, you can tell that really, folks are just scared. It's been a while since anyone did a run to the foothills, and with all the troubles lately, well... you know how it goes." So Rhianna calls a general town council and lays out her plans, and Caradoc gets angry and inspires everyone to follow his lead, and eventually folks agree to do it. 
Rhianna's running the show, so she spends the 1 Surplus and rolls to Pull Together (with advantage, because of her Logistics move). She scores a 7-9, chooses to have Fortunes get reduced by 1 but the work gets done without further complications.  Nice.  
Summer comes and they get a 7-9 on Seasons Change. Blodwen is feeling the most content right now, so she rolls for Surplus and generates 2. She then gets a 7-9 on the Fortunes roll. In summer, that means a boon (no threats), and she chooses an unexpected bounty for another 1 Surplus (3 Surplus total). 
The next requirement on the palisade is "an engineer/foreman of moderate skill." We talk it over a bit and decide that Vahid can fill this roll. So that brings them to "supplies worth 1 purse of silver." Now that's not on the Dirt or Poor Prosperity lists, so if they want that, they'll need to Trade & Barter. It's summer, and the kind of supplies they'd need would be things like rope, tools, nails... all stuff they could theoretically get from merchants passing through. I have them roll +Fortunes. 
On a 10+, I'd tell them that, yeah, a merchant from Marshedge comes through in early summer with just what you need, and (looking at the buying power list), she's willing to trade it to the steading for 1 Surplus worth of furs and whisky.
On a 7-9, I'd maybe say that such a merchant was passing through with just what they wanted, but those goods were meant for someone up in Gordin's Delve and it'll hurt business if she doesn't make her delivery. Maybe they can convince her otherwise?
On a 6-, I'd say that the merchants passing through just don't have what the town needs, and if they want to get this palisade going, they'll need to travel to Marshedge to get those supplies (and probably need to haul a cartload of Surplus to do it, unless the PCs can scrape together a purse of silvers between them).  


  1. ...you make building a palisade sound so easy, and not like a thing that somehow takes 40 sessions and a massive plot detour.

  2. Is the purpose of the "X" just to note that level of encumbrance/load is filled?

    1. Hey Wayne,

      Yeah, that's the idea behind it: distinguish between an "empty" slot and an "undefined" slot.

      With that said, I've got another significant revision in process here. The [?] thing and the "3 small items per slot" thing were just too complicated, making this a game of "solve the knapsack problem" rather than "decide on your load, get into the field, and deal with shortages organically."

      In-progress version just has "normal" items (1 slot), "big" items (2 slots, can't be part of a light load), and "small" items (doesn't take up slots, be reasonable). Most "small" items that had uses have become "normal" items with more uses, or combined with other items where that makes sense.

      Watch this space... I hope to have the revisions posted by Sunday.

    2. Check the G+ Playtest Group and/or the Discord. Just posted the updates.