Accounting

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How does one do the accounting for the more mundane elements of the game? I'm a relatively new DM, and I've basically been ignoring factors like light, food, selling gold-equivelent items (e.g. gems), and travel times. Do you find it's important to incorporate these elements? Or can I just assume that one of the characters is holding a sunrod that lights an encounter's area, the characters eat when they're hungry and replenish their ration supply when in town, they sell their gold-equivalent plunder at the first opportunity, and they rest at appropriate times if they travel for more than a day?

Thanks in advance. 
I'd say for the most part whatever works for you is what's best. The little details make everything more realistic but can seriously bog down gameplay when given too much attention. Also as a DM you should never just assume any of the characters are doing anything. Sooner or later you'll assume something that offends a player.

One element I wouldn't just gloss over is light. Light and darkness plays a vital role in the d&d world. Many creatures live and rely on darkness, and some outright despise it. A group carrying a lighted torch through the underdark will keep at bay a lot of its weaker natural denizens while attracting the attention of all manner of horrible things. Not to mention a character needs a free hand to carry a torch or a sunrod, so it isn't right to just assume someone's hand is occupied. Assuming the party is carrying light also immediately takes away any stealth options that the party might have come up with as well. If you want an encounter to be lighted include some kind of natural light. Phosphorunt fungus is popular amongst things like drow, or everyburning torches built into sconces. Even a series of mirrors reflecting sunlight, like in The Mummy.

As for the rest, if your characters are happy with their gems magically turning into gold, not having to set up watches every night, and not having to worry about running out of food ever then I'd say keep it the same. If you ever want to add bits of more complexity let your characters know ahead of time. For example it's a fair judification to say while the characters are in town "make sure you actively buy rations, I'll be tracking them from now on". It would not be fair however if you'd never mentioned things like that, then when the characters became trapped underground due to a rockslide you told them they were going to starve because they weren't prepared.
For the most part those are all ok things to ignore.  Most of the times keeping track of these things is a chore for all players.  The only time these things really matter is when you want to put the other players in a situation were they matter, and might I add you probably want the other players consent for those situations if it's never been kept track of before.  If you do start keeping track of it, you'll find that their are plenty of magic spells and items that players will start using that will basically amount to the same thing of not having to keep track of these elements. 

Not that there are not some benefits to keeping track of these elements, and it can lead to some dramatic moments, just that it's ok not to and that their are benefits to not keeping track of them.

  
I tend to keep track of light as a binary thing- that is, if the player is holding a torch, I assume it lights as far as he could see normally for a fair distance, while if the player has no light source and is underground etc., I make them specify which wall they follow and give them information based off that. Food, I keep track of, but only in days worth of food left- they don't need to worry about food rotting etc. unless there's a magical effect (hasn't happened yet). Of course, this is partly because the players have an army, so I need to give them a reason not to just ignore it- specifically, an army marches on its stomach, so they need to raid villages for food.
How does one do the accounting for the more mundane elements of the game? I'm a relatively new DM, and I've basically been ignoring factors like light, food, selling gold-equivelent items (e.g. gems), and travel times. Do you find it's important to incorporate these elements? Or can I just assume that one of the characters is holding a sunrod that lights an encounter's area, the characters eat when they're hungry and replenish their ration supply when in town, they sell their gold-equivalent plunder at the first opportunity, and they rest at appropriate times if they travel for more than a day?

Thanks in advance. 



I generally ignore or handwave that sort of thing, myself.  Unless it's got some level of plot-significance (the PCs have been dropped in the middle of nowhere with no supplies), it's not worth the effort to track food, ammo, and other minutae.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
For the most part, unless they play an important role in the plot, the campaign's theme, or play an interesting part in an encounter, most of these fiddly accounting minutia are easiest handled by handwaving. 

Most PC preparations will make it so that these things will rarely become an issue.  And at higher levels, the opportunity costs to address them will dwindle to nearly zero.  So tracking these items is usually more trouble than its worth.
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Most light sources that PCs carry shed bright light in a pretty significant area.  So unless you're trying to use light sources to enhance an encounter somehow, there's usually little need to fuss too much about it.  Usually it's enough to determine whether the ambient light is dark or dim, and who's going to use their free hand to carry the sunrod. 

Gems
By the default rules, gems can be cashed in for 100% value or used just like gold towards purchasing something.  You might have a hard time getting change for your 100gp ruby at The Drunken Goblin, but otherwise, there's no need to make them more complicated than that.

Food
Handwave this. For the most part, PCs will usually not be too far way from food and lodging that they risk significant penalties unless they're going into particularly hostile territory.  It's usually easier to assume that lodgings include meals, rations are included as part of their basic gear, and the nature-y types know how to forage.

If you do want to make starvation and thirst important to the plot or employ survival as a major theme, the Player's Handbook has costs for trail rations, journey bread, and water skins on page 222, while the Dungeon Master's Guide has rules for starvation and thirst on page 159.  In addition, the Nature and Dungeoneering skills can be used to forage for food in the appropriate environments.


Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
How does one do the accounting for the more mundane elements of the game? I'm a relatively new DM, and I've basically been ignoring factors like light, food, selling gold-equivelent items (e.g. gems), and travel times. Do you find it's important to incorporate these elements? Or can I just assume that one of the characters is holding a sunrod that lights an encounter's area, the characters eat when they're hungry and replenish their ration supply when in town, they sell their gold-equivalent plunder at the first opportunity, and they rest at appropriate times if they travel for more than a day?

Thanks in advance. 

Is it important to include these things? No, it is a fantasy game, and just like movies and books you can just hand wave these things and assume they are taken care of in the background.


It is fun with a new group of low level characters to play the "so you are 5 days from the town, what are you going to eat?" game but then they hit the next level and you forget all that.

I have seen attempts to realistically do this kind of accounting, but it has always been burdensome, boring and most importantly in the end not realistic either. The problem with calculating things like how long food is goign to last is that there are just too many variables, how much meat do you get from a rabbit? 2 to 10 lbs? how many calories are there in the berries you lucked from the tree? there is no realistic way to chart and track it all.


When traveling from place to place, you need to assume they are living off the land, catching game, picking fruit and berries, fishing, passing a small farm and grabbing some grain.


Like I said, this is interesting for all of one level at the start of a game, when the characters really are hard up for resources, but then is pretty much just boring and holding up the game after that
Handwave the mundane - and this includes non-magical ammunition! - unless you have specific reason not to or one of your players has indicated a desire to keep track of it. In the latter case, you have a volunteer so don't spend YOUR time and energy on it.

In particular, except at very low levels or in a really-gritty low-magic low-treasure campaign the cost of this stuff is trivial.

(D&D economics has never made a lot of sense. A high-level magic item is worth more than most kingdoms, and a high-level party usually will be carrying several of them per person.)

Do the same with checking weight loads versus carrying capacity under normal circumstances. But tilt "gold" treasure toward gems, unique items such as artwork and non-magical relics, and junk-magic items that your party won't be interested in (at selling price, not buying price), as they have a higher value-to-weight ratio than gold coins. A five-person level-11 party is expected to find *monetary* treasure that weighs, if it's all gold pieces, *six hundred pounds*. Plus other stuff.

(And if someone in the party decides to keep and use one of those junk-magic items, revalue it at buying price and adjust a later treasure as necessary to compensate.)
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
(D&D economics has never made a lot of sense. A high-level magic item is worth more than most kingdoms, and a high-level party usually will be carrying several of them per person.)

Which is why I handwave more things on higher than lower levels. For example, at heroic level I am handwaving middle class taverns and inns and standard food, but if they need a rediculous expensive jewelry and/or clothes for the Royal Celebration they need to pay for it. By the time they reach paragon, I am going to handwave that as well and they can easily afford 1st class tickets for the lightning rail.

As others though I tend to handwave most mundane stuff such as food, water, non-magical ammunition, light sources and the like. I might make an exception under specific circumstances such as PCs suddenly finding themselves in a desert without any magical access to water or food (which should never be done lightly anyway). I do keep an eye on light, but that is more on whether it is there or not and who is carrying the light sources. I am not bothering with keeping an eye on the number of sunrods and lanterns or even the exact size of each light source. It hardly ever matters. Again though, sometimes it matters. After all, the human rogue can hardly sneak around in an area with no light source at all ;)
How does one do the accounting for the more mundane elements of the game?

I and the other DMs in the various games I am involved in simply don't.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
I usually don't either. 

Though light did come up in the party I'm currently DM'ing last weekend.  they entered an underground complex infested with kobolds and had a sunrod on.  Let's just say that when they got to this big cavernous opening filled with denizens, the glowing sunrod pretty much blew any stealth they could have relied on.  Dumping the sunrod when they realized this also created a fun challenge for them to make their way through total darkness while trying to get away from the very large amount of creatures after them. 
"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"

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