Saturday, April 5, 2014

GURPS Rules for Supply Pools

I ranted on Ammo Dumps and Gun Closets yesterday, and it was generally a well received concept. But it a rant, and I'd like to refine it into some useful house rules for GURPS (with a possible follow-on for Shadowrun). I'm going to be borrowing some concepts from the Action and Monster Hunter series.

Supply Pools

A supply pool is an abstraction of a collection of equipment. Instead of purchasing and tracking every individual spy and surveillance gadget or piece of medical equipment a character has, the character purchases a supply pool of the appropriate type and can draw equipment from the pool at appropriate times. Equipment in the supply pool is undefined and abstract; equipment drawn from the supply pool is defined, specific, and qualified. Equipment can be returned to the supply pool so as to draw out new and different equipment, but equipment destroyed in the field does not diminish the size of
the supply pool or mean that another instance of the exact same type of equipment can't be drawn from the supply pool again. Supply pools can be destroyed by enemy action against the base that they are stored in.

An individual supply pool might have a different name, depending on what it contains: ammo dumps for ammunition supply pools, gun closets for weapon supply pools, medicine cabinets for medical equipment supply pools, pantries for food supply pools, and so forth. For simplicity, the rules will just use the term pool to refer to all of them unless dealing with special cases for a specific type.

Defining a Supply Pool

There are two types of supply pools: pools for consumable equipment (ammunition, food, etc) and pools for non-consumable equipment (guns, armor, optics). Generally, only one or two items can be drawn from a non-consumable pool at a time, while dozens or hundreds of items can be drawn from a consumable pool.

Consumable Pools

Consumable pools contain a large stock of many different types of consumable items, usually ammunition, explosives, batteries, drugs, or surveillance bugs. Each pool is defined by value of the most expensive item in the pool and the number of instances of that item that can be drawn at one time. Any time a character accesses the consumable pool, they may draw up to that many instances of a drug worth the pool value, and the same number of instances of every other item the pool could contain.
Example: Adrienne Volkova is TL10 adventurer with a $150x5 drug cache. Whenever she accesses her cache, she can grab up to 5 doses of antirad, but also 5 doses of analgine, hyperstim, morphazine, soothe, ascepaline, and purge. She can't grab any doses of crediline or memory-beta, since those are too expensive for her pool. (See Ultra-Tech 205 for drug names and costs).

Ammo Dumps
Ammo dumps work slightly differently than than other consumable pools. They are defined by the value of the most expensive normal ammunition they contain and the number of rounds of that ammunition that can be drawn at one time. Any time a character accesses the pool, they may draw up to that many rounds of normal ammunition for each gun they carry. They may also draw as many different types of specialty ammo for each gun as they like, but the number of rounds of each specialty ammo is divided by (1 + ammo CF).
Example: Scott is a monster hunter who has a $5x55 ammo dump. He's drawn a .40 auto pistol and a 7.62mm sniper rifle from his gun closets, and now is drawing ammo from his ammo dump for each of the guns. He gets four magazines of regular ammo for the pistol and five for the rifle, and two magazines of armor-piercing (CF +1) for each and a magazine of holy-water (CF +3). If he had also grabbed his shotgun, he could have loaded himself down with varying amounts of tear gas, dragons-breath, explosive, flare, and rock salt shells and slugs.

Non-consumable Pools

Non-consumable pools contain a stock of many different types of equipment, and are defined by the value of the most expensive item that can be drawn from the pool. Any time a character accesses the non-consumable pool, they may draw a single instance of any item valued equal to or less than the pool value, or two different items each worth half or less of the pool value.
Example: Adrienne also has a $2500 beam weapon pool. She could draw a heavy laser pistol ($2400) or an electro-laser pistol ($1800) or both of a laser pistol ($1100) and a hold-out laser ($300) at the same time. She could not draw both an electro-laser pistol and a hold-out laser, though.

Using a Pool

Each pool has a location. Whenever a character has access to that location, they can draw items from the pool or put back items they have drawn from the pool. The pool value defines the maximum amount that can be outside of the pool at one time, not the maximum amount that can be taken out during any single visit.

Items in a pool have no weight, though the pool itself weighs more than can be reasonably carried by a single person at one time. It is up to the GM's judgment if a pool is small enough to transported in a vehicle, based on the pool and the vehicle. A motorbike might carry a very small drug cache, while a tractor-trailer could reasonably have several different and large ammo, gun, drug, armor, and tool pools.

Items drawn from a pool have weight and count against the character's encumbrance normally. A sufficiently well supplied character might have a dozen gun closets and a huge ammo dump, and be able to draw twenty or more rounds of half-dozen specialty types for each of ten guns from those pools, but unless the character is inhumanly strong or has the Infinite Ammo: Over the Top perk, she won't be able to move with that much lead and steel weighing her down.

A character who cannot access the location where a pool is stored obviously cannot drawn items from the pool, and is limited to whatever equipment they currently have on them.

Abandoning, Destroying, Selling, and Transferring Items from a Pool

A character can abandon an item drawn from a pool without effecting the value of pool itself, and similarly, they can voluntarily destroy an item drawn from a pool. This is one of the advantages of pools, and it obviously necessary for consumable pools to even work.

If an item drawn from a pool is sold, given, or otherwise voluntarily transferred to someone else, the total value of a non-consumable pool is reduced by half the value of the item or the item count of a consumable pool is reduced by half the number of items transferred. The pool value is restored if the items are recovered and returned to the pool.

Transfers should be considered voluntary from the player's perspective, not from the character's perspective. Allowing a fellow PC or an Ally to pickpocket equipment from a character is a voluntary transfer.

Gizmos, Angles, and Foresight

A character with the Gizmo advantage can use that advantage to reveal any item they own and can fit in a coat pocket. A character with a supply pool theoretically owns anything and everything in pool with a value less than the pool value. If a character hasn't yet drawn anything from their supply pool when using a gizmo, they can draw anything from the pool as though they had access to the pool.

Similarly, characters using the Angles or Foresight rules (from Pyramid 3.53) can use an instance of Foresight or 2 points of Angle to draw any item from their pool as though they had access to the pool.

Purchasing a Pool

A non-consumable pool costs 3x its value. A consumable pool costs 10x the value of its maximum draw (cost of an item x number of items drawn) and increases its owner's cost of living by 1/20th its cost.
Example: Adrienne's $150x5 drug pool cost her $7500 to purchase and increases her CoL by $375. Her $2500 beam weapon pool also costs $7500 but doesn't increase her CoL.

Increasing the Value of a Pool

A pool's value can be increased by paying the difference between its current cost and the cost at the new value. A non-consumable pool can be increased in value by adding non-pool items to it: each item added to the pool increases the pool value by 1/10th the item's cost. Consumable pools cannot increase their value by adding new items to them.
Example: Scott has scavenged a five .38 snubnose revolvers and a compact pump shotgun from some vampire thralls. Not having a huge use for them, he adds them to his gun closet, increasing the value of the pool by (5x$350+$400)/10=$215,

Purchasing Non-Pool Items

A character can freely purchase items that are not in a pool, even if they have a pool of similar items. This is useful for purchasing signature gear or other extremely expensive items. Items that are not in a pool have to be tracked normally.
Example: Scott has a $5x55 ammo dump. He also has ten pure silver 7.62mm bullets, which are too expensive to draw from his pool (CF +49) and cost him $2500. He can always a draw a single silver bullet from his pool, but if he fires more than one silver bullet between visits to his ammo dump, he has to track how many of those ten silver bullets he has left.

Multiple Pools

A character can have multiple pools of the same type, either at the same location or at different locations. Pools can also be specified at whatever level of detail the character prefers: a generic equipment pool or a revolver gun closet are both valid options, but no more than two items can be drawn from any non-consumable pool at one time.


So are equipment pools worth it? I'd like to think so, but it depends on the game, the character, and the pool.

A single weapon specialist probably doesn't get much value from a gun closet, since the specialist wants a specific gun. On the other hand, a weapon master or ninja who wants to use a lot of different weapons with different characteristics (especially in a monster hunters game with exotic materials) probably appreciates the simplicity of a melee weapons cache that can be used to draw anything from a silver short sword to a holy kusari-gama depending on what is needed. Either of them would appreciate an ammo dump and possibly a pharmaceutical cabinet.

Specialty gear such as spy and surveillance gear is very useful for supply pools. A character might need a laser mike, a surveillance endoscope, and high quality digital camera, but rarely all at once. The existing wire rat kit could be reconceived as a 10x$100 supply pool for surveillance gear.

Originally, I had supply pools costing 5x the value of the best item in the pool, mimicking the rules for alternate advantages. As I thought about it, that was too much because its rare for there to be five distinct, expensive items in a gear category. 3x feels better, basically making supply pools into something like wildcard equipment.

I still might want to add some more specialty pool rules. I like how the ammo dump rules work different than the rules for explosives or drug caches. Gun accessories, vehicle accessories, and computers/software (for ultra tech or cyberpunk games) might need some more detail.


  1. This is extremely interesting to me. I'm going to be running a TL10ish bounty hunters game and the PCs will have a ship. Having simple "maintenance costs" for the starship, their food supplies, AND their guns and ammo is REALLY appealing. Basically, for any game that ISN'T a "street rats" campaign, this idea or something similar is perfect. Very nice. Expanded upon, this could be a great Pyramid article.

  2. A couple of thoughts (IDHMBWM)
    It seems likely to me that the purchase cost of some pools (e.g. sword rack) will be less than the total cost of all items contained in the pool, much less multiple copies of each item. This poses a potential problem in my mind but I'm not sure how much of one. The issue is that a PC probably shouldn't have access to "everything" for less than the $ cost of "everything". Granted there is a diminshing utility for additional gear of a similar type but the thought did strike me.

    What about pools of consumables inteded as a game balance limit? Would you allow an 'apothecaries cabinet' full of magical ingredients that the party wizard can stuff his pockets full of every time they go back to town?

    The other thought is about equipment sharing. Is this meant to be a 'party resource' or a 'personal resource'. If PCs take different firearms and have a common ammo pool are they getting (pardon the pun) too much bang for their buck?

    I think the idea is great, I'm just trying to sort through some of the implications in my mind.

    1. Sorry for the delay in replying; I thought I replied immediately but it turns out I was having password problems.

      Equipment pools are intended to be much cheaper than buying all the equipment separately: it's another incentive to abstract equipment accounting. For your sword rack, a $2700 equipment pool contains a bastard sword, a great sword, an edged rapier, two shortswords, a broadsword, two small swords, a saber, and various falchions and fine long knives and whatnot. But only one or two of them can be taken from the rack at one time, and even a character with Sword! is rarely going to be constantly deciding between all those blades, so the utility of the pool is overstated: he's much more likely to be using the greatsword or the edged rapier (or maybe the two smallswords) and he really could have bought those four for just $2600 and had access to all of them all the time. He's basically spending $100 for some minor equipment protection and the limitation of not being able to carry his greatsword, edged rapier, and 2 smallswords at all at once.

      For consumables intended for balance, I'd probably use a somewhat different rule. Call it a "stock cabinet" and price it at 10x # items drawable at once x sum(cost of each reagant drawable). So if reagants for specific spells cost $100, you'd pay $1000 to be able to draw a single use of a Create Fire reageant, or $6000 to draw 2 uses of any of Fireball, Grease, and Shape Earth. That might be even too expensive - it'd certainly pay off in a long enough campaign, but it'd be a bit iffy against just buying 20 copies of each reagent for a short game.

      Pools are definitely meant to be personal resources, though I don't think it matters for non-consumable pools. For consumables, they're either personal resources or the cost is multiplied by the number of people that can draw on them at once. Which is basically the same thing, except you can play some games with the number of items drawn and have people redistribute stuff after taking them from the pool. Of course, then you risk reducing the pool size permanently so it's certainly risky.

  3. I'm not happy with the design decision that very narrow and specific pools are equal with super-broad general-purpose pools. The player sitting next to me can buy a 3x$3000 Revolvers Pool, and I can buy a 3x$3000 Any Stuff pool, and we BOTH pay $9000.

    That's NOT good!

    One fix is to add a sliding multiplier, depending on breadth, going all the way from x2 for super-narrow to x7 for almost unreasonably broad (note that "Any Stuff" would be illegal under this solution, since "Any Stuff" IS unreasonably broad).

    Another is to add a CP cost, going from a 1 CP Perk for super-narrow all the way over 2, 5, 10, 15 and up to 25 CP for "almost unreasonably broad".

    A third fix combines the two, reducing the CP cost a step, so that "super-narrow" is 0 CP, "narrow" is 1 CP, "normal is 2 CP, and so forth, up to perhaps 10 CP maximum for "almost unreasonably".

    I think it'd also be gainful to add an extra cost for a portable Supply Pool, e.g. one stored in a van, in order to empower players to make that choice (when they envision their characters, prior to the formal character creation process), and likewise to reward them (through not having to pay that extra added cost) for not making it.

  4. The problem with charging more for wider pools is that the price of the pool quickly exceeds the value of the pool. If I have to spend $21K to have access to a single item worth $3K or less from a very broad pool, it's very tempting to just buy the 7 most useful things that cost $3K and go back to having inventory nightmares.

    I don't think charging a perk for broad pools is unreasonable, but I do think that charging someone $9K and a perk to have his choice of 1-2 revolvers worth $3K or less is unreasonable. At that point, I'll just buy my favorite 3-5 guns worth $3K or less each and be done with it.

    I think the decision of whether a pool is portable or not has to be a GM judgment call, based on the size of the pool and the size of the vehicle transporting it. Charging a little extra (+25%) for edge cases might be okay, but if you charge too much for the privilege, the player is just going to buy all the equipment individually which is what I'm trying to abstract.


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