Provide a limited quantity of game-world influence that a player may manage, expend, and earn in pre-specified ways.
Game designers often wish to allow players to customize their characters to limited (but sometimes variable) degrees and within certain boundaries. This forces the player to make conscious choices on what is important to his character. A resource is a gauge that is usually associated with a numerical value. The value can increase as players “earn” more of the resource and it can decrease as players “spend” it.
An example of this is a Wild-West style game having a “money” resource that gives new characters $10 to purchase equipment. Depending on the game world economy, this might allow a player to purchase a horse or a six-shooter, but not both. On the other hand, his $10 can in no way allow the player to, say, increase his character’s Intelligence attribute. (This assumes, of course, that this Wild-West style game sticks to a reasonably historic American West setting. A bizarre Wild-West/DUNE-style game blend could be created where the purchase of Spice would temporarily give a character “Mentat” abilities, and thereby raise his Intelligence rating.)
What distinguishes a resource from other gauges is that a resource can be “spent” by conscious choices of the player. Some resources can be raised by a player’s choice as well, while others are raised when certain events occur.
The altering of a resource value does not have to be automatic. A game resource can be set up in such a way that every time the resource is used, the player gambles on the resource value lowering. Similarly, a player may decide to perform some action on the mere chance that his resource value will increase as a consequence.
The Resource design pattern can be easily recognized in a gauge diagram. It consists of one gauge acting as the resource and at least one other gauge acting as the consumer. Between each resource and consumer, there is a relationship from the resource to the consumer. The nature of the relationships (direct or inverse) depends on the whether players want large or small values associated with the resource and consumer gauges.
For example, if players want both the resource and the consumer to have large values, the circles representing the gauges are filled in. The relationship from the resource to the consumer is an inverse relationship (dashed arrow) because spending the resource from a high value to a lower value tends to produce larger consumer values. The relationships are also adorned with triangles. These adornments usually indicate that accumulating more of the resource does not hinder the consumer, but spending the resource aids the consumer.
Note that spending something you want in order to buy something else you want is not the only possibility, though. It is also quite possible to design a resource/consumer relationship that allows a player to spend something he doesn’t want in order to buy something else he doesn’t want. For example, you could incorporate a Trauma Gauge in your game that also acted as a Resource. You could allow players to spend the Trauma Gauge points to “buy” Wound Traits. Players would be willing to do this in cases where a high Trauma Gauge value hindered a character more than the purchased Wound Traits. The gauge diagrams for these kinds of resource/consumer relationships would look like the following:
Use the Resource pattern when you want to force players to make important conscious choices in their characters’ make-ups or actions.
The primary benefit of the Resource pattern is that it emphasizes important game concepts by bringing those concepts to the forefront in the players’ minds. It forces players to pay attention to the resource and balance its value with other concerns. Because of this, you probably want to focus your game design efforts on a relatively few types of resources. The more resources you add to your game, the more complex it will become from the players’ viewpoints and the greater amount of bookkeeping will be involved in its maintenance.
If you introduce a resource into your game, you must clearly specify to what the resource can and cannot be applied. Otherwise, the ambiguity is likely to result in unnecessary debates among players during game play.
If you have more than one resource in your game, it is advisable to keep the resources isolated from one another. That is, don’t allow one resource to be spent to gain a second resource and then allow that second resource to be spent to gain the first resource without some kind of other restriction on how and/or when the resources can be spent. Otherwise, what you really have is one resource with an overly complicated implementation. This is especially true if players can gain an advantage simply by exchanging one resource for another and back again. For example, suppose a player could gain 2 “Character Points” by spending one “Fate Point.” And, he can gain 1 “Fate Point” by spending 1 “Character Point.” By simply alternately spending Fate and Character points, a player can gain a virtually infinite supply of both. Any rule that allows this kind of thing is a design flaw. No matter how obscure the rule, be assured that any such flaw will be identified and exploited by your players to the detriment of game play.
Wanting to give his players a little more control over the events in his game, James has created a house rule for his campaign. Every session James gives his players one “hero point.” One “hero point” may be used to re-roll any contest as desired by the player.
A game that awards “Experience Points” to characters for overcoming hardships can use experience as a resource. Doing so requires allowing players to “spend” the points in some way, such as in raising their characters’ “ranks” in their skills.
The Pool is a game centered on a resource called, oddly enough, “the pool.” This resource is a number of dice from which the character can draw (and gamble) in resolving conflicts. However, if a player loses a conflict, the dice he gambled from his pool are permanently lost. If he wins the conflict, though, he has the option of either adding one die to his pool or narrating the outcome of the conflict (which gives him a substantial amount of control over game events).
TORG has a numeric resource called “Possibility” around which the game is heavily centered. Starting characters get a certain amount of Possibility points to spend on skills. The Game Master awards more as play progresses based on the obstacles players overcome (zero to 3 per act and 6 to 12 at the end of an adventure). Other than raising skills, possibility points can also be spent to augment die rolls, to counter an opponent’s expenditure of possibility points, to improve attributes, to reduce damage, and other effects.