One of the big differences I've seen between old systems and new systems is the presence of book keeping and the amount there is to it. For example, the Dresden Files RPG has you make a dice roll to see if you can aquire something, or how much resources you have available. An older system like Shadowrun gives you a specific amount of money and asks you to spend a very specific amount of cash for gear. Today, I want to talk about that.
Old School Book Keeping
One of the things I'm finding I have a better appreciation for in Shadowrun now that I'm older is the book keeping. Now, I've never been a huge fan of book keeping (more on this later) but as a sometime thing I am enjoying it. Players have the amount of ammunition they own on their sheets. In a firefight the street sammy doesn't just go through 2 magazines of ammunition that are not accounted for or casually replaced later, he goes through 24 of his 150 rounds of ammunition that he owns, and before he can replace them he needs his money and to go to the store. The same is true for every other resource in the game too.
New School Book Keeping
The new way of doing things is a lot more forgiving. Ammo and other important expenditures is counted, or can be counted, but normally only in important situations. For example, the street sammy tracks his bullets during a big firefight, but outside of those situations it may be a secondary or even tertiary concern. Drama is more important. You're just as likely to track ammo as to have the GM offer you a point and tell you your gun runs empty and needs to be reloaded.
The question then comes down to which do you prefer? I mean, sometimes you just want the old school flavor but there is such a thing as too much book keeping - though what that means is different person to person and group to group. And honestly, for this reason, I tend to prefer systems with very low bookkeeping. Why? Because book keeping can be added to any game easily enough. In fact, if you have a player who likes book keeping they've probably added it to your game on their own.
Truth is, as said, it is easy to do so. Take a look at the new school description. There is no reason that that game can't have players tracking their bullets, how much they shoot, how much they have in magazines, and how much they have loose. Because of that the player can know when they have to reload - or the GM - and you can let those situations come about naturally.
But doesn't it work the other way too? Can't you just hand wave the book keeping in those other systems? Well, you can. I know that my group for D&D often did for encumberance provided the load wasn't too crazy. However, when it comes to other situations - like combat - a lot of the game balance is based around book keeping. The strength of one gun over another could be the amount of ammo it can hold, or how few shots it shoots for doing the same damage. It's something to consider.
I'm curious as to everyone else's thoughts on this subject. Do you like a lot of book keeping? A little? How in depth do you go?
My homebrew 5e DM Screen
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