Freeform LOOT?


Hey lumpy heads. I just finished listening to Mainframe 43 about Vigilante City and making games fun for you by throwing out things you dislike. And I have to admit, after running ten sessions of Ghost Mountain, I don’t like LOOT. I don’t like all the fiddly bits for equipment and weapons. I don’t like how if I want to create a setting I have to invent 150+ LOOT items. I don’t like all the table time fiddling with LOOT sucks away from more fun things. I get three hours tops at the table with my group, and I want to spend it unfolding an epic story, not clarifying details on this LOOT or that. I come from games like Risus, FURPG, and Dread in which LOOT is mostly assumed, magic is freeform, and special abilities are built into the stats.

I do like the Equip 10 /Carry 10 rule. I do like that LOOT occupies a single line of text. I do like the emphasis on destroying LOOT for non-linear progression. These are vast improvements over D&D. My players and I are just getting lost in the weeds and wasting time.

I have some ideas, such as hand-waving basic equipment and weapons, and handling LOOT details between sessions. But I’d like to hear what others think. Has anyone else had similar issues? How would you solve it?


That’s a really fair piece of feedback. I can think of at least a dozen pieces of loot or spells that are vague and require a ruling. Some of that vagueness is intentional, as it allows DMs from different schools maximum flexibility in terms of how they handle those rulings. That being said, I think it depends on how folks handle the questions as they come up. In most of my games, I rule pretty quickly, on the fly, in the moment, and I am blessed that I have players who just roll with it, and we all move on. Immersion is broken only for a super short period of time, and then we are back on track. On the other hand, I can see how a group with lots of critical questions could break immersion and slow things down, especially if the players don’t take the onus to “know” their abilities.

I would be careful about doing away with loot altogether, though. In addition to playing games for social interaction, acceptance, and stimulation, a lot of gamers come to gaming for that feeling of progression and accomplishment. I am a huge loot guy. I love each piece I earn. I enjoy pouring over the pieces and stats, and I love using a sweet piece of loot to great effect in a game to shine and help my team. The dopamine spike I get from that is very addictive for me. So, I think as long as you understand as a DM that some players really love it, I think you can strike a balance — especially in a game driven by loot and milestone advancement.

So, in terms of solutions, there are a few ways to handle it, but the best one is probably going to be handling loot details between sessions. We are doing this right now in the RFE game. We rolled for loot in the chat after our last session, and just this morning, I emailed Joe a question about the loot I got, asking him if we could tweak it slightly and use it in a certain way that made sense for my character. We will work this out in chat, so that when we reconvene, I will be ready to go.

Beyond that, I would just have an honest conversation with the players. “I don’t like when we get bogged down with loot. Let’s make sure we’re clear before we start next week. If a question comes up during the game about a loot item, spell, or ability, expect me to make a quick ruling and move on. If you have heartburn, we can reattack the issue in chat after the game, but I don’t want to break immersion. It is expected you will know your character’s abilities and clarify before we start next week.”

And those are about the most cogent thoughts I can summon on the matter. Hopefully some of these lumpy heads have ever better ideas.


Thank you, Alex. Kind, thoughtful words, as always. To clarify, I’m not looking to do away with LOOT entirely at my table. I’ve considered that, and decided it would break ICRPG, lose that creative dopamine you mentioned, and require me to completely reinvent the wheel (which might be fun someday, but not today). The moments that have irritated me at my table go like this: “Crap, how many bullets did I shoot again?” “So a SUPPLY is worth 4 meals, but with this LOOT it’s worth 5, right? Ok, so there’s four of us and three NPCs…” “So wait, a shotgun doesn’t do anything different than a revolver?” “Ok, I pick three Starter Rewards, a weapon, and ten equipment, amiright?” “What does this black skull I found do again?” “Does the Gambler’s deck work for CHECKS, ATTEMPTS, both, or just attacks?” “[new player, 45 minutes into session] …Huh? Sorry, I’m still deciding on my equipment.”

And after writing all that I can see your advice would solve most of it.

A change I am seriously considering is doing away with basic equipment and weapons, relegating them to a catch-all “Tools of the Trade” category like Risus does. Starter Rewards, Starter LOOT, Milestones, and found LOOT would work as normal.


Oh man. Those are some frustrating comments. I got irked reading them, and I am not even in your game. Lol.

To solve some of those items, I would consider doing away with ammo (except special ammo); doing away with supplies; and making every character with the same starting gear: everyone gets a D6 pistol and a D6 knife, a D8 rifle, or a D10 shotgun (near only, otherwise D6). The rest of those comments I think could be solved between games. And, for loot that players find, you can always rule that you find it this session, but you can’t use it until next session (giving a chance for folks to write down the full properties after the game so they have it going forward). And those are just some quick ideas.

Otherwise, good luck. Sometimes the system and mechanics are great but then human beings get involved. Lol.


That’s exactly what I started doing with my group. We kept the other loot mechanics, except for the 10 carry 10 equip system, so everyone has infinite inventory space. Most groups won’t like that, but it just fit our style of play. I personally love that there is a lot of loot in the game because it makes the loot that players get not only a surprise to them, but also a surprise to me. Whatever my group doesn’t like will just gets removed automatically because we just forget about it. That’s one of the things I like about ICRPG, it’s very easily modifiable to fit almost every playstyle.


Exactly. If those pieces turn into fiddly bits that slow you down or break immersion , just cut them.


Andreas, this is a great point, and thoughtfully put!
I would solve this trouble by associating a word cue or ‘detail’ or ‘tag’ with LOOT that is not mechanical in nature, but descriptive. This lets players use, be proud of, and exploit their gear without needing mechanical data.
Lifedrinker: A coal-black blade. It doesn’t just kill, it damns.
Skull Revolver: Etched with demonic markings. The loudest bang on the mountain.
Pemmican Pack: You just never run out of snacks with this handy pouch.