The Equipment Problem

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This week I wanted to give another little peek behind the scenes of something we are working on. Usually with these peeks, we give some insights into the code we are implementing, but this time, what I want to show you is in a much earlier stage of development, as we still don’t know all of the details.

Right now, we are very happy with the way the Pathfinder sheet works, but one of the area’s where the sheet could use improvement is the equipment section. Currently this is a large text area where you can write down everything — that works just fine, but we can do so much more with it, especially with the generally structured nature of the source material.

In Pathfinder, most items have a set weight and value, defined in the rulebook, so our first and most basic design simply listed the name of each item, it’s value and its weight, plus a little field for notes, and an option to carry more than one of an item (like arrows or potions). For any items known by the system (configurable in the game system config), it can automatically fill out the value and weight, thus saving you a lot of time. And since it only fills for known items, you can still enter whatever unusual items you may encounter during your adventures, or make adjustment if you find, say, a particularly heavy longsword.

This model is simple to use and quick to enter, and leads to a cleaner sheet than the text area we use right now, but it really invites expansions to reach its full potential:

For example, it can automatically calculate your carried load and integrate it with the existing support for the encumbrance system. But that also introduces a complication: what about items you don’t carry with you? Like those stored on your horse, in a bag of holding, or at home. And if we add that additional dimension, it really invites us to also add an ‘equipped’ status, for items that need to used to work (your Bracers of Armour +3 still have weight in your backpack, even if you aren’t wearing them).

Another factor complicating the design is that many items in Pathfinder are composable — for example, a humble Longsword can be made of Mithral adding to its cost but also reducing it’s weight, have a +1 enhancement which increases it’s cost, and have additional enchantments like Flaming where the cost depends on the other enchantments on the weapon. And that’s not even considering double weapons which can have different enchantments on each side.

Adding every possible combination to the game system configuration is unwieldy in the best of cases, and if we want to allow users to add their own enhancements, it becomes untenable. Yet these more complicated items are exactly the ones where it would be most useful for the sheet to be helpful in calculating the correct values.

Thus, even the simple model quickly becomes complicated due to the various exceptions and special cases. At the time of writing, we do not have a perfect solution yet, but we continue to work on it!

In the meanwhile, our regular development continues. In today’s changelog, we have a large list of minor improvements and bug fixes, some based on community suggestions. And as always, we’d love to hear more of those on the forum!