Abacus Hit Gauge

Abacus Hit Gauge

I went to the one dollar shop and got two japanese abacuses for 2 dollars each. Once I got back home, I saw them 4 - 5 - 4. See picture above.

1 * 10 + 1 * 5 + 3 * 1

I love those tools that require no batteries, that fail in predictable ways, and that are not tempting you with checking your email or double-checking on Wikipedia. Pen, paper, tokens, hourglasses, cards, ...

Up to now, my favourite way of tracking hit points for the opposition was to strike the current hit points and to write the new total on the right or below. To speed up things, some referees go the other way, they track damage points and only use addition. I have never done that, but I kept a note about the technique.

What drew me to the abacus is that I wanted to have a way to track time without using a computer. Well, I wanted to keep track of various numeric values. I wanted it to have its dedicated place behind my screen.

My players have tokens for hit points, weave (magic) points, and ammunition (arrows, javelings, stones, ...). I don't want to deal with tokens behind the referee screen.

I wanted to use a 23 digits japanese abacus to track time, weave points, and hit points for the opposition, but it's "landscape", I only need two digits (0 to 99) for a creature, and if the creature can cast spells, I need two extra digits for its weave points.

Having a 23 digits abacus is nice (also visually nice), but how do I link the NPC to their gauge? I could scribble on the frame of the abacus or on the beads, but that's a bit "disconnected". I'd have to navigate back and forth, I want something more direct. I took the saw out of the toolbox and sliced the abacuses, four digits, five digits, four digits.

2 NPCs, 3 damage points north, 2 south

Since I am using index cards I can place a four digit abacus next to each NPC card. Since I have -1 for my abacus skill checks, I am not going with subtraction. I place the abacus and reset it (to zero). I add damage points until the creature drops as damage equals or exceeds hit points (the addition only technique is helping me too).

I am using the two digits on the left for the hit points and keeping the two digits on the right for weave (magic) points or for ammunition spent. I could totally place a NPC index card left and another card right of the abacus if the two creatures have no magic points.

For the time counters, I am planning to use 3 or 4 digits. Dungeon exploration has those ten minutes turns, a torch lasts 3 turns, an oil lamp lasts 6 turns. I could add 1 for each turn. Or I could use 4 digits à la "twelve hundred Juliett". I'll probably place the time counters on the "north" of the referee space, while the damage and magic gauges will occupy the center, "east" of the NPC / opposition cards.

Those abacuses are on the light side, slices of 4 or 5 digits are even more lighter, I'll probably have to place them on some felt sheet (poker mat) to prevent them from sliding when I manipulate them. Or I could paste them together to get some kind of vertical abacus, but I think I want to keep it modular.

This is an experiment, I am not sure how it will turn out during actual refereeing. So far, preparation time, it's fun and also pleasurable for fingers and eyes. I hope that after a few fights and some time tracking those small abacuses will be second nature to me.