Games are a balance between believability and fun. As such, many real-world issues are glossed over, or ignored entirely much of the time. How do your game groups deal with expendables? Is your ranger ever down to his last arrow? Has your group ever ended up hunting for dinner because “someone” forgot to buy food for a long trip? After combat, is your equipment magically whole and sound, or do you have to do repairs / find a smith to take the dents out of your armor?
Conflict powered by resources outside of the self is a significant plot issue. Hence even in a “low mud” game where many energy-sucking details might be glossed over, I am concerned with tracking the power to effect the Real Conflict. Per the story, that could be water supply, or arrows remaining, or spells racked, or even number of languages spoken, or number of times you’ve lied to your favorite auntie.
But since you never quite know what detail will be most significant beforehand, do you track them all —all the time? I don’t.
But I still tell stories with those elements. How?
Shorthand. Some hand-waving. GM fiat.
When the moment of realization arrives and the PC understands that some limit of the situation will constrain their response —the limit is pegged.
Nine orcs are rushing you at once, you have seven arrows left. What do you do?
Once the Trump gate closes, you realize that the desert stretches all around as far as the horizon. All the water you have with you is the canteen filled yesterday at the castle. Actions?
I think the trust I show Players allows me to forecast and define these things they might never have defined or tracked. No one has to say, “I’m taking water with me on my gallop,” or “My three quivers hold sixty arrows.”
Which in turn allows me to say things like, “It has been months since you’ve given your auntie a good deal of attention. A afternoon tea might be a good social insurance to stock up on.”
And so everyone is happy.