Renewable Resources

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Resources which in some manner are replenished during gameplay.

Resources are a common component of games. While some resources are limited through a game sessions, others can be replenished during gameplay as they are used or due to other factors such as being constructed or reproduced. Such resources are Renewable Resources.


The fourth edition of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons let all players have powers which are renewable in the sense that they can be used once per encounter or once per day (there are also powers that can be used whenever).

Card games such as Race for the Galaxy have Renewable Resources in that cards are drawn from a drawing stack that is recreated from a discard stack whenever it is depleted. Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game shows a weak example of this since some drawing stacking are only reshuffled once before ending the game through their depletion. In Fury of Dracula the player that plays Dracula has five cards to evade capture or trigger events but these cards can only re-used as they drops off the "trail spaces".

Using the pattern

Renewable Resources is used to ensure that Resources are continuously introduced into game instances, although this characteristic may be disrupted by players. Designing for their presence in games mainly consist of deciding which Resources should be renewable and under what conditions they renew. Specific ways of making Resources renewable include having Chargers, Pick-Ups, Producers, Spawning, and Controllers together with Resource Generators. While all these related to specific points in Game Worlds, Renewable Resources can also be achieved in more abstract ways through Game Element Insertion, No-Use Bonus, or Regenerating Resources. Designed Closed Economies by definition renew Resources, at least as long as differences are made between different states of more abstract Resources through Converters or if some states of Resources are seen as locked or hidden. The later can be achieved through having Ownership of the sources of renewal and give rise to Gain Ownership goals if Transfer of Control is possible. Ownership can of course also be used in designs that do not have Closed Economies as well. Renewable Resources are often necessary in Persistent Game Worlds to avoid complete depletion or the Resources being hoarded in specific places or states. Quite obviously, Renewable Resources isn't compatible with Non-Renewable Resources.

Typical examples of Resources that can be renewed include Budgeted Action Points, Extra Chances, Health, Lives, and Units. When Renewable Resources are renewed automatically this is practically an example of applying a Time Limit. When renewing them are instead actions, being able to do so can be Privileged Abilities for Characters. Renewable Resources can by affected by Resource Caps to create maximum amount of Resources available to individual players or to the game state as a whole. Another, and compatible option, is to use Diminishing Returns so that the Resources replenish slower if there are many of them.


Renewable Resources can make the number of usable Resources greater over a game instance than what is available at a specific point of time due to Limited Resources or Resource Caps. Figuring out how to much Renewable Resources can be used without depleting their ability to renew is a form of Resource Management, and can turn into situations where Trade-Offs need to be made between short-term needs and long-term benefits. Renewable Resources often gives rise to Social Dilemmas when several players can make use of them since overuse from any one player can affect all negatively.

Resource Caps on Renewable Resources can created Encouraged Constant Player Activity since players need to consume the Resources to most efficiently make use of them. This in itself is a form of Resource Management. The presence of Renewable Resources affects the usefulness of Mules since without them the Mules can most likely only be effective for short periods of time.


Can Instantiate

Privileged Abilities, Resource Management, Social Dilemmas, Trade-Offs

with Resource Caps

Encouraged Constant Player Activity, Resource Management

Can Modulate

Budgeted Action Points, Characters, Extra Chances, Gain Ownership, Health, Limited Resources, Lives, Mules, Persistent Game Worlds, Resources, Transfer of Control, Units

Can Be Instantiated By

Chargers, Closed Economies, Game Element Insertion, No-Use Bonus, Pick-Ups, Producers, Regenerating Resources, Spawning

Controllers together with Resource Generators

Can Be Modulated By

Converters, Diminishing Returns, Ownership, Resource Caps, Time Limits

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Non-Renewable Resources


An updated version of the pattern Renewable Resources that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.


Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Brain McDonald