... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Encumbrance Notes

Tenkar's Tavern asks: How do you handle encumbrance?

I've probably written too much about encumbrance; I won't link to most of the posts here, since you can find them all by clicking on the encumbrance label below or in the sidebar. Encumbrance for me is mostly about movement rates; in practice, in the past, I mostly just had players figure out their movement rate and then that's it, unless they obviously pick up something heavy. As I mentioned before, I'm thinking of using index cards to represent each container, so that it meshes with the sack system: maximum capacity is 10 sacks/index cards, two sheathed or readied weapons count as one sack, armor counts as 1 to 3 sacks. Each sack holds 6-12 items, basically, but miscellaneous tiny items can be ignored. If some kind of guideline is necessary, one sack holds about 30 pounds, but for most items, bulkiness matters just as much as actual weight, which is why I say "6 to 12 items," regardless of weight, for anything dagger-sized and up.

Treasure is a special area. A small quantity of gems can basically be ignored, as far as encumbrance, as well as a few items of jewelry worn. Coins, however, come in large quantities, and there have been many debates about what size coins should be. The original rules use the 10 coins to the pound rule, so a sack would hold 300 coins... but I'm thinking about using a different size in the future, possibly as much as 100 coins to the pound, but maybe less. Or maybe gold and silver is 100 to the pound, but copper is 50 to the pound, because of larger coins. Changing the weights like that is a little lenient on the adventurers, but hey, they need a break here and there.

10 sacks, as I said, is maximum load (Move 3.) Half that is Move 6, less than 3 sacks is Move 12. What's noteworthy about this system, which I haven't really dwelt on before, is that I really do mean it when I say "encumbrance is mostly about movement rates". Where most GMs would also call for penalties on some actions, I try to equate actions to movement. For example, I figure a character can jump a number of feet equal to Move with no roll, or double Move but requiring a d6 roll: on 5+, the character doesn't make the jump (but has a chance to grab the ledge or branch or something to avoid falling.) Being encumbered thus doesn't add a penalty to the roll, it just shortens the safe jumping distance. Only being exhausted carries a penalty.

There's a quick and dirty trick for re-figuring encumbrance: rather than ask the player "How many sacks are you carrying?", just guess based on Move. If someone picks up one or two sacks, they are restricted to Move 6 (unless they were completely naked and unarmed to begin with.) If a character picks up 3 to 5 sacks, halve their Move. Sure, in some cases, characters might wind up carrying technically more than they should, but it's quick.

1 comment:

  1. I've never understood why people make such a big fuss over encumbrance (especially 3.5 players, who seem to have no problem dealing with dozens of constantly changing modifiers to various skills and combat rolls). It's such a simple system, requiring nothing more than basic arithmetic, and the bulkiness of armor means you can largely eyeball it. Not to mention the effect of henchmen. It really feels like I'm missing something

    Still, because it's so unpopular, I have looked into various methods of tweaking encumbrance so as to make it more palatable. I was considering the stone system awhile back, but now I'm thinking I might place more emphasis on location, as this is more in line with fantasy literature

    I love your movement rate idea. It fits with similar thoughts I've had regarding thief skills and really moves the game in a more concrete, "real world" direction. That's also why I love 1E's weapon space rules. It feels like the game's emulating a fantasy world; not a video game