Encumbrance

This is a topic I have touched on once or twice in the past but it must be a year or more since last time. It was also something that Intothatdarkness mentioned in a comment yesterday.

I do not use the Encumbrance rules as written. Initially I just junked them and left it at that. Then when I was reading the players character sheets in preparation for a gaming weekend I realised that a couple of the characters would barely be able to walk and the both the warrior mage and the sorcerer probably could not cast a single spell with the amount of metal they were hauling around.

I needed a way of reining it in but without slapping the players with the full encumbrance rules out of nowhere.

I did this in three stages. Firstly I got the players to note the location of each piece of equipment on their equipment lists. When they got to the third sword they started to see the problem. Suddenly their horses were carrying a lot of spare equipment.

Secondly, I tallied up the amount of metal I thought the spell casters were carrying and just started to mention that they had a penalty on their BAR rolls. I did it casually once or twice as if I had always applied this.

What had actually prompted this in the first place as a habit one of my players has. He detests the book keeping element of RPGs and seeing as he is Dyslexic I completely understand his not wanting to write much. When it comes to the party loot his aversion to bookkeeping had him suggest that the party just keep a common list of what the party had found rather than constantly updating their character sheets with things that they were going to sell or dump as soon as they had had time to appraise them. The other players all thought this was a good idea so I had no objections at that time.

Two or three sessions on I had a thief NPC who wanted to steal a particular item from the party. This item was on the common treasure list as no one had claimed it as their own. Not all the party were together when the item was stolen so I just randomly rolled which character had the item and my roll said it was with the characters that were being targeted. Well the theft went unnoticed at the time and the item taken. Immediately afterwards when they were all together again and they got to someone who could appraise the item they couldn’t find it. I described that they found a pouch that had been obviously cut open on a seam and the item was gone. At that point the players all protested and claimed that the item was always safely with the character who had remained behind and could not have been stolen.

I just said that if it was with a specific person then they should have it on their equipment list.

That made me question the common loot list and a glance told me that there was a further 200lbs of kit that was unaccounted for on that sheet. I made a simple sheet up that was divided into sections for each character and that now serves as the common loot list. It saves them constantly having to change their personal equipment lists. Whenever there is a short break in play I look at the loot list if it has changed and jot down a quick guestimate of the weight of each persons share.

Now this hodge podge solution works for us but I freely admit it is not ideal and would never suggest it as an alternative for other GMs. My group only gets together a couple of times a year and as such there is a lot of pressure to spend as little time as possible on character maintenance and book keeping as possible.

The only encumbrance rules I apply are those from table 10.4 Static Actions and the encumbrance penalties there. I don’t do all the body weight calculations. That of course is just what works for my game and group.

So does encumbrance play a big part in your games?

7 thoughts on “Encumbrance”

  1. I had been thinking about encumbrance rules recently as well. There was an old cartoon in Dragon similar to that image – said character in that image actually resembling the class images from the Pathfinder books. I’ve been pondering a more visual method that is in many ways easier to use, and started writing about it. I really should finish that article.

  2. We never used to play with encumbrance rules as the bookkeeping was too much. But since they were intended to have some role with regards to balance, and with the RMU rules being revised, we’re using them now. I’ve added a section to my character sheet that keeps track of it relatively easy: players just list the item and its weight, and the sheet autocalculates that as a percentage of body weight. Nobody wants to go over body weight, so it serves as a pretty hard cap.

    The party also has a party mule or two that carry all the party treasure, so we don’t have to worry about that.

    1. We use paper character sheets so they do not auto calculate. I am not a massive fan of technology at the table. I do have the rules in PDF on a tablet but as I have said before the pertinent rules I insert into the adventure notes and I just use a subset of attack tables in a mini arms law. Each player has their spell lists as part of their character sheet. Basically I go to every effort to remove the rulebooks from the gaming table and just have the NPCs and Adventure notes.

        1. Overall, I think they are an improvement. Rather than treating armor and equipment separately (e.g. a separate system of penalties with different rules), the system now treats them all together. The spell penalties for wearing armor and equipment have been greatly simplified (in a recent change rather than in the Rules As Written in beta2). Now, instead of every little bit of equipment potentially imposing spellcasting penalties, only armor does, and it does so much more simply: to figure out the armor penalty for casting, you just multiply the armor’s Encumbrance % (listed on the armor table) x3 for Channeling casters and x4 for Essence casters. That’s a whole lot easier than adding up a lot of fiddly numbers. And a few of the logical problems that used to plague encumbrance have been solved. For example, a strong character used to be able to sprint just as fast while wearing 50 lbs of gear as when not wearing any gear at all. Now, the amount of gear you have just limits your max pace, which means Usain Bolt would not be able to break the world record if you loaded 50 lbs of gear onto his back.

          So overall, I would say the encumbrance rules are much better: simpler and easier to use, with little to no loss of function.

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