Encumbered by a lack of Encumbrance Rules

I like my game rules light. The less rules the better in my view and the less time spent trawling back and forth through the rules trying to find the exact paragraph you need should mean more time spent adventuring. I accept that it doesn’t always work out that way and without ‘enough’ rules you can end up with not knowing what should happen or what is ‘right’. And so on to encumbrance!

I do not use the standard encumbrance and exhaustion point rules in Rolemaster Classic. In fact I do not know anyone who uses those rules. I generally look over the players inventory at the end of each session to see what they are carrying. If it seems excessive then I will add a post-it to the character sheet saying they are over encumbered and they will have -5 to -25 on movement rolls until they resolve it. The severity being down to how badly encumbered I think they are.

As a working solution that is fine until you start dishing out treasure to Essence spell casters. In my game at the moment most of the characters are 1st to 3rd level and I am giving out mundane treasure. In the past adventures most of the treasure was in the form of swords and armour which they looted from bodies. There were a few fine pieces there but for the most part it was normal kit.

My players really hate having to do bookkeeping. I can sort of agree with them to some extent and as the game is being run for both their and my enjoyment then I need to take their views into account.

The way the players want things to work is by just having an A4 sheet that they jot down everything they find on. They can then remember what they need to examine further when they get back to town and any on going expenses are met from this common list. From a bookkeeping perspective this the barest minimum but I am not happy with this minimal system for two reasons.

In the last game session the party walking into the roughest bar in town, it was a real den of thieves, the sort of place where your orcish mercenaries go to let their hair down. The party being an pretty female elf, a male half elf and three humans (two male and one female) stood out like a sore thumb and were certainly not welcome. They didn’t even stay for a single drink, for some reason. It was entirely possible that one of the thieves in the bar would try to pickpocket one of the elven types. If an orc is going to put one over on one of the characters it is going to be one of the elves I would guess.

According to this communal treasure list the party have a handful of rubies.  How do I know which character has the rubies? Can I just roll a dice to see which character has them? That would seem fair. The half elven warrior mage’s player is the one maintaining the common list, is he the one with the rubies? If they had been stolen you can bet anything you like that the players would have protested that they [the rubies] were being held by someone else or were back at their lodgings. If they had suddenly needed a stake for a card game then of course the rubies would be back in their pockets and ready to throw in as their stake.

That is one issue, the other is to do with weight of metal. In Rolemaster Classic an essence spell caster cannot be carrying more than 5lbs of metal (10lbs for chanellers) before incurring spell casting penalties. The party are made up of:

  • Sorcerer (essence & channeling)
  • Elemental Warrior (essence)
  • Warrior Mage (essence)
  • Cleric (channeling)
  • Mystic (essence & mentalism)

Every single one of them has a limit on how much metal can be carried. So if the treasure represents a bunch of bastard swords and chainmail shirts where are they? Who is going to take the penalty?

To this end I have knocked up a simple two column ‘Loot List’ page for the players. It just lists their treasure and a second column lists who is carrying it, if anyone, a ‘carried by’ column. We will see in two weeks time how that goes down with the players!

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