RM Combat Hack: Simplified armor & encumbrance


While both encumbrance and fatigue are critical elements in our game it’s always added an extra step of record keeping that was onerous. We’ve played around with several mechanisms but found that the new piecemeal armor and fatigue rule in RMU work great but we’ve taken it one step further.

First, we’ve eliminated the Maneuvering in Armor skill. I’ve always had an issue with it in concept and it unnecessarily complicated encumbrance rules by having this “dual path” calculation of min/max armor penalties, encumbrance by weight and the Quickness penalty. Since MnvArm is a skill that basically ties a characters ability to wear better/heavier armor to their level. I’ve heard the argument that it’s “for game balance”—I think that’s absurd. Can you imagine a game system that says a fighter can only use a dagger at 1st level, then moves up to a short sword, than a long sword and finally at higher level can use a 2-handed sword? That’s the same thing.

I’ve always seen armor as a “handicap”—it adds weight and restriction of movement. There are benefits (protection) and negatives (penalties) that a player has to balance out. I don’t think it’s something that’s “trainable” like other RM skills. Getting rid of MnvArm eliminates a skill (good) and eliminates the dual process of armor penalties & encumbrance calculation.

Second we’ve adopted the RMU encumbrance calculation as a % of body weight and applied adjusted %’s to armor pieces. I’ve inserted the table below. For example, a character wearing full plate would have an armor encumbrance penalty of 66% (Plate 40, Plate Sleeves 8, Plate Leggings 12, Full Helm 6). We’ve also added some armor penalties for Perception and Missile weapons. This simplified armor/encumbrance also makes it easy to create new armor types for cultures or materials.

With armor simplified, encumbrance becomes a pretty easy calculation. Tally total weight, convert to % of body weight, add armor encumbrance % and reduce by the weight allowance. I like encumbrance to have a real impact and armor should have appropriate draws backs to reduce the incentive for everyone to wear the heaviest armor. For weight allowance we use a much lower threshold than RMU: 10% + str bonus. So a character with 100str could carry up to 25% (10 + 15 assuming no racial Str mods) of their body weight before incurring penalties. That makes sense to me—a 200lb person could carry 50#s without penalty. If anything that’s still too generous. If that character were wearing Full Plate and carrying nothing else they would have a 41% (66-25) encumbrance penalty. For GM’s that want to lessen the impact of encumbrance just use a higher weight allowance: 10% + Str bonus x2 or even x3.

Finally because we have one simple encumbrance number that represents carried load and armor it can be applied in a variety of ways.

Encumbrance Penalty (Load – weight allowance)

  1. Modifies MMs or any action where weight is a factor.
  2. Modifies fatigue rolls.
  3. Reduces pace/distance. (replaces the encumbrance/pace chart)
  4. Cancels Quickness bonus for DB or optionally reduces DB.
  5. Total encumbrance % is used to modify Essence SCR.
  6. Calban, a 5th lvl fighter with a 100 str weighs 200lbs. His weight allowance is 25% (50lbs). Calban decides he’s going to wear Full Chain/Mail armor and a half helm. His armor encumbrance would be 47%. He’s also carrying 30lbs of gear (15%) for a total load of 62%. His encumbrance penalty is 37% (62-25).

                Calban attempts to somersault over an opponent. In addition to difficult modifiers and his acrobatic skill bonus the attempt will be modified by the -37% encumbrance penalty.

                Calban is required to make a fatigue roll—it’s modified by -37%.

                Calban wants to sprint x5. His base rate is 20’rnd so he’s attempting to move 100’ but the distance moved is reduced by 37% (63’) due to his encumbrance penalty.

                Calban has a -10 DB which is cancelled out due to his encumbrance. Optionally, if a GM wants encumbrance to have an even greater impact than his DB would be -27 making him easier to hit due to his lack of maneuverability! (does that sounds harsh? Keep in mind that he’s basically carrying a 134lbs load).

For our game these rules work great.

  1. The reduce skill bloat.
  2. They disconnect the idea that heavier/better armor use is tied to character level.
  3. Creates one encumbrance number that can be applied in a variety of situations.
  4. Eliminates encumbrance pace chart, min/max armor penalties.
  5. Allows us to incorporate strength buff spells and weight reduction spells in our Spell Law which have a real impact.
  6. Creates advantages/disadvantages to armor that fits into our “free market”, “no-profession” game.
  7. Creates a quick way to generate new armors for cultures/tech.
  8. Easy to adjust. A GM can change the armor %’s, the weight allowance calculation or both!
  9. Utilizes RMU piecemeal armor rules which we like!

To aid in record keeping we have a game work sheet for each player that tracks encumbrance, hits, damage etc, In the margin of the worksheet we include a chart to convert total weight to % based on the characters body weight. We usually round off the penalty to simplify even further. Most of the players can separate out their kit so in combat they can drop a pack or sack and immediately have and know their adjusted encumbrance.

Armor AT Type Percept Miss Pen Enc.
None 1 0
Heavy Cloth 2 VL 2
Soft Leather 3 VL 5
Hide Scale 4 L 10
Laminar 5 L 15
Rigid Leather 6 M 20
Metal Scale 7 M 25
Mail 8 M 30
Brigandine 9 H 35
Plate 10 H 40
Leather Sleeves VL 1
Hide Sleeves L 5 3
Mail Sleeves M 15 5
Plate Sleeves H 20 8
Leather Leggings VL 3
Hide Leggings L 7
Mail Leggings M 10
Plate Leggings H 12
Leather Cap VL 0.5
Half Helm L 5 2
3/4 Helm M 10 4
Full Helm H 15 6
Target 15 2
Normal 20 5
Full 25 5 10
Wall 30 15 20
Reinforced Cloak 5 5

One Reply to “RM Combat Hack: Simplified armor & encumbrance”

  1. I really like this.

    I have been ‘sneaking’ armour by the piece into my game. None of the players have requested it yet, I don’t think they are aware it is possible as their mind set is very 1990s RM2.

    I have given each character a ‘session record’ sheet on which they can record hits taken, spells cast and loot carried. It will be very easy to add the encumberance/weight allowances. The weight of a character will not change very often in play so these will require virtually no maintenance.

    The only change I would personally use would be rounding the final penalty to the nearest Routine to Absurd difficulty point. It just makes the mental math a bit quicker and easier to apply an Extremely Hard (-30) as opposed to a -37 and it also keeps the terminology consistent.

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