Tuesday, March 29, 2016

D&D / OSR: Encumbrance Made Easy

Do your PCs look like this?
I've never really liked D&D encumbrance. It's a pain. The item weights in the various equipment tables are all over the place in terms of accuracy (i.e. - mostly inaccurate) and to make things worse, the rules on carrying capacity are ridiculously broken. In one place it reads "15 times Strength" which is so stupidly over blown that even in the text of the 5th edition rules it basically implies "Yeah, you can basically just ignore encumbrance." After that, there is an optional rule for using 5x Strength as a base for penalizing movement and such... but the math is just too fiddly and players will ignore it anyway.


So what is a DM to do?


In a Facebook post, a fellow who goes by "Olivier Scheeck" created an inventory tracking sheet based on a blog post by Jack Mack about a Matt Rundle idea (yeah, the digital pathway back to the original idea is a bit winding).

The original idea very strictly limits what a PC can carry.
This updated sheet got my attention. It basically creates a system where you can just ignore weight and focus on the space or bulkiness of items being carried. This reminded me strongly of Adventurer, Conqueror, King, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess -- OSR rule sets which both try to simplify encumbrance by abstracting it a bit from item weight.

A group of very small items takes up a single slot (like pitons, rations, a few torches, etc). Slightly larger items take up a slot by themselves (rope, dagger, flask), while weapons may take 1 to 3 slots depending on size. It's somewhat up to the DM to arbitrate, but common sense applies.

Some comments in the thread noted that they thought the original tracker did not give PCs enough space, especially if the players are not used to a "hard mode" campaign and I tended to agree. The OP created an XL version that allowed a lot more bag slots, but I thought that it went too far in the opposite direction.

My modification adds a little more flexibility for groups
who don't do hard core resource management. 

A Happy Medium for D&D 5e


Inspired by the ideas of these fellows, I started working on my own sheet for my campaign that would abstract encumbrance and still allow players to carry a bunch of crap, but not so much that it's game breaking. It's a bit of a work in progress, but I think I have the balance that will work for my group. I do not penalize characters for heavier armors like the original system.

I set up a few predefined slots that I feel the characters can realistically "wear" on their person. It's a bit forgiving, but for a group not used to this style of resource management, I think it strikes a good balance between "Let them just play" and "Ok, your equipment list is getting ridiculous." Note: The shield/bandolier position is for when a PC is using a versatile weapon two handed. They need to strap their shield on the back. They have to choose either a shield strap or a bandolier, but not both.

If you'd like to use it, you can download the PDF here.

Let me know what you think of the compromise in the comments.
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