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.

3 comments:

  1. Google+ comments:
    -----------------

    March 29, 2016
    Shannon Lewis

    See also Delta's "Stones" encumbrance rules. In essence your stat value a character's maximum "very heavy/armored load" (6" move rate)
    http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/stone-encumbrance-detail-example.html

    ----------
    March 29, 2016
    Marty Walser (Raging Owlbear)2 years ago

    This appears to be the same system as Adventurer, Conquerer, King uses.

    ----------
    March 29, 2016
    Pedro Obliziner

    how would I draw the shield?

    ----------
    March 29, 2016
    Marty Walser (Raging Owlbear)

    +Pedro Obliziner D&D 5e has rules to strapping/removing a shield (it essentially takes an action). The shield isn't in a "bag" per se. The boxes just represent the space on the person where it is worn. They can either wear a shield strap or a bandolier, but not both. My players use versatile weapons, so there are times when they need to wear the shield on its strap as opposed to carrying it.


    ----------
    March 29, 2016
    Benjamin Eisenhofer

    You know, this makes me think about Neverwinter Nights. Maybe a player can place a Batman belt with four slots in one belt slot. Fun toy stuff for the players. Thanks.

    ----------
    March 29, 2016
    Josh Plunkett

    We use something similar. Player sheet for wearing and holding items and a separate sheet for tracking items that are being carried in bags and pouches. Simple and easy to use. Attractive to the young ones who have grown up with computer games and enables us to include encumbrance without having to calculate weight.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_6BXlzLTlj8OWloT0JiaVhSSjg/view?usp=sharing

    ----------
    March 29, 2016
    Michael Monaco

    I like the sheet, but I'd add a spot to mention what (if anything) you are carrying your hands. I doubt you can really "sling" or strap a spear onto your back, but I guess that's a trope.
    One minor addition I'd make is numbering the slots -- when I DMed with the LOTFP encumberance system, I had a handy way to determine what got pickpockets by gremlins or dropped in a rout, when swimming/drowning, etc.

    ----------
    March 29, 2016
    Marty Walser (Raging Owlbear)

    Good ideas. Thanks for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  2. March 29, 2016
    Robert Bledsaw III

    Encumbrance was always such a bother that I never used it and just let one person in the group take account of all the loot. This method, however, is stupidly-simple (in a good way). Definitely going to be using it.

    ----------
    March 29, 2016
    Porter Woodward

    Yeah. I did like the backpack... But I'm unlikely to make a bunch of tokens. Still neat to see these similar ideas. Essentially like a CRPG inventory slot system. I like the idea of "burning" slots due to armor tho.

    ----------
    March 29, 2016
    Marty Walser (Raging Owlbear)

    +Porter Woodward Yeah... I waffled back and forth on that one. My players are new to resource management play, so I'm trying not to be overly punitive right out of the gate.

    ----------
    April 24, 2016
    Randy Hammill

    I've simplified the system with a couple of options.

    First, for the most part anything you wear does not affect encumbrance. Heavy armor still impacts you via the penalties, so I didn't think it was necessary to use it to add to encumbrance as well, for example. So we don't worry about tracking most of your normal equipment.

    In addition, anything that you can carry in a properly worn backpack has half of its encumbrance value.

    This is because something that is properly worn, or properly carried is much less encumbering. While we don't all have access to a suit of plate to experiment with, try carrying around a football or hockey player's equipment. Not so easy, but it's much less of a problem if you wear it.

    I have charts of coinage in terms of weight and volume to make that easy. Bulk is another major factor. Many things are relatively light, but if they are too bulky they are more of a problem.

    My players leave a lot of treasure lying because it's unwieldy. They also frequently use Tenser's Floating Disk.

    I have considered (and written up rules) that penalize a character for combat and certain other activities when wearing a pack. A military buddy told me that a properly trained fighter wouldn't really have much of a disadvantage. Still not sure I agree. But for now I'm not using it and it really hasn't been a problem. Seems like a case of more trouble than it's worth for the number of times it would really be a problem.

    Of course, if something seems unreasonable, then we deal with it.

    Ilbranteloth

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jan 26, 2017
    Bryant Turnage

    I love this system, and I would like to incorporate it in my current game. I'm curious, though: How do you envision it working with great weapons? The original post says that a dagger takes one slot, a short sword two, and a longsword three. I notice yours says that weapons would take one to three. I have a player whose character uses a greatsword, so I'm curious where something like that falls.

    ----------
    Jan 26, 2017
    Marty Walser (Raging Owlbear)

    So, something like a greatsword or greataxe isn't worn on a belt since it is too long and would drag the floor... In that case, the PC really only has the option to wear it in the "strap" position (i.e. - on the back). It would take up the full strap 3-slot. You'd have to rule whether a PC can use both a bandoleer and a strap, but I often hand wave that kind of thing (depending upon the items). I should probably modify the strap position to also be the shield position, rather than combine bandoleer and shield as the same (so they can't have both a two handed weapon and a shield strapped).

    You also have to decide if they use the strap slot for a two-handed weapon, could they also strap a bow? I've let my players get away with this, but if I ever further codify this system into game rules (which I am hoping to do), I may not allow two items to both be strapped.

    I'm trying to limit them, but not so much that it kills the fun.

    ----------
    Jan 26, 2017
    Bryant Turnage

    That tracks with what I was thinking as well, and I also agree with putting the shield on the strap instead of the bandoleer. I'll keep an eye out if you decide to post an alternate version. Thanks for the response!

    ----------
    Oct 5, 2017
    Patrick Richert

    How does this take into account a character with low strength? The wizard who uses str as a dump stat, and winds up with 8 str? If it's just a straight slots process, then the 8 str wizard would be able to carry the same amount of equipment as the 18 str fighter.

    ----------
    Oct 5, 2017
    Marty Walser (Raging Owlbear)
    It's not intended to. It's supposed to be a simplified system to prevent typical player abuses.... and it's not just about strength, but bulk, which is why it uses bag slots instead of weight.

    Even a super-strong character can't be carrying around a piano, a treasure chest, or some other large object because of the bulk, even if they have the carrying capacity. You can't fight with a giant chest under your arms.

    ----------
    Oct 5, 2017
    Patrick Richert

    True, I mean I there's not really a system that takes in both. I think a combination of str & slots would do it.

    ----------
    Oct 6, 2017
    Marty Walser (Raging Owlbear)

    +Patrick Richert Absolutely... but I think if one is trying to go "rules lite" as a designer, you want a system that won't be over complex and weight may have to fly out the window (or be optional).

    ----------
    Oct 6, 2017

    Patrick Richert
    Hrm....how about something like x amount of slots +/- for the ability modifier? Pretty simple, doesn't necessarily take in weight, but still keeps in bonuses (and penalties) for a high or low score.

    ----------
    Oct 6, 2017
    Marty Walser (Raging Owlbear)

    Yeah, something like that may work. Thanks for the suggestion.

    ----------
    Oct 6, 2017
    Ryan Bright1

    I look at encumberance as an assurance that the characters can't carry the entire dragon horde out of the dragon's lair, spawning spinoff adventures to collect/reclaim the treasure from a tribe of kobolds who moved in and call the lair their home/fight the orcs who are hauling off your treasure you havn't gotten around to coming back for.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...