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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Encumbrance - Hand Wave or Full Backpack?

The thought came to me on the drive home today. I have so much random shit in my trunk, I have yo clean it out before going away for a weekend trip. Which somehow led me to think about encumbrance in RPGs. My mind works like that sometimes - don't ask.

Anyhow, as a DM, I'm kind of the "hand wavy" type. As long as it isn't something rare and unusual, you probably have it in your backpack. Spending time buying flint and steel, chalk and the like just doesn't excite me much. Never liked it much as a player and it bores me to shit wasting group game time with it at the beginning of a campaign. It's not like anyone ever re-buys the used up stuff anyway. It's always assumed to be taken care off "off stage".

Some people like working all that shit out. God bless them. Next game I'm in as a player they can do it for me ;)

So, where do you stand? Hand wave or full backpack?


  1. I'm hand-wavy about common stuff, like rope, clothing, and lantern oil. I might make you pay extra to have it right now, kind of a forgetfulness tax, but I'll still let you have it.

  2. Hand wave, definitely. I don't get a kick out of bookkeeping. The game is about the adventure, not nitpicking on the level of what did the player say his character bought between sessions.

  3. For me and my players (past and current), resource management is part of the game. It's important to have enough food, rope, oil, and so forth. Woe to the player who runs out of arrows during a random encounter.

    What's a random encounter, if not a drain on resources? If they are hand waved, you're just rolling dice to deal with the problem. Why not hand wave the random encounter as well?

    Even the concept of Vancian magic is resource management; preparing what spells you memorized in anticipation to the challenges ahead.

    "Well, I would have had rope," to me, is just like saying, "Well, I would have had sleep memorized" or "I would have had iron spikes" or . . . you get the idea. ;]

  4. If it matters, I'll use something like the LotFP system. If it doesn't matter, I'll handwave it.

  5. Hand-wavey-ish. I try to give the players enough information to make educated choices about the kit that they plan to bring. But using kit intelligently is part of the game, as is losing, or using up kit.

    And while I can't be bothered with 'coin' or 'pound' encumbrance systems anymore, I like the fact that transporting a pavillion tent, spare spears, ladders, rope etc. requires porters, mules, etc. Sure, they can travel light, but if they want to travel equipped for every opportunity, there's a cost (and not just in GP). Again, it is about choices and consequences.

    Though 'shopping trips' usually boil down to; "so you want 3 ladders, 5 coils of rope, etc..." I look down equipment list. "That'll be... that'll be... Oh, I dunno, let's say 50GP?"

  6. If we're in a situation where it's probable that they'll run out of these things (e.g., if they spend more than ten days in the wilderness) then I make them keep track of food.

    If they're going through a particular item very quickly (like archers with arrows, or an oil-happy rogue) then I'll ask them to start keeping track.

    I need to know how much rope they have, so that has to be tracked.

    Otherwise: it's all about the handwave, baby.

  7. I think another part of the equation is, if you're going to be "hand wavy" about encumbrance, how much do you realistically let PC's carry out of the dungeon?

  8. Well that is exactly what I was about to mention. I like to think I'm not very hand-wavy, but pretty much only when it matters...like when they want to bring 500' of rope, or are faced with 500 pounds of coinage.

  9. You always have good topics! Running old-school games, I do kind of a mix; I use the "bulky" armor encumbrance rules (bulkier the armor, the slower you are), but hand-wave a lot of the treasure, unless its just an absurd amount. In 4e the coins don't weigh as much, so it doesn't really come up, although I have given out ridiculous treasure that was cumbersome, like a huge copper bell a la Tegel Manor.

  10. I hand wave figuring if gear causes encumbrance but if they don't have something listed on thier character sheet then they do not have it. I track arrows but not torches.

  11. @frothsof - thank you :)

    the reason I ask these questions is because there are no right or wrong answers for them. It fun to see how others game, and I can always learn a new trick or two.

  12. I track torches, arrows and spikes, and food. I don't pay attention to weight so much, largely because my PCs are too poor to buy anything and I don't give a lot of treasure. everything gets spent on replacing expendable items!