Friday, September 13, 2013

How Encumbering is Encumbrance in Your Campaigns?

Do you strictly track encumbrance? Hand wave it? Ignore it? Give everyone in the party Bags of Holding and hope it all goes away?

I find myself somewhere between ignoring and hand waving. Trying to jump over a pit trap? What are your carrying. Otherwise, I dont give it much thought, as the play is the game, not the number crunching.

Still, LotFP has a decent semi-abstract encumbrance system that doesn't seem to be overtaxing.

How do you handle encumbrance in your games?


  1. I like how Stars without Number and Spears of the Dawn do it. 1/2 Strength readied, Str carried.

  2. The best way to avoid having to deal with encumbrance is to keep them poor and destitute. That way they can't afford anything heavy. Doesn't go over well with the players, but who cares?

    In actuality-hand wavy unless I realize someone is trying to get away with something. Then everyone has to figure out what weight they are carrying to invoke the Peer-Pressure aspect (yay! I did FATE, I think).

    Of course since many of the retro-clones seem to have just copied the original ridiculous weights (10lb sword?)-is there any point to it?

    1. "Of course since many of the retro-clones seem to have just copied the original ridiculous weights (10lb sword?)-is there any point to it?"

      You're right of course that actual swords were not especially heavy (most long swords were around 4 lbs., and even great swords were usually no more than 7 lbs.). But I think what's gotten lost over the years is that the idea that encumbrance of items was supposed to measure how CUMBERSOME they were, not just how HEAVY. If you wore a 7 lb. weight belt you probably wouldn't even notice it after a few minutes. A great sword, on the other hand, would be a lot more unwieldy, burdensome, and generally annoying to carry despite also weighing around 7 lbs. So I think the ENCUMBRANCE figures for the weapons are actually reasonable despite, in many cases, being far in excess of their historical WEIGHTS.

  3. I'm using LofTP rules, but I'll probably only bring up encumbrance when the characters start getting too much stuff (or trying hauling too much treasure).

  4. I'm in the hand wave/ignore camp myself. It only becomes an issue if the characters are trying to do something truly outrageous.

    "You're seriously going to lug that ancient wyrm's head through the dungeon and into town?"

  5. I really have two settings "encumbered" (carrying too much to move at all) or "unencumbered" (move at the base rate for your armor type). As for what constitutes encumbered, I eye-ball it (being very generous to the players) and give fair warning well ahead of time as they approach a level I think is too much.

    I also tend to not place tons of coins as treasure, but rather lots of small items (gems, jewelry) that are worth a lot, so that generally helps keep encumbrance from being too much of an issue anyway.

  6. I'm another who uses LotFP rules.

  7. I mix them. I don't care about their "backpack," or how much their armor and/or sword weighs, but if they wish to "jump" over something, or "tumble," then Encumbrance plays a part.

    If they wish to "move" like Kwai Chang Caine, then they can't "dress" like Lancelot.

  8. I do an item count similar to Lotfp (or TFT). Being encumbered slows you down and really screws up saves for getting out of the way. 3 states: unencumbered, encumbered, and burdened.

  9. I use the encumbrance system in Neoclassical Geek Revival, you might like it Tenkar.

  10. When I was younger, we used to figure out encumbrance at the beginning, then pretty much ignore it unless something seemed way too outlandish ("you seriously think your character can carry 100,000 copper coins all by himself?"). That seemed to work for us, but it still was too much effort. So, these days, I find myself really interested in the encumbrance by stone system that was embraced by ACKS, with a few modifications that I probably took from The Alexandrian or somewhere like that. Either that or the one in LotFP.

  11. Short version: carry 1 significant item per point of strength, -1 cumulative penalty per extra item.

    Long version, from my house rules document:

    Adventurers may carry a number of significant items equal to their strength score. For each item beyond this limit, there is a cumulative penalty to all physical rolls (attack rolls, saving throws, and so forth). For example, a character with a strength of 9 may carry 9 items without penalty, but if that same character carries 12 items, there will be a penalty of 3 (12 items – 9 strength = 3) applied to physical rolls. Significant items include things like a sword, a scroll, a potion, a quiver of arrows, a coil of rope, or a book. Insignificant items include things like a coin, a sack, a ring, or a fishhook; a pouch of up to 100 insignificant items may be carried without using an encumbrance slot. The only special case is armor, which takes up one encumbrance slot per category (light = 1, medium = 2, heavy = 3). This rule was inspired by LS (http://www.paperspencils.com/2012/03/18/making-encumbrance-work/).

    -- http://www.necropraxis.com/2013/08/02/house-rules/#encumbrance

    I'm very happy with it.

    I've used the LotFP method as well, and it works, but it's a bit more character sheet intensive.

  12. Handwaving to ignoring except for special situations (jumping pits, falling into rapid-flowing water, etc.)


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