No one likes dealing with encumbrance (weight allowance). Looking up, and adding together, the weight of all the little bits you are carrying is annoying, and not particularly important. On the other hand, there should be a limit to what you can carry. Imagine that your group found a stash of ten million copper pieces (100k gp worth of treasure weighing 100 tons). Suddenly, everyone wants to know how much they can carry. So I came up with a simplified method of dealing with encumbrance.
I got the idea from the way we deal with material components. They too are a pain to track. So I made some changes. Now, rituals are lengthy to cast and always require components (usually rare and expensive), while regular spells always take one round to cast (except for feather fall which is instantaneous) and never require components. Basically, we reduced the issue of material components to tracking the important ones and ignoring the rest.
That is essentially what I did with encumbrance. Your armor, weapons, basic gear, and supplies, (all the stuff you always have on you), are things that characters never think about. What they are interested in is the loot they find. That and any specialized equipment and supplies they need in order to get to that loot.
I wanted encumbrance rules that were easy, fast, and didn’t require adding up a list of weights. Here’s what I came up with:
Equipped items do not count against encumbrance (nor does the Standard Adventurer’s Pack™ of basic supplies). Everything else a character wishes to carry requires one or more encumbrance slots.
An unencumbered character may carry certain basic supplies, equipped items, plus a number of encumbrance slots worth of items equal to the character’s strength score (or ½ strength score for small characters).
A 10′ pole, ladder, spear, javelins, polearms, etc. are always considered to be equipped as they cannot be stored in, or strapped to, a backpack. These items must either be carried in hand (equipped) or dropped. Therefore, they count as equipped items and do not count against encumbrance. The last exception is that the primary weapon and shield are not tracked, even when sheathed or stowed (i.e. – not equipped). We decided that it could be annoying to worry about switching these items between untracked and tracked status every time they are equipped or stowed.
Most items take up one encumbrance slot. (Note that these lists refer to extra pieces of gear, not equipped gear).
- Leather Armor
- “Light” Weapon
- Pair of Boots
- Pair of Gloves
- Pair of Bracers
Large, heavy, or bulky items take up three slots.
- Metal Armor (This includes: Chest and Legs)
- Weapons (excluding “Light” Weapons)
- Tower Shield
Small and/or light items require one slot per group of items (or portion thereof).
- Sack of 500 Coins/Gems
- Pouch containing 100 Sling Stones
- Quiver with 20 Arrows/Bolts
- Bag of 20 Caltrops
- Bag of 20 Potions (carefully wrapped)
- Scroll Case with up to 10 Scrolls
- Sack containing 7 Day’s Rations
Note that these small items cannot be grouped with other small items. For instance, one encumbrance slot may hold 20 caltrops or 20 arrows. If you have 3 caltrops and 5 arrows, these will require 2 encumbrance slots; they may not be grouped together. It may seem reasonable to be able to perform such groupings. However, the whole idea here is to avoid number-crunching. If this sort of thing is allowed, we may as well go back to tracking individual weights.
I made up a player sheet for encumbrance. It contains slots for all the equipped gear, a list of the Standard Adventurer’s Pack™ basic supplies, and 20 encumbrance slots numbered 1 through 20. Simply cross out the slots with a number greater than your strength score.
Click on the image to load the full-size image, right click, save as, and print to whatever size you need. If that doesn’t work, let me know and I will look into how to create a PDF file. For those that have Photoshop, you can download the PSD (this may also work in the GIMP).
Clearly, I need to work on my skills at creating torn edges on boxes. But it was fun giving it a try. Next time I modify my character sheets, I’ll give it another go. If you download the PSD file, I left the layers intact with the plain boxes. You just have to enable them and disable the torn ones.
As always, characters may carry an additional load at reduced movement. I’ve extended this system to cover encumbered movement (1/2 speed) and maximum load (movement of one space (5 ft.) per turn).
An encumbered character receives a second set of encumbrance slots, but moves at half speed.
A character can receive a third set of encumbrance slots, but has movement reduced to one. This third set of encumbrance slot items must be in a container and dragged (requiring at least one free hand).
Sharing a Load
Two characters may share a load. Example: character “a” has 12 strength and 3 free encumbrance slots. Character “b” has 17 strength and 5 free encumbrance slots. They can jointly carry a chest with 4,000 coins (8 encumbrance slots at 500 coins per point) without either being encumbered. Note that each character must have a free hand.
The same two characters could work together to carry a chest (at half movement) with 18,500 coins (their original 8 free slots plus another 12 for character “a” and 17 for character “b”, for a total of 37 encumbrance slots at 500 coins per slot).
Finally, the same two characters could jointly drag a chest (at a movement of one space (5 ft.) per round) containing 33,000 coins (8 + 12 + 17, plus another 12 and 17, for a total of 66 encumbrance slots at 500 coins per slot).
This system works pretty well for us so far, but if you want to push the maximum load, there isn’t really any way to completely avoid math. Overall though, I think I’ve managed to simplify things while keeping encumbrance intact. Not to mention that the weight allowance is extremely generous.