Thursday, April 5, 2018

Encumbrance simplified

Encumbrance is important if you really want to play up the physical resource management aspects of the game. A journey through trackless wilderness or being lost in the bowels of a haunted catacomb loses some of its suspense if a party can carry as many rations and torches as they can be bothered to write on their equipment lists.

It's also labeled as "Optional" for good reason. As written, it's one of the most tedious things to track at the game table, and a total momentum-killer.

Let's see if we can't minimize the drag and make encumbrance a practical rule to use.

To start out, forget that nonsense about calculating every coin of encumbrance. We'll use an increment of roughly ten pounds instead. Call it a carrying unit or a hundredweight (100 coins) or a stone (yeah, I know that's actually 14 pounds in the "real" world) or whatever you like.

Every character gets an allowance of 4 carrying units. If you like, modify it by the character's Strength adjustment. Up to this amount, the character is considered unencumbered.

Now, only tally up the really important stuff, and ignore miscellaneous gear, unless someone's carrying a really absurd amount of torches or holy water or something. Armor equals 1 carrying unit per point of AC (6 for plate, 4 for mail, 2 for leather, 1 for shield.) One large weapon, two medium weapons, or five small weapons are also 1 carrying unit. Two weeks of iron rations or one week of standard rations is 1 CU. A hundred coins, or anything roughly approaching it, is 1 CU. (If you prefer your coins a little less chunky, just set this to 200 or 500 coins to the CU, or whatever.)

Now here's the clever bit. Take the character's exploration movement rate, 120' per turn for standard human and demihuman characters. For every CU over the character's basic allowance, subtract 10 from this number. That's the character's encumbered movement per turn. When you need to convert to encounter movement, just round up, so e.g. a rate of 120, 110, or 100 is still 40' per round.

Every time a character picks up or drops some significant item, just add or subtract 10 from the base movement rate. Ignore the piddly stuff until it seems that someone's really accumulating a hoard of it, and then just tack on another CU. No tedious mucking about with a calculator; just add or subtract a factor of 10 from movement and get on with the game.

Assuming no Strength adjustments, an average character will hit 0' per turn at 16 carrying units. At a glance that's a little less forgiving than the classic D&D standard, which has movement at 30'(10') when carrying 1601 or more coins of encumbrance, and 0' at 2401 coins, but given the generous fudge factor built in to this scheme, it's pretty damn close.

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