Carrying The World On Your Back

Posted: 18 May 2012 in Toolbox
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A little bit ago, I read a post on The Alexandrian about how the current Pathfinder/D&D system for encumbrance doesn’t work and proposing an alternative method (influenced heavily by Delta’s D&D Hotspot and Lamentations of the Flame Princess).  Shortly afterwards, a budding DM friend of mine suggested something similar (probably borrowing from the same sources).  In both cases, though, I resisted; the Pathfinder system is accurate and granular, and the coarser measurements of the Stone system seemed to make things unnecessarily vague.  With the Pathfinder System I know when something is heavy enough to put me in the next load category, and it wasn’t clear that the same would be true with Stones, or that Stones would represent various character’s abilities faithfully.  So I cast Stones aside.

In the meantime, though, it’s become apparent that I was probably wrong, and that (as The Alexandrian noted), the current system might be accurate but it wasn’t useful.  Encumbrance was calculated once, at best, and then generally ignored.   computer could quickly and easily adjust a character’s load in real time, but it is kind of silly to have a system in a tabletop, ostensibly-paper-and-pencil role-playing game that requires a computer to use properly.  So I’m thinking of adopting the Stone encumbrance system myself.  The fact that saying things like “I’m carrying about 3 stone” is evocative for the setting helps.

Paper & Pencils had a post a short time ago about making encumbrance work.  There’s a lot of good stuff in there and it’s a big part of what finally changed my mind.  However, I didn’t like the Significant Item system they presented, or the fact that they tossed aside the notion of adjusting carry limits for Large or Small creatures.  The problem I have with that is that (1) a Small creature should be able to carry less than a proportionately-build Medium creature, and not all Small races have a STR penalty.  It seems weird to assume that all halflings are naturally stronger, proportionately, than their human counterparts.  The corollary to this is that shrinking someone would have no effect on their ability to carry their gear.  Granted, most extant “reduce person” spells have a STR penalty built in, but even if that weren’t the case, it’s only reasonable that a smaller frame wouldn’t be able to carry the same amount of stuff.  So I argue that encumbrance systems should take Size in to consideration.  I could be persuaded that this makes things unnecessarily complex, but I’m not sure it does.

I also liked The Alexandrian’s idea of bundles to replace Delta’s simple “misc equipment” category.   I think there should be better guidance on what can/should be bundled together — does 1 torch, 1 wand, and 1 potion really hinder someone as much as 5 torches, 5 wands, and 5 potions?  I did like his notion of containers and only being able to pack on so much gear, but I’m not sure I agree with his numbers for how much a character can life — particularly since they all seem to be less than the character’s “max load” numbers. it’s vague since Max load is listed in Stones and lift limit is listed in Pounds.

Most of the rules I would include can be found at the Alexandrian post.  This includes the general weights of items and creatures, how bundling misc. equipment works, and the use of containers.  The only change I would make is that light weapons are 5 to the bundle, ammunition is 20 to the bundle, and coinage is 250 to the bundle (750 to the stone).

Below are my own Encumbrance By Stone tables for Medium, Small, and Large creatures.  These are essentially a direct transform from the Pathfinder table, which by the numbers is apparently what everyone else did as well.  For my purposes, 1 Stone = 15lbs, more or less, which divides nicely into thirds. Bundles are 3 to the stone.

Medium Creatures

Strength Light Load Medium Load Heavy Load Lift Drag
1 0 1/3 2/3 1 1/3 3 1/3
2 1/3 1 1 1/3 2 2/3 6 2/3
3 2/3 1 1/3 2 4 10
4 1 1 2/3 2 2/3 5 1/3 13 1/3
5 1 2 1/3 3 1/3 6 2/3 16 2/3
6 1 1/3 2 2/3 4 8 20
7 1 2/3 3 4 2/3 9 1/3 23 1/3
8 1 2/3 3 2/3 5 1/3 10 2/3 26 2/3
9 2 4 6 12 30
10 2 1/3 4 1/3 6 2/3 13 1/3 33 1/3
11 2 2/3 5 7 2/3 15 1/3 38 1/3
12 3 5 2/3 8 2/3 17 1/3 43 1/3
13 3 1/3 6 2/3 10 20 50
14 4 7 2/3 11 2/3 23 1/3 58 1/3
15 4 1/3 9 13 1/3 26 2/3 66 2/3
16 5 10 1/3 15 1/3 30 2/3 76 2/3
17 5 2/3 11 2/3 17 1/3 34 2/3 86 2/3
18 6 2/3 13 1/3 20 40 100
19 7 2/3 15 2/3 23 1/3 46 2/3 116 2/3
20 9 17 2/3 26 2/3 53 1/3 133 1/3
21 10 1/3 20 1/3 30 2/3 61 1/3 153 1/3
22 11 2/3 23 34 2/3 69 1/3 173 1/3
23 13 1/3 26 2/3 40 80 200
24 15 2/3 31 46 2/3 93 1/3 233 1/3
25 17 2/3 35 2/3 53 1/3 106 2/3 266 2/3

Small Creatures

Strength Light Load Medium Load Heavy Load Lift Drag
1 0 1/3 2/3 1 2 /3
2 1/3 2/3 1 2 5
3 2/3 1 1 2/3 3 7 2/3
4 2/3 1 1/3 2 4 10
5 1 1 2/3 2 2/3 5 12 1/3
6 1 2 3 6 15
7 1 1/3 2 1/3 3 2/3 7 17 2/3
8 1 1/3 2 2/3 4 8 20
9 1 2/3 3 4 2/3 9 22 2/3
10 1 2/3 3 1/3 5 10 25
11 2 4 5 2/3 11 2/3 28 2/3
12 2 1/3 4 1/3 6 2/3 13 32 2/3
13 2 2/3 5 7 2/3 15 37 2/3
14 3 6 8 2/3 17 2/3 43 2/3
15 3 1/3 6 2/3 10 20 50
16 4 7 2/3 11 2/3 23 57 1/3
17 4 1/3 8 2/3 13 26 65
18 5 10 15 30 75
19 6 11 2/3 17 2/3 35 87 1/3
20 6 2/3 13 1/3 20 40 100
21 7 2/3 15 1/3 23 46 115
22 8 2/3 17 1/3 26 52 130
23 10 20 30 60 150
24 11 2/3 23 1/3 35 70 175
25 13 1/3 26 2/3 40 80 200

Large Creatures

Strength Light Load Medium Load Heavy Load Lift Drag
1 1/3 1 1 1/3 2 2/3 6 2 /3
2 1 1 2/3 2 2/3 5 1/3 13 1/3
3 1 1/3 2 2/3 4 8 20
4 1 2/3 3 2/3 5 1/3 10 2/3 26 2/3
5 2 1/3 4 1/3 6 2/3 13 1/3 33 1/3
6 2 2/3 5 1/3 8 16 40
7 3 6 1/3 9 1/3 18 2/3 46 2/3
8 3 2/3 7 10 2/3 21 1/3 53 1/3
9 4 8 12 24 60
10 4 1/3 9 13 1/3 26 2/3 66 2/3
11 5 10 1/3 15 1/3 30 2/3 76 2/3
12 5 2/3 11 2/3 17 1/3 34 2/3 86 2/3
13 6 2/3 13 1/3 20 40 100
14 7 2/3 15 2/3 23 1/3 46 2/3 116 2/3
15 9 17 2/3 26 2/3 53 1/3 133 1/3
16 10 1/3 20 1/3 30 2/3 61 1/3 153 1/3
17 11 2/3 23 34 2/3 69 1/3 173 1/3
18 13 1/3 26 2/3 40 80 200
19 15 2/3 31 46 2/3 93 1/3 233 1/3
20 17 2/3 35 2/3 53 1/3 106 2/3 266 2/3
21 20 1/3 41 61 1/3 122 2/3 306 2/3
22 23 46 1/3 69 1/3 138 2/3 346 2/3
23 26 2/3 56 1/3 80 160 400
24 31 62 1/3 93 1/3 186 2/3 466 2/3
25 35 2/3 71 106 2/3 213 1/3 533 1/3
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Comments
  1. casewerk says:

    If one must have granular encumbrance rules in a fantasy setting that breaks down character sizes mechanically, then not taking the size categories into account in encumbrance rules does strike me as more than a little silly. I’m way out of the loop on pathfinder and other d20 variants, or else this would be a silly question: do Dwarves count as small creatures in this system? They’re supposedly great pack mules, and in most settings that I can think of they’re shorter but not tremendously lighter in weight than humans.

    • I’m not sure how they’re treated elsewhere, but in the d20 systems I’m familiar with dwarves are about the height of Small creatures and the weight of Medium creatures, but for all mechanical purposes are treated as Medium creatures (so their carrying capacity isn’t reduced). I think this makes a lot of sense, since dwarves are supposed to be short but stocky folks.

      As to the point of “must have granular encumbrance rules,” as you said before it kind of depends on what your goals for the game are. For my purposes we’re almost always talking about adventuring in a fantasy setting, and we’re going to care about the gear, supplies, and treasures characters can and do carry with them. That does require some measure of an meaningful encumbrance system, or else characters will just carry everything they could ever need/all of the dragon’s horde, and that just doesn’t make sense.

      I suppose there are games that might not *require* an encumbrance system (a modern WoD-style mystery, maybe), but I’m not sure anything would not-benefit from one.

  2. LS says:

    I’m glad I was convincing about the importance of simplifying encumbrance, even if I didn’t construct a system you personally liked.

    Myself, I’ve found the Significant Item system to work quite well in practice, but I’ve only run four sessions with it so far. I may choose to modify it later.

    • I think what it comes down to is that Significant Items is too simplified for my tastes; it feels kind of like playing Munchkin, and I want more meat there.

      That being said, I’m afraid my system is still too granular… I’m going to give it a try in Expectations and we’ll see what it feels like.

      • LS says:

        That’s a legitimate criticism of my system. I’m sure I’ll redesign it a dozen times before I’m happy with it.

  3. […] I finally got the Strength Tables up on my Carrying the World on Your Back post; there has to be a better way to do tables in […]

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