So 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 WordPress…
Anyways, I got the tables up and I wanted to share a few more thoughts on the topic. The primary complaint about the D&D/Pathfinder encumbrance rules is that they’re too granular. Each individual item is tracked with weights down to the fraction of a pound, and characters have varying levels of encumbrance based on their strength. It’s straightforward but not easy or quick to calculate a character’s current encumbrance and, most damning, it is not easy or quick to figure out what the character needs to drop if he suddenly has to run from a monster. I have a MS spreadsheet-based character sheet I grabbed off the Internet that does a good job tracking such things, but a system that requires a computer to use effectively is not a good system for a tabletop game. Knowing what their biggest weights are should be as intuitive to my players as it is for their characters. This is the argument Pencils and Papers made that changed my mind on Encumbrance.
There are, I think, two ways to simplify the system, and both of them consist of moving to a coarser measure. Delta suggested the use of the Stone, an archaic measure of weight that was roughly 14 or so pounds. She kept herself to whole-Stone numbers, The Alexandrian introduced fractional-Stone measures with certain containers and the notion of Bundles (which he put as 5 Bundles to the Stone). The math in the Alexandrian’s system bothered me, with talk about Stone and half-Stone and one-fifth-Stone (thanks to Bundles)… So my thought was to set a Stone at 15lbs and a Bundle at 5lbs (1/3 Stone) and only track to the Bundle level. I want to say that if it’s less than a Bundle you should ignore it, but I think that may make problems later on.
One of the things I’m happily cribbing from the Alexandrian is his general notions on how much things weigh and how things should be carried. Basic weights for weapons and armor were taken by him from Delta, but he added containers and more granularity for miscellaneous equipment. It should be noted that adding granularity when our intent was to reduce granularity is something to be wary of, but at the same time we don’t want to disassociate ourselves to much from the fictional world, and it’s not desirable to me to allow a player to carry infinite arrows or other such things.
From Delta and the Alexandrian, Heavy armor is 5 Stone, Medium armor is 3 Stone, and light armor is 1 Stone. Shields and full-sized (one- and two-handed) weapons are a Stone each. Obviously characters should still recognize that a war hammer is weightier than a rapier, but I don’t think so much so that our mechanics need to care. In particular, Items should be measured in whole Stone, as a single Bundle, or as a Bundle when collected (like arrows).
Light weapons in my system are a Bundle for 5, bolts and arrows are a Bundle for 20, and coins are a Bundle for 250. Miscellaneous gear should cover everything else from rations to potions to maps and whatever else you have. Light items like a compass or Holy Symbol (unless it’s a particularly big or weighty holy symbol, I guess) can be ignored, and everything else gets put together in Bundles of 10. In most cases if it’s less than a Bundle it can safely be ignored, but you may want to make exceptions if a character has several mostly-full bundles (3 daggers, 14 arrows, 200 coins and 8 misc. items should probably weight something). Treasure should be assigned a weight by the DM, with a Stone being a hefty statue, a Bundle being a large gem or sack full of coins, and smaller items treated as misc. equipment. Something unwieldy like a painting or rug may count as several Stone despite not actually weighing that much.
Containers include things like backpacks, belt-pouches, and sacks, and should be used to explain where a character puts his gear when he’s not holding it. Weapons are assumed to come with sheathes and quivers which can attach to a belt or be slung over a shoulder, but other things need to be packed away. Empty containers are considered misc. equipment, containers holding things are ignored (just count the stuff they’re holding).
Finally, creature weights. This will usually refer to familiars, who tend to be misc. equipment- or Bundle-sized. Small creatures are about 2 Stone, the average Human is 12 Stone, and a Large creature is 100 Stone. Individuals can weight more or less if you care to make a distinction, but should stick to whole-Stone numbers. I’m just taking this stuff from The Alexandrian, so look to his page if you want to deal with larger creatures, though I’m not sure I want to know when or how the weight of a Colossal creature needs to be tracked…
Finally, for a guideline on figuring out weights of odd things you want in your dungeon, just divide the weight-in-pounds by 15 and drop any remainder; that’s how many Stone it weighs. If it’s smaller than a Stone but bigger than misc. equipment, call it a Bundle.